Acoustic Piano (Yamaha M-460, Cable Nelson Yamaha CN-116, Kawai K-15, etc.) - Review, Best Values, Pricing, & Shopping Experience


Our kids started on piano lessons through learnpiano online some years ago. At the time, we owned a Casio keyboard (CTK-515 - current model is Casio CTK-2400) and soon upgraded to a Yamaha portable digital piano (P65 - current model is Yamaha P45B) from Costco. A number of years ago, our then eight year old started taking lessons from a live teacher. Even to the untrained ear, there was a distinct difference in the sound emanating from his Grand Piano and our digital piano. Per his recommendation, we decided to upgrade to an Acoustic Console Upright Piano: his opinion was that we should consider either a new piano for several thousand dollars or an older one for several hundred with the intention of upgrading in a year or so. Console Uprights are pianos over 40” in height while those shorter than that are termed spinets. Spinets did enjoy popularity for a while but the plug was pulled on its production some years ago with the advent of digital pianos. Our piano teacher specifically told us not to get a spinet.

Craigslist vs Piano Dealers:

Our initial source for a used acoustic piano was Craigslist though we did visit a few piano dealers. In the price range we had in mind (several hundreds to a few thousands), it was very clear that the Yamaha was regarded as the gold standard. The lowest price for a Yamaha we saw listed on Craigslist was a 30-year old P2 for $1000, and by the time we contacted, the piano was already sold! The closest we came to buying a used piano was a 35-year old Baldwin 52” upright that was listed in Craigslist by a used piano dealer in San Leandro for $700. The piano sounded excellent but we ultimately decided against it for two reasons:
  • The piano did not show very well and the cabinetry would not go at all with the rest of the decor in our home, and
  • The 52” seemed a little too tall a piano for our room.
Craigslist listings from private parties definitely command a price advantage over similar pianos sold by dealers (their Ads are also on Craigslist). But, buying from a private party has potential headaches:
  • They generally do not come with any warranties whatsoever;
  • Transportation could be a hassle and employing a professional piano moving outfit can get expensive, and
  • Tuning will add to the overall cost.
All three of these factors are generally accounted for when you buy a used piano from a dealer. They usually come with a 1-year warranty along with moving, setup and tuning. The premium when buying from a dealer can be anywhere upwards of $500. For example, used 25-30 year old Yamaha P2’s in good condition can be purchased through Craigslist from private parties for an average of around $1500 while from a Piano dealer the average is well above $2000. The blue book pricing on these are about $1000 or so higher. Sometimes, dealers offer good deals such as 100% credit towards an upgrade down the line.

We decided against buying a used piano primarily because of our instructor’s suggestion that we should be prepared to upgrade even if we spend several hundreds for a used piano immediately. Rather than having to purchase another one, it made more sense for us to go with a piano we can use for a longer time period.


New Piano Shopping Experience:

In general, piano shops in the bay area do not discuss pricing over the phone. For this reason, it is necessary to visit the stores to be able to compare pricing. We visited Piedmont Piano in Oakland, CA and DC Pianos in Berkeley, CA and had phone conversations with Music Exchange in Dublin, Pianos Plus in Castro Valley, Gordon’s Music in Fairfield, and Carnes Piano in San Mateo. Of these, “Piedmont Piano”, “Music Exchange”, and “Pianos Plus” are Yamaha dealers while “Carnes Piano”, “DC Pianos”, and “Gordon’s Music” are Kawai dealers. It was explained to us that the same dealership does not function as both Yamaha and Kawai dealers because of the fierce competition between these two companies.

The phone conversations were useful to an extent in gathering information, but could not convince us to consider visiting. “Carnes Piano” claimed they had a big sale running on the Kawai and said they had a sizable inventory marked for this special sale. They couldn’t give the pricing over the phone but said the sale was 30% off the list price of the pianos and that the Kawai K-15 list price was around $4500. The pricing did not include transporting and tuning. “Pianos Plus” asked us about our experience at “Piedmont Piano” and said they would beat Piedmont Piano’s pricing although they could not give quotes over the phone.

“Piedmont Piano” is a very professional outfit. They were very helpful and gave us the strengths of all the Yamaha piano models they carried. When we mentioned that our preferred range is around $1000 he gently guided us on the fact that their lowest priced acoustic is the Cable Nelson-Yamaha co-branded CN-216 which was on sale for $2695 ($2595 for the CN-116). They also pointed out that their store in San Francisco carried used pianos and we may find something there although at a somewhat higher than the $1000 price point. There was no explicit pressure to buy or to commit to anything. But, they made it a point to stress the fact that the sale ran through that month and that they have heard that Yamaha is set to increase pricing the following month. The next higher model they had was the M-460 BC priced at $3195. Also, on the Cable Nelson branding, they said the spruce was made of laminate and the warranty was 5-years compared to wood sprucing and 10-year warranty for the other Yamaha products. The 5-year warranty contradicts the 10-year warranty that Yamaha publishes on its website. The pricing includes transportation and two tunings for the Yamaha’s and transportation and one tuning for the Cable-Nelson’s.

“DC Pianos” has an understated store, although they are dealers for Kawai, Pearl River, and Baldwin pianos. Dennis Croda, the owner of the store was also extremely patient with us. He directed us to an older Wurltizer spinet for $995 when we mentioned our price range. When we mentioned our preference for consoles, he showed us a used Yamaha P-22 he had listed on Craigslist for $1995. He also had other used Yamaha’s at higher price points. He then proceeded to show us the low-end consoles of Pearl River, Baldwin, and Kawai. Pearl River is a Chinese manufacturer which also manufacturers pianos for other brands. They had the lowest pricing among the 44”-45” consoles at $1695. The lowest Baldwin console (44”-45”) was priced at $2000. The one we liked best was the Kawai K-15 with contemporary black styling and no front legs. It was priced at $2795. Dennis offered a 10% discount off these prices for the new pianos. The price included transportation, first tuning, and a 100% credit for upgrades.

We also looked briefly at Costco’s Suzuki offerings. The console uprights were priced starting in the mid-2000’s and had a 10-year warranty.

Our Choice:

We decided against Pearl River given the possibility that the value of the piano will depreciate much faster than the other piano brands. Baldwin went through a bankruptcy and Gibson bought them a few years ago. Even with the revival, the new Baldwin’s are considered a notch below in quality compared to the other brands. That left us with a choice between the Kawai’s and the Yamaha’s at higher price points. Both the Kawai K-15 and the Cable Nelson Yamaha CN-216’s sounded good. Looks wise, we preferred the Kawai. We compared the Kawai K-15 side-by-side with the Yamaha P-22 used model they had for $1995. The Yamaha had a slightly brighter sound even to our untrained ears. Dennis explained that the Yamaha’s sound like that as they were geared towards the institutional market. Kawai K-15 sounded just right – neither imposing nor weak. We really liked the mute facility of Kawai. In the end, our decision was between one of the used Yamaha P-2’s or P-22’s and the new Kawai K-15. The mute facility along with the sleek looks made us go for the Kawai K-15.

In early 2010, we used DC Pianos twice to transport the Kawai K-15 over a period of a few months. The first was a short local move. The mover pricing came in about 75% more than what DC Piano offered - part of the reason for the higher pricing with the movers was the fact that they required crating even for a short move. Our second move was a relocation half way around the globe. DC Piano confirmed the Kawai's should perform well in Asia and offered to put silica gel inside just as a precaution. Crating & loading came to just under $200 - they try to reuse crates from the new pianos that come to their store and that accounts for the lower pricing - the piano came intact and we are happy campers - now, well past the 7-year mark after that big move  - it is still performing very well, although getting it tuned has been a struggle as there are not many professionals qualified to do it in this part of the country.

Acoustic Piano Buyers Resources:






Related Posts:

1. Portable Digital Pianos - A Comparative Review.
2. Non Portable (Home) Digital Pianos - A Comparative Review.
3. Digital Pianos (Yamaha, Casio, Roland, Kawai, Korg) - An introduction for Digital Piano Shoppers.
4. Portable Yamaha Digital Pianos - A Comparative Review.
5. Non Portable (Home) Yamaha Digital Pianos - A Comparative Review.
6. Yamaha Digital Pianos - An Introduction to Different Models.
7. Acoustic Piano (Yamaha M-460, Cable Nelson Yamaha CN-116, Kawai K-15, etc.) - Review, Best Values, Pricing, & Shopping Experience (this post).
8. Yamaha P65 & the new Yamaha P45 Digital Piano Review.
9. Teach your kids Piano with learn piano online for free – well, almost!!

Last Updated: 04/2017.

7 comments :

Gabrielle said...

Thank you for this informative and honest article! We are looking for a piano in the Bay Area for our son and you have done all of the legwork for us!

DC Pianos was recommended by our son's piano teacher, so it was refreshing to see that you gave it a positive review.

Again, thanks.

ks said...

Great to hear that - Thanks!

Good luck with your piano purchase.

Regards,

jman37 said...

I hope that you are happy with your purchase!

I do wish that you would have considered the local Steinway dealership.

The offer other products other than Steinway's which are more moderatly priced such as the Boston, Essex and many have the Kohler & Campbell. These piano all have similar design features as the Steinway and are excellent values.

Thanks!

huffy said...

My wife and I are looking at the same two pianos in the Portland, OR area and your post has been very helpful. Our dealer offered $2995 for the Cable Nelson CN-116 and $3115 for the Kawai K-15.
You got a much better deal!

ks said...

Hi Huffy:

Nice to hear the post was helpful and that the price we got earlier last year for the Kawai K15 was good. Good luck with your purchase!

Regards,

Cathy R said...

I read your comments after visiting Music Exchange in Dublin where Ron the Manager was extremely informative and nice. We were trying to decide whether to get the Yamaha when they introduced to us the Cable Nelson assembled by Yamaha employees in China. They said only 3 pianos are made in Japan, the rest of the Yamahas are also made in China. The price was on sale for $2,950, which includes the 10 year warranty, the piano bench, cleaning cloths and we negotiated the free delivery, saving us a couple of hundred dollars. After, deciding a brand new piano would be best for us and we didn't have the time going to homes looking for used pianos without warranties. After discussing it with my daughter's piano instructor. We bought the Cable Nelson which is gorgeous and sounds superb. I just want to say the Music Exchange is a wonderful store and the service remarkable. Our purchase includes upgrade options you may to hear about. Call them first! They have been in business over 40 years.

Brandon said...

For affordable prices and a hassle free buying experience, try finding a local piano technician that 'buys & sells' quality used pianos. These pianos are typically very well serviced, include professional delivery, & come with a warranty.

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