Probably the finest piano in the world. A hand-crafted instrument with a very distinctive sound that musicians and composers alike recognize immediately. The sound lends itself best to the classical repertoire, and these instruments are cherished by some of the most famous classical players. The reedy, complex sound has been characterized as the "Austrian" sound by fans of the brand.
These instruments are the most expensive pianos available. Depending upon condition, a Bösendorfer will command four times the cost of a Steinway or Yamaha of similar size, and often more.
For years, Tony Bennett's accompanist Ralph Sharon chose Bösendorfer pianos to record on, and to perform on wherever possible. There's a Bösendorfer at the Cafe Carlyle in New York City. The instruments are on-stage at some of the world's finest performance venues, as well. Despite the incredible quality and durability of these instruments, Steinway surpasses Boesendorfer's popularity. This is probably due to Boesendorfer's tremendous cost.
The sound of the instrument is tweedy and very refined. It's a whole different piano sound. Brubeck used one for a while and returned to old reliable Steinway. A jazz player just can't get the singular, cold, clear "bell-like" sound from one of these instruments. And they're awfully difficult to get any truly severe dynamics from.
In the studio, the Bösendorfer thrives on having microphones placed all over the instrument because the sound is so understated and unique. In fact, the Bösendorfer is at its best in a studio setting; where humidity and other environmental hazards are at a minimum, and the instrument can be isolated appropriately. Because of the prohibitive cost of these pianos, they're usually found in public performance venues. The company also has recently introduced the CEUS, a digital recording methodology that can play-back using a combination of electronic and electro-mechanical features, essentially causing the piano to "play itself."