While C. Bechstein’s Concert Series pianos are among the most premium in the world, Bechsteon’s Academy pianos serve an equally important role in their lineup. A fraction of the cost of the Concert Series instruments but still a fully hand-crafted instrument, the Academy Series offers a fantastic option for those seeking a truly German piano, without venturing too far into 6 figure price territory.
The C. Bechstein A 228 measures in at a commanding 7’6”, making it the largest of the Academy series pianos. This piano occupies a unique place in the market as an elite, handmade German piano built for the concert stage, that costs about half the price of many other European options. With a powerful tone and super accurate action, this instrument gives many much more expensive instruments a run for their money.
With a production time exceeding 1 year and 250 man-hours, this is a handmade piano in every sense of the word, fresh off a recent redesign by C. Bechstein’s R&D department in Seifhennersdorf, Saxony. An imposing piano of superb quality for those seeking something special.
Bechstein reserves their ‘Silver Line Action’ for the A228. Bechstein builds these actions in-house in Germany according to their Keyboard and Action Engineering and Geometry standards with components from Renner. As a result, those familiar with Renner will probably find this actions feels familiar, though perhaps more refined.
Pianists often rave about the weighting of the ‘Silver Line Actions’, and this is likely due to Bechstein’s own ‘Friction Control System.’ Bechstein keeps the specifics of the system under wraps for obvious reasons, but the results are undeniable – a highly responsive, dynamic, and easy to control action with great repetition speed.
The A228’s tonal profile is easy to distinguish from the Japanese and German competitors in its class, such as the Schimmel K230, Shigeru Kawai SK-7, and Yamaha CF6. The A228 differentiates itself from the SK-7 with its clarity; both instruments offer a huge range of colour, but the A 228 has more clarity than the SK-7 throughout the range. Compared to the K230 known for its trademark Schimmel brightness, the A228 is much darker and warmer. The A228 is very even throughout the entire range and the bass is well defined. You can definitely say that this adds up to the A228 possessing a palette that while absolutely still European, is a little bit on the darker side.
How does the A228 achieve its unique tonal profile? Of course, there are many factors, largely the soundboard which we’ll discuss below, but here we’ll highlight the bridge, which is made of German red beech employing cutting-edge CNC machinery. The intricate design, combined with the high-quality of red beech results in optimal energy transmission from the strings to the soundboard.
The presence of agraffes in the bass and mid-range, and then a capo bar for the treble ensure the strings are held perfectly in place, allowing the hammers to strike the strings in precisely the right place. This helps minimize distortion and contributes to clarity.
C. Bechstein’s commitment to ensuring as much control over the entire manufacturing process is like few others in the industry, and really shines through when it comes to the hammers. Bechstein is the only European manufacturer who produces their own hammerheads. Not only do they produce their own hammerheads, but every instrument throughout their lineup features a set of hammers custom-tailored to that specific instrument. To do this, Bechstein built their own hammerhead production facility from the ground up located in Germany, which is of course highly unusual in a globalized world culture.
The A228 features hammers of a mahogany core, covered with New Zealand wool utilizing a top-secret, traditional proprietary method. These hammers receive extensive individual hand voicing by expert technicians before the piano leaves the factory.
Bechstein carefully considers the soundboard selection in every one of their instruments, from the material selection, design, and installation. The A228 uses a soundboard of slow-growth European Alpine mountain spruce, grown at elevation levels of 800 to 1,000 meters. Spruce, slowly grown at very high elevations like this guarantees a favorable pulp to grain ratio, which is important for the acoustic related potential of the soundboard.
The A 228 features a thick, hardwood rim of Beech. These rims are built for long-term durability and overall structural integrity, and the Beech itself is carefully selected to ensure that the case remains highly stable, and perfectly frames the soundboard. The rim construction and materials also contribute to the excellent sustain and overall tonal profile of the piano.