The most famous Steinberger design is the L-series instrument, described as “broom”, “boat oar” or “cricket bat” shaped. Initially produced as an electric bass and later as a guitar, the instrument was made entirely of a graphite and carbon fibre mix in two pieces. It had no headstock for tuning, tuning instead at a redesigned tailpiece using micrometer-style tuners and special strings with a ball at both ends. This design quickly became known as “headless”. The rationale for the overall design was the elimination of unnecessary weight, such as a heavy headstock, and the use of modern materials, such as graphite, for their advantages over older materials.

The all-synthetic construction gave a very “smooth” sound and feel, immediate note attack, and very even tonal response. Depending upon the preferences of the listener this was either a good thing, as it made the instrument sonically clean, or a bad thing, as it made the instrument sound synthetic and unnatural. Steinberger was and still is proud of this dichotomy and one of their slogans was “We don’t make ’em like they used to”.

Another innovation created by Ned Steinberger for these instruments was the Trans-Trem, a transposing assembly that detuned the strings in parallel so that the entire tuning of the instrument could be changed immediately. Bass and guitar versions were available.

Later designs included;

  • P-series guitars and basses featured a smaller wooden body with bolt-on composite neck. The body was more “arrow” or “mini-A” shaped than the rectangluar L series body.
  • G-series which featured the only Steinbeger with a headstock. Very rare with about 300-350 built. The guitar featured Ned Steinberger’s 40:1 gearless tuners.
  • M-series guitars and basses, designed by Mike Rutherford, guitarist of Genesis, with English luthier Roger Giffin. These had a twin-cutaway wooden body and a bolt-on graphite neck, resulting in a more “traditional” look, still with the headless tuning system and optional Trans-Trem.
  • K-Series guitars designed by American luthier Steve Klein. These featured an ergonomically designed body of non-standard shape again married to a headless graphite neck. A similar version is still made by luthier Lorenzo German, an employee of Klein who currently owns and runs Klein Electric Guitars
  • Q series basses featured twin cutaway bodies and a bolt-on graphite neck. The body style was more modern than the M series. Introduced in 1990 the body went a significant revision in the mid 90’s but kept the same moniker.
  • S-series guitars and basses with a headstock for a very traditional look but unusual “gearless” tuning heads.
  • Synapse guitars and basses are the latest instruments from Steinberger and are now in production. As well as a regular guitar model, the line also includes baritone guitars with a built-in Transcale capo that can be rolled up the frets. At the moment, they are only sold at Musician’s Friend.

Several companies licensed the headless technology from Steinberger and produced all-wood clones or similar instruments. Hohner, for example, produced all-wood L-series copies and Cort produced headless guitars with different body designs. Current “official” all-wood instruments are sold under the Spirit by Steinberger brand.
The first Steinberger basses, as opposed to the NS instruments built with luthier Stuart Spector, were produced in 1979 in New York by Ned Steinberger essentially alone. A company, Steinberger Sound, was duly set up to manufacture the basses and later the guitars on a larger scale but demand always outstripped supply and the company was sold to Gibson in 1986. Gibson still retains rights over the Steinberger company name so that Ned Steinberger cannot call his new instruments “Steinbergers”. This is analogous to the situation Leo Fender found himself in after the sale of his company to CBS in 1964. Ned Steinberger has run a company called “NS Design” since 1990 and produces electric double basses, Cellos and similar instruments, all with a number of interesting innovations in material and design.

With changing musical fashions and the complex manufacturing and high prices putting off buyer and producer alike, Gibson stopped selling Steinberger guitars in the late 1990s. Enthusiasm for the instruments has now revived to a sufficient extent that they are again being produced and sold. The latest Steinberger line, known collectively as the Synapse line, comprise two guitar models and one bass guitar model. The new instruments are part wood, part graphite composite. The two guitar models most resemble the original Steinbergers, with rectangular bodies only slightly larger than the originals. One of the guitar models, the Trans Scale model, features a longer than average scale length and a built in adjustable capo. By moving the capo closer to the end of the neck, one can play notes lower than standard guitar tuning without having to detune. Detuning loosens the strings, changing the timbre of the notes played. By not forcing guitarist to detune to get lower notes, the Trans Scale allows guitarists to maintain consistent tone while playing lower than standard notes.

[cj_show_items keywords=”+Steinberger +Guitar” records_per_page=”55″ advertiser_ids=”1496477,1834595″ sort_by=”price” sort_order=”desc”]