Can You Hear the Difference Between Cheap and Expensive Pianos?

You’d never believe that pianos could ever cost as much as houses, but they could. At the same time, you can find a decent piano for about $150 walking along the aisles of a consignment shop—if you’re lucky. It might need another $150 to tune, but at least you got an upright. Right? Well, if you don’t care so much about the quality of the sound, you should be okay. But you have to know that there’s going to be a big difference between a $150 vintage piano and one that costs you over $300k.

In the video, we first hear the 1915 Barthol and Berlin sing out a beautiful tune of Debussy’s Clair De Lune. We can’t compare it to anything just yet, so we just take it for what it is. The tone is bright and hollow but not devoid of spirit. It just sounds a little tired and old. We then realize our hearing is correct as soon as we hear the 1953 Beüthner played. There’s a little bit more energy in the sound of the piano, but there is no richness to it. The Barthol and Berlin costs $300 while the Beüthner costs $6k. That’s a stark difference in price, but the difference in sound isn’t as well defined.

Then we move on to higher end pianos. First we hear a $15k 1958 Playel and already the sound has more depth. This is a vintage piano that probably costs more than some people’s cars and is probably too high a price to pay for some. You probably thought, “How much better can a piano get than this?” It can’t’ be too much if the Playel is already $15k. But then we move on to a piano that costs $47k. It’s a 2017 Yamaha C7X. It’s top of the line, and of course, it sounds like it is. There’s richness; there’s depth. There’s a certain quality to it that you can hear but probably can’t explain too well, unless you’re a trained musician. The sound is more enjoyable and soothing. We’re not sure if it’s worth $47k, but only the experts know.

Finally, you hear the big draw as the piano player plays on. It’s a piano that costs as much as a house in Florida—$363k to be exact. It’s the same brand, same year, and same model as the one previously played, but somehow this piano costs at least 7 times more. It also sounds 7 times better than the first Barthol and Berlin piano that was played. The difference is amazingly clear. There’s an even further depth and character to the sound; it’s surprisingly pleasant. If you hear all the differences, then that’s all grand; but if you can’t hear any differences at all, then you probably shouldn’t ever spend too much on any pianos.

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