Why Mason & Hamlin?

A thing of rare beauty. Uncompromising in their selection of only the finest materials. With fewer than 200 pianos produced each year, a Mason & Hamlin piano is the instrument for those who don't like to compromise and who desire something unique.

 

In plain english, here is why a Mason & Hamlin is the best piano in the world.

 

Individual Scale Design

 

Strings on a grand piano run across what is called the bridge, which is the vessel that transfers the sound from their vibrations to the soundboard which then acts as the amplifier. All grand pianos feature two bridges, known as the bass bridge and treble bridge (a bass bridge is necessary to ensure adequate speaking length of bass strings). There is a point, known as ‘the break’ where the strings cross from one bridge to the other. For any given size of piano there is a scientifically demonstrable ideal point to have the break. To take advantage of this for every size, it requires each piano to have its own scale design and matching keyboard. This is a laborious and expensive design proposition and an equally expensive manufacturing proposition, given the large number of differing parts that are required. Most manufacturers (including many of the most elite brands) cut corners by standardising scale designs across several models, leading to sub-optimal break points and pianos that have inconsistent tone and points of imbalance in the power and sustain of certain notes.

 

Mason & Hamlin, despite their small production volume, believe this to be lazy and compromised thinking and have therefore designed optimal scale layouts for all five of their grand pianos to ensure the smoothest possible break and richest possible tone from each model. This is also a contributing reason why a smaller Mason & Hamlin often easily outplays a larger competitor.

 

Solid Maple Rim

 

One of only two factories using high-grade solid maple for rim construction, Mason & Hamlin take this further by making their rim the widest and heaviest in the industry. In many cases this results in a rim double the width of their competitors.

 

This incredibly strong foundation to the piano ensures:

 

  • Unrivalled sturdiness to the construction of the instrument

 

  • Increased lifespan of the soundboard

 

  • A superior foundation for tone production resulting in a richer sustaining sound

 

 

Pin Block —7 Layer Solid Maple

 

The quality and construction of the pin block is crucial to ensuring a piano stays in tune, even with heavy work, for the longest time. Mason & Hamlin pin blocks are high-grade, quarter-sawn hard rock maple, treated to remove moisture and then layered at right angles to seven layers. Tuning pins are nickel plated to prevent rust or corrosion.

 

The Crown Retention System

 

We must first understand that for the soundboard to fulfil its role as amplifier to the best of its ability, it needs to be slightly bent or ‘crowned’. Given soundboards have more than two tons of down-pressure on them once the plate and strings are inserted, a soundboard in any piano will eventually flatten or crack. The combination of high-grade spruce used in Mason & Hamlin soundboards and the Crown Retention System mean that the optimal life of the soundboard is increased potentially by decades.

 

Patented by legendary piano designer Richard Gertz for Mason & Hamlin in 1910, the Crown Retention System remains a feature unique to Mason & Hamlin pianos. It is a six-spoke steel brace that connects to the rim on each side and provides support to the soundboard to maintain its crown over time. There are copious examples of 1920’s era Mason & Hamlin’s that retain perfectly crowned soundboards thanks to this invention. Furthermore, the stability it provides to the structure has residual benefits such as better tuning stability.

 

The model CC features double tension resonators due to its size.

 

Composite Action

 

Timber is a difficult and unpredictable material. There is a reason aeroplanes, cars and other modern high performance inventions do not utilise timber in their construction. While timber is beautiful and necessary for things like a soundboard and case construction, modern composite materials offer far better solutions for mechanical parts like the action. Wessell, Nickel and Gross (WNG) are America’s finest action manufacturer and were the chosen action of Golden Era Mason & Hamlin’s.

 

Modern Mason & Hamlin pianos continue to exclusively use WNG actions that are at the cutting edge of design. Utilising carbon fibre, nylon, teflon and glass, this action offers superior performance to both the artist and technician with better response and improved wear over traditional actions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Composite materials are lighter, faster and far stronger than timber, which results in finite control of dynamics, better repetition, better wear and tear and reduced breakage when utilised heavily.

 

  • Timber is notoriously unpredictable and even the finest timber actions will see different response from hammer shank to hammer shank meaning more regulating of other parts of the action is required to make the piano feel even under the players hand. Composites are 100% consistent and therefore require less time to set up and maintain.

 

  • Timber is enormously affected by humidity and temperature. Composite materials remain completely unaffected by these conditions, further reducing maintenance of the action, a very important consideration in Australian climates, particularly more humid regions.

 

  • A recent lab experiment tested the two leading timber actions against a WNG action. Five notes were installed with each action on a piano featuring a robotic player system. The system was then programmed to play each note four times per second continuously (a much tougher assignment
    than any real world situation). After four million blows, the crucial center pins on both wooden actions had disintegrated completely and were rendered useless. The WNG action retained its original form. After 8 million blows, the WNG action required repining with a slightly larger pin (a small and inexpensive task) where it then happily continued for another four million blows at which point the experiment was terminated as the action was showing no signs of failure.

 

  • More than 70 American colleges and conservatoires have begun retrofitting their pianos, of all makes, with WNG actions after seeing the benefits in wear and tear and service life. 

 

 

A HISTORY OF INSTITUTION SUCCESS

 

 

In their home market, a long line of the most prestigious arts companies, conservatoriums and cathedrals demand the Mason & Hamlin piano. A more complete listing can be found at masonhamlin.com but includes:

 

  • University of Alaska (Fairbanks, AK)

  • Mayo Clinic (Scottsdale, AZ)

  • University of California Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)

  • Zellerbach Hall (Berkeley, CA)

  • Sage & Sound Recording (Hollywood, CA)

  • Brian Culbertson Studio (Los Angeles, CA)

  • CA State University Sacramento (Sacramento,CA)

  • KOVR 13 TV (Sacramento, CA)

  • Yale University (New Haven, CT)

  • University of Hartford (West Hartford, CT)

  • Blair House (Washington, D.C.)

  • Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C.)

  • Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL)

  • Indiana University (Bloomington,IN)

  • Kansas State University (Manhattan,KS)

  • Wichita State University (Wichita,KS)

  • Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)

  • Jose Mateo Ballet Theater (Cambridge, MA)

  • Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA)

  • Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA)

  • Boston Conservatory (Boston. MA)

  • Princeton University Graduate School (Princeton, NJ)

  • Marble Church (New York,NY)

  • Lincoln Center (New York, NY)

  • Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)

  • Texas Christian University (Ft. Worth, TX)

  • Granbury Opera House (Granbury, TX)

  • Westminister College (Salt Lake City, UT)

  • North Carolina State University

 

 

MASON & HAMLIN IN AUSTRALIA

 

These magnificent pianos have only been available nationally in Australia for the past three years and we have been working hard in that time to display them extensively with professional companies and under the hands of the finest pianists. An extensive array of producers, performers and top organisations have now been exposed to our piano with fantastic feedback. In addition to our own concert series on the Gold Coast, our pianos have been featured by:

 

  • 4MBS Festival of Classics

  • Sanguine Estate Music Festival

  • ABC Classic FM

  • Medici International Piano Series

  • ASKM Piano Competition

  • Australian Chamber Orchestra

  • State Library of Queensland

  • The Arts Centre Gold Coast

  • Australian National Academy of Music

  • Ensemble Liaison

  • Master Performers Studio

  • Queensland Symphony Orchestra

  • Southern Cross Soloists

  • St Andrews Church South Brisbane

  • MEMO Music Hall Melbourne

  • Four Winds Festival Bermagui

  • Bangalow Festival

  • Tyalgum Festival

  • Music by the Springs

  • Mackay Chamber Music Festival

Our Story

Celebrating 166 years, Mason & Hamlin represent the finest in traditional American manufacturing. They produce the world's finest grand and upright pianos in extremely limited quantities each year from their historic factory in Boston. If you're searching for the best piano that money can buy, look no further than Mason & Hamlin.

Mason & Hamlin in Australia

Australian Concert Pianist Stewart Kelly was involved in the first efforts to introduce Mason & Hamlin Pianos to Australia in 2008. Since 2014 he has been the sole distributor of these magnificent instruments.

Mason & Hamlin pianos are now found in leading Australian education venues and studios and in the homes of those who appreciate a piano that makes no compromises.

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