In 1796, the piano maker Johann Andreas Streicher sent Beethoven one of his pianos as a gift. Beethoven's reply sheds some interesting light on the tone of the piano at this time:
There is no doubt that so far as the manner of playing is concerned, the pianoforte is still the least studied and developed of all instruments; often one thinks that one is merely listening to a harp. And I am delighted, my dear fellow, that you are one of the few who realize and perceive that, provided one can feel the music, one can also make the pianoforte sing. I hope that the time will come when the harp and the pianoforte will be treated as two entirely different instruments.
Letter from Pressberg, November 1796. Cited in: Marek, George (1969) Beethoven: Biography of Genius. London: William Kimber, p. 161.