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Acrosonic Pianos Dissected… Is A Baldwin Acrosonic Worth A Lot?

Is a Baldwin Acrosonic a good piano? or just a thing of the past?

Acrosonic pianos are rare.

They’re one of those types of pianos you don’t come across all that often, and only really hear (or even think about) if you’re ‘in the know’. Otherwise you’ll likely gloss over this style of piano altogether! And even in the case the phrase “Baldwin Acrosonic” does slip into conversation, you’ll be left raising your eyebrows.

Reason being that today, Acrosonic pianos aren’t even in production. They died a death in the late 80s. So even if you wanted to buy one, you’d have to scroll through the depths of eBay, Facebook Marketplace or hit up your local piano specialist to even have a chance of finding one. Therefore, the chances you and an Acrosonic will come into contact are actually very slim – close to a size zero to be exact!

So really then it’s no surprise that Acrosonic pianos (for most of us) have become a bit of a grey area. One that’s since become reserved for the wise-looking bearded types… but all that ends today! Read on and we’ll unpick the history behind Baldwin pianos + reveal the reason why the Acrosonic piano died a death!

After something specific about acrosonic pianos? Or just curious to see what makes Baldwin Acrosonics so different? Use the menu below to reach all the info you’re after in one click…

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What is an Acrosonic Piano?

An Acrosonic piano is a type of piano that was first sold and manufactured by Baldwin Pianos in 1936.

At the time Baldwin was one of the most popular providers of premium pianos in America. Kind of like the Yamaha of today, only they made their instruments out of wood – not plastic. Arguably the most popular instrument, and the one that cemented the company’s name in the history books, was the Baldwin Acrosonic. A piano, which when it came to sound, had a few tricks up its sleeve.

Baldwin claimed the Acrosonic could create a ‘full’ sound like those of Grand or Baby Grand, despite the fact that the Acrosonic resembled much the same size as an Upright. The sound itself is very bassy and ideal for Jazz or Blues music.

As you’d expect then, as America hedged its way out of the Great Depression, and interior space came suddenly at a premium, Baldwin saw a spurt in sales. These continued throughout the 40s, 50s and into the 1960s. In fact, the Acrosonic was such a roaring success that it’s practically become a symbol of America’s recovery from the Great Depression. An honest instrument, that’s symbolic of change, hope and a new start. We like that!

What are Baldwin pianos?

An Acrosonic is just one example of a Baldwin piano.

In short, Baldwins are a family of all of different styles, shapes and sizes of pianos, that were produced by the Baldwin Piano Company. The Acrosonic being just one of these.

The company actually started making pianos all the way back in the 1860s, when Dwight Baldwin kickstarted the company’s legacy in 1862 – a similar time to when Henry Steinway started up up Steinway Pianos over in New York. Only Baldwin wasn’t a New Yorker, he was based over in Ohio, and come the Great Depression, was remained focused on one thing – making pianos. Lots of them!

So after the Great Depression had subsided and Baldwin had his company back from the military, who were using it at the time to produce plywood parts for aeroplanes, the rate of piano production really heated up. In fact, it got that manic that by 1973 the company had produced over 1 million Baldwin Acrosonics!

It’s safe to say that this piano was anything but a one hit wonder. Something that Baldwin must have sensed too, because the company even made the choice to patent the term Acrosonic and still sells pianos under it to this day.

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Spinet VS Console piano: What’s the difference?

So if you thought Acrosonic pianos couldn’t get even more difficult, think again.

Because aside from being a rare type of piano themselves, they actually fall under two categories: the Acrosonic Spinet and the Acrosonic Console. Spinet and Console pianos also being two types of pianos in their own right. Ones that rather annoyingly are quite hard to tell apart.

And that’s because on the face of it, they look virtually the same. Put a Spinet and a Console side by side and you’d struggle to tell the difference. Both are designed to go against a wall (i.e. are upright pianos) and both feature relatively the same design of outer casing – a form of wood that’s sometimes calved, with two legs supporting the piano at each corner of the keybed. It’s only when you go inside Console and Spinet pianos that the difference really becomes apparent.

So read on and we’ll not only fill you in on the big ‘Spinet VS Console’ debate, but also tell you how Acrosonic Baldwin pianos give each their on each of these breeds of piano….

Console pianos defined

A Console piano is the second largest upright piano ever produced and clocks in at around 42-44 inches in height, depending on the model and year of manufacture. You might hear them referred to as ‘apartment-size pianos‘ – a reference to their compact size, that as you’d expect by the nickname, makes them ideal for small spaces.

One of the most popular types of Console piano is what’s known as a Furniture Console. These were pianos with two legs underneath the keybed and were often manufactured to be design pieces too. Look into Console pianos in more depth and you’ll see that a large number are orientated towards certain styles of design. Italian Provincial, Queen Anne and Mid-Century Modern, for instance, which as you’ve probably guessed is how they get their name. These were very popular during the 60s and 70s!

However the main sign of a Console piano can be found when you open it up. Inside is a lot different to your conventional upright piano. The soundboard is slightly smaller and the strings are shorter than your conventional Upright, as well as the height itself – at 44 inches tall, Consoles aren’t what you’d call big. All of which piano enthusiasts claim weaken their sound. And it may do, but that hasn’t stopped their popularity. For any household that didn’t have a resident music-junkie, the sound of a Console was more than satisfactory.

Where Consoles really differ from a Spinet though, is their actions. Peer inside a Console and you’ll see a regular upright action. On a Console, the keys are also pretty lengthy and connect directly to the action. Something you won’t find in a Spinet. For this reason, Console pianos are generally thought to be the most superior of the two.

So much so that manufacturers still make them today, only not quite in the same style. The majority of Console pianos you’ll see today are what’s known as a Continental Console, which basically means they don’t have a set of legs under the keybed. Instead it hovers… as if by magic!

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Spinet pianos defined

Spinet pianos are the smallest upright piano ever to be made, measuring in at somewhere in the region of 39-36 inches tall. As with Console pianos, their actual height and design would also depend on their year of manufacture.

They also, just like a Console, feature a set of legs underneath the keybed. Although, that’s not say you can’t tell a Spinet from a Console on the outside – you can. Spinets tend to have some of the shortest piano keys out there. As a result, the feel to them is completely different to your conventional Upright. Plus, another way to easily identify a Spinet is to see how far the back of the piano covers your wall.

The back of a Spinet is generally only a couple of inches above the keybed – they’re quite squat. And it’s this lack of height which gets the experts get hot headed. Meaning that when it comes to their actual sound, Spinets are generally considered the weakest of all piano types, due to yet again, a small soundboard and shorter strings. However, just as with a Console, the main difference comes with the actions, which tend to be the Spinet’s main downfall, and why a lot of piano technicians try to avoid working on them.

In a Spinet piano the actions are what’s known as indirect blow/ drop actions, opposed to the regular upright actions you’ll find on a Console. These are actions that sit below the keys (hence the name) and are done so to conserve space. Something they succeed in doing, however it does take a good chunk of control away from their player. The actions are connected to the keys via two rods, so unlike all other pianos, the keys on a Spinet aren’t connected directly to the action. Although with that being said, it does allow for a fast repetition rate, so it’s not all bad news.

But as you’d imagine, all this niche engineering means that Spinets can also be quite pricy to repair – something that they tend to need quite a bit of when compared to the average piano. Let’s just say that because Spinets were the baby of any range (most affordable), the standard to which they were made tended to be a lot lower.

And yet now, being rare means that parts aren’t always cheap or easy to find either. It’;s sad to say, but you can kind of see why nobody makes Spinets anymore.

R.I.P.

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Hang on – then what’s an Acrosonic Spinet piano?

Okay, so as you’ve probably twigged by now, the Acrosonic Spinet-style piano was the Spinet made by Baldwin. A piano that arguably salvaged what was left of the Spinet’s rather woeful reputation, as miraculously it didn’t turn out all that bad!

The sound of an Acrosonic Spinet was more pronounced and distinctive than that of traditional Spinet. It had more volume about it, and while it did sound bright and a tad brittle, it was a vast improvement on what had gone before. So much so that the Baldwin Spinet was labelled the best Spinet piano ever to be made. A title many still use to describe it, even today!

Want to hear what a Baldwin Acrosonic Spinet sounds like, as well as have a peek inside? Watch the video below…

YouTube video

And an Acrosonic Console piano?

With the success of the Spinet Acrosonic, Baldwin decided to inject their Acrosonic DNA into something new, and slightly larger. The Console Acrosonic was their answer, or should we say, replacement for the Spinet. A piano that proved very popular with piano punters at the time, due to its phenomenal improvement in sound quality.

The notes on a Baldwin Console have a certain depth and power that you just don’t seem to find on pianos these days. It also had a slightly bassy undertone too. Something that even many critics have struggled to pick fault with. Stick around for the pros and cons of Acrosonics and you’ll see why it’s now expected to become a modern classic.

YouTube video
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Is an Acrosonic piano good? Here’s their pros and cons…

When evaluating whether Acrosonic pianos are a good second hand option for you, you first need to wrap your head around why they’re good or bad. What’s the actual perks of having an Acrosonic over a normal Upright? And, are Acrosonics really a good piano for beginners? Read on and we’ll fill you in all this, and more…

Pros of Baldwin Acrosonic pianos

  • That signature Baldwin sound – Whether you go for a Baldwin Acrosonic Console or Spinet piano, you’re pretty much guaranteed a solid sound. One that’s not only punchy and above average, but also been praised by countless piano gurus too.
  • Build quality & craftsmanship – While Spinets were considered the most budget piano you could buy, a Spinet by Baldwin doesn’t follow suit. Granted, the Console Acronsonics are built to a higher standard, using high-grade woods like Oak, Mahogany and Dark Walnut. But Spinets by Baldwin were by no means a cowboy job. In fact, all pianos by Baldwin live up to the company motto “the best piano that could be built“.
  • They’re affordable – Despite what you might think, Baldwin Acrosonics are actually quite budget-friendly for a piano, especially one that’s in-line to be future classic. In other words, appreciate! Nowadays, you can pick up a Baldwin Acrosonics relatively cheaply if you live in the States. We found an Acrosonic (Console) made in 46, that was in showroom condition, and it was up for just $1600. Bargain!!
  • The action is free-moving – Yep – with an Acrosonic it’s all about the action. More to the point their direct and full blow action, which is just one of the secrets behind their superior sound.
  • Acrosonics are a doddle to repair – Because Acrosonics sit on-top of their capstan, they can be accessed with little effort to conduct repairs and maintenance. Something you shouldn’t have to do all that often if you buy your piano from a refurb specialist.
  • They don’t eat up floorspace – Unlike a lot of pianos, particularly the Grand, Acrosonics don’t eat up a lot of floor space, so you don’t need a Hollywood mansion to accommodate one. What’s more, if you’re ever one to go on tour or just like to move house a lot, you’ve got a far better chance of being able to take your Acrosonic with you. Something you couldn’t do with a Steinway Grand.

Cons of Baldwin Acrosonic pianos

  • Need parts? They’ll likely be expensive – With the Baldwin Acrosonics of the day no longer being in production, as you’d imagine, parts can be hard (and expensive) to come by. Yes, Baldwin are still around today so there’s a chance they could help you out. But even so, commissioning them to replicate a specific part isn’t going to be cheap, especially for anyone living outside the US.
  • Faults in the build – Okay, so this may or may not apply to the Baldwin Acrosonic – we’re not entirely sure. But we thought it best to include it just to be safe, as sadly, it does affect a lot of older Spinets. The fault in question being to do with plastic, which was used inside the actions. You see, back in the 40s and 50s, the knowledge of plastic was, let’s say – limited. So in some cases too much catalyst was added to the plastic, which over time, caused it to turn brittle and crack. Take it from us – always do a plastic check before you buy any piano!
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Have acrosonic pianos held their value? Are they a good investment in 2022?

Well, that depends at how you look at it.

In term of monetary value we’d say Baldwin Acrosonic pianos have retained their value to some extent. You shouldn’t find many rotting away or being burned as part of a bonfire put it that way. But equally, you won’t find many being auctioned off for a 7 figure sum on the basis that they’re a treasured antique. Or at least, not yet.

And the reason we say ‘not yet’ is because if you look back at what Baldwin and the Acrosonic actually did for the piano, it was pretty significant. So much so that they sold over 1 million units… which is exactly the problem.

With so many Baldwin Acrosonics still about, to say it’s a modern classic is a bit like buying a Tesla Model 3 and claiming that because it’s so innovative that it’s bound be a future classic. If it was one of a limited production run (1 of XXX), you may have had a point, but c’mon – Mr Musk isn’t going to limit how many people can buy his plug-in spaceships, just as Baldwin happily sold over 1 million Acrosonics!

Point being that while the Acrosonic was a significant invention, just like the Tesla, it’s not ‘exclusive’ enough to warrant sky high values. Which is actually really good news – pop the champers – as it means that you can get your hands on one of these little gems for what is a rock bottom price!

Then, knowing that you’ve locked in that investment, what do you have to do? Sit back, play some Motzart and wait until it truly gets recognised for the antique that it secretly is.

Enjoyed what you’ve read and want to learn more? Be sure to check out the rest of our advice on Pianos & Keyboards. Recently we also did a full guide on the different Types Of Pianos + unravelled the Grand Piano VS Baby Grand debate – both articles that’re also well worth checking out!

Or, if you’ve still got a burning question, keep reading and we’ll fill you in on even more about the world of Baldwin Acrosonic pianos…

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The lowdown on the Baldwin Acrosonic pianos, Spinets, Consoles & more

The word Acrosonic comes for the Greek term ‘acropolis’, meaning a citadel or complex that’s built on a high hill. A phrase that derives from the Greek ‘akro’, meaning ‘high’ or ‘extreme/edge’. Combined this with ‘Sonic’, which relates to the Latin, ‘sonus’ meaning ‘sound’ and you should see what Baldwin’s trying to get at here.

A piano that’s got an extreme sound, or pushing it over the edge.

Some Baldwin pianos are Spinets, but not all.

One of the first pianos produced by Baldwin was a Spinet – a mighty impressive one we must say. But later down the line it got replaced by Baldwin’s iconic Acrosonic Console piano. A true symphony in sound, which took what was good about the Baldwin Spinet and fused it with all the perks of a Console piano.

A recipe for success if you ask us.

Baldwin pianos are some of the best quality pianos you can find, especially if you find one that’s been professionally reconditioned.

It’s crazy to think that you can pick up a showroom spec Baldwin Acrosonic for less than $2000, when a new Baldwin Upright can set you back over 5 times that!

In 1983, the original Baldwin piano company went out of business, before being bought out after defaulting on $1 billion debt. The company was then sold on for an undisclosed amount.

Learn more about what happened by reading this snippet of the NY Times.

The cost of an Acrosonic depends on a lot fo factors. Just a few being….

  • What model you’re after – Spinet or Console?
  • The condition – is it in need of a refurb or has it already had one?
  • The type of wood used – we found that Acrosonics made of Oak tended to be some of the most pricy.

However, technicalities aside, we’d say you’d be roughly looking in-between $1000 and $3500, depending on course on what you’re looking to buy. Also be aware that when buying a second hand piano, to see if it needs to be tuned. If so, that’s another additional cost to factor in. One that can also get quite pricy!

While not all Spinet pianos are bad, notably the Baldwin, they do have a reputation for being unreliable in comparison to Consoles and Uprights, as well as more expensive to repair. Not only that but in the eyes of critics, their sound is far from the best.

Saying that, if you’ve been handed down a Spinet piano, don’t discard it – use it! Regardless of what critics say or what you might think, spinet pianos are an iconic in themselves, so not to at least have a play would be a bit foolish.

Plus, if you’re a newbie, then learning to play on a Spinet may actually be a good idea. Learn to play a piano with stubby keys and different actions, and when you comes to play on a Console or Upright, it’s likely that you’ll grasp it in no time.