Thursday, July 17, 2008

Are Estonia Grands the Piano World's Best-kept Secret?

When the first Estonia pianos made their way to Vancouver in the mid-90's, I was immediately struck by the unique quality of tone on the pianos that I tried. An article in Sunday's Columbus Dispatch looks at the story of these Talinn-made instruments, sold for a fraction of the price of their Steinway competitors.

Does anyone have any experience with owning an Estonia over time? Your comments are welcome as to how these instruments grow and change through the years. One of the important things about purchasing pianos is not only how they sound in the showroom but how the instrument's mechanism stands up to years of playing.

On YouTube, there are a few clips of pianists playing Estonias. Here's one of them--Andy Quin taking a 9-footer for a test drive at the Talinn factory:

Estonia pianos home page
Wikipedia entry on the Estonia Piano Factory

(Image via the Suzuki-Orff School of Music's photostream on Flickr)


  1. Anonymous10:50 PM

    Definitely fine pianos and built like trucks. Marc-Andre Hamelin has one in his home.

  2. Anonymous1:28 AM

    Two hundred years building pianos has to say something for the quality and longevity of these pianos...

  3. Anonymous6:08 AM

    I know these instruments long time ago. THey were very popular in my coutry (part of the soviet block that time). Definitelly very strong and durable mechanism. And even more - in my opinion thir mechanism is the best part. SOmebody say "built like trucks". I totally agree :)

    If you are interested, there is one for sale in Cleveland, OH. A 9 feet, about 15 yrs old (I believe), almost not used. That was an instrument in a teaching piano studio. It was only used for kids recitals from time to time. I think the price was 20k, probably not sold yet.

  4. 20k for an Estonia concert grand? That's an insane price for such a great piano...if I had the room in my house and lived anywhere close to Cleveland I would check it out. If you can find any more info about that piano I'm sure there would be some CPB readers interested in it.

  5. Anonymous10:04 PM

    Shameless promotion. Over priced and over praised. Old factory, old equipment with second rate results. You get what you pay for if you are lucky.

    1. Hurting the piano sales in the store you're working in?

  6. Anonymous9:58 AM

    I previously owned a 2001 Estonia
    5'6" grand piano, which was my instrument for six years before trading it for a Steinway B. It was a gorgeous sounding instrument, beautiful in construction, and with an amazing touch(Renner action and Renner blue hammers). In the six years I owned it, I never had any problems. It was a joy to have it.

    The post just before me does not know what he/she's talking about, and reveals more of the ignorance and insecurity of the poster than reality. The Piano Book by Larry Fine, an invaluable source on pianos, rates the Estonia very highly, as high as any Mason Hamlin and Schimmel pianos. My experience with the Estonia is the same. I rate it very highly, and consider it as one of the best pianos available out there. I will not hesitate to buy one again in the future.

  7. Anonymous11:13 AM

    I bought mine new in 2002. This is a "studio grand" 5'6" It has a really sweet tone. The build is beefy and solid.The action is perfect. I did have 3 bass strings start to buzz but the warranty took care of this without issue. Over all I give it 8 out of 10 stars. My benchmark is a Steinway Model B! I highly recommend Estonia pianos.

  8. These are great pianos. Certainly superior to any Japanese piano. Very close to Steinways, but of course with a different tone. At this level, however, it's really about the individual instrument. Some Steinways are not quite there. Whereas, of course, a good Eastern European piano can be spectacular.

    The big Elephant in the room, but very recently, are the high-end Chinese pianos (not just ANY Chinese piano) but the Hailuns and Brodmanns, the Hailuns, certain models, being beyond belief. Cheap labour, fantastic attention to detail, and the time and money and European-based research to try out inumerable designs PRIOR to making the instrument en masse. Also, needless to say, there is a huge market within China itself for REALLY good instruments, but within the constraints of a middle class Chinese budget.

  9. Anonymous12:43 PM

    Someone show me a piano with anywhere near same quality as Estonia [in all details] and anywhere near same price.

    I'll buy them all.

    [from a very happy owner..]

    Al Johnson

    1. Thanks Al! Where can I buy one in Toronto?

    2. Unbelievable piano! A total no-brainer. Perhaps piano has to catch up to Steinway prices before people see the light.
      Why is this discussion even taking place?
      Awesome instrument, love mine even more every day...

  10. This is an absolutely fabulous piano, own mine for five years now [Toronto] and couldn't be happer. A total no-brainer. Liked this piano even better than Fazioli [too bright] - another great one. Amazing this discussion is even going on. Perhaps when Estonia will finally have caught up with these others will people have come to their senses.
    My dad bought his real estate this way 30 years ago. Today he wouldn't own an apartment.

  11. best in the world i think i am very lucky to have studied on a 9ft grand, the most beautiful sound radiates from these pianos, the tone is to die for striking any of the bass notes with full power to hear that sound is something breath taking, the colour is unlike a Steinway, Estonia will always be richer sounding then Steinway and the only thing that could really top a Estonia would be a bosendorfer

  12. I am the loving owner of a new Estonia L190 Hidden Beauty, 6'3 grand. The action on this piano is like no other I tried, Mason, Steinway, and others. Having been classically trained for almost 18 years on a Steinway I am pleasantly surprised that the Estonia was my choice. It makes playing, even the most difficult classical pieces, fun and a joy to play. My husband says my playing has improved immensely with my Estonia over our previous grand. It is hand made and breathtakingly beautiful. Read the professional reviews of world famous musicians and conductors who own this magnificent instrument. I urge anyone looking for their dream grand to visit an Estonia dealer. Dr. Indrek Laul has made significant improvements to these pianos since he bought the company. The piano sings, the bass is very powerful, yet the tone is soft if that makes sense. I will never tire of this piano. I love it and you will too! Must be played and heard in person to understand what all the loving owners of this magnificent instrument are trying to convey. Your fingers are magically drawn to the keys, I cannot explain it. The price point is amazing when compared to Steinway, which it is compared to Steinway by Larry Fine.

  13. I have had a hand second- but professionally reconditioned - Estonia 6'6" (190cm) Grand for the past nine years. The dealer who sold me the instrument did some restoration work of the external casing but he did not find it necessary to recondition the action. I recently had a skeptical piano tuner (who deals in second-hand Yamahas) offer the opinion that the sound board on these European pianos can lose its curvature (which would affect the tone) but when he tested it he found he was wrong. I have used the instrument almost daily as a teaching instrument and as a recital piano. It has retained an admirable evenness in its action across all octaves and still provides a rich, satisfying European tone. I like to play the piano music of Chopin and Rachmaninoff so I have worked it 'hard'. The Estonia manages equally well with the baroque and classical repertoire. This particular instrument is around 20 years old. I would certainly swap it for a Steinway B Grand (if anybody offered me the trade) but the Estonia has served me well.