Steinberger guitars - A guide for people looking at buying a Steinberger guitar to clarify what an ‘American’ Steinberger GL or ‘cricket bat’ is and is not. As someone who has owned some of the original Steinberger GL series guitars and has marveled at their construction, sound, practicality and all round brilliance, I have been annoyed at dealers and sellers who advertise the Steinberger ‘Spirit’, the Hohner ‘Steinberger-licensed’ the Steinberger Synapse guitars and the various other incarnations of the headless minimalist design and imply that they are the same as the USA made originals. One seller recently described a Korean made Steinberger Spirit as a Steinberger from the USA because it was imported from the US. This is not to say that all these copies, licenses and Ned Steinberger’s current Synapse line are not good guitars in their own right, they may be. I have used a borrowed Hohner B2 bass for a few gigs where I stood in for another bass player and it was a very playable and good sounding instrument.
The Steinberger GL guitars were made from mid 1985 as far as I can determine, and seemingly up to 1991. There were some other one-offs and the GL7TA which was made for a brief period or two in the 90’s(probably by Gibson using the original Steinberger molds). The difference between these US originals and the Korean made and the licensed versions is that the originals were made from a graphite/carbon-fibre composite in one piece with a face plate containing the pick ups/electrics bolted on to the top. Without going into all the possibilities for bridges and pickups, many (but not all) of these had the Steinberger ‘Transtrem’ ( a transposing tremelo system - look it up) and EMG active pick ups. In use, these composite bodied guitars look, feel and sound like nothing else you have ever played, and it is very much a ‘love it or hate it’ type experience. They don’t have a truss rod, they do not bow or warp, they have a ‘phenolic’ fingerboard (almost like a shiny no-grain ebony feel) and they are unbelievably consistent. For recording they are remarkable as they have no particular dead or live spots, every note is as clean as the last and straight into a board the EMGs can make it sound remarkably similar to an acoustic with a pick up. Stick it straight through a Fender Twin and get the most sparkling clean sound you have ever heard. It can be a blank canvas and you can shape your sound to your liking. Put it through effects units and shape the sound to what you want. On stage they are well balanced, do not pull down on your left shoulder and attract loads of attention. Couple that with the fact that they do not get affected by changes in heat or humidity (although you might) and the ease of tuning and stringing, you have in my opinion the most fantastic guitar design and build. Changing a broken string takes moments with the double ball end strings preventing those nasty little stabs you get from normal strings. I can take a set of strings off and have a new set on and in tune in about 5 minutes. Although the licenses have some of these features, only the original USA made Steinberger GLs have the one piece composite construction that makes them truly unique instruments.
Steinberger GL guitars
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25 November 2011
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