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Viewing Chinese pianos in a new light

After trying out several of our grand pianos, my customers’ young daughter had settled on a Hallet, Davis & Co. grand piano. It was within their budget and sounded beautiful, but there was a problem. They found out that it was made in China, and mom wasn’t having it.

Fifteen or twenty years ago, I would have agreed with that customer. Whenever we took a call to service a no-name Chinese piano, there was a collective groan. We referred to that kind of piano as a P.S.O – a “piano shaped object.” It looked just like a piano, but never quite sounded like one. Today, Chinese-built pianos are still inexpensive, but the quality of the product has changed.

How the quality of Chinese pianos has improved

Hallet Davis H108

A Hallet, Davis & Co. H108 in our showroom.

Chinese manufacturers saw the tremendous gap in production cost between their pianos and those of the nearest

competitors. They realized that even if they invested far more in the quality of their instruments, they’d still be able to build it for far less than those competitors. That’s exactly what they did.

To better their product, the Chinese hired designers from well-known American and German piano companies. The

Chinese government invested billions in state of the art machinery to build the instruments. They improved their quality control and invested in scale designs of American pianos like Baldwin. When you play a Chinese piano today, there’s a good chance you’re playing an instrument designed by American and European piano designers and built with parts from those places. Let me explain using an example you’ll find in our showroom – Hailun.

Hailun’s lead engineer, George F. Emerson, has 32 years of experience with Baldwin and Mason and Hamlin. He’s assisted by Peter Veletzky, who was Austria’s youngest piano master builder. The rest of the team features experience from well-known piano companies and organizations across the world. Hailun’s pianos are built with German Wurzen felt hammers, hornbeam wood and spruce soundboard.

Searching for the right instrument to fit your budget

There’s certainly nothing wrong with American pianos. Those companies that still manufacture in the US, Steinway and Sons, Mason and Hamlin and Charles Walter, have long been known for their quality. In fact, there’s a Mason and Hamlin sitting in my home. If budget wasn’t an issue, I’d certainly recommend a Mason & Hamlin to everyone who walked through the door. However, as we all know, budget isn’t just a small part of the conversation for your average pianist. It is central to the conversation.

Chinese-built pianos like Hailun and Hallet, Davis & Co. live in the happy medium where quality and budget meet for a smart purchase. A Hailun piano may not be at center stage for every concert, but it combines great quality with a reasonable price. A lower-end Charles Walter upright starts at around $15,000. A used Steinway grand will cost from $20,000 on up. A brand new Steinway costs at least $60,000. Now, new Hailun pianos with a 15 year warranty are priced below this.

It’s good to support American industry, but what I’ve tried to point out here is that “Made in China” in the piano business doesn’t mean “made cheap,” even if the product is less expensive than an American-made instrument. At the end of the day, what is important is that you take home a piano with great sound quality and playability that fits your budget and your needs. If you’re like the average customer that comes through our doors, either Hailun or Hallet, Davis & Co. are a good option.

If owning a piano made in the USA is your primary buying factor, I invite you to browse our selection of used upright pianos for brands such as Wurlitzer, Baldwin and Kimball. Also see our used Steinway selection.

I encourage you to stop by our showroom and play a Hailun or Hallet, Davis & Co. piano. There have been several customers who have come here looking for a Steinway and fallen in love with a Hailun. Play it and perhaps you’ll see why!

Very satisfied with the care he took in protecting our Steinway grand piano. Dewayne Andrews
Oklahoma City, OK