As promised I am going to give you my personal opinion about the Mason and Hamlin 50 and then some facts.
I was introduced to the Model 50 last year for the very first time. This is the most incredible upright I have ever had the privilege of playing. I find that generally when you get in the price range of the Model 50 most people that are interested in an upright of this caliber are serious players. Generally, though not always, the consumer is generally quite accomplished and is looking for something with power and substance, something with tone and color and lastly, looks good.
The Model 50 has all of the above. The Steinway K52 is the same size along with the Yamaha U3. While both of these are great pianos they are not capable (even with decent voicing) to produce the color and power of the Mason and Hamlin model 50. The Yamaha sounds and feels very thin in its tone and too light of an action to be seriously considered by an accomplished pianist. Perhaps the U3 is a good rock and roll piano but (in my opinion) not suited for a serious classical musician or a jazz musician that is concerned with tonal color or dynamic range.
A careful look at the Steinway K 52 will expose a very nice, well-built piano. That’s about it. The sound is lackluster at best. There is no discernable power and playing it is like driving a tank. Steinway has never been known to build a really nice, capable upright piano. They have a great name but, again, in my opinion, I really don’t want to spend my money on a name. I am interested in the piano itself.
I have used the same piano demonstration for many years. Very simply – while some salespeople tend to play on laboriously and may even fake a performance. While that makes for a BIG experience, the answer to the obvious question can’t be answered by bombastic playing. The answer to the question is found in a simple chord. Starting on the second or third octave from the bass, start on the E flat and play a very simple pattern while holding the sustain (damper) pedal down and as softly as possible to produce sound. E flat, F, G, B flat, and repeat to the last E flat on the piano. REMEMBER to play as softly as possible.
Practically every single piano will sound good when played firmly or loudly but when you play very soft – to the point of being almost ridiculous. A well-built, well-designed piano will respond by exposing and demonstrating its color and tonal characteristics most especially when played at ppp. This is my favorite test to the true personality of a piano.
Now let’s talk facts.
The Mason and Hamlin 50 is an upright piano that measures 50 inches tall, 58 inches wide and 23 inches deep. It is a large piano but not as obtrusive as some models in the same size range. The Steinway K52, for example, is a monster piano. The Yamaha U3, while it is smaller than the Steinway has zero and I do mean zero design element.
The pricing is on the lower side between that of the Steinway and the Yamaha, in other words, if you are looking for a brand name and feel like an extra $15,000.00 is worth it, then Steinway is the way to go. If you are looking for a real musical instrument and you are a serious player then the Yamaha U3 is not an option. In my opinion, I would spend the extra few dollars and go with the Mason.
The action of the Mason is the (now) world famous WNG action. Solid and capable of outplaying the older wooden action of the Steinway and not nearly as sluggish and harsh as the U3.
The frame is important to the life of the piano. The frame is the outside portion of the piano that you can actually see. The frame of the piano is also referred to as the rim. The rim of the Mason and Hamlin is hard rock maple. The Steinway is made of birch and laminated maple. Hard rock maple is known for its strength over longer periods of time while maple is used because of ease of manufacturing and because it is considerably cheaper to use.
The hammer weight of the Mason 50 is also a consideration. The hammer weight of the Mason and Hamlin is at a whopping 16 lbs. versus Steinway at a paltry 13 lbs. So What? According to David Andersen of Los Angeles, “The most crucial aspect of the action is the hammer”. There are many aspects that the hammer actually plays in the tone and sound qualities however, on a very simple level, the best actions will start with a good hammer. David Andersen says “felt weight actually refers to the weight of the sheet of wool in its beginning form. Fundamentally, the heavier the felt weight the fatter the tone”, Heavier and more dense felt weights are easier to voice professionally and will produce fatter more robust sounds than that of a less weighted felt.
There are many more things that can be said about the Mason and Hamlin 50. This is an incredible instrument that should be considered when you are looking for a SERIOUS upright piano. All in all when considering an upright piano the Mason and Hamlin Model 50 piano is a very logical choice for professional sound, touch and an investment that will last you and your family for many generations to come.
Ric Overton in Burbank, CA