YAMAHA “GRAY MARKET” PIANOS
Many piano stores sell “Gray Market” used Yamaha pianos. These Gray Market pianos are not sold by Yamaha in North America.
The problems with these pianos are:
1. Gray Market pianos are built for Asian markets that are generally humid year-round. When these pianos are re-located to dry climates, they often develop technical problems, which is why Yamaha does not authorize their sale in the U.S.
2. Genuine Yamaha replacement parts are not available for Gray Market pianos; Yamaha will only sell parts to a dealer or certified technician if the piano has a serial number that indicates it is a piano built for the U.S. market. Consequently, owners of Gray Market pianos that develop technical problems are faced with high costs and inconvenience.
3. Gray Market pianos are not eligible for Yamaha’s factory warranty service.
Because of these problems, Gray Market Yamaha pianos lack the same resale value as authorized Yamaha pianos. What may seem at first to be a ‘great deal’ on a used Yamaha piano may prove to be a poor deal.
YAMAHA MODELS SINCE 2001 ARE SUPERIOR
In the early 2000’s, Yamaha significantly improved the construction and components of certain of their models, including the U1 and the U3. In these pianos the designs of the piano back, the frame, and the scaling and action components were greatly improved. Consequently, newer vintage Yamaha’s are significantly superior to the comparable older models. Some key improvements are described below.
Newer Yamaha models have a ‘perimeter’ type iron frame and redesigned bass bridge, to allow longer bass strings than in the older models. This significantly improves the depth and the purity in the sound of the bass, as the newer iron frame utilizes a circumference design that holds the piano string tension much better, and also improves the piano’s backpost balance.
New U1, U3 perimeter iron frame(extends to edges of the cabinet)
Older U1, U3 non perimeter frame
The bass bridge in the newer U1 and U3 model pianos has a more advanced and costly, “curved” design that provides for a purer tone in the bass than in earlier models that have straight bass bridges. A curved bass bridge provides for longer strings and a richer bass sound.
New curved bass bridge
Old U1, U3 type straight bass bridge
Backposts are the solid wood ‘beams’ that provide rigidity, resonance and structural stability. Older Yamaha models have 4 backposts; however, it was determined that additional rigidity was important, so an additional backpost was added in the newer models, increasing the backposts from 4 to 5. More backposts, as well as thicker and wider backposts make the body of the piano more solid and better hold the piano’s string tension (in combination with the strength of the “circumference” iron frame detailed above).
Five backposts on new U1, U3, P121 and B3
Four backposts on older U1 and U3
Tone collector bolts help secure the backpost to the iron frame and increase stability and tonal quality. In addition to adding the extra backpost to new model Yamahas, to further increase a pianos’ stability and tonal quality, all newer model Yamahas have tone collector bolts. Older models, including the U1 and U3 have no tone collector bolts at all.
New U1, U3, P121 and B3 with tone collector bolts
Old U1, U3 with no tone collectors
Newer Yamaha models, including the U1, have improved hammers to provide optimum tone production, response and long term durability. In particular, newer models have underfelted hammers (notice the red underfelt in the new hammers), which is made of much harder, more durable wool. For instance, the YUS series has German made hammers with the same underfelt that is used in the top of the line CFX concert grand. Also, the shape of the hammer in the newer models is improved (notice the more substantial shape of the hammer head in the pictures below).
New U1, U3, P121, B3 underfelted hammers
Older type U1 non underfelted hammers
Newer Yamaha models incorporate the ‘floating attachment’ method of soundboard fitting, permitting the soundboard to vibrate more freely, which improves the depth and character of the bass and mid-range tones. For uprights pianos, the floating attachment provides for a similar attribute to that of grand pianos’ cantilevered belly rails that enable an overhung sound board area and facilitate a larger sounding space. The floating attachment advancement achieves a fuller and more sustaining sound.
Other notable improvements between older and certain newer Yamaha models include:
- Dampers – Newer models have 69 dampers, increased from the 66 dampers used previously. This advancement was made to improve the overall quality of sound of the piano.
- Bridge – Newer models have a bridge (which holds secure and elevates the strings from the soundboard) that is made of laminated wood, as is used in higher-end grand pianos. Laminate (which are thin layers of wood glued together) is significantly stronger and longer lasting than the block of wood that was utilized for the bridge of older models.
- Tuning Pins – Newer models have lathe cut and plated tuning pins.
- Fallboard – Newer models have the soft return system fallboard; these ‘soft close’ fallboards are elegant while helping prevent accidental injury or damage.
- Caster wheels – Newer models have front casters that are made of brass, which is aesthetically more attractive than the steel used in older models.
- Music Desk – Newer models have wider music desks (35 inches rather than 25 inches), to provide extra room that pianists prefer for their notes and scores.
For the reasons detailed above and various other technical items, new Yamaha pianos, or ones that were manufactured beginning in the early 2000’s, are significantly superior to older versions of the same model number. For many models, the newer pianos are simply entirely different pianos than their predecessors, where the greatest similarity is that they just share the same model number.
Newer Yamaha models have improved rib configurations that add strength to the soundboard while improving the tone. For example, since 1999, the U1 and U3 models have been built with thicker and wider ribs, using the same spec as the U5. The stronger ribs hold the crown shape of the soundboard much firmer against the pressure of the strings.
USED YAMAHA PIANO SELECTION
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