Pearl River Piano Group
Core building features
Pearl River pianos feature hardwood rims, sand-cast plates, and lower tension scales, features found on the world's best pianos such as Steinway & Sons. These features are considered to be important to protecting the long-term durability of the piano's tone, which can be affected over a period of time by changes to the soundboard's "crown", a problem which is thought to occur more rapidly on pianos that do not have these core features.
Most Pearl River pianos are considered entry level pianos; however, some (Ritmuller) are manufactured to higher specifications with better materials. To improve product design and manufacturing efficiency, Pearl River automated and installed computer-generated design equipment. To improve quality, the group brought in a raft of foreign industry executives as consultants and forged a $10 million joint venture with Yamaha in 1995. "We can study good management concepts [from Japan's industry leader]," says Tong Zhi Cheng, CEO of Pearl River.
Pearl River also releases special edition pianos, including the Butterfly Grand which is 198 centimeters long and available in silver, blue, or pink finishes. Pearl River also produces Ritmüller, a higher end piano, for the Asian and European markets.
In 1998, the Pearl River Piano Group earned the International Standards Association ISO 9001 Certification (ISO 9001) for its complete line of grand and vertical pianos, including all parts and components. ISO 9001 Certification is awarded by an independent auditing organization following a lengthy audit of quality systems ranging from the procurement of raw materials to manufacturing systems, assembly procedures, and customer service. Pearl River was the first piano company in China to receive this independent certification of quality.
Pearl River also recently was awarded ISO 14001, which is similar, but relates to the environmental standards practiced by the company. Pearl River is again the first manufacturer in China to receive this award.
The Pearl River name
Pearl River ran as a company-owned US distribution until 2000 when they turned the distribution over to North American Music. Pearl River was the first Chinese piano company to market pianos in the United States under its own company name, and continues to be one of only two or three that do, although they also market higher level pianos under both the Ritmuller and Kayserburg names. International concert pianist Oksana Kolesnikova is a spokesperson for the Pearl River Company Butterfly Piano.
Pearl River is also one of the world's largest guitar and violin manufacturers, and is a primary supplier for the popular "First Act" brand of guitars commonly found at Target stores among others. The company also sells drums, brass, and woodwind instruments around the world.
After being contracted by Steinway & Sons to manufacture the Essex piano line, Pearl River decided to build a higher grade piano than they were intending to build for Steinway & Sons. They hired the respected designer of high end pianos, Lothar Thoma, to create the Ritmuller line. Thoma was known for designing or being part of the design team of four of the most highly rated pianos made. The result has been a higher quality piano that can compare in materials and workmanship to pianos costing three to four times more.
The three largest retail piano companies in the US selected Pearl River as their OEM entry level house brand supplier: Jordan Kitts Music, Sherman Clay, and Schmitt Music. These three retail chains use their own brand name (Henry F Miller, Christifori) on the front of the pianos and in a couple of isolated cases feature slightly different specifications than the Pearl River brand models distributed by Pearl River Piano Group America, based in Ontario, California.
Connections with Yamaha & Steinway
Yamaha formed a joint venture with Pearl River in 1995 to establish a factory to build pianos for the Chinese market. This factory is located east of Guangzhou in an 'economic development zone,' approximately 35 miles from the Pearl River factory.
This factory produced two models for the Pearl River Piano Group: the UP125M1 and the Ritmüller UP126R. Ritmüller brand pianos sport upgraded cabinetry, a different plate, upgraded felt and several different scale designs. Both product lines are marketed in the United States by retail piano stores.
Pearl River also manufactures three models for Steinway & Sons' "Essex" brand piano line, including two grand pianos and an upright.
On May 1, 2005, Steinway & Sons and Pearl River Piano Group released a joint announcement of the signing of an agreement. The companies began development work on several new models of the Essex piano line, designed by Steinway & Sons for affiliate company Boston Piano Co., Inc. The new line of pianos reached the marketplace early in 2006. This was Steinway's first such venture in China and Pearl River's first OEM relationship with a Western piano maker.
Essex pianos are manufactured in their factory in Guangzhou, China.
- http://www.forbes.com/global/2002/0513/040.html (article about Pearl River on Forbes.com)