With the demise of Musicmesse Frankfurt, the NAMM Show has become even more important as the showcase for new musical instruments.
NAMM – the National Association of Music Merchants – was formed in 1919. Its predecessor was the National Association of Piano Dealers of America, and they held the first exhibition of their wares back in 1904 in Baltimore.
Today the NAMM Show is an annual event held in the Anaheim Convention Centre, California, and features all manner of musical instruments. This year’s expo ran April 13—15 and attracted 46,711 slightly up on last year’s figure of 45,613. There were over 1,700 exhibitors.
Although less prominent these days, there were a variety of new pianos on display — mostly digital. Here are some of the more interesting new instruments.
Yamaha TC3 TransAcoustic Piano
Yamaha’s TransAcoustic models are hybrids that combine digital and acoustic elements of the piano.
The acoustic part is the same as a traditional piano, however, the hammers can be prevented from striking the strings and the notes are replaced by a digital sound engine, which in turn is amplified by the soundboard. TransAcoustics have the same feel as an acoustic piano but with a far wider range of keyboard sounds, and at an adjustable volume.
The new Yamaha TC3 upright pianos feature: a new transducer system; built-in metronome, recorder and Bluetooth connectivity; an enhanced Articulation Sensor System that analyses the way each note is played; and Grand Expression Modelling for a richer tonal variation.
The TC3 system is available for 3 different models: b1 (109cm height), b2 (113cm), and b3 (121cm).
Guide pricing**: $10,000-$15,000
The CVP-909 is a high-end digital piano and is the new top-of-the-range model in Yamaha’s Clavinova series. It includes Yamaha’s new Pure CF sound engine providing extremely realistic piano sounds with a wide dynamic range and expressive touch.
Additional and improved features include: the new Virtual Resonance Modelling sound engine; a new keyboard with improved action and feel; a built-in microphone; and a larger touchscreen display.
Guide pricing**: $15,499
Yamaha CK-61 and CK-88
These two new models from Yamaha combine the CP stage piano’s sounds with the organ and synth voices of the YC stage keyboards in a single portable instrument. These keyboards are suitable for both live and studio use.
The CK-88 comes with Yamaha’s GHS (Graded Hammer Standard) keyboard which simulates the weight and feel of an acoustic piano.
Guide pricing**: Yamaha CK-88 $1899 / Yamaha CK-61 $1249
Schimmel Black Pearl
Schimmel showed off its new Art Collection model — the Black Pearl. This is a special version of the C169 – the smallest grand piano in the Schimmel catalogue.
The Black Pearl is finished using a new “black super matte” lacquer which has a soft velvety touch. The cast iron plate also has this rich black finish. The matte blackness of the cabinet and plate contrasts spectacularly with the shiny chrome gloss fittings.
Guide pricing**: $97,000
Kawai CA401 and Kawai CA501
These two members of Kawai’s Concert Artist series of premium digital pianos are the successors of the CA49 and CA59. They both retain the Grand Feel Compact wooden keyboard whilst incorporating the SK-EX Competition Grand sound engine found in the flagship CA901 and CA701 models.
The control panels have been updated and the CA501 now features 360-degree diffuser panels to enhance sound projection. Several other design refinements have been made to the cabinets.
Guide pricing**: Kawai CA401 $2,399 / Kawai CA501 $2,899
Mason & Hamlin VX Series
American piano manufacturer Mason & Hamlin introduced four new models to their VX, or Virtuoso X, Series of grand pianos. These are the VX Series A [5′ 8″ (174cm)], the VX Series B [5′ 4″ (162.5cm)], the VX Series AA [6′ 4″ (193cm)], and the VX Series BB [6′ 11″ (212cm)]. These join the existing flagship VX Series CC [9′ 4″ (284.5cm)] model which was launched in 2020.
The unique features of these prestige instruments include: the stiffer multi-radius crowned soundboard; the optimised bridge placement which moves the treble strings and bridge closer to the centre of the soundboard enhancing projection and sustain; the fortified wider V-bar which reinforces the plate; and the action retention system which augments the touch and feel of the keyboard.
Guide pricing**: tbc
<Mason & Hamlin website>
Studiologic Numa X Piano GT
The Numa X range of stage pianos comprises three versions… 73-note, 88-note and GT.
The GT arrived last year but the firmware has now been updated. It features an 88-note Fatar TP400 wooden hammer-action keyboard with aftertouch and over 200 sounds generated using a combination of sampling, modelling and wave shaping. At just 30 lbs and with a built-in carrying handle it is a very portable instrument.
Guide pricing**: $2200
Bösendorfer 214VC Tree of Life
Although released back in 2018, a limited edition Bösendorfer 214VC “Tree of Life” grand piano was drawing a lot of attention at the show. Only 25 of these spectacular instruments were ever built to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the company’s inauguration.
The piano features imagery from Gustav Klimt’s seminal works “The Tree of Life” and “Expectations” on the lid, with additional hand-gilding in 23-carat gold leaf. Other elements include a colour-coded cast-iron frame and Horus falcons on the music stand.
Guide pricing**: $350,000
** Please note that in some cases the prices stated are estimated, and are given purely to indicate the rough price point of the instrument.
Other piano companies exhibiting at NAMM 2023 included:
C. Bechstein (North America)
Guangzhou Pearl River Piano Group – Brands: Pearl River, Ritmüller, and Kayserburg
Piano Technicians Guild
Proel – Brands: Dexibell
Rhodes Music Group
Samick – Brands: Seiler, Knabe, Pramberger, Samick
Steingraeber & Söhne
Wessell, Nickel & Gross
David – hi there. Ric Overton here. I am wondering why you left out A. Geyer or Gebr. Schulz pianos from the show.
It would have been nice to make mention of Rhodes, exhibiting for the first time since their reformation. Now made in Leeds, UK, this extraordinary startup is a reminder that small companies can operate on a global stage producing world-class products.