A family heirloom, namely a 1906 Heintzman upright grand piano, was recently shipped from B.C. to Toronto. Although the piano looked very nice physically, it seemed dreadfully out of tune, suffering from ‘tired’ strings and some keys were malfunctioning. Enter Mr. Ari Isaac, master piano technician, maker of his own felt piano hammers and base strings, and a walking encyclopedia of piano construction and lore. After several weeks of work the piano was returned. Lo and behold, the full, rich sound of yesteryear was once again on display! Ari Isaac had worked his magic and we couldn’t be happier. Some minor adjustments remain, but Mr. Isaac will return to finish the job, as promised. Now a person can play this piano with full heart and soul, and be satisfied.
Greetings…. I have just spent a wonderful week with Ari Isaac and his lovely wife Hanna at my home here in Portland. We all had a great time. Most of it was taken up by the piano, however we did do some socializing with friends, and a sightseeing day trip up to Mt. Hood… thankfully no rumblings from the Volcano
This was a working / vacation of sorts for Ari, but the main purpose of Ari’s visit was to work on voicing his Classical West piano hammers. I also asked Ari to tune the piano in ET, which he did totally by ear. It all turned out beautifully.
His ET tuning, which I recorded on my iPad Verituner, turned out really nice. I now have 2 custom tunings for my grand to choose from, EBVT 3 and what I will call “Isaac ET”. The piano also has his bass strings, which are fantastic. I also picked up some tuning / hammer techniques from Ari.
I put the word out to a few local PTG folks and 2 came on Sunday afternoon to meet Ari and listen to the finished piano… they were impressed. In fact, one called back that night and wants Ari to send a few hammer samples for a possible Steinway B restoration. Ever since I first heard his piano hammers and Bass strings on my piano, I have been a fan, now even more so. A big THANK YOU Ari for your excellent work!
Grand Piano Man
Sally Christian, Pianist.
Sally Christian Music Website
I purchased piano hammers and piano bass strings from you last winter. The Piano sounds nothing like it did in the past. The change was dramatic at first but it seems to get even better the more it is played. I can’t say enough about how great it sounds. I have never heard an upright sound like this. Thank you very much and I enjoy this piano every day now.
My piano is so incredibly consistent and even at the change of seasons, I still get that rich, beautiful tone! Before I got your piano hammers, it was a crap shoot, because the weather effected the piano hammers so much that I got a different tone, way too many times. For two or three years now, through all the humidity, dryness, and other climate, my piano sounds beautiful because your hammers are so consistent!
I can’t wait to get a bigger piano to put those bad boys on!
My piano sounds amazing! I love that piano hammers, they are very warm, you did an amazing job by the way with the hammers and installation of the shanks! The bass strings are – well WOW.
The piano still needs a few more tunings to get it stable so it’s a slow gratification but when it’s in tune it’s amazing aand the thing is I have a Essex upright to compare the sound with. My Welte Mignon sounds much different than my new Essex. You really can’t compare the two. The grand is warm, yet powerful and quiet when you need it. I am very impressed.
Ari, To be brief: Your hammers are amazing!
They actually improve the more I play. It’s kind of surprising. I would expect the opposite. One plays extensively would imply that the tone would become more uneven and need more attention.
Every time I came to the piano, I only wanted to play, generally about an hour every other day. Then I began noticing that piano began evening itself out just through playing. I also noticed that it opened up more and more. It is now to the point that I prefer this Baldwin C with Wapin/Isaac piano hammers/Stanwood over my Steinway O/Wapin/Able Natural hammers/Stanwood.
I plan to hire a professional recording guy and a pianist sometime in the next month or so. I will make those recordings available to you when they are ready.
Brian Lucey, Magic Garden Mastering
Magic Garden Mastering Website
Wow! Honestly Ari, I have never heard such a difference made in a piano before. In the words of my client: “you made my tin can sound like a Bosendorfer.”
Piano Tuner & Technician
I just wanted to give you an update on my hammers. My Technician, Dwight just got my action back on Monday and I must say that the hammers that are installed are just truly AMAZING! Your piano hammers are incredibly warm and they don’t sound mechanical, if that makes sense. I can play more expressive and it feels so easy to do.
My piannisimo is so beautiful! My expression range from forte to piannisimo is all there! The other piano hammers were much more limited. I would never have believed it could make that much of a difference. I will see tonight if my piano students notice the difference! I have owned many older pianos, and I have tried Abel premiun blue hammers, and I have tried Renner piano hammers, needless to say I have sold those pianos! Your piano hammers are very different and I love the sound. I am really impressed with your piano hammers!
I purchased a Petrof (Weinbach 192) 6’4” Grand Piano in March of 2009. Although the piano was in virtually perfect condition, the hammers were in pretty bad shape. The original hammers (as advertised by Petrof) were Abel piano Hammers. The piano was manufactured in 2002 and was seven years of age at the time of my purchase.
Two different piano technicians attempted to get the piano hammers to produce an acceptable tone. They needled them, steamed them, shaped them but could only produce short-lived tonal improvement. Nothing they did actually lasted for any length of time. When considering replacement hammers I spent a lot of time investigating piano hammers, eventually deciding to go with the Ari Isaac Cadenza “S” hammers produced by Mr. Isaac.
Prior to doing so though I discussed at length with Mr. Isaac the idea of replacing my hammers. His approach was very professional and helpful. He never attempted to pressure the sale; he only sought to answer my questions. He explained his rather sophisticated approach to producing hammers and what drove him to begin doing so – which was his unwillingness to accept the kind of mediocre tonal quality that many well know piano hammer manufactures produce for otherwise “high-end” pianos.
I was fortunate to be able to hear “before and after” recordings of a Mason & Hamlin Grand Piano that had Abel Hammers replaced by the Isaac Cadenza “S” Piano Hammers. The tonal difference was noteworthy and cinched the deal in my mind.
I sent my shanks (with the old Abel Piano Hammers) to Ari and he replaced them with his Cadenza “S” piano hammers. They were back to me within two weeks and I installed them that day. What a difference. The improvement was incredible. Prior to installing the hammers I had significant doubt that I could ever get the piano to a point where I would be happy.
Today I am enjoying the piano every day. The piano hammers were quality right out of the box. Mr. Isaac continues to monitor my story and I provide regular updates to him. He is a wealth of knowledge and has a genuine interest in ensuring the customer is satisfied.
As you can imagine, I strongly recommend Mr. Isaac’s piano hammers. I am blessed (or cursed) with a critical ear. The tonal response that my piano offers now meets my expectations now because of the hammers Mr. Isaac produced.
Mr. Isaac, here the results of your great job!
Thank you so much for made this wonderful strings and hammers for my piano!
Dear Mr. Isaac
I wanted to let you know how happy and impressed I am with your Cadenza “S” hammers. I had a set of very popular European hammers on my 7ft grand piano since it was rebuilt a few years ago. I was never happy with the tone, and the hammers quickly became hard sounding, with no bloom in the tone, even after a professional voicing.
After installing your hammers, the transformation was immediately noticeable. The tone was simply beautiful, a full, round sound, with no harshness, and this was with no voicing! Your hammers have continued to improve on their own. Thank you so much for your great work!
John Del Carlo
Bass Baritone opera singer
The Metropolitan Opera New York
The Houston Opera
The San Francisco Opera.
If you remembered, I bought a set of hammers from you for quite sometime now, and I like to say that I am very very pleased with the rich and silky tone your hammers produce. The depth and fullness of tone is so evident. I am enjoying every minute of it. The tone is still on the mellow side but has firmed up a little and its getting nicer as the weeks go by. Many visitors had come by and they were amazed at the tone, needless to say the bass was just amazingly deep, felt like my piano added some few extra inches :)
Victor Kam – Malaysia
Hello Mr Isaac
The customer was shocked at the improvement in the tone to his Young Chang! It was funny to watch, … really. He played it for some moments before he stopped and said, “This is how I wanted it to sound when I bought it.”
He liked the whole range. The treble was fine – defined and subtle on light playing, and quite bright on hard attack. I’m giving him a few weeks to play the piano before I do any voicing, but he says he likes it just the way it is.
I thought the work on the hammers was superb. They were the right length. The boring was very accurate, and the weight was so close to the originals that there was very little adjustment need on the repetition springs. Back-check, let-off and drop were very close. Great job! Thanks for a great job.
David Jenson RPT
I strongly recommend the Isaac piano hammer. I have used Ari’s hammers in all my rebuilding projects since 1985. I love the range of color – from the sweetest softs to the fullest louds – with all the gradations in between. My customer’s all agree!
I also strongly recommend the Isaac bass strings. They provide a rich fullness of the fundamentals with a pleasing mix of higher partials.
I appreciate Ari’s willingness to strive for improvement in his scales, always trying to get the breaks just right, and the power smooth throughout.
Ithaca, New York
Isaac bass strings are consistently better than any strings I’ve been able to get from any other source. They have a good balance of overtones and can be made to growl if you want them to. In addition, they fit the pianos better than any other strings because every set is made from a paper pattern taken straight from the piano in question. These strings have the ability to speak out into a large hall in ways that other strings simply don’t do. They consistently make my rebuilt pianos sound larger than I and my customers expected them to. When I use Isaac bass strings and hammers in conjunction with my new physically crowned sound boards, the vibrancy of the tone is phenomenal. The pianos seem to come literally to life. The sound is just like a living presence in the room.
Cadenza hammers are another milestone in the history of piano making. These hammers are more stable than any other hammer I’ve worked with. They come to me right out of the box with the exact correct tonal spectrum needed for expressive piano performances. If I need a brighter tone to meet the needs of a particular piano, Cadenza hammers are a dream to work with when hardening them. No matter what you use to harden these hammers or how much of it you use, they retain that same tonal spectrum just at a brighter level. You still get a warmer subtle sound at pianissimo playing that grows in intensity and increases in its high overtone excitation as you increase to fortissimo. When I do get the needle out it is simply for the purpose of touching up and evening out a few hammers or for adjusting a specific tonal character that is desired at one or more of the dynamic playing levels.
Rodgers’ Piano Rebuilding
North East, PA
As you know, the soundboard design we use in the pianos we remanufacture require a somewhat more resilient, or elastic, hammer than is commonly used today. We have found the hammers you make for us to be an excellent match for our pianos. They require only a minimum of voicing–just a bit of shoulder needling here and there, and, sometimes, a bit of hardening in the very high treble. About as good as can be expected, I think.
These hammers consistently give our pianos the “voice” we are looking for with an excellent dynamic range. They develop a nice, warm pianissimo, yet they still give a good, solid and powerful fortissimo. All in all, a good hammer.
We also appreciate the care with which you wrap bass strings to our specifications without attempting to redesign them yourself. We have taken great care to design the stringing scales we specify for the pianos we remanufacture and their performance depends on strings wrapped accurately to these scales. Beyond that, much of our work is experimental and developmental in nature and we depend on getting strings wrapped precisely as we have specified. Your strings consistently have exactly the core and wrap sizes and diameters we have requested. Your prompt and courteous service is greatly appreciated.
Delwin D Fandrich
Larry E Graddy
I’m back from the long Fourth-of-July weekend helping my friend install your hammers in his six-foot Young Chang. The extreme bass, and the high soprano upward, are going to need some combination of breaking in and maybe hardening to deliver a good sound. But that much is unremarkable. And my friend is a fair amateur technician who will lovingly and competently attend to that business, I’m quite sure.
Also of minor import, but appropriate to mention, is that, as best we could ascertain it, your boring job tended toward slightly greater than 90 degrees, causing us to resort to reaming, etc., to ease them to 90 or maybe 89 degrees. What is remarkable is the overall effect of your hammers in that instrument. The old hammers were of the hard, crusty sort that one expects to find on any Asian piano, but these had had a lot of attention to reform them. I remember applying a hammer softening solution (mainly water and acetone, of course), and my friend had resorted to a steaming technique I described to him. And over the years, my friend had needled the heck out of them. I remember that piano having an inoffensive, utilitarian tone. Does one dare expect better from a middle-sized Young Chang? In contemplating your hammers in that Korean piano, I was prepared for the possibility that a great incompatibility would emerge (while figuring that, in the worst-case scenario, we could recover the “classic” Young Chang sound just by lacquering them to death). But I always thought your hammers would work well in an Asian piano, and had empirically expected what I thought would be about a 50% tonal improvement.
What we ended up struck me as maybe a 200% tonal improvement. That Young Chang, for the first time, revealed a soul. It became the temptress in the apartment, seducing us pianists again and again to come and explore. In short, it was the most dramatic improvement in piano tone I have ever witnessed. Ari, I do rate you a friend, but I hope it has always been apparent to you that personal loyalty has nothing to do with my reliance on your hammers. And you’re always changing your ideas, and getting excited about new twists, etc., etc., which I have always greeted with scientific skepticism. It almost rubs me wrong to gush, but you have again shown that your hammers are absolutely, positively, and uniquely, the best available.
Again, I’ll say that I do not understand why you don’t have a stranglehold on the high end of the rebuilding business, and why you have not engendered serious competition. And I don’t understand why so many piano manufacturers, and so many technicians, rely on those hard, crusty hammers, including whatever Renner has been putting out of late.
I’m finally ready to adopt the statement of another customer of yours from several years ago, to the effect that a good piano starts with a set of Isaac hammers. I can’t imagine any other hammers I have ever worked with producing such a dramatic result in that Young Chang. I don’t think my tastes the least bit eccentric, nor do I suppose that it takes some great sophistication to appreciate the tonal difference between good and not-so-good hammers. Still, it seems as if having your hammers in my arsenal has been the secret weapon that allowed me to get results from a piano that no competitor of mine could approach. A technician using hard, mass-produced hammers no doubt enjoys the convenience of having a more symmetrical and uniform product in his hands to work with, and of having a fairly brilliant tone at the start. But such a technician who ends his inquiry there is selling himself, and his customers, short. And any who has had a fair exposure to your product yet continues to run to the familiar Japanese or German sources for hammers is a damned fool. Again, I am uncomfortable gushing. But I strongly believe in giving credit where credit is due, and there is no way for me to do so in this instance without gushing aplenty. Your hammers worked a near miracle in that Young Chang! My friend, a poor, freelance musician, spent about his last dollar acquiring the parts and covering my expenses for the weekend, and he now feels richly rewarded.
If you ever decide to retire, please give me sufficient warning that I can buy several sets of unbored hammers for my archives. Good health to you, my friend!