The Omega gets it’s first full service

The Sauter Omega has been practically untouched since it arrived in August 2008. I started thinking about getting somebody to do a full regulation and voicing after the factory warranty expired in August 2010. I finally settled on Walter Haas. Walter has been coming to Singapore in June for the past 18 years to prepare pianos for the annual Singapore Piano Festival. He has also prepared pianos at The Esplanade Concert Hall. A few years ago a friend of mine had engaged Walter to work on her new Steinway B, because the local Steinway dealer was unable to provide satisfactory regulation, voicing and tuning. (The dealership has changed hands since then.)

So, after months of deliberation (because Walter’s services are expensive) I bit the bullet and asked him to come by when he is in Singapore in June for the Piano Festival. The servicing was done last Saturday 23rd June. Walter arrived at 9am and left at 3.30pm. I enjoyed the visit tremendously. Although my chatting with Walter slowed him down, I don’t mind. He is a humble man who takes great professional pride in his work. And he was full of stories about pianists he has worked with in the past.

The major things he did:

  • Applied a very tiny amount of Teflon grease to the balance rail key pins;
  • Applied a very tiny amount of Teflon lubricant powder to the hammer knuckles;
  • Reduced the key dip by 1mm;
  • Increased the let-off by 1mm (it was too close at 1mm, and many notes were almost double-striking);
  • Voiced the hammers (after tuning)
  • Fixed the noisy sustain pedal levers and increased the amount of play slightly.

The end result was wonderful. The action felt a little lighter and more responsive, the tone was beautifully even; he even managed to get rid of the twanginess that a few notes were exhibiting. What intrigued me the most was how the voicing and his tuning skills gave me the upper treble I knew was there–bell-like and with long sustain. I’m going to have to really learn to tune the unisons by ear, after using Verituner to tune the first string of each unison.

He was generally impressed with the build-quality of the Omega. He made a few comments about the piano (which is about the size of a Steinway B):

  • Beautiful bass;
  • The more he works on it the more he likes it (can’t blame the man for having a Steinway bias!);
  • The sound envelope is very resilient–when pushed hard the piano holds its tonal character well; it doesn’t fall off a cliff.

The only thing we had a difference about was the temperament. He always tunes Equal (but Valloti for Baroque music), whereas I prefer the somewhat more colorful EBVT III. He was curious about what it sounded like to I tuned the temperament octave for him. “I hear very strange things,” he said. He did notice that EBVT III is not far off from Equal. Which is true, and why Bill Bremmer describes it as a mild Well temperament.

In the end (and being curious myself) I asked him to tune Equal (prior to voicing). To be honest it sounded great, but I think its still too bland for my tastes. I will soon revert back to the EBVT III. But after Wzkit has had a chance to drop by this afternoon to play on the the piano.

I have pretty much decided to get Walter to drop by every year from now on.


9 responses

  1. Walter Haas has been coming to S’pore to work on concert pianos for the past 18 years. Now, I am really curious if Sg has no professional piano technician of his caliber after all these years. Or is it really that a Sg will never be able to reach the technical capability or craftsmanship of a Caucasian.
    Is it a motivational problem or an inherent problem among asians(ex Japan) to strive for perfectionism in what they love to do?

    Thanks for sharing stories on your piano and classical music.

    • There are pianos in the performing arts venues and at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music to look after. And one can buy many of the high-end brands here in Singapore. So yes, there are ‘professional’ piano technicians here in Singapore. The question is whether or not you like the result of their work.

      It really has nothing to do with being Asian or Caucasian. It has to do with a genuine love of the piano as a musical instrument, and it has to do with experience. The best technicians seem to be the ones who spend years as apprentices in piano factories. (Visit Walter’s website and look at the write-up about his background.) A few months ago a friend of mine with a Shigeru Kawai SK6 had it serviced by Terry Otake, the same piano tech who provides the complimentary first free full regulation and voicing to SK buyers in North America. This complimentary service is not available to SK buyers in Singapore, so I have no idea how my friend managed to get Terry to drop by. Terry spent years building SK grand pianos in the Kawai factory.

      Incidentally, when I visited the Sauter factory in early 2008, I asked about the two Asian apprentices I saw on the factory floor, one woman and one guy. They came from China and Japan respectively, and had been there for years!

      Then there is another thing — do piano owners in Singapore know enough about pianos to know when a technician is doing good work or not? What about piano teachers? Some people are of the opinion that most local piano teachers are the last people you want to turn to for advice about pianos!

  2. Hi Digitus,
    I want to do a regulation and voicing my piano. Do you have anyone to recommend?
    Btw how much do you spent for Walter Haas’ piano service?
    Thank you

  3. Hi Digitus, is it possible to share how you engage Walter Haas for servicing your piano? I have a GS-30, not terribly the best grand piano available but I think it is badly in need of regulation and voicing.. Thank you
    Have a nice day

    • Hey R, it was nice having the email exchange with you. I am sure Mr Kwan will do good things for your GS-30!

  4. Off-topic as well. Just to report that I am getting ready for the delivery of the Sauter Delta which I ordered in February. Alas, the space I have for the instrument would not be suitable for an Omega, but I have my hopes up for the (hopefully not so distant) future. I saw pictures of your Omega (we emailed earlier, remember) which is stunning and glad to hear it is holding well.

  5. Hello Digitus,

    I bought a Sauter from Alvin Wee about 20 years ago and he had been our piano technician. As I am usually the only one who plays the piano at home, and I went abroad for several years, the piano is now terribly out of shape. The number I have for Mr. Wee is no longer working, and as I search online, I came across your website and realized you got your Omega through him too! Do you happen to have his number that I could have? Thank you so much for your help!


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