At the presentation of Hailun’s new digital technology at Music China:
(l-r) Mr. Hossein, Hailun Iran; Bernie Cappichiano, Hailun Australia;
Basilios Strmec, pres., Hailun USA; Bai Lin, Feurich Austria; Mark Chen, v.p., Hailun China.
Fast-growing piano maker rolls out digitals—and
its highest-end series yet
Three centuries into the history of piano making, most of the sector’s biggest names come from long traditions in culture and craftsmanship. Hailun Piano started with a blank slate. For this Ningbo, China-based company, which delivered its first pianos in 2002, the upside of a short history was the chance to create a fresh vision of the piano from a blend of the best insights, wherever they could be found. Behind an international team, including veterans of Mason & Hamlin, Bechstein, and Bösendorfer, Hailun developed a line of Chinese-made pianos that demanded a place on the world stage—and got it. Since shipping its first pianos to the U.S. in 2006, the company has amassed 118 North American dealers and an endorsement from the Piano Technicians Guild, plus distribution in Europe, Asia, and Australia. Three years ago, a $58 million IPO on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange funded a state-of-the-art new factory, setting up a round of technological upgrades and a new class of Hailun pianos that are just starting to hit the market. At the 2015 Music China fair in Shanghai, the company introduced its first digital pianos—with more to come. Hailun digitals are expected to hit the U.S. market at the upcoming NAMM Show, and so is the company’s brand-new Emerson line, its most premium acoustic pianos to date.
“Hailun focused right away on uncompromising quality and proudly identified itself by its owner name, a hallmark of integrity,” says Basilios Strmec, president of Hailun USA. “Now we feel we can bring to the market not just a piano that can match European quality, but something unique.”
For Hailun, this push to differentiate has been fueled in large part by the promise of original technology. Most recently, for instance, the company has taken its signature HLPS (pronounced “helps”) feature worldwide. Originally featured on pianos for the U.S. market, the patented HLPS mechanism allows grand piano lids to be opened with the slightest effort and glide gently closed instead of slamming. An updated version of the mechanism also allows the lid to be opened at any angle, from around 20 degrees up to 72. Presented as a family-friendly feature—a lid that will never slam shut on a child’s fingers—HLPS now comes standard on Hailun pianos sold around the world. “There was an agreement that the customer should have that same product experience whether they purchase a Hailun piano in China or in New Jersey,” says Strmec.
As for Hailun’s new digital line, it’s the product of around two years of research and a collaboration with the Department of Acoustic and Sonic Research at the University of Beijing. Rather than farming out the project to an OEM company with experience in digitals, Hailun sponsored two university professors and their Ph.D teams to devise an original system for Hailun. As the company brings the line to the U.S. this winter, it expects to make its case on a high-value product that will be exclusive to independent Hailun dealers—that is, not available to chain stores.
Hailun also views the U.S. market as the prime destination for its Emerson line, named for the storied Emerson piano building tradition out of Boston. Spearheaded by American piano engineer Paul Rea, the instrument combines U.S. and European technology, with final assembly and finish performed at Hailun’s U.S. assembly center in Los Angeles. Described as a “luxury piano experience,” Emerson line instruments feature a scale design developed by engineers in Europe, plus fine German hammers and felts, true ebony for the sharp keys, and some original innovations by Hailun. For example, the termination points of the duplex system—the points where the strings touch either side of the piano—have been made from the precious metal tungsten, a lightweight material that emulates the properties of wood. These pianos also come with not only a service warranty but a one-year provision for Hailun technicians to service the piano in the buyer’s home, an arrangement associated with high-end instruments. “It’s a sound and an experience that customers would associate with a piano in the $70,000-$80,000 range,” says Strmec. The Emerson line comes in at between $30,000 and $40,000.
But besides new products, Hailun has established a long-term focus for both China and the U.S.: education. In China—the world’s largest piano market and home to upwards of 30 million piano students—Hailun has acquired or opened a string of piano teaching studios. With an average of around 3,000 students per week, these centers teach from a curriculum designed by Hailun, using technology devised by Hailun especially for teachers and students. Specially equipped acoustic pianos feature a bracket for attaching an iPad or Android tablet, which holds a learning app that the student can use either in the studio or at home. Pitch-detection technology assists students when they’re practicing on their own, prompting them to correct wrong notes, while webcams let them interact with teachers remotely.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., the company has launched an initiative to get its pianos in front of as many educators as possible. Through its “Test the Best” program, teachers are invited to try a Hailun instrument in a retail showroom, fill out a review form, and be entered in a drawing for an HG 178 Hailun grand. The drawing will be held April 4 at the Music Teachers National Association conference. “We have a great network of wonderful merchants,” says Strmec. “But where we will make an impact and where we will find partners across the country is among piano teachers. We’re proud to have them try our brand and take in the experience.”
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