Grey Market Pianos

"Yamaha has taken a public stand warning against the purchase of these pianos. According to the company, the wood used in Yamaha pianos is seasoned for destination: the highest moisture content for Japan, which is relatively humid; the lowest for the U.S., which has areas that are extremely dry; and in between for Europe. According to Yamaha, gray market Yamahas, having been manufactured for a humid climate, may develop loose tuning pins, cracked soundboards, glue joint failure, and other serious problems when relocated to the United States. Yamaha also points out that there is no Yamaha warranty on the gray market pianos, and that it cannot provide technical support or sell parts for these pianos because the models are often different from those sold in the U.S." "In addition, Yamaha says that some actual new Yamaha pianos are now being imported on the gray market through non-authorized dealers. You should know that these pianos, though new, do not come with a manufacturer's warranty."

"Kawai has made no public pronouncements about the risks of purchasing gray market Kawais. In private, however, Kawai representatives say that for some years now, the wood for all Kawai pianos has been seasoned for the dry areas of the U.S., regardless of destination. There is no manufacturer's warranty in the U.S. on Kawai pianos originally sold in Japan, but the company says it will provide technical information and parts if it is able to. Parts for pianos not originally sold in the U.S., however, may require a special order from Japan, with a long wait time. Kawai America also says it occasionally imports used Kawais itself. The pianos come from its music schools in Japan and are sold primarily to authorized Kawai dealers in Canada, to help them compete with other dealers of these pianos."

A Yamaha spokesperson added that "... indoor humidity can be low even in some so-called mild climates (the humid ones) due to air conditioning, which dries the air in order to cool it. In general, indoor humidity is lower in North American households, regardless of climate, than in households in other parts of the world due to the types of heating and cooling systems employed. Yamaha learned this the hard way when it first entered the U.S. market in the early 1960s with pianos seasoned much like the gray market pianos are today." "The reported problems are most severe and numerous in the Midwest and Northeast."(Fine,1998)

Inspite of the warnings by Yamaha USA, Yamaha pianos are some of best made pianos in the most modern factories. These problems have not been apparent after about 1972. Importing Japanese made Yamaha pianos could carry a risk, but as long as the buyer is aware of the potential problems and proactive in recreating environmental conditions similar to Japanese homes, a gray market Yamaha piano would be a better investment than more poorly made brands.A humid Dampp Chaser ® would keep humidity levels similar to Japan. As it is not possible to get Yamaha parts for these pianos, rebuilt pianos would not sound the same with German replacement parts. This is not necessarily a bad thing some people prefer Yamaha pianos with foreign parts such as Abel hammers. It was a solution for one of my customers who wanted a different sound for his Yamaha concert grand piano.