Consumer test: Steinway vs Fazioli vs Bösendorfer

Consumer test: Steinway vs Fazioli vs Bösendorfer


norman lebrecht

November 30, 2019

So which do you choose?



  • Interesting effort, but this doesn’t do justice to any of these three magnificent instruments which were designed to shine in a concert hall. This is often a problem when trying out pianos in a dealer store which just doesn’t give you any idea of how a piano this large (regardless of brand) in showrooms of typical style.

    Also, the Steinway in the clip seems to have been recorded with more distant microphones than the other two.

    Playing starts at approx. 3:10 into the clip, BTW.

    My advice: Go to lots of live concerts where you can actually hear what these pianos are supposed to sound like. And when you get around to buying an instrument, you should only buy something you can really express yourself on and form a personal attachment with because, most likely, it will be a lifetime investment (especially in this price category).

  • “…how a piano this large sounds…”

    Sorry for the omission.

  • Elvira says:

    The pianos are too good for the pianist.

  • juilliar says:

    He sounds the best in Bosendorfer. His amateur skills are least apparent in that piano.

  • Meal says:

    If you are looking for a Christmas present for me: I don’t mind which one you choose 😉

  • JK says:

    I already feel sorry for the kid at the barrage of comments this is going to get from ‘first learn to play’, to ‘what does he know’, to ‘what an uninformed comparison’.

    I see nothing but love for music. May it not wilt like for most of us as we are met with “expert opinion” in life.

  • This was an excellent ear and eye opener comparison of three wonderful pianos . I would like to add my opinion here that the best whole sound and balance of the full range of tones came from the Steinway , making it a more unified and expressive instrument to me . Bösendorfer has a marvelous magical brightness to its sound , especially the upper register , and the Fazioli is astonishing in its overall power and splendour .

  • Bruce Streibel says:

    Considering the fact that Steinway is the piano of choice for 98-99% of the world’s concert stages, the other 2 makes are novelties. Steinway produces 30-40% more volume than similar sized concert instruments. What else can compete on stage with a full orchestra?

    • JF says:

      Steinway markets like Apple. And has since WW1. As a piano technician, I can tell you a stock S&S needs major work on the action out of the box to bring it to its potential. Then it still isn’t “better” than the top Yamahas, Bösendorfer, or Fazioli. Still very solid though unimproved models of A, B, C, D.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    If I won the lottery I’d build a big studio, buy all three, relish their differences and sometimes choose one over the other depending on the repertoire.

  • Patrick says:

    Steinway….without listening. We own two.

    • Manuel says:

      “Steinway…without listening” ??? How is this an informed decision? Hence Steinway’s position in the market today.

  • Chad says:

    Great that you played the same tunes on all three! Nice job. Concert grands are designed for very large spaces. The sounds they create work together synergistically with the natural reverb of the surroundings resulting in a completely different listening experience. I’m curious as to how each would have sounded had the room been very large with really high ceilings.

  • Jaye Murray says:

    I agree with Chad that they need to be in a hall to be properly compared. In addition, however, I am wondering what kind of microphone they were using, and why they didn’t spend more time being sure that the mikes were placed the exact same distance from each, at the same angle to the keyboard and same height. I know the bell-like sound all three of them can make, but because they are full of these lovely overtones it is difficult to capture all of the sound with anything but the ‘king’ of microphones, the Neumann and comparable recording equipment. To me, some of the notes here come out rather jarring or worse yet, ‘dead’ sounding and I believe it may be because of the way the mike is built or they equipment used for the recording. I don’t believe this is a valid test of any of them, actually, but am nevertheless happy to have seen it just for the chance so look at all three one after the other, and to kind of interpolate what the actual sound must be like–it would be a real ‘trip’ to be there in person! I am a retired orchestral musician, and have had the pleasure of being on stage with great pianists some of whom chose the Bosendorfer, while others used Steinways. I’ve heard both ‘growl’ on the bottom low notes and be absolute bells on the top. I’ve never had the pleasure of hearing a Fazioli before tho, and would almost consider a trip abroad to do so. In string terms, it’s like trying to show which is ‘better’–a Stradivarious or a Guarnerius! All three of these are magnificent pianos. Thank you both for allowing and doing this!

    • rec-engineers-unite says:

      If you know nothing about microphones don’t give us your “opinions”.
      Heard of “horses for courses”?
      Seeing mpeg encoded cr..p on youtube always makes me laugh or grimace.

      What are people thinking??
      “the ‘king’ of microphones, the Neumann and comparable recording equipment”

      NO,- the kings of microphones is made in DENMARK.
      If you want colourless recording for objective blind testing you use Bruel and Kjaer.
      They are industrial measurement mics, with the 130V versions able to contain double the dynamic range of any German mic.

      For each recording you have to think what you are doing and trying to achieve.
      Once you have done that, and correctly adapted to the acoustic as well as finding the right propagation pattern for each instrument (they are all different), then with a bit of luck you might just be able to compare a valid recording.

      It’s the same with harps, so let’s stop the BS and do things properly.

  • Nathaniel Rosen says:

    Richter said he let God choose his piano. Really?

    • Petros Linardos says:

      In “Richter: The Enigma”, Richter said all he checked with pianos for his concerts was whether they made a good pianissimo.

  • Valerie O'Brien says:

    There is NO comparison Bosendorfer is the supreme instrument. I should know I’ve played on all three of these types. I owned a renowned
    vintage Bosendorfer. for 45 years and deeply regret selling it . The Bosendorfer has a much stronger clearer tone like a bell. The action is unique and they are superior any day to Steinway. which is tinny.

    • Sixtus Beckmesser says:

      You are confusing the voicing and regulation with the instrument itself. A properly voiced Steinway doesn’t sound “tinny.” Tones on a Bösendorfer, on the other hand, typically don’t sustain as long as those on a Steinway, lending it greater clarity: nice for Haydn, but wrong for Rachmaninoff.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Remember that dreadful old piano which belonged to Horowitz!!?

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    This is a far better audition of excellent pianos:

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Sorry folks, I see this post was duplicated more than once. I have trouble with this site and any number of conflicting messages when trying to post anything.

  • Vance Koven says:

    They should have included a Mason & Hamlin in the comparison.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      Interesting you should say this as I know a few pianists who having spent their time with Steinways and Bösendorfers have come to prefer vintage Mason & Hamlins, at least for their homes as compared to their concerts where they are perhaps impractical to move. In Gary Graffman’s wonderful book, “I Really Should Be Practicing,” he notes that Vengerova’s studio had two pianos, the Steinway he played as the student and the Mason & Hamlin (“at that time a superior instrument, highly regarded by musicians”) for herself.

  • Ralph Fisher says:

    So, who is this guy? What makes him such an expert? Of all the comment and comparisons and obvious bias toward the Fazioi, what I heard was a vastly superior sounding Bösendorfer (to my taste of course.)

    • For a video like this, it doesn’t matter is he is an expert or not. He has given you an opportunity to hear them all equally, played in apples-to-apples comparisons.

      He gave his opinion but, you still get to form your own because he let you hear all three equally, played in apples-to-apples comparisons.

  • Personally, I wish there was a really good video made to this end – it would be very interesting. A really great classical pianist should play the Chopin A flat Polonaise on each one, with some added dialogue between the performer and a technician on how each is voiced. I was able to tell nothing about what these pianos can really do because the music played made no demands on the instruments.

  • Elvira says:

    Each instrument has it’s own personality.There is not one Steinway ,or one Fazioli.
    We are not talking about dishwasher or stoves.
    Each piano can sound different even when the weather is different, not talking about humidity,acoustics,recording,size of the room, age of the piano, etc etc

  • fflambeau says:

    This is a good job and the pianist is playing pieces that cover the entire keyboard.

    To me, and I am not a professional, the Bosendorfer sounds best. The Steinway a bit brighter but it doesn’t have the fullness of the Bosendorfer. I think the Fazioli is definitely in 3rd place and most like the Steinway in sound.

    But this test, could be skewed, as others have pointed out, by microphones and their placement. Also, location in the room could have a differing effect but I’m no expert.

  • Yi Peng LI says:

    I am far too attached to the Japan-made Yamaha and haven’t got an affinity with Steinway, Bosendorfer and Fazioli.

  • Although Steinway clearly in the moment piano brand N1 – for my personal experience quality of their new instruments slowly decreasing. And opposite case Fazioli- that pianos are extraordinary better and better every year. If tendence will go on, Faioli will be really the best in just couple of years. Bosendorfer is very sad case because after Yamaha bought it I dont see any good future for this legendary brand. I loved it very much, for my recording of “Goldberg Variations” in Zurich I choose Bosendorfer- I had choice between 2 of them and 10 Steinways, and that Bosendorfer was clearly the best. But I afraid, for this brand time is over… Speaking about other brands – last very nice surprise for me was Kawai Shigeru with really extraordinary sound variety.

  • For more online comparisons, go to the YouTube or other internet channels of any of the major international piano competitions. Most are offering the candidates a wider range of pianos for the different rounds than they had traditionally, say, ten years or more in the past. The Warsaw Chopin competition, for example, has some very fine playing by many prize-winners on Yamaha, Fazioli, and Steinway.

    I cannot recall anyone playing on a Bösendorfer in one of these competitions recently, though there was at least one contestant who played it in 1980 in Warsaw when I was also a contestant there (while most of us had to get along with our per diem for meals supplied by the competition, this contestant was taken out by the Bösendorfer representative almost every day for meals … he probably ate very well back in the days when Poland was still behind the iron curtain).

    One of the recent Cliburn competitions in Fort Worth offered two or three different Steinways: at least one from New York and at least one from Hamburg. Interesting to hear many differences between the two.

    Regarding sound quality on the internet: There is a lot of bad audio out there, but most of the time these competitions take great care to ensure that you can really enjoy listening to the performances, and there is hardly any difference in choice of microphones or placement, etc.) While the MP3 format has its limitations, I think more audio information comes across than most of us are (still) physically capable of hearing if played back through decent sound equipment (i.e. not cr..ppy laptop speakers or iPod earpieces).

  • Nicholas Ennos says:


  • John Borstlap says:

    The insufficiently dressed man in the 2nd picture has been terribly deceived when he was buying a second car.

  • Robert band says:

    If you’re buying a piano to play at home, how it sounds in a concert hall is totally irrelevant.
    I love my Boesendorfer because it sounds great when played quietly.