Please find below a post originally published July 11th 2010 on http://pc.morganisms.net/ by Mr. Mike Morgan about his piano shopping experience in St. Paul, MN.
Wells Pianos and Hailun pianos
11 July 2010, 6:34 pm And now for something that has nothing to do with politics. An unrequested endorsment for a piano store, a store owner, and a piano manufacturer.
Very recently, I met a diligent and hardworking young man, Kieran Wells, who owns a business selling pianos. His store, Wells Pianos, is located on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota. Kieran sells various pianos, new and used, including some of very expensive names like Steinway and Sons, but his best value, in my view, is the Hailun piano.
I’ve been shopping for pianos a lot lately. Unfortunately, I didn’t find out about Wells Pianos until after I decided to buy a higher end grand piano. More on the piano I did buy, elsewhere, later.
Suffice it to say that it is too bad I didn’t find out about Wells Piano sooner, because, among the sundry high end pianos Kieran offers is a brand called Hailun. Hailun is a Chinese made piano, which makes it a tough sell with so many inferior Chinese made products being sold in the United States, including very low end Chinese pianos. Indeed, when I was shopping for a piano, I had looked at some Chinese made pianos, and would have bought one if I had thought they were a good value. I looked at new and used Cristofori/Lyrica (a store brand made in China), Falcone, and some others. They were not, in my opinion, a good value, and I didn’t like their sound anyway.
I also looked at other pianos, like Kawai, Yamaha, and Steinway. The Steiways were very impressive, but way out of my price league.
The Hailun piano, on the other hand, is a high end Chinese piano, offered at a very good price. It is more expensive than the ridiculously low priced Falcone, but it sounds better and is much higher quality.
Kieran at Wells piano is contracturally prevented from disclosing his prices on the internet, and so I won’t disclose what I learned about his prices while visiting his store. Suffice it to say that you could buy 2 or 3 new 5?10? Hailun pianos for the price of a 5?3? or 5?4? Japanese made piano.
Now, I am not a musician, and I am not a piano technician, but I have learned a lot about pianos recently, and I know a little something about manufacturing and quality. Kieran was kind enough to pull the action (keys/hammers) out of a 5?10? model, and show me the craftsmanship.
I was thoroughly impressed. The hammers were made of wood (not ABS like some Japanese models) but they were so meticulously and consistently constructed that they looked like they were molded. “Mechanical perfection” is the most apt description, as I couldn’t identify a single flaw. The touch weight, as judged by my admittedly uncalibrated fingers, was even and just right–not too heavy, and not too light.
The sound of the piano is very good, too, though I am not such a connoisseur that I could fairly compare it without having its competitors side by side. In general, I prefer the sound of a Boston or Steinway over a Kawai or a Yamaha, but that’s just me. I guess that the Hailun is closer and brighter than a Boston, but not as bright as a Yamaha or Kawai, but I am a layman, so let your ears be the judge.
It turns out that Wells Piano is also one of the sponsers of an upcoming event, the Second annual Chopin Celebration Concert at the Twin Cities Polish Festival (map). The concert will include, from what I understand, a very talented 8 year old boy, who, among other artists, will play on a Hailun piano provided by Wells Piano.
More on Chinese made pianos
In general, I am reluctant to buy chinese made products, though I do so from time to time as there are no other viable or economical alternatives. As a generalization, like Japan decades earlier, I think most Chinese manufacturers still have a lot to learn when it comes to quality control, and many Chinese made products are less than steller in this realm.
But it appears that Hailun is an exception to the generalization–and, yes, I know there are probably other exceptional Chinese manufacturers, and I also realize that as time move forward, other Chinese manufacturers will care enough about their reputation to institute better quality controls.
But there aren’t many pianos made in in the United States anymore. Steinway and Sons makes a fine piano, in New York, but it is orders of magnitude more expensive than the Hailun, and not in the window of affordibility for my family.
So, if you’re like me, you might have to make a tough decision: choose between no piano, a Chinese made piano, or stretch your finances and give up other perks in life like vacations, and buy a more established Korean or Japanese made piano. But Hailun seems to offer the craftsmanship and performance of a Japanese made piano at half the cost.
If you’re not exactly rich, but not exactly poor, there is no shame, I think, in purchasing a Hailun. It is a very high value piano (high craftsmanship and performance per dollar). Indeed, even if you could afford a more expensive piano, the Hailun may be the better choice. You could always offer a Hailun dealer more than his or her retail price, if paying a high price makes you feel better:)
Anyway, for reference, here is a sample of a pianist playing a Hailun:
Also, here is an excerpt from a recent purchaser of Hailun piano, found at pianoworld.com:
I love playing it. Anything I play sounds so much better. Thanks for all the advice on the lid etc.. I’ll read the article on how to make the room sound grand.
Still love the Hailun. However, I have a data point of one in the grand piano world. I only have had a couple of minor issues that were quickly corrected during the in home tuning. (squeaky unachord pedal and one damper not engaging all the time) These were certainly not factory defects, but just action parts that needed a quick adjustment.
J.D. brings up a good point. I bought a new piano, not a hailun, and am having similar and worse issues (mine did have a stuck key).
Fortunately, I bought it from a reputable dealer who is sending out a technician next week to address the remaining major issues.
While I do have some buyer’s remorse about not buying a Hailun, I discovered Hailun after I discovered the problems with the piano delivered to my home. I am trying to be as fair as possible with the piano and dealer I did choose. A deal is a deal. If they can make my piano, or an equivalent, behave like a new piano should, I will stick with my decision. It would not be fair to return the piano simply because I found a better deal elsewhere. So I am giving them the benefit of the doubt, and an opporunity to fix the issues my piano is having. If they cannot, and the dealer is not able to replace it with an identical piano, the piano I bought will go back.
If that happens, I will very likely end up purchasing a Hailun, from Kieran Wells at Wells Piano.
Meanwhile, save yourself some grief, and before you buy a piano, at least take a look and listen to a Hailun. If you’re in Minnesota, do a small local business and family man a favor, and stop into his store to take a look. It is located at 1330 Grand Avenue in St. Paul, MN, and I understand that he will deliver to the 7 county area.
One warning: You will have reverse sticker shock. The price is so low compared to other pianos of similar quality and sound that you may think there must be something wrong with the piano. But you have to remember, the piano was constructed in China, where craftspersons who make pianos earn much less than similarly skilled persons in Japan or New York. The savings is due entirely to wage disparities, and I expect that as Chinese wages rise, so too will the cost of this inexpensive but high valued piano. The prices are so low that it might even be worth a trip to Minnesota if you don’t have a Hailun dealer in your area.
Disclosure: I did not (yet) buy a Hailun piano, Kieran Wells did not know I’d be writing this (it is an unsolicited endorsement), and I have no connections whatsoever to Hailun pianos.