When we are talking about the best piano brands in the world a few brands of pianos are an absolute shoe-in.
Just like with diamonds or cars there is a timeless allure of Tiffanys and Cartier, Ferrari and Mercedes – when we hear names Steinway, Blüthner and Fazioli we know that these are the best piano makers in the world. The key aspect of the best piano brands’ enduring success is in their proprietary technologies which were developed and patented over the decades and sometimes centuries of exquisite work. Each and every one of these remarkable piano manufacturers have something special about their pianos that sets them apart from everyone else. For the costumer it is the understanding of what you are looking for in your piano that ensures the successful selection and acquisition and the right instrument.
One has an emotional connection with one’s piano which makes ranking of these top piano brands ever so difficult. In this article we will introduce to you the top ten piano brands in not particular order. Once you learn more about these extraordinary pianos and their artisanal manufacturers we believe your personal preferences will help you determine which of these top piano brands is right for you.
Founded in 1853 in Germany Bechstein became one of the world’s most trusted piano brands. Over the course of more than a century and a half Bechstein has built grand pianos for concert stage and homes as well as a wonderful upright pianos for the music lover with space considerations. The absolute dedication to precision and craftmanship along with the complete manufacture of all the parts on it’s building site in Seifhennersdorf makes Bechstein an internationally recognized and trusted piano brand. What sets Bechstein pianos apart is its unique voice-like sound. Since Carl Bechstein founded the brand his particular focus was on creating a fine instrument with a singing voice. Many of the illustrious pianist of the 19th century and early 20th century chose Bechstein for that particular quality ideally suited for the music of Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn.
Today Bechstein not only focuses on the production of the new models and technical innovation but also on creative a museum-quality replicas of its vintage pianos built for European Royalty on the cusp of the 20th century. The iconic Sphynx grand piano comes to mind. It took over 1600 hours to build. Right now Bechstein boasts its 6th generation of piano craftsmen, woodwork specialists and metal masons who insure that every part of these priceless museum pianos are made in-house and are sheer perfection.
Here is another legacy German piano brand that has been consistently delivering exquisite instruments for over a century and a half. Curiously Julius Blüthner started his piano factory the same year as Bechstein – 1853 in German industrial city of Leipzig. His theoretical mathematical knowledge and entrepreneurial nature contributed to the meteoric rise of his piano brand to the truly global phenomenon status. Already by 1868 he was trading on international scale. The combination of continued innovation (he introduced a 4th string to the piano at Philadelphia World Fair and won the gold medal for it) and wise courtship of the leading artists of the day quickly put Blüthner piano brand on the lips of royals and artist alike. The affluent middle-class musical lovers sought out Bluthner piano for the allure of knowing that the likes of Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and later Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich all owned one and composed many a masterpiece at their Bluthner bench.
The ‘golden tone’ which sets Blüthner apart from others is a result of Julius’ careful engineering which is handed down generation to generation. To this day Blüthner remains a family business. After the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989 Blüthner expended the factory and invested heavily in hi-tech innovation as well as production of the typical concert instruments. The merger with Lucid Pianos resulted in the world’s absolute best crystal and luxury pianos brand – Blüthner Lucid. The incredible and daring innovation utilize industrial strength lucite and carbon fiber to produce the most stunning instruments the world has ever seen. In many ways it is safe to say that Blüthner hold absolute supremacy of the crystal pianos market today. But that is not to diminish its traditional concert grand line. Many a leading artist and concert venue of today are graced with Blüthner piano. The price range of Blüthner pianos begins in the $50,000 for a baby grand piano and reaches all the way to a million dollars for jaw-dropping 3D printed Lucid EXO.
Read more about history and model range here.
The fabled Viennese manufacturer is the oldest among all the piano brands. Founded in 1828 by Ignaz Bösendorfer it has become a prized cultural export of the Austrian Empire as the piano was officially endorsed by the Royal house of the Emperor. One of Vienna’s best concert halls of the day bore Bösendorfer name until the early 20th century. This extraordinary piano is quite different from its counterparts in the luxury piano market as it features a very different set of innovations. Emperial model 290 has 97 instead of standard 88 keys of the keyboard making the tone darker, richer with extraordinarily powerful bass. (The extra keys are added in the bass register and go all the way to lowest F). Initially they were covered by the retractable lid but current models simply have them finished in matte black so as to not distract the pianists used to the 88-key dimensions. This innovation was first part of the custom commission by Italian superstar virtuoso Ferruccio Busoni in 1909 for his transcriptions of Bach organ music but was so popular that it became the main feature that sets Bösendorfer brand apart of other piano brands. Bösendorfer’s rim also is different from its counterparts’: rather than leyers of veneers that are molded to a form Bösendorfer uses solid pieces of spruce that are hinge-joint. Spruce is most sound conductive of wood varietals and therefore it is beneficial for such large piano.
Today Bösendorfer is wholly owned by Yamaha while remaining completely faithful to its legacy, manufacturing and aesthetics. Bösendorfer has a sound presence on the ultra luxury piano market with it’s million dollar Kuhn piano which has custom Swarovski crystals installed under the strings and at the front of the piano.
Unlike Bösendorfer who is the oldest legacy piano brand in the world, Fazioli is the youngest. But that does not in any way diminish the exquisite innovation and superlative quality of these dream pianos. Himself a concert pianist and mechanical engineer Paolo Fazioli founded the brand in 1981 and wanted to build the piano with the softest, most delicate action capable of producing the most soft yet resonant sound. Indeed a dream of any pianist is the piano that can truly project the full spectrum of forte-piano (loud-soft) evenly and equally without compromising the tone quality. Fazioli pianos are the only ones in the world that consistently achieve that. Fazioli also produces the largest concert grand in the world at 10 feet 2 inches – Model 308. It also features fourth pedal which brings hammers closer to the strings thus reducing volume without the loss of richness of the tone.
These amazing instruments are build from the ground up entirely at Fazioli’s state-of-the-art facility in Italy and only about 150 pianos are produced per year. Leading artists, concert venues, prestige piano competitions and top conservatories count themselves among the proud owners of Fazioli grand pianos. Among those names are Angela Hewitt, Aldo Ciccolini, The Juilliard School, Beijing Central Conservatory, Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Rubinstein Piano Competitions.
Fazioli also is a leader in the ultra luxury market share championing the custom production of one-of-a-kind pianos that will take your breath away. For Sultan of Brunei Fazioli built a rare wood piano adorned with emeralds and rubies. One such commission was so inspired that it became part of Fazioli’s designer pianos line: M Liminal. Commissioned for a super-yacht this piano is inspired by the sailboat and the dolphin at once. Made of composite materials (wood, aluminum, chrome and carbon fiber) it is truly a marvel of design. So much so that it appears in Hollywood blockbuster Prometheus starring Charlize Theron as part of the spaceship interior. Needless to say the price range of Fazioli pianos is $150,000 – to over a million.
Owning a Fazioli is like owning a Bugatti. ‘Nough said.
Grotrian is a German piano brand stablished in 1835 and is now a family business in 5th and 6th generation. Curiously Grotrian family partnered up with and later took over a piano factory first built by Heinrich Steinweg (future Henry Steinway – founder of Steinway Sons). The first pianos bore double name – Grotrian-Steinweg. From the get-go Gortiran’s core values were building great pianos and inventing improvements to already excellent instruments.
The history of this brand is a multi-generational saga of successes and losses. After building up a great business in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries Grotrian factories were completely destroyed during WWII. Yet family business rose from the ashes of war and continued on into the later 20th century. In 2015 a Hong Kong company Parsons Music Group became a majority shareholder in Grotrian which secures its economic future and enables it to continue to innovate and build their marvelous pianos. Grotrian produces superb upright pianos that feature its patented star design in the back – the iron frame that is shaped as a star which allows the vibrations inside the wood body of the piano to produce the most beautiful tone for the upright. Their amazing duo-piano is actually two grands pianos joined together at the sides of their tails as thought Siamese twins. The single duo-lid comes with this marvelous instrument. This unique piano allows the two vibrate as one – which creates an extraordinary soundscape for the duo pianists. Duo pianos can also be separated into a stand-alone single instruments that come with individual lids. For the piano duet lovers this is the ultimate piano to have. This ingenious design is one of many Grotrian patents and is certainly a sight to see and experience to listen to. Grotrian also has an amazing line of limited-edition rare wood grand pianos and replicas of the historical art pianos from the late 19th century. Those are gorgeous and traditional instruments for the lovers of timeless elegance of the Golden Age of music salons.
Sauter is a brand with almost 200 years of innovation and invention ‘under the hood’. Since 1846 Sauter has built grand pianos and upright pianos with uniquely resonant sound and high-precision keyboard action. Throughout the years Sauter perfected and patented the ‘spherical concavity’ which gives Sauter piano its unique overtones. The soundboard is made of spruce that grows in Alpine region, which is strong yet light and flexible. The shape and position of the structural slats are crucial for the precise concavity. These slats are glued together to the soundboard under high pressure which stabilizes the concavity in place. Thus the membrane effect is created imbuing the instrument’s tone with Sauter’s signature clarity. The entirety of the piano in made in-house including the strings which are measured precisely to the nano-millimeter so that vibrations during playing resonate off the soundboard for ultimate tone production. The metal components such as pins of Concert and Omega Plus pianos are made of pure titanium.
Perhaps the most exciting pianos Sauter makes are designed by Peter Maly and are truly works of modern art. Steeped in the modernist esthetic these gorgeous baby grand pianos and uprights are captivating, fresh and beautiful. The ‘butterfly’ lids on the Sauter uprights are a stunning visual effect but also brilliant acoustic strategy filling up the space with sound in a stereo-like fashion. The exemplary models are Pure Basic and Vitrea – which is semi-transparent upright. The entire line of Sauter uprights is simply the best on the market. Ambiente and Vivace baby grands are studies in laconic minimal design while Rondo upright is a throwback to the 1960s bubble obsession expressed through its rounded-up corners. No matter who witty and charming the design these luxury pianos are true German precision machines with extraordinary action and acoustic properties.
7. Steingraeber & Söhne
It is not surprising that yet again we are turning to a legacy German family brand piano – Steingraeber & Söhne as piano innovation is in the DNA of the country’s rich musical culture. This stellar piano manufacturer is one of the best recognized brands in the world for their unique innovations that adapt modern grand pianos to performance of period music from Mozart onwards. Amazing features like Mozart Rail and Sordino enable a contemporary concert grand piano to sound like a pianoforte of the Mozart times and create the softest and fastest repeated notes action on the modern instrument. Standing out from its peer luxury piano brands is Steingraeber & Söhne’s focus on professional usage of its instruments and inventions like carbon fiber soundboard which is climate resistant make their concert and semi-concert pianos perfectly suitable for the outdoor Festival performances. Speaking of festivals – the brand’s hometown is a fabled playground of none other than Richard Wagner – Bayreuth. The birthplace of The Ring of The Niebelung is one of the world’s most prestigious and attended music Festivals and Steingraeber & Söhne pianos are prominently featured at the center of its venerable events. The Steingraeber & Söhne artisans are so steeped in Wagnerian heritage that they replicated the unique instrument of the Bells of the Holy Grail for Parsifal – Wagner’s Christian apogee opus magnum opera. These bells are believed to be the best such instrument in the world by leading opera conductors.
Steingraeber & Söhne also focuses of producing Profi grade upright pianos that have magnetic action which brings the feel of the upright closer to that of the grand piano. Their action is impeccable and fast while proprietary aluminum and carbon fiber elements make the uprights’ tone rich and resonant. These instruments are extraordinary innovation in the piano world and one would be in possession of something remarkable as a proud owner of Steingraeber & Söhne. The design of this brand is more of an example of a classic timeless tradition focusing primarily on what’s ‘under- the -hood’ of the piano.
8. Steinway & Sons
In a world of German machines (now we sound like a movie trailer) there is a rare and stunning jewel – and American piano recognized to be among the world’s very best. But let’s start from the beginning.
Heinrich Steinweg built his first piano in the kitchen of his village house in Germany. This piano is now at Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Family immigrated to United States in 1850 and in 1853 Steinweg & Sons was founded on lower West Side of Manhattan. They were building square pianos. Soon there after Heinrich decided to Americanize the name to Steinway & Sons. Business was growing fast and in 1857 first Art case piano was built with highly ornate carved body and legs. In 1859 Steinway patented his cross-stringing – where bass strings go under the shorter strings at an angle – which imbued Steinway pianos with their inimitable resonance and sound. In 1867 Steinway became the first American piano manufacturer to receive the Gold Medal of Honor at Paris piano axhibition. By 1871 Steinway was making 1 piano per hour. With it’s astonishing rise in market share Steinway family opened Hamburg factory in Germany in 1904 in addition to New York factory. The two factories work in parallel to these days.
Over 150 years of its legendary presence in the music world Steinway amassed over 125 patents, completely dominated the piano world and produced some of the most lauded and beautiful pianos the world has ever seen. From White House to Carnegie Hall, from Juilliard to Yale – the world is populated with proud all-Steinway institutions. If only Steinway could see the fruit of their labor rise to such heights. Today Steinway also leads with hi-tech inventions. In 2015 Steinway acquired a private digital player developer company Live Performance for its flagship model XL created by Wayne Stahne and re-branded it as Steinway Spirio. This player piano system is so precise that it truly reproduces the highest caliber of piano performance remotely. Many a reputable piano competition are beginning to utilize Spirio technology to open participation globally. Steinway also has a metronome app for Android and iOS systems. World’s most famous pianists from Horowotz to Lang Lang are singing praises to Steinway pianos for their sound, action and absolutely top quality. 150 years after being founded by Steinway, this piano maker has become a global juggernaut that covers all niches of piano market: from affordable entry level brand Essex to 2.5 million dollar Fibonacci masterpiece. Price range of Steinway grand pianos is $63,000-$2.6million.
9. Shigeru Kawai
Among the leading piano brands of the world Japan has two names that are on par with their counterparts: Kawai and Yamaha. Let’s start with Kawai. Known for their obsession with details and craftsmanship Kawai is considered one of the best brands in the world. Within Kawai lineup of fantastic instruments Shigeru Kawai is the best. As piano makers go, Kawai represents the famous Japanese perfectionism and graceful execution. Without a doubt Shigeru Kawai is the best Japanese piano on the world’s stages. This flagship concert grand is build by a team of Master Piano Artisans – the highest level of piano craftsmanship in Japan. Like piano Samurai these specialists have both technical and musical training so that each detail is part of the wholesome harmonious and sublime instrument. The rarest of premium mahogany, spruce and maple are used in creation of Shigeru Kawai and many leading pianists are endorsing the instrument with great passion and enthusiasm. While most of Kawai piano range are traditional ebony piano it holds its own among brands producing art case luxury pianos as well. With crystal CR40 piano Kawai produced a luxury piano among the worlds’ best. With price tag of $200,000 this is a treasure to behold and only 3 are made per year. With super limited edition CR-1M Kawai raised the bar even higher. The price tag is close to $800,000 and is build-to-order. For his crystal piano with polished metal elements that reflect the rainbows of colors Kawai created a very unique semi-order system. The customization list provides options and all required fields are marked. Interested party can fill out the form and add desired customizations. In a few days the piano maker will email the quote and thus the process begins. Since 1927 Kawai produces Japan’s ultimate instruments and one can rest assured that Kawai branded piano is going to be a prized possession.
Last but by far not least on our list is Yamaha. Probably world’s largest piano maker is also one of most recognized piano brands. The first Yamaha piano was built in 1900 by Torakusu Yamaha, the founder of Nippon Gakki Co. Over the subsequent 100 years Yamaha grew into a global giant producing all sorts of musical instruments. However the piano remains the main focus if this remarkable brand and it occupies a major place among its fellow piano makers. Throughout the 20th century Yamaha artisans would travel the world appraising themselves of the most recent technological and piano building developments. Then would analyze and build on them to scale the piano manufacture to produce an extraordinary number of outstanding pianos. With its expansion to US market in 1960s Yamaha became one of the most recognized brands in the world. Decades of research went into creation of it’s best piano – Yamaha CFX. Upon unveiling of this grand piano in 2010 Yamaha took its rightful place among the top performance piano brands by becoming the choice instrument at prestigious Piano Competitions such as Chopin and Tchaikovsky. CFX is considered one of the best concert grands due to its singing rich tone and light action suitable for long competitive recitals that are part of the major competition circuit. The Yamaha piano makers crafted an incredibly responsive and fast action that does not require as much torque of the fingers making it very easy to play. It comes as no surprise that many a competition winner end up choosing CFX piano and vote it best in class. Yamaha produces occasional luxury designer instrument but its main focus is on performance pianos and baby grands for music students and lovers alike. The quality and craftmanship of these pianos are guaranteed by over 100 years of stellar record from this legacy Japanese piano maker.
Is there such a thing as the best piano in the world? Probably no, as the elusive title lies in the eye of the beholder. The above mentioned piano brands produce absolutely amazing instruments and choosing any one from among this illustrious list would be an excellent choice. A couple of reputable names didn’t make the list such as Mason Hamlin and Stuart & Sons. Why? Mason Hamlin is a fabulous American piano maker and the number of their pianos are available from reputable piano shops around the world. Though their market share penetration is very small and more recent models aren’t living up to the warm tone quality of the older Mason Hamlin pianos.
Stuart & Sons is a fantastic Australian piano maker. They experiment with 108-keys keyabord – the largest in the world and use beautiful rare veneers to finish the body of their pianos. The brand is very young – started in 1992. While the acoustical effects of the extended keyboard are amazing and without a doubt will yield great new music written with that in mind and performance practice utilizing this special feature we will be closely watching how Stuart Sons pianos hold up on the international stages against an established coterie of legacy piano brands.
We hope that this excursion into the best piano brands in the world was informative and entertaining. If you have further questions or interested in acquisition of one of these sublime machines leave a reply or send us your email address. We will be happy to assist you with whatever piano related questions you may have. You can also email us at info (at) luxury-pianos.com with your name email and phone number if those are your preferred ways of being contacted and our luxury piano consultant will be in touch.