All the high-end pianos are very good, when prepped properly. Although each make has its own signature voice, one could conceivably be happy with any of them, all things being equal. However I took into consideration two very important factors. The first was access to a good piano tech. The second was overall perceived value for money.
Pianos are very personal things, and you really do need to have access to a technician who is able to bring out the best in your instrument. This is true for all pianos, but especially true of high-end pianos. I believe that the money one pays for the instrument must also guarantee the availability of a first-rate tech who can not only keep the mechanics in regulation, but who can also voice and tune the piano to your requirements. The more one pays for an instrument the stronger that guarantee should be. Only two dealers gave me the feeling that my piano would be well looked after – Emmanuel & Sons (for Fazioli and Estonia), and Raffles Piano (for Sauter).
When I played on the Fazioli F183 and F212 I was thrilled with the buttery smooth action, but the signature Fazioli voice was too clinical for me. I went back again for a second time, and decided that the Fazioli action was actually too smooth. I found it very hard to control even after spending close to an hour trying to get used to the action. Maybe it was because my technique was inadequate.
The Estonia L190 was also interesting initially. But I eventually felt that the dynamic range was a tad limited and that the voice too complex for my tastes.
There was also a five-year-old Schimmel 189T in the E&S showroom. Beautiful fit and finish. But the bottom one third and top one third of the keyboard weren’t as strong as the central one third. Quite disappointing.
That left only the Sauter Omega. I had briefly considered getting a Delta 185. But if I could stretch enough for it I would be getting a truly superior piano that many knowledgeable people consider to be without peer among all the high-end pianos. The build quality is impeccable, with an almost fanatical attention to detail. The voice is clear, but with a rich timbre that changes across the very wide and very controllable dynamic range. And the clincher of course was that there would be Alvin around to help take care of the piano.
There were of course the ringing endorsements from PW members, both owners and dealers. But the one endorsement that to me was the most significant was from a high-end piano designer and manufacturer with no vested interests in recommending the Omega or not. It was from Ron Overs in Sydney. His comment is here, in a PW thread about alternatives to the Steinway B. He said:
“One model which chopin952 omitted to mention, and which is very much worthy of consideration is the Sauter Omega. While it is a slightly longer piano than the B, it is also a much more modern design with a better string scale (the B breaks at E20/F21 while the Omega breaks at G23/G#24 – the past thirty years has seen quite some design progress with some makers). The tone will be a lot more even across the bass treble break and it will hold tune better with changes in temperature and humidity, due the lower deviation on the percentage of breaking strain across the compass of the instrument.”
And also here:
“I’d recommend that you try the Sauter Omega before you finally make a choice.
EJ Sauter has taken some good images of his Sauter Omega, and it clearly is a very well made instrument. EJ Sauter’s images of his Omega can be found at;
“With a 23 note bass, this piano has a good contemporary scale. Various other manufacturers continue to build 7 foot class instruments with 20 and 19 note basses, but they are old world scales, and suffer from inferior tuning stability and a lack of imedance and inharmonicity balance across the break, when compared to the latest generation of 7 foot scales. So I’d strongly recommend that you have a good look at the Omega.
“I haven’t seen the latest versions of Grotrian’s 7 foot instrument, so I am unable to comment on them, but they received some good reports on various internet forums following the recent NAMM show. But again, I’d start by looking at the cross over point. Any 7 foot instrument with less than 23 bass notes would be off my list.”