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Piano Finders StandardAn Overview 

What is the PFS?

 The Piano Finders Standard (PFS) was created to help Piano Finders to explain to buyers how new and used pianos compare  with each other.  With the PFS the actual condition, design, workmanship, materials and performance of a piano can be tested to see how it measures against the standard.  If you test all the pianos you wish to compare against the PFS, then you will be able to see how the pianos compare with each other.  Right now, the PFS we are using is effective as of  9-17-99.  All pianos between 9-17-99 and the date that we release a new PFS will be rated against this scale.

What are the PFS Scales?

The PFS has several different scales of comparison.  The most important scale is the Scale of All Pianos, because this compares pianos of all sizes from a spinet to a concert grand.  This is the scale against which we test all pianos first.     Then we translate the ratings for the Scale of All Pianos into a smaller scale.  This allows a buyer to compare more closely just the pianos within the range of size that they are looking for.   

  1. The Scale of All Pianos
  2. The Scale of 6’5” to 7’4” Grands
  3. The Scale of 5’7”-6’4” Grands
  4. The Scale of 4’7”-5’6” Grands
  5. The Scale of All Uprights.

Why do buyers need the PFS Scale?

 The PFS was created primarily to give buyer a basis by which to compare a piano.  Common practices we have seen exhibited by manufacturers, currently and over the past century, have made it difficult for a buyer to have any reliable basis for comparison: 

  1.   A single brand name often is placed upon pianos that are manufactured with differing levels of quality, tone, touch, durability, appearance and serviceability.  Thus, it is impossible for a buyer to know what they are getting if they only know the brand of the piano.

  2. Manufacturers who rate their own pianos at differing levels do not use a standard that is common to all manufacturers.    Each manufacturer has created it’s own standard of comparison that makes their piano look superior to their competitors, whether or not this is true.  Thus, it is difficult for a buyer to compare different models of one brand to different models of another brand.

  3. A new piano is not always superior in durability, tone, touch, appearance and serviceability to a used piano.   Some used pianos were better constructed, with better quality workmanship, design and tone than the nearest new equivalent.

  4. Manufacturers change the model numbers/names of their pianos periodically to make new pianos appear superior to one’s they have previously manufactured, whether or not this is true.  They also will use a model name to label a new piano today that is actually a lesser level of piano than its discontinued predecessor.

  5. Over the years, there have been over 11,000 different brand names of pianos created.  The used piano market may have any number of the brand names for sale.  When the shear quantity of brand names available, is added to the above factors “a” through “d”, it becomes increasingly difficult for a buyer to make a comparison between used and new pianos of various models and brands.

With the PFS, a buyer does not have to rely upon the brand names or model numbers to do comparisons.   They do not have to play the piano in order to know if it has an excellent tone or touch.  They do not have to be a technician to understand how the quality or durability is rated.  They also do not have to see a piano in its top condition to know what it’s potential is.  Kendall Ross Bean does the testing for pianos against the PFS and in the future a manual will be written that any qualified piano technician can use to understand the methods for performing accurate tests themselves.  The conclusions for the test on each piano are printed in the “R1.11 Piano Finders Standard Test Results” form and are easy for a buyer to read and have explained to them by the Piano Finders Consultant they are working with.

What assumptions were made when creating the PFS?

1.   The PFS assumes that it is possible to describe, in measurable terms, the characteristics that various pianos will exhibit in the areas of quality, durability, tone, touch, appearance and serviceability under the following conditions:

 a)      The standard remains consistent from piano to piano, brand-to-brand, model to model, no matter what the age of the piano.

b)      The standard is created with an internally consistent structure.  Understanding that it is impossible to measure all the features of a piano, examine it’s entire condition within the short space of hour and to describe everything that is observable; the PFS was chosen to describe 10 representative features for each category that can exist in pianos ranging in size from spinets to concert grands.

c)      Assumptions were made, based upon current manufacturing practices and pricing.  For example, it was assumed that:

i)        Most 36” to 48” uprights and 4’7” to 4’11” grands will not have an appearance rating of more than Good on the Scale of All Pianos, because it is not practical to manufacture a cabinet that is excellent or superior in appearance for the amount of money that a buyer is asked to pay for this type of piano.  In this price point, it is simply not possible to justify the investment of time, materials and quality workmanship that goes into higher priced pianos.

ii)       All uprights of any size will never have a touch rating higher than Good on the Scale of All Pianos because the action design is entirely different for an upright than a grand.  We believe that the grand action design with the repetition lever and spring, produces better result for a pianist, giving the pianist more control over the nuances of soft to loud by controlling the lost motion in the key.   Although some professional uprights that have something called a “lost motion compensator” may have a better touch than those that do not, this still does not produce a result equal to what a grand action can deliver.

iii)     All 40” to 48” uprights and 4’7” to 4’11” grands will never have a tone rating higher than Good on the Scale of All Pianos because the soundboard size and string length possible in the smaller size of piano will not produce as good a tone as a larger piano, all other factors being equal.

iv)     All uprights 49” to 60” tall will never have a tone rating higher than Excellent on the Scale of All Pianos because the soundboard size and string length possible in a will not produce as good a tone as a 5’7” – 6’1” or larger grand piano, all other factors being equal.

v)      Most Yamaha, Kawai and Korean made grands under 7’ in length will not have a tone rating higher than Excellent on the Scale of All Pianos because the useable sustain time on the tone is limited by the vacuum cast plate construction and by use of wood in the rim of the piano that is not as hard as the Hard Rock Maple.  These are design features cannot be changed by voicing or other manipulations of the existing parts.

vi)     Pianos of lesser quality parts and lesser quality workmanship will have lower ratings in durability.   Usually the less expensive pianos will not be as durable as the more expensive pianos.   For this reason, the size of piano is calculated into the formula for determining durability.

vii)   Pianos made for the lower buyer budget will generally make compromises in the quality of design, materials and workmanship to meet the budget.  In the marketplace, the smaller pianos generally sell for less than larger ones, and uprights will sell for less than grands.  The result is that there are many details of construction that will be added or subtracted from a piano, depending upon its size and price point.  For this reason, the size of a piano is calculated into the formula for determining durability.

2)       Because the creation of the PFS can have an impact on the standard practices of manufacturers of new pianos, the PFS will need to be updated periodically to take into consideration changing manufacturer’s practices.  It is beyond the scope of the PFS to list every feature and specification required for a piano to meet a certain rating level.  The 10 criteria chosen for each category have been based upon a variety of factors, including what is standard in today’s manufacturing practices.  If manufacturers change those practices, it may become necessary to adjust the 10 criteria of each category so that the original intent of the PFS is still maintained and is integral to the whole.  In order to determine which standard a piano has been measured against, it is necessary to know the following:

a)       That it is the official Piano Finders Standard PFS.

b)       What version the standard is.  Whenever a new version comes out, it will be given an effective date.  The standard will be effective from that date until the date before a new standard is issued.

c)      What Scale is being considered.  The PFS on the Scale of All Pianos is the master scale.  Alternate scales such as the PFS on the Scale of Upright Pianos will adjust the ratings up so that the best upright possible is able to achieve a Superior rating on the scale in all categories.    In order to understand how one scale relates to another, it is necessary to know how it relates to the master scale.

3)      When choosing the 10 criteria for each category on the Scale of All Pianos, we followed the following rules:

a)      Items 1-2 are true of all pianos with a rating of 10%-20% or higher (Poor)

b)      Items 3-4 are true of all pianos with a rating of 30%-40% or higher (Fair)

c)      Items 5-6 are true of all pianos with a rating of 50%-60% or higher (Good)

d)      Items 7-8 are true only of pianos with a rating of 70%-80% or higher (Excellent)

e)       Items 9-10 can be true only of pianos with a rating of 90%-100% (Superior)

f)        Each item has equal weight on the Scale of All Pianos.  So, if 7 items out of 10 are checked off, then that category will have a rating of 70% on the Scale of All Pianos.

What is not part of the PFS? 

1)      The PFS does not attempt to comprehensively describe the condition of a piano.  That is more accurately done through the R1.2 Inspection and Evaluation Report.

2)      The PFS does not attempt to state the actual durability of a piano.  Because of the uncertainty in predicting the future, this particular piano may end up being more or less durable than predicted in the rating.  We make a projection based upon the following:  

a)      We assume that the piano will receive 1 hour of standard use per day in a humidity-controlled environment. 

b)      We have also based our opinion on service records we have documented for similarly constructed and designed pianos.

c)      We have assumed that new parts are not always more durable than original parts because they may not be as well made, seasoned, etc. 

3)       The PFS does not attempt to estimate how much work or how much it might cost to change the condition of the piano, “as-is” at the time the PFS test was taken.  This is more accurately done through a R1.3 Upgrade and Recommendation Report.



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