The Difference Between New York and Hamburg Steinways

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People often ask me what the difference is between New York and Hamburg made Steinway pianos. Researching this online may offer some perspective but really the choice between the two may be more a matter of personal preference than anything else. That being said, there are some key differences between the two manufacturers of Steinway pianos that may interest you.

The history of the Steinway family is pretty fascinating and for a detailed description, I would suggest viewing their official story on their website. The family was actually a group of German immigrants who came to New York. They began piano manufacturing in New York and later opened a factory in Hamburg, Germany. Both of these factories have been producing pianos for over a hundred years.

Overall, the pianos coming out of each factory are incredibly similar. Both factories produce nearly all the same models today; which is not something they have always done. For most of the 20th century, New York Steinway was producing the model L while Hamburg was producing the model O. Both of the pianos are the same size, 5-foot 10 1/2-inches, but they have different scale designs. Earlier in the 20th century, New York Steinway was also producing Model O’s but they then switched to the L. Recently the L model was discontinued and now they only produce the Model O in both factories. Recently New York Steinway started producing the model A (6-foot 2-inch) which was only built in Germany, however, it was built in New York early in the 20th century. (There was also a model termed the “stretch A” which measured 6-foot 4-inches.) The model C (7’ 6” in size) is only built in Hamburg Germany even today.

One of the biggest difference between the two different factories is the actions. New York makes their own actions while Hamburg utilizes Renner (an esteemed German action manufacturer). The New York Steinways have unique design elements only available on the Steinway made actions including the Accelerated Action.

Another difference between the two factories is that Hamburg Steinway’s tend to have slightly thicker soundboards than their New York counterparts. This means that the Hamburg Steinway’s are a little bit more subdued and it takes a bit more effort to get a larger sound out of them (depending upon voicing).

Ultimately the difference between New York and Hamburg Steinways comes down to the individual piano.

Some people appreciate the higher degree of refinement of German Steinways direct from the factory. However, with the proper preparation, these differences may not be so great. This means that American Steinway technicians play a very important role in each dealer getting the pianos to play on the highest possible level.

I hope this sheds some light on the similarities and differences between New York and Hamburg Steinway pianos.

Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin (949) 244-3729

2 thoughts on “The Difference Between New York and Hamburg Steinways”

  1. Hi, Robert — You ask why they might choose to make the C only in Hamburg. I’d speculate that it might have to do with the very big and expensive model-specific tooling they need, and the number of pianos of that model that they sell each year. I remember seeing somewhere a video of bending and laminating a piano case around a giant form. You’d need that, and the pattern for casting the plate in both locations. Perhaps the cost of duplicating the tooling is more than the cost of shipping the C’s they need here from over there.

    — J.S.

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