Bechstein A2 Academy Upright Piano: Technical Review
In this article I will discuss my observations of the C. Bechstein A2 Academy Upright Piano which is the smallest model from the C. Bechstein Academy line based on my perspective as a piano technician.
This new piano model of Bechstein Pianos is a complete redesign from the previous version which was named the A 116, which I learned last week while visiting the Bechstein factory in Germany and attending a 3 day damper regulating class.
This is by far my favorite upright acoustic piano, which may become equipped with a Vario silent system made by Bechstein upon request.
The material selection of the C. Bechstein line is of their most high quality throughout the entire piano.
In this first picture, the cabinet stands at 115 cm tall, you will notice how you can see the foot supports of the piano stick out from the left and right side which is a small detail that differentiates the A2 & A4 from the A6.
How are Bechstein's new A series uprights different?
Below the keyboard, I opened up the kneeboard to show how the bridge for both the bass section and midrange measure perfectly to enhance the scale design from the previous model.
As soon as I saw this model come into the showroom, this was one of the very first things I saw that revealed the differences in the build of this piano.
I was pleasantly surprised to find this visually superior improvement in scale design, as well as in sound.
However, the scale design was not the only improvement to this model that makes it sound better.
Developments in the pressure bar improve the seating of the strings.
The low bass strings have impressive clarity that outmatch any upright piano that I've played.
Scale Design & Wood Grain Direction
Below you can see the direction of the grain of the soundboard with that of the bridge which has been modified from the previous Academy series.
The builders at Bechstein made an improved design choice with these models so that the grain of the soundboard is placed in a way that is directionally superior for transducing the vibrations from the bridge to the soundboard.
I agree with their assessment that with both the scale design (which is displayed in the curvature of the bass bridge and graduated termination points along the midrange) combined with the rotation of the direction of the soundboard grain placed upon the bridge, this piano produces a better tone that is readily transmitted throughout the entirety of the instrument.
Capo Bar, Tuning Pins, and Bushings
In this picture below, I would like to point your attention to the capo bar, which is elegantly supporting the top termination point of the strings with a hardened brass rod.
The material of the brass rod has been modified from the previous versions of this model to improve upon the quality of the termination point, which increases clarity.
Another detail that you may notice in this picture is that the tuning pins have wooden bushings immediately surrounding the base of the tuning pin.
It is my personal preference to tune a piano with these bushings because it makes the tuning experience easier and quicker.
C. Bechstein Hammers and Action Bolts
As you can see below, the hammers have “C. Bechstein Germany” laser etched into the molding of the hammer head.
This is because they are the only piano manufacturers in Europe to manufacture their own hammers.
They have been using their own C. Bechstein hammer heads since 2012, after a substantial investment in the C. Bechstein R&D Department.
Now, they can closely monitor the quality of their hammer heads as well as having a plentiful supply without waiting many months for hammers, as was the case before their internal investment in hammer head production.
P.S. In this photo you can also see the action bracket knob that is made up of solid brass which has a massy feel to it, reminding technician’s like me of the top quality in the C. Bechstein name.
Capo Bar, Tuning Pins, and Pressure Bar
I took this photo showing off how artfully done the capo bar, tuning pins, and pressure bar curves along the preferred distance for the scaling design of this piano.
In many pianos, it is a rather wanderlust ridge that lacks definition and doesn’t have an artful essence to it.
This is a tech detail that I appreciate and wanted to include because I think it looks quite elegant.
Case closed! Here is an example of having all case parts closed.
What’s different about the outside of this piano is that the edges and corners are very distinctive and sharp, which sets it apart from the rounded edges found on many other pianos.
All Bechstein Pianos have their cases complete in Czech Republic, where their factory for W. Hoffmann pianos is located.
The feet are also unique and provide an extra bit of walking space around the piano for young beginners and listeners.
How does the Bechstein A2 look different?
It is rare to remove all case parts at once, even when the piano tuner comes to visit.
This photo shows off what I think is an incredible looking piano.
The more I know about this piano, the more I look at this picture with a sense of awe, beauty, and technical satisfaction.
A few details that makes this picture special to me:
Unique feet, found nowhere else
Pedals that have a silent & clean operational feel
Perfectly curved bass bridge and capo bar
Next gen. overall bridge shape in the mid range
Optimized soundboard grain direction
Multiplex tuning pinblock
Bridge made of Beech
Wooden pedal dowels; in keeping with tradition
Mineralized keys, for feel
Simple, sharp, and orderly design
Technician friendly mute rail
Bechstein original hammer heads
Bechstein original action parts
Self supporting top lid while fully open
Mountain spruce obtained from high altitudes for grain count
What does "mineralized keytops" mean?
As I mentioned briefly above, the keys are mineralized to improve the feel of the piano keys.
I think that the most important thing to give attention to when comparing piano keys against this piano is that:
The texture of the sharp keys artfully reveals the grain of the wood.
The arch of the corners of the sharp keys are ergonomically conducive to human touch.
The cut of each key is carved precisely to specifications, which enables the most advanced and consistent feel a piano player can experience.
That the white key top is unusually flush with the wooden key below the surface.
The lip of the key is not too long, not too short, but an ideal balance; for a classic, clean, and controllable feel.
Nuances of the Lid Prop
As you may notice, the lid is propped open which does allow more sound to come out of the piano without having to fully open the lid.
Not all pianos have lid props like this which can be quite helpful to the eager pianist who wants a more intimate sound out of the piano.
C. Bechstein Academy Emblem
Here is the Bechstein Emblem in between the bass strings and the mid range.
I was fortunately able to attend the Bechstein Factory in Germany where this model is made. I was also able to visit the Berlin showroom that includes the largest selection of their highest grade pianos.
The Bechstein team strives to make their pianos as best as possible, ruthlessly improve upon the work that they’ve done, and have an eye on innovation by willingly making investments to improve any aspect of their pianos.
Royal Blue Piano Felt
A piano player may never open the case like this, but it shows off the royal blue felt on top of the plate that is chosen by Bechstein for many uses within the piano that serve as both function and form.
For instance, the pedals press up against thick royal blue felt to act as a cushion that silently brings the sustain pedal to rest.
Continued Observations & Comparisons
I hope you enjoyed reading my observations about the Bechstein A2 Academy Upright.
Please let me know if I may assist in answering any questions you have, especially if it relates to comparisons between the A2, A4 & A6.