There are 5 core features on uprights that we use to quickly gauge value. In most product lines, these features are added or improved as the price rises. Essex pianos, by Steinway, have all 5 features in every model.
Feature 1: 5-POST BACKFRAME
Nearly all the best upright pianos in the world have 5-post asymmetric (unevenly spaced) backframes, which serves as the support against approximately 20 TONS of cumulative string tension. Pianos with strong backframes construction will likely have better tuning stability and perform better later in life. The cheaper pianos in the industry may have only two outer posts, or evenly spaced posts placed only for aesthetic purposes.
Feature 2: REINFORCED HAMMERS
The best pianos in the industry are made with hammers that are reinforced with dense underfelt to maintain hammer shape. The underfelt prevents the hammer felt from wrinkling at the time of production and then prevents the hammer felt from becoming unglued or going out of shape from years of impact with the strings.
Feature 3: VERTICALLY LAMINATED BRIDGES
Patented in 1880 by Theodore Steinway, who noted that replacing a solid bridge with one made from multiple layers of wood “more energetically propagated” vibration from the strings into the soundboard. By delivering more energy to the soundboard, every part of the musical experience is enhanced and the piano plays like a bigger piano.
Feature 4: SOLID SPRUCE SOUNDBOARD
Not all “solid-spruce soundboards” are created equal. Premium spruce is highly sought over the world for its sonorous qualities and its favorable strength-to-weight ratio. A piano soundboard endures cumulative pressure from the strings as high as 700lbs. Grain lines that run closely together mean the wood is stronger. A soundboard should also be free of knots and irregularities.
Feature 5: TAPERED SOUNDBOARD
The soundboard is sanded to gradually become thinner toward the edges. This design allows the soundboard to vibrate most freely, providing better tone and longer, stronger sustain. It is an extra step that is omitted from most lower-priced pianos.
Steinway Makes it Easy. All Essex Uprights Have All 5 Features.
So, What Does All This Mean?
We do not necessarily feel this is a choice between good or bad, but rather a matter of “best value.” We encourage anyone shopping for an affordable piano to try and see what they have to offer. We think you’ll be impressed by Steinway’s Essex.