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Best Italian brands for high-end CBA converter (bayan)

Volodymyr

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Hi,

What Italian brands and why would you suggest considering before buying a high-end CBA converter (bayan) with the below requirements
  • It must be a converter
  • Both hands must be a B griff
  • High quality sound (possibly hand-made reeds)
  • Pleasant and durable keyboard mechanics
  • Reliable and robust overall design and build known to last
  • Budget 12k-22k EUR
  • Reactive and professional support services
After an investigation I've identified the following Italian brands that are of interest
  • Pigini
  • Bugari
  • Scandalli (however they are more focused on PA)
I'm specifically interested in general tendencies between these brands and the new ones you suggest e. g.
  • Overall quality of instruments from each brand in this price range
  • Sound quality in terms of sharp/mellow sound, specific design of right/left hand reeds or keyboard mechanics (harder, softer), what reeds go in a cassotto that may produce specific effects not found in other brands, stronger/softer bass, etc
  • Best brands for folk, classical, or jazz music
  • Balance between innovation and well-tested solutions
  • Well known issues that frequently happen to instruments
  • Issues with customer support for these brands
  • Any other important information that you would like to know before making a purchase decision
 
My head says Pigini
My heart says Scandalli
My ears say Zero Sette
My wallet says Parrot
Could you, please, elaborate on the head vs hart that is Pigini vs Scandalli from your perspective?
 
After an investigation I've identified the following Italian brands that are of interest
  • Pigini
  • Bugari
  • Scandalli (however they are more focused on PA)
I bought a new accordion fairly recently (with thanks to Paul DeBra for a sensible model recommendation) and a key decision was also who is big and robust enough with a mixed age workforce to likely be in business in 10 years time. That led me to the top two on your list. Its important if you want "Reactive and professional support services" because a year into playing a new top endish accordion its going to need some tweaks and you want this done under warranty by the people that made it. Therefore I'd have no hesitation in recommending Pigini or Bugari.

I took my accordion back to Italy in the spring and it was given a full three days tuning and tiny bits of trouble shooting all for free under warranty. This is really priceless if you are making that sort of investment.
 
I bought a new accordion fairly recently (with thanks to Paul DeBra for a sensible model recommendation) and a key decision was also who is big and robust enough with a mixed age workforce to likely be in business in 10 years time. That led me to the top two on your list. Its important if you want "Reactive and professional support services" because a year into playing a new top endish accordion its going to need some tweaks and you want this done under warranty by the people that made it. Therefore I'd have no hesitation in recommending Pigini or Bugari.

I took my accordion back to Italy in the spring and it was given a full three days tuning and tiny bits of trouble shooting all for free under warranty. This is really priceless if you are making that sort of investment.
Yes, professional support from the original manufacturer is very important, specifically for accordions! Thank you for sharing your experience!
 
Could you, please, elaborate on the head vs hart that is Pigini vs Scandalli from your perspective
He meant that Parrots are made in China and super poor quality and hence also super low in price compared to the other 2. It's kind of like me... I have champagne tastes, but beer budget! :D :D
 
Hi,

What Italian brands and why would you suggest considering before buying a high-end CBA converter (bayan) with the below requirements
  • It must be a converter
  • Both hands must be a B griff
  • High quality sound (possibly hand-made reeds)
  • Pleasant and durable keyboard mechanics
  • Reliable and robust overall design and build known to last
  • Budget 12k-22k EUR
  • Reactive and professional support services
After an investigation I've identified the following Italian brands that are of interest
  • Pigini
  • Bugari
  • Scandalli (however they are more focused on PA)
I'm specifically interested in general tendencies between these brands and the new ones you suggest e. g.
  • Overall quality of instruments from each brand in this price range
  • Sound quality in terms of sharp/mellow sound, specific design of right/left hand reeds or keyboard mechanics (harder, softer), what reeds go in a cassotto that may produce specific effects not found in other brands, stronger/softer bass, etc
  • Best brands for folk, classical, or jazz music
  • Balance between innovation and well-tested solutions
  • Well known issues that frequently happen to instruments
  • Issues with customer support for these brands
  • Any other important information that you would like to know before making a purchase decision
Hi Volodymyr,

Out of interest what accordion do you currently play?
 
I would avoid buying from smaller firms if you want professional and reliable service. I got my accordion second hand but it's one of the top models made by (Fabio) Ballone Burini and it didn't receive much love from previous owners, so I wanted to take it back to the factory for servicing etc.

Their response was essentially "nope, sorry. we're too short staffed and too busy and can only focus on making new accordions". Thoughts and prayers to whoever buys their new instruments.

They also claimed some issues (clearly from factory) with my accordion that I discovered before buying it were not their fault, but that someone must have caused the issues after it left the factory. Why someone would remove one of the aluminium sliders inside the reed block on the bass (rendering 3 of the 5 register switches useless for that reed block) is beyond me, seems much more likely they just forgot to install it in the first place. So quality assurance is another concern from small operations.

If my accordion were to spontaneously explode into a million pieces tomorrow and I could have a new one made at the expense of my insurers I would go to Pigini or Bugari after my first hand experience of their customer service, hospitality and professionalism (despite me not actually being a customer!)

I'm sure there are other factories worth buying from but I don't have first hand experience with them.

Another thing to consider when wanting to get professional support for years to come is whether or not the factory you're buying from will still be around in the future. Bugari and Pigini seem most likely to be able to weather financial storms and family disputes (unlike Ballone Burini!)
 
The search for a high quality Italian bayan is a really difficult one. The difficulties are sometimes quite different from what you might expect.
1) A bayan is typically too large to fit the reeds onto 2+2 reed blocks (2 in cassotto and 2 outside). As a result they have 3+3 blocks. Trying to fit three blocks inside the cassotto results in the outermost block (near the "sound exit") not being deep enough in the cassotto to fully benefit from it. The M reeds (8-foot) of the third row of buttons is closest to the exit and sounds clearly less mellow than those of the first and second row of buttons. This is a problem with all bayans. The sound difference is much more pronounced than the sound difference caused by the different types and manufacturers of reeds. Eliminating this sound difference is difficult. When choosing a bayan you have to listen carefully to the sound differences between the first, second and third row of buttons. The most equal sound I have found so far has been that of a Beltuna Prestige Paris IV. This is a bayan with 58 treble notes (low G to high E), unlike full-size ones with 64 notes.
2) A bayan typically has a register to choose between 2 and 4 reeds for the lowest octave in the bass. The reed block has a construction with "side-loaded" higher reeds. There is a risk that when these are engaged/disengaged they may influence the tuning of the other reeds. You need to check that this is not the case.
3) A bayan typically has the bass set up with L-M (16-8) in the lowest 13 to 15 notes and L-L (16-16) but in the higher notes. There are differences in how the transition from L-M to L-L is masked. There may also be bayans that do not have the bayan setup but that are L-L or L-M for all the notes. Some may not have side-loaded reed banks but implement base notes with 4 or 6 reeds through "octave couplers". These make these base notes harder to use because the buttons need to open more pallets. A bayan that doesn't suffer from this problem is the Beltuna Matrix, but it falls outside the indicated price range.
4) The most "pleasant" keyboard mechanism is only found on bayans outside the indicated price range.

I hope that these issues do not suddenly make the quest for a new bayan much more difficult than it already was...
 
I would avoid buying from smaller firms if you want professional and reliable service. I got my accordion second hand but it's one of the top models made by (Fabio) Ballone Burini and it didn't receive much love from previous owners, so I wanted to take it back to the factory for servicing etc.

Their response was essentially "nope, sorry. we're too short staffed and too busy and can only focus on making new accordions". Thoughts and prayers to whoever buys their new instruments.

...
What you are saying is that it is essential to buy an accordion through a dealer who is fully responsible (and liable) for fixing manufacturing or other defects (or getting them fixed). In the EU (which the UK sadly left) the laws are very clear. It doesn't matter what a manufacturer claims, you only deal with your dealer, not with the manufacturer. For that same reason it is imperative that you verify that your dealer actually does repairs and does them well. References are important! There are to many dealers around here who cannot fix problems because they have no repairer. And trust me, when an accordion dealer sells many accordions there will be more than enough repair work to have a qualified full-time repairer on their staff.

When you are dealing directly with a smaller outfit in Italy I would actually expect that you get at least as good a level of service as with the large players. A good reputation is even more important for small players than for the big names. That the experience with Ballone Burini (the old defunct one or the new ones) isn't very good does not surprise me. There are more companies that have disappeared in the past decade... think of Fantini, Borsini, Fisart/Vignoni... Considering the technical quality of their products I'm not surprised...
 
Hi Volodymyr,

Out of interest what accordion do you currently play?
I'm from Ukraine. I've been living in Madrid for more than 15 years. When I was 9 I started to play a bayan. I've played a bayan for 7 years. Then I left it for about 15 years. Last 5 years I resumed playing a bayan. But my focus is playing by reading of the fly simple scores for bayan. I play each time different composition. I find this type of activity quite challenging for my brain. I can see improvements in my ability to read and play directly from sheet music. This is what keeps me motivated.

Given this background, a high-end convertor will definitely be too professional for what I'm playing. But, as I like a lot bayan music, I'd like to permit myself such a luxury instrument.

Currently I'm playing a Russian converter that is called Yasnaya Polyana see the attached photo. I do not know the year of production. The instrument is in a good shape.
 

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Beltuna Prestige Paris IV
It seems that Beltuna can be considered as an option along with Pigini and Bugari. From their web site I can see that they focus on sound quality, hence the design decisions you mentioned. The convertor models are Prestige Gran Convertor and Matrix. What are other benefits of Beltuna? Is it on the same level as Pigini and Bugari in terms of quality of product?
 
It seems that Beltuna can be considered as an option along with Pigini and Bugari. From their web site I can see that they focus on sound quality, hence the design decisions you mentioned. The convertor models are Prestige Gran Convertor and Matrix. What are other benefits of Beltuna? Is it on the same level as Pigini and Bugari in terms of quality of product?
Well... I can speak from first hand experience that Beltuna have good quality instruments based on my own Leader V, but the only way to know if it is for YOU is to play one yourself. Beltuna are currently the most advanced ACOUSTIC accordion in the world with their Matrix, but that is for sure not going to be for everyone both from the sake of the technology and sound sides. Some will love it, others will hate it.

At that level the trip to Castelfidardo is almost mandatory!

My 2 cents... sticking with Bugari or Pigini is still the best move, IMHO, based on your needs. :)
 
I'm from Ukraine. I've been living in Madrid for more than 15 years. When I was 9 I started to play a bayan. I've played a bayan for 7 years. Then I left it for about 15 years. Last 5 years I resumed playing a bayan. But my focus is playing by reading of the fly simple scores for bayan. I play each time different composition. I find this type of activity quite challenging for my brain. I can see improvements in my ability to read and play directly from sheet music. This is what keeps me motivated.

Given this background, a high-end convertor will definitely be too professional for what I'm playing. But, as I like a lot bayan music, I'd like to permit myself such a luxury instrument.

Currently I'm playing a Russian converter that is called Yasnaya Polyana see the attached photo. I do not know the year of production. The instrument is in a good shape.​
Thanks for sharing your story.

As I tried to highlight in my little joke earlier, I would think any of the 3 makers: Pigini, Bugari/ZeroSette or Scandalli would be very good accordions.

However, there seems to be a preference for Pigini and Bugari emerging, (which is okay as the 2 accordions that I own are a Bugari and a Pigini).
However, I am slightly surprised by the lack of support for Scandalli. Maybe someone could enlighten me on the preference for the other two brands. I would be very surprised if there is any significant difference in quality between any of the 3 brands.

Actually, when I remember back to 2008, when I visited the Coupe Mondiale in Glasgow, I was in the audience listening to the performances. The one thing I noticed was that most accordion players at the time were either using a Scandalli or a Pigini but only a few of the performers played a Bugari or Zero Sette.

Also, I recall a memorable performance by the eventual winner of the grand prize was a gentleman called Vladislav Pligovka. His performance was utterly fantastic and his accordion tone was wonderful, a warm and sweet tone. It was a Scandalli.​
 
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It seems that Beltuna can be considered as an option along with Pigini and Bugari. From their web site I can see that they focus on sound quality, hence the design decisions you mentioned. The convertor models are Prestige Gran Convertor and Matrix. What are other benefits of Beltuna? Is it on the same level as Pigini and Bugari in terms of quality of product?
From my own recent experience Beltuna seems a really innovative company, nice people, and a small operation.

Bugari and Pigini are the larger ones (and neither exactly massive), very nice people, and despite being head to head competitors were complementary about each others accordions and factories when I was over in Italy with @petch

The nicest high end (without going crazy) brand new accordions I have heard recently are Pigini Sirius Kyma (in the 16,16 bass variant) and Bugari Bayan Nextra. These are at the top of your price range.

One step down would be Bugari 540 or 580 (or Pigini equivalent) which are pretty nice and towards the bottom of your price range. I've noticed the tonal difference between LH bass and RH treble reeds.

I also rather like the Bugari 380 which doesn't have cassotto and therefore doesn't suffer from the uneveness on the M register which Paul explains above. You could buy a few of these solid instruments for your budget and they'd sound lovely if played in a nice acoustic.
There seems to me a law of diminishing returns the more you spend so its finding what the sweet spot for you is. Less tends to be more for me personally and I don't like heavy accordions.

As far as other brands go I'd say the brand name of five years ago is absolutely meaningless in a rapidly changing world and I would be really careful if buying new to be sure of the financial health, average age of the workforce and longevity of the company before parting with your money.
 
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Beltuna are currently the most advanced ACOUSTIC accordion in the world
What are the innovations that Beltuna has incorporated into their products? Are the innovations applied only to Matrix models or to Prestige models as well? Is there any catalog or tech specs that describe the features of Beltuna high-end accordions? Their site does not goes into details of their accordions.
 
There seems to me a law of diminishing returns the more you spend so its finding what the sweet spot for you is. Less tends to be more for me personally and I don't like heavy accordions
This is the fundamental question, that I'd like to address in a separate thread. The quality/price ratio, the less is more, cassotto, hand-made reeds, turbo reads, number of registers, etc.
 
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