In the early 1700s, an Italian instrument maker in Florence was dissatisfied with the lack of control over the volume level that harpsichords offered musicians. Bartolomeo Cristofori decided to replace the mechanism that plucked the strings in a harpsichord with a hammer system, calling his new instrument the “gravicembalo col piano e forte”, or “harpsichord with soft and loud”.
Over the years that followed, the piano hammer evolved; Cristofori originally wrapped his hammers with deer leather. Eventually, he incorporated a way to catch the hammer on the rebound to prevent its bouncing off the strings, after escapement. Then, Johann Andreas Stein developed the Viennese/German hammer action that improved the player’s control with the addition of a damper pedal. The improved sound and dynamics inspired Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven to write compositions that thrill audiences to this day.
German-produced hammers dominated the piano industry for over the next two centuries until the Pearl River Piano Group tasked their R&D department to create a groundbreaking new hammer management system called PR2.0. The innovative system was launched at Music China 2020, where it was part of a massive new product launch by the world’s best-selling piano group.
For Ritmüller RSH models and the Kayserburg Artist and Excellent Series, the PR2.0 hammer uses imported Wurzen AA grade German white outer felt made from wool shorn from live sheep that is formed and fastened over select hardwood cores for maximum resilience and structural integrity. Improved hammer shanks adopt the grand piano concept for the ultimate balancing while each hammer requires a minimum of five inspections to earn quality control certification.
The inner felt for the PR2.0 hammers vary among different models; for instance, the Ritmüller RSH series has an elegant blue color for a sound that is clean and pure. The Pear River Prestige Series uprights feature a premium red inner felt with rare hornbeam wood hammer cores to produce the depth and resonance of much larger instruments with an expanded sweet spot of bass.
300-plus years after the first piano hammer hit a string, the Pearl River Piano Group is continually pushing forward with innovations that improve the playability and sound of the most iconic and important musical instrument. While the PR2.0 hammer system is a noteworthy milestone it is by no means the last.