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.