The Astin-Weight piano, manufactured in a small plant in Salt Lake City, Utah, since 1959, is one of the oddest pianos made in this country. Even the owners of the company, Ray Astin and don Weight, recognize that their piano is a bit strange, for they call it a "cult" piano, by which they mean that most purchasers of their piano had seen it before and specifically asked for it, whereas those who see it in a store for the first time may be somewhat intimidated by it.
Several things make the Astin-Weight a unique piano. First, both vertical models – a 41" console and a 50" upright – have no wooden back posts. Instead they use a massive full perimeter cast-iron plate to support the string tension. According to the company, this eliminates the destabilizing effect of wooden posts expanding and contracting with changes in humidity. Note that this is a true full-perimeter plate, not the imitation sometimes used by other companies.
This alone would not be so strange, for some foreign-made pianos are constructed this way. What really sets these pianos apart, however, is the way the soundboard is attached. On most vertical pianos, the soundboard extends only part way up the piano back, because room must be left for the pinblock. On Astin-Weight pianos, the soundboard takes up the entire back of the piano, behind the pinblock; therefore, the vibrating area is much larger, resulting (says the company) in a much larger volume of sound (Figure 4-1). The company claims that its 41" console has a soundboard the same size as that of a conventional 54" piano. Of course, the quality of sound also depends on the length of the bass and tenor strings and on the overall scale design. Astin-Weight verticals have bass strings that are about as long, or in some case longer, than other pianos of comparable size, but the console still has a distinctly console-like sound. For the past few years, most Astin-Weight pianos have been made with solid spruce soundboards.
Astin-Weights are also unusual in their cabinet designs and finishes. Some of the designs are extremely simple, with cabinets finished in hand-rubbed oil finishes. Dealers report that some customers find this a refreshing alternative to the shiny lacquer and polyester finishes of every other brand. Some Astin-Weight models are available in lacquer finishes too.
Astin-Weights are available with either Langer or Pratt-Win actions. The more expensive Langer actions are of high quality, but operate at their best only within narrow tolerances and so are a little fussier in their service requirements. The less expensive Pratt-Win actions are usually satisfactory when properly serviced, and five a little more latitude to changes in regulation without malfunctioning.
Relatively few piano technicians are acquainted with Astin-Weight pianos, but those who are usually speak highly of the instruments. However, the pianos do produce a very rich spectrum of overtones that some technicians find odd-sounding or challenging to tune. Of course, this richness is precisely what many Astin-Weight owners love about their pianos. If, after careful comparison with other brands, you find you prefer the tone, touch, and other features of an Astin-Weight piano, I would definitely recommend buying one.
If you thought the verticals were strange, wait till you see the 5'9" grand, which has been produced in limited numbers for quite a few years. Instead of having a straight side on the left and a curved side on the right as all other grands do, it's shaped almost symmetrically. This allows the bass bridge to be repositioned so that the bass strings are 18 inches longer than normal for a piano that size, and increases the soundboard area by 45 percent, so the company says, resulting in the tonal equivalent of a 7'6" piano. Furthermore, the lid is hinged on the right (treble) side, instead of the left (bass), a feature that Astin-Weight calls "Grand, American Style."
Price range: (Verticals) $6,000-$9,000. Customers living in areas without an Astin-Weight dealer can buy an Astin-Weight piano direct from the factory at a savings of about thirty-five percent.
Warranty: Twenty-five years, parts and labor.
41" console (375)
50" upright (U-500)