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Piano Finders StandardAn Overview

What is the PFS?

The Piano Finders Standard (PFS) was created to help buyers accurately compare pianos that are new and used 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  12/01/01.  All pianos between 12/01/01 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 or the Scale of Grands 7'5" and up
  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?

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 be a pianist of accomplished skill 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 Piano Finders Standard Test Results form. 

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 1 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.  able sustain time of the tone is limited by the scaling (type, tension and size of strings used), and the specific types of materials and construction techniques used in the plate (frame) and rim (case).  These are design limitations that cannot be improved upon beyond a certain point by voicing or other manipulations of the existing parts.

i)     Pianos of lesser quality parts and lesser quality workmanship will have lower ratings in durability.   In general, the less expensive pianos will not be as durable as the more expensive pianos.   

ii)   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 to, or subtracted from a piano, depending upon its size and price point.  For this reason we have developed criteria intended to examine the entire piano and how it compares to the specifications we would expect to see in a piano of a particular size.  Size is calculated into the quality and tone rating .  

2)       Because the creation of any evaluating or rating system such as the PFS can have an impact on the practices of manufacturers of new pianos, the PFS will need to be updated periodically to take new methods or practices of piano construction, terminology or marketing into consideration.  It is beyond the scope of the PFS to list every new variation or feature that may arise in a manufacturer's product line; however, we do try to monitor, and account for, what we feel are important trends in the piano industry.   The 10 criteria chosen for each piano 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)       Whether it is the authentic 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 (i.e. Scale of All Pianos).

3)      When choosing the 10 criteria for each category on the Scale of All Pianos, we weighted them equally.  In order to balance each item out, we sometimes included several factors, all of which need to be true in order to give an item a yes answer.  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.  In fact, the Quality and Durability ratings are derived from the technician's opinion after completing 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.  So, a piano that only needs $500 of upgrading to equal the standard of touch and tone might get the same rating as a piano that needs over $5,000 of upgrading to equal the standard of touch and tone.  (Usually, however the PFS durability rating may be lower on the piano that needs more work) The PFS only measure's where the piano stands today against the PFS.

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