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A Guide on the Best Piano Brands: Mason & Hamlin

With a storied history, Mason & Hamlin is one of America’s oldest piano manufacturers. It remained on top during the Golden Age of the Piano and still flourishes in today’s digital world. How does this North American company remain one of the most beloved piano manufacturers?

The Mason & Hamlin company is dedicated to superior craftsmanship, holding fast to its vintage scale designs and techniques that made its pianos so revered. Today, the company only has so many craftsmen in the factory to ensure every detail is on point. With this attention to detail, only about 300 grand pianos and 50 uprights make it to the market every year. Each piano is built to last and is versatile in performance. A Mason & Hamlin piano is truly one-of-a-kind.

Mason & Hamlin History

Mason & Hamlin started as a reed organ manufacturer in the United States in 1854 by a businessman and an inventor. Henry Mason and Edmond Hamlin quickly led their company to success and decided to expand into the piano industry in 1881. By 1910, the company became Steinway’s main competitor.

Edmond Hamlin (left) and Henry Mason (right)

Unfortunately, this American piano manufacturer struggled over the next 85 years. It experienced terrific highs and devastating lows. Then, in 1996, the Burgett brothers bought Mason & Hamlin, saving the company from bankruptcy.

The Burgett brothers reestablished manufacturing in the factory in Haverhill, MA. They took a long, hard look at the company’s past to see where things went wrong and where the manufacturer’s strengths lay. First, they brought back the original scale designs that made the company famous in the first place. From there, they standardized certain features while modernizing others, such as the jigs and fixtures. Because of this meticulous work, the brothers resurrected a piano with a clear tonal palette that is unmatched even today.

Mason & Hamlin Pianos

Mason & Hamlin has a line of grands that vary by length and one upright, but all have superior quality and sound. The tone of these pianos is distinctively American, with notes characteristic of German pianos. The heavy construction of the Mason & Hamlin grands and uprights allows these instruments to have a powerful bass and clear, bell-like treble. If you’re looking for a new piano, you cannot go wrong with a Mason & Hamlin grand, upright, or pre-owned instrument.

Grands & Uprights

Mason & Hamlin grands are known for their:

  • Wide-tail design
  • Full-perimeter plate
  • Thick maple rim
  • Spruce soundboard
  • The patented tension-resonator, Crown Retention System
  • Carbon fiber action

It is because of these distinct parts that Mason & Hamlin grands are able to maintain their quality of sound long after they have been purchased. The Crown Retention System and composite action are especially responsible for the long-term quality of these pianos. The system locks the rim in place so that it cannot expand with age or stress, and the composite actions do not shrink or swell according to the temperature or humidity, effectively preserving the rich tone of the grand piano.

While pianists can choose from various grands and baby grands from this American manufacturer, Mason & Hamlin only produces one upright model — Model 50. This vertical piano features the same durability, rich tone, and power characteristic of the company’s grands. It just has a much smaller build, making it ideal for spaces with very little room.

Pre-Owned Mason & Hamlin Pianos

Have you ever listened to your grandmother’s piano and felt that the instrument’s sound is unmatched? This is due to the fact that your grandma has put a lot of mileage on that instrument. It’s known that pre-owned pianos are well-regulated with a more stable action and clearer tone. So, when you buy a previously used piano, you’ll get the same quality of sound as your grandma’s — without having to put in all the work! Plus, you will not have to get the instrument serviced as often as newer models because the action is steady and the strings are stable.

If you’re interested in a pre-owned Mason & Hamlin, we recommend Model B or Model AA. The Model B is 5’4” and is considered a baby grand. Its compact size makes it ideal for any space, but just because it’s small doesn’t mean it lacks power. The Model B has rich bass notes and bright treble notes that quickly fill a space.

The Model AA is 6’2” and full of character. Its tone and projection match those of grands much larger than its size. In addition, its elegant design makes it a perfect addition to any home, studio, or institution. Both the Model AA and Model B come in ebony or mahogany finishes.

Hulme and Sweeney have Mason & Hamlin Model AA and two Model Bs ready for restoration. Please call (860) 408-4895 to inquire.

Benefits of a Mason & Hamlin Piano

Choosing a grand or upright piano is a major decision that requires careful deliberation and thorough research. A Mason & Hamlin could be the instrument you need for yourself or your young pianist. If you’re still unsure this piano is right for you, here’s more information:

  • Mason & Hamlin pianos have wonderful tonal palettes: The treble is a rich, bell-like tone, while the bass has a presence comparable to that of a grand much larger than its size. If the tone isn’t exactly to your liking, you can have a technician voice the instrument to brighten or mellow the sound.
  • Mason & Hamlin grands and uprights have impressive quality: Incredible care is given to each instrument produced in their factory. The company’s craftsmen only make around 350 pianos a year because they spend so much time crafting the wood and parts into an instrument that will last for generations.
  • Mason & Hamlin Company is a strong competitor against other big-name brands: Even though they are a small manufacturer in the United States, Mason & Hamlin is on par with the best piano manufacturers, like Steinway & Sons. Its Crown Retention System and composite action give it a quality like none other — its tuning remains stable and consistent year after year.

Choosing a Piano

How do you decide which grand or upright is right for you? You can get recommendations from a dealer to narrow down your options, but you will not truly know which one is the perfect instrument for you until you try playing it.

When you play the piano, listen to its bass, middle, and treble tones. How do they feel hitting your ears? If they sound off, a different model may be a better option. Pay attention to how the keys feel under your fingers. Playing the piano involves multiple senses, so make sure you’re entirely comfortable with a particular model.

It’s also helpful to note that every piano will sound different based on its age, condition, and maintenance, as well as the room it is located in. Because so many factors play a role in how a piano sounds, you’ll need to play a variety of pianos (even those made by the same manufacturer) to find the one that will suit your needs and preferences.

Are you ready to test out different pianos? Get in touch with our piano technicians at Hulme & Sweeney for more information on pre-owned Mason & Hamlin grands and uprights. We’ll ensure you find your dream instrument.

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247 Farms Village Rd,
 West Simsbury, CT 06092
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