The W. Hoffmann Professional Series is one of the best kept secrets of the piano world. In an industry that seems positioned between enormously expensive high-quality pianos, and hard-to-research lower quality pianos from Asia, the Professional series might be entirely unique. Designed entirely by C. Bechstein’s famous R&D team in Berlin, the Professional series shares many of the same materials and designs as the Bechstein Academy line of the same size. And the pianos are hand-made entirely in the Czech Republic, all at a fraction of the price of what you normally pay for European built and designed pianos.
The W.Hoffmann Professional P206 grand piano is the largest of all of the W. Hoffmann grands across the three product lines; Vision, Tradition, and Professional. The P206 is a professional level instrument measuring in at 6’9” in length, and built entirely in the Czech Republic by C. Bechstein Europe. This is a handmade, limited-production piano with a modern design aesthetic, featuring silver plates and nickel hardware (instead of the traditional brass colour), with many of the same design and construction elements as the Bechstein Academy A208.
For anyone already looking at some of the “best value” 7 foot handmade instruments on the market such as the Shigeru Kawai SK-6 or Estonia L210, add the P206 to your must try list. You won’t be disappointed.
The W. Hoffmann P206 utilizes C. Bechstein’s Silver Action. This is the second best action Bechstein builds and is essentially a less-refined version of their top Gold Action. The geometry is the same, but the precision of the wood processing and cutting are set to slightly less strict tolerances, and the regulation and voicing processes overall are at a lower level. Given how fanatic Bechstein is with the voicing of Gold Action, the Silver action shouldn’t be any cause for concern. It still outplays the majority of mid-range European pianos featuring Renner actions without any post-factory work whatsoever.
The action has a slightly shallow feel, very fluid, and effortless in the lower and mid ranges. It’s not set up for enormous amounts of power, but the energy of the piano’s structure itself makes up for it.
An interesting aspect of the W.Hoffmann Professional series grand pianos is just how different the tonal profile and overall character is from the W. Hoffmann Tradition series grands that are built and assembled in the same factory. This holds true with the P206 as well. The P series pianos have a bell-like attack and a slight bias towards a more treble sound, whereas the T series grands are slightly warm, and almost Steinway-like in its character.
The P206 has a treble section that is forward and precise while avoiding any brassines – a tricky balance to strike for any piano of this type of character. Whether it is a result of scale design, or hammer selection, or voicing, or some combination of all three, these pianos are the brightest of any we’ve encountered from the Bechstein family of pianos. It’s not totally unlike a Yamaha in its tonal profile, although the sustain is improved and the attack is totally different (owing to the rather drastic difference in hammer configuration).
Overall, the midsection of the P206 is very colourful, and the bass is tight, with a sharp attack, but still possessing enough warmth to round the instrument out.
While the vast majority of piano manufacturers have gone in the direction of outsourcing their hammers, Bechstein has gone the opposite way and in the last few years, began producing all of their own hammers once again.
And not only do they make their own hammers, but they make different, specifically designed hammers for every piano they build. The P206 uses double felted, mahogany hammers with lacquered shanks. These are very similar to the hammers used in the Bechstein Academy series.
Bechstein selects high-grade White Alpine solid spruce for the soundboards in the P206. The soundboards are also tapered, which is an interesting advantage the W. Hoffmann Professional series have over the Bechstein Academy which does not receive tapered soundboards.
The rim design and materials on the P206 also closely resemble the rims of the Bechstein Academy series, with extra-thick hardwood rims of laminated beech. The thick beech results in a fortress like structure, built to last for generations.