Posts Tagged ‘Mason and Hamlin Piano’

Mason and Hamlin BB – A Joke?

Saturday, July 25th, 2015

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I think NOT!!!

Quite an interesting thing about the Mason and Hamlin BB.  I am simply in love.  I would like to express something more astounding, earth shattering or eye opening, but the simple truth is……I’m in love.

For many years I have carried the torch for a different brand 7 footer but there is a new love in my life.  I am asked frequently, “If I would buy you any piano in the world, what would it be?” I have played many, many pianos in my career, reviewed quite a few and have listened to more than I care to estimate.  From a personal experience with my very best critical ear, I have never played a finer instrument that allows me the ability to express emotions like the Mason and Hamlin BB.

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Here’s a special key to me.  Most any piano will sound big when you play loudly.  It will project and generally sound like a piano.  However, the real test to me is when I am playing at ppp with the shift (soft) pedal engaged.  I love the sound the piano makes at it’s very softest.

The sound of most pianos will not fall apart when played at their loudest.  The sound of most pianos  will not speak when played at their softest.  The Mason and Hamlin BB is an exception to the rule.  When played at it’s softest the BB will respond with a very clear and round tone. When banged on with a heavy hand the luscious tones still deliver.

mason and hamlin bb

There has to be a downside, I mean, there is always a downside.  If I had to think of one criticism I would most likely have to say that 7 footers (besides being big) tend to have an overpowering bass register.  While the Mason BB is not really considered an exception, the tone does feel as if it may be a little easier to manage than in some 7 foot models I have played.

When I play I tend to want an evenly balanced tone that delivers all the way across the keyboard with little exception. Often when “critically” playing you have to learn control.  Steinway B has the opposite problem from the Mason BB.  The Mason BB bass is almost too big while the Steinway B feels to small.

Recently, I spoke with Tom Lagomarsino, Vice President at Mason and Hamlin, about the BB and this is what Tom had to say –  “The reputation of the BB comes from it’s unusual power and projection, delicate control of the action, and distinctive well-balanced Mason & Hamlin sound. This combination allows professional and enthusiast alike to create beautiful music of many genres”.

A customer recently asked me if I would or could compare Mason BB with a Steinway B or a Yamaha C7.  My response was that, as far as I am concerned the Mason and Hamlin delivers a more balanced, even tone from the lowest bass note to the highest treble note and simply put the Mason would be my personal choice – period.  If price is a consideration I would rather have the B model (5’4″) than any Steinway that Steinway has ever produced. To end the equation on her question I explained that in my opinion, I would rather have a big screen T.V.

Simply put, if you are looking for a dynamic piano that will deliver exactly what you are trying to express you will find it in the Mason and Hamlin.  The BB 7’0″ is by far the VERY best 7 footer on the market in my humble opinion.

Well, enough for now.  I am off to a new subject which I will be covering in my next Blog.

Ric Overton of Burbank, CA

 

 

Mason and Hamlin Grands – Who Do They Think They Are?

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

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As you may have gathered from my other posts regarding Mason and Hamlin, I AM A HUGE FAN!!!  I decided to review a couple of grand models that are my favorites. Having these pianos around me everyday leaves me “like a kid…….” nevermind, you get the picture.

The model B is one of my favorites because of its size.  The model B Mason and Hamlin measures 5′ 4″.  If you wanted to compare this piano to some other popular models you would either have to go to Yamaha C1X 5’3″ grand which, of course, Yamaha “claims”  is all Japanese made, or you would compare the Steinway S 5’1″ grand.

Mason and Hamlin B is 1 inch larger than the Yamaha C1X and 3 inches larger than the Steinway S model but would still be comparable as far as the price, length of strings are close as well as the soundboard.  Some of you may wonder if 3 inches make a big difference and the answer would be YES, YES, YES. But. the HUGE difference is a properly built instrument.  Mason and Hamlin knows how to properly build an instrument.

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The scale design of the B appears to be the same as their larger models with the exception that it is considerably smaller than it’s  closest model (the model A ).  It features their globally famous WNG action, solid spruce soundboard, amazingly perfectly weighted hammers (that are properly voiced), properly placed bridges and the same musically precise strings that are used in their larger models.

What this all means to you is that this small grand piano delivers the musicality and tone that you are expecting from a world class piano but is packed in a very small body.  You will be able to play Chopin or easily move into an Ellington improv, play a moving gospel tune or cry to the blues without that sinking feeling that something is missing.

Steinway, undoubtedly, has a great name and has historically built a great piano.  Steinway’s “S” model is no exception.  It has a great name on the fallboard and is solidly built.  That’s it! The sound tends to be very dark and getting any power or expression is pretty much out of the question.  Of course, Steinway also has Kawai’s made Boston and Pearl River’s made Essex if you are looking for an Asian-made product that is “linked” to the Steinway name.  Either of these two products will give you a product with more musical attributes than their domestic made product.  However, you have to understand that Boston or Essex are NOT in the same category as Mason and Hamlin.

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Yamaha’s C1X, they claim is 100% Japanese is quite the piano  as well.  It has many of the same features as Mason and Hamlin.  It has a solid spruce soundboard and does have well made Asian strings.  If you are looking for a piano that will play those bright tones, typical of a gospel piano or perhaps a great blues sound then this may be the perfect instrument for you.  It DOES NOT compare with the Mason in its ability to create tone, color and clarity, but it does have that thin, bright tone that you would expect from an Asian piano.

Here’s the intriguing thing about the Mason and Hamlin B model.  Most pianos in this size are not able to competently deliver the proper tone, touch and clarity of sound that is found in this 5’4″ model.  How they are able to produce a piano in this size with this powerful sound is nothing short of amazing.  It has everything to do with their scale design and the superior components used in the manufacturing process that really sets them apart.  Below is my Pastor’s nephew at a NAMM show playing the Mason and Hamlin.  Enjoy!!!

In a way of full disclosure, the information above is entirely my opinion.  The way that I formed my opinion is from hours of playing different pianos, listening to their characteristics, understanding their abilities and defining their shortcomings.  Don’t take my word for it however, find a company in your area that has Mason and Hamlin pianos and test drive it yourself.  If you find another piano that you like better then, you should buy it. However, before you make any decisions, try Mason and Hamlin.

LASTLY AND MAYBE MOST IMPORTANTLY, SEE BELOW:

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Ric Overton in Burbank, CA.

 

 

 

 

Mason Hamlin Model 50 – Hidden Secret

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

As promised I am going to give you my personal opinion about the Mason and Hamlin 50 and then some facts.

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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.

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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.

SIZE

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.

PRICING

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

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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

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

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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

What’s This I Hear About Mason and Hamlin Pianos?

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Before I begin I should tell you upfront that Mason and Hamlin is possibly my favorite piano on the planet and “arguably” one of the best-made pianos available today.  It certainly would compare in the “big boy” world of pianos.  Yes, I know all about the European pianos and Steinway.  I am VERY familiar with all of Mason’s counterparts and who competes in the arena of the finest pianos in the world.  I still stand by my assessment of the piano and I believe, if you had the opportunity to experience one like I have you will agree. If you have never had the opportunity to play a Mason and Hamlin piano, get yourself down to the closest dealership and judge for yourself!

OPINIONS

Undoubtedly, we all have an opinion about what makes one piano better than the next.  Some people want sound, others want power and still others are looking for touch.  Mason and Hamlin has gone to great lengths to see that what they manufacture (Made in the USA)  is the best in those categories.  The comapny is constantly asking questions of the top technicians in the world about their opinions and making adjustments in order to produce the “perfect” piano

HaverHill, MA

HaverHill, MA

When I toured the Mason and Hamlin factory in October I was amazed at their care and attention to details.  While each of the pianos are manufactured by hand in Haverhill, MA.  they are cared for as if each one were a member of the family.  Small details are addressed as quickly and as accurately as larger issues.  Each and every part is meticulously inspected and each part is handled by a person who is trained to see flaws and blemishes.  Only the very best of parts are used.

For me, the attitude of the company is one of the first things that help sell me on a particular product.  For example, if you have a problem or question, a serious service issue or something very simple, how does the company address those issues and how quickly does the company follow through.  Do they respond in a timely manner or do they respond at all?  As a consumer, this is very important to me.  As a dealer, it becomes even more important to me.

Cecil Ramirez, National Sales Manager, for Mason and Hamlin says “The craftsmen at Mason & Hamlin invest significant time and hard work in executing the designs of our hand-crafted pianos to very strict tolerances with consistency.”

The model line up for Mason is probably the most simple in the industry.  The model 50 is their only upright model  which is 52″.  It comes in several finishes and colors.  The grand model line up  is as follows: B is 5’4″ the model A is 5’8″, the model AA is 6’4″, the model BB is 7′.  The line up finishes with a CC which is an astounding 9’4″.  So they feature for 1 upright and 5 grands.

I will feature the model 50 in an upcoming article.  Meanwhile, enjoy the great sounds of Prince Charming above.

Ric Overton in Burbank, CA.

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