FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Updated 09/30/2003

Also check out our Myths & Facts page for additional info


Model & Instrument Info

What model instrument do I own?
When and where was my guitar/bass made?
What configurations were offered?

What does “pre-Gibson” mean?
Mine has a battery.  Is it "active"?

Construction & Parts

What wood is my body made from?
How were these graphite instruments manufactured?
Where can I get replacement hardware?

Where can I get new bearings for my TransTrem/S-Trem?

Where can I get a new spring for my TransTrem/S-Trem?
Where can I get those little clips for the jaws on my TransTrem?

Can I order replacement parts from Hohner or Cort?
I’ve gotten a quote for a replacement part.  Why is it so expensive?
Where can I get a replacement neck?
What are the Moses replacement necks like?

Service

Where can I get my instrument serviced?
Why does a refret cost so much more compared to a wooden neck instrument?

Can I just have my local luthier just do refret for me?

The graphite on my neck/body has been slightly damaged.  What will it take/cost to fix?
Where can I get replacement el
ectronics?
Can I add active EQ controls without having to replace the pickups too?

Buying & Selling

If I can’t buy one new, where can I find a good used model?
What is my instrument worth?
When is Gibson going to produce new graphite Steinbergers again?


What model instrument do I own?

It’s true that many people have had a Steinberger for years, and never really known what exact model they own.  Most people are familiar with the classic ‘L’ boat oar style, but a couple variations of this “body less” style exist and, in addition to numerous full strat-style bodies that have been introduced over the years.  Click here to see a comprehensive list, descriptions and pictures.

  My instrument is serial # is ____.  Can you tell me when and/or where it was made?

Ned Steinberger is an engineering genius, but he admits details like dates and numbers aren’t his thing.  Since the company was sold, moved several times and is now functionally closed, any official documentation appears to be lost.  Supposedly Gibson still has the production logs and we've confirmed they have the original invoices.  We hope to get a comprehensive list with dates as soon possible.  In the meantime we are building our own serial number database.   Click here to see the list so far.

The earlier all graphite L’s have some dates etched and/or grease penciled inside the pickup cavity.  Removing the cover may reveal your instruments fabrication date, assembly date, or both.  

Since the wood bodies were not made by Steinberger (this was contracted out to other vendors) we don't know the significance of the markings in them.  Most do not include any dates whatsoever.

What configurations were offered?  

In addition to the different body styles offered, Steinberger offered different bridges, pickup and electronics combinations.  We’ve tried to compile a comprehensive list of features on this site (click here) but this is by no means entirely complete.  Ned loved to tinker, so the combinations he used could be endless.  

When it comes to the active electronics they offered, it gets even more complex.  Henry Zajic of HAZ Labs helped design the units with Ned.  They manufactured them from the early days, throughout the Gibson years, and right up until they closed production in Nashville.  Because Henry co-designed them, he owns the rights to manufacture and sell them.  New guitar and bass units can be purchased directly from HAZ Labs today.  Click here for info.

Understand that the tones they were after were a work in process.  It wasn’t unusual for them to make a run of 50 active boards, then tweak the design and make 50 more to the new specs.  The sheer number of changes they made would be impossible to list here.  However, Henry can determine exactly what components went into your board, and either fix or sell you a new unit.  Click here for more info.

 I see the term “pre-Gibson" used all of the time.  What does that mean?

In November 1987 Ned and his original investors sold their company, Steinberger Sound, to Gibson Musical Instruments.  Gibson is the largest musical instrument maker in the US owning other notable names like Epiphone, Tobias, Kramer, Oberheim, Trace Elliot & Slingerland Drums.   Gibson kept the plant in Newburgh, NY, and Ned stayed on staff under contract for 4 years.  He remains a consultant to this day.

In recent years this term “pre-Gibson” has been thrown around rather loosely, mostly by potential sellers wanting to insure they get top dollar for their instrument.  Many instruments we’ve seen for sale were in fact made under Gibson ownership at the Newburgh plant; this is especially true for the final 4 years of Ned’s tenure.  Many people mistakenly assume quality slipped once Ned left, and therefore the earlier instruments are more valuable.  We’ve found this to be utterly false.  The original staff at Newburgh stayed on board up until the plant was moved.  Interviews with key factory managers indicate quality likely increased, since Gibson had money to invest in additional equipment and staff.  From our personal experience the quality of the Gibson made instruments (both at Newburgh and Nashville) are often equal to “original” Steinbergers and in some cases (like the figured maple top GM's) are superior.

Gibson initiated a number of enhancements to the Steinberger line, notably refinements of the bridge, heel and body designs.  Also the introduction of exotic wood bodies and tops was offered standard, with most of the nicest pieces coming from Gibson's Montana factory (mostly known for acoustics).  Ned himself designed & approved these changes, even up until the end of production in ’98. Contributors to this site own both earlier models and some from these later years.  In some ways certain aspects of quality and craftsmanship were equal to, if not superior to some of their earlier produced instruments.  

My instrument has a battery.  Is it considered "active"?

Many owners are confused as to what the term "active" really means and what the letter 'A' in the model name actually designates.

First off, almost all EMG pickups require a battery.  This is because they have a small preamp inside the pickup itself.  It's one of features that enables EMG pickups to be so quiet.  Technically the pickups are "low impedance" (which refers to their output) but because they require a battery to boost the signal they're commonly referred to as "active".  Conversely high impedance pickups don't require a battery and are called "passive".   

Only the P series have factory installed low-impedance pickups.  These were custom made for Steinberger at the time and are no longer available.  You can tell they're "passive" if the EMG logo is in the middle side of the pickup (instead of the corner).  You can also obviously tell if your axe works without a battery.  This same general design was borrowed later on for the EMG Select line of pickups.

But this has nothing to do with whether a Steinberger is technically active or passive.  

The Steinberger term "active" (designated by an 'A') actually refers to the EQ (tone knob) electronics.  Passive EQ simply rolls off high frequencies.  Active EQ can boost or cut the frequencies (down with the lows / up with the highs) and needs external power to do this.  So it needs a battery.  

When active pickups are present with active EQ, they both share the same power source.  So the presence of a battery doesn't solely indicate if the EQ is active.  You could have passive EQ but active pickups.  Here's a simple table to keep it straight:

Active Pickups
Active EQ

(ex. GL7TA)
Needs battery
Active Pickups
Passive EQ
(ex. GL2T)
Needs battery
Passive Pickups
Active EQ

(ex. GP2TA)

Needs battery
Passive Pickups
Passive EQ
(ex. GP2S)
No battery

Only the configurations in the left hand column officially get an 'A' designation in the name.

It should be noted that HAZ Labs made virtually all of the active EQ boards for Steinberger from the mid 80's until production ended.  They always used a center detent pot for the active tone knobs.  So a good rule of thumb is that if your guitar or bass has a center detent on the tone knob, it's active.  Also, the active bass units have a volume/balance/tone configuration.  If you've got volume/volume/tone, it's passive.

What wood is my body made from?

Ned seems to have an affinity for hard maple, as nearly every model was first made in that hardwood.  They were all pretty much changed to other offerings in the later Gibson years.  We've combed through all of the old lit and here's our best guess so far (in order of introduction):

P series - Hard maple, also listed as rock maple.  Chances are this wood was used for it's entire, brief production run as a graphite neck model.  The new Spirit version from MusicYo features a neck-through design made entirely of the same type of wood.

M series - The original Newburgh bound bodies were hard maple.  Newburgh dropped the binding in 1989, but best guess is they kept the same body wood.  Later Nashville production switched to figured maple on alder.  We're not sure if the solid color ones from this time are all alder, or perhaps blemished maple capped ones that have been re-sprayed.  Though this may seem odd it's done more often than most guitar makers would care to admit. The new USA made standard GM's from MusicYo again features figured maple on alder.  The re-issued Newburgh bound version feature a three-piece hard maple body.

R series - Once again these started life with hard maple when introduced.  Gibson moved to mahogany at the end of production.  MusicYo is offering them with mahogany bodies once again.

XQ bass - Ned love of hard maple comes through again. v1's had it, then Gibson went to swamp ash for the Nashville v2's.  MusicYo's plans are to reintroduce this bass again with swamp ash.

GK guitar - When offered as a Steinberger model the literature only lists basswood, though Klein Electric continues to make this model in a variety of custom tone woods.

GS guitar - This model had the most variation in woods. The marketing literature doesn't specifically name it, but original reviews list poplar.  Later choices include swamp ash, lacewood and even walnut. We're also aware of some solid koa ones out there as well - call your chiropractor immediately if you ever buy one of those!

Obviously the L series features an all composite design, though surprisingly they do contain a balsa wood core as a filler.  Click here to read more.

How were these graphite instruments manufactured?

Without giving away any secrets, we can tell you that the first step is creating a master (commonly called a key or plug) of the instrument.  From this one master one to many molds are made. They had several for each L series instrument, and anywhere form 8 to 12 for each neck.

A composite gel coat (what you see as the "paint") is sprayed in the mold first, up to 1/8" thick in places.  This is followed by filling in groupings and layers of graphite fibers with epoxies and resins.  They also included any any hardware (like neck or bridge bolt inserts) that needed to be set in the mold.  Finally the unfinished phenolic fretboard was applied.  The mold was then sealed, injected with resins, and heated under pressure.  Once fully cured the instrument was removed, and the finishing, routing & buffing were done.   Full bodied instruments bodies were matched to pre-wired faceplates and voila!. . .an all graphite instrument.  

Necks were made by the same general process, albeit with a few less material and components.

Now, it’s not quite that simple.  There’s both an art and a science to the design of the instrument, the materials used, the combination they’re used in, and the sequence they are applied.  And as always there was finall work to get the high quality finish.

Several other manufacturers successfully use their own variation of this process today.  Notables include Modulus Graphite, Zon, and the English company Status Graphite.  Status is currently developing a line of replacement necks for both Steinberger graphite and Spirit model instruments 

Moses Graphite currently manufactures Steinberger replacement necks, as well as graphite replacement necks for traditional all wood instruments like Fender Strats, Fender Precision & Jazz basses, Music Man Stingray basses, etc.  They have been tagged to produce necks for the reintroduced line of Steinberger guitars and basses reintroduced in 2002.  

Where can I get replacement hardware?

Few replacement parts are currently manufactured directly by Steinberger or Gibson.  The Spirit models are manufactured and assembled in Korea, and do have some design differences in them.  Therefore, they can’t all necessarily be used as replacements in a composite model instrument.  

MusicYo has resurrected Steinberger production, as is selling parts as well.  TransTrem, S-Trems, R-Trems, headbands, leg rests, jaws and many other items can be found on their site.  They also have access to the rest of the original parts which were packed away in a trailer when production ended.  Expect to see more items later in 2002.

Some components parts (like screws, etc.) are often standard parts.  When possible we've noted this either her in the FAQ or elsewhere on this site.  For harder to find items we have also located online order sources, and we try to provide recent parts numbers and specifications if possible.

Where can I buy new bearings for my TransTrem or S-Trem bridge?

We've created a special page explaining where to get these parts.  Click here to link.  

We've also got detailed bearing and spring replacement instructions on our 'Technical Information' page.   Be sure to also check out our 'TransTrem Tips and Information' page to for setup pointers.

Where can I buy a new spring for my TransTrem or S-Trem bridge?

The spring is much less likely to wear out than the bearings are that's for sure.  But for those looking to replace one we've yet again created a special page for this.  Click here.

There's also an option for those wanting to use 11 gauge strings.  The normal trem spring becomes too compressed when using heavier gauges.  However an enterprising Steinberger owner, Lou Larson,  had a batch of custom springs made to accommodate these gauges.  He sells them for around $15 + shipping.  Click here to email Lou for purchases or inquires.

I've lost that little clip on my TransTrem jaw.  Where can I find these?

Those are called retaining clips, or more commonly 'E' clips because of their shape.  They can easily become bent or damaged over time, especially if you have to tighten the jaw in the up position to transpose.  Here's a convenient online source:

McMaster-Carr
http://www.mcmaster.com
Part #: 98398A116
Description: Bowed E-Style Retaining Ring For 1/8" Shaft Diameter, Fits .095" Groove Diameter

Price (as of 11/23/02): $ 4.29 per Pack
Note: This item is only sold in packs of 100

As the description states these clips are bowed, with the middle a little rounded upwards. This helps take up any potential slack in the milled slot, and keeps tension on the clip and the threaded rod.  You need to note the direction of this bow, and insert the clip with the bowed middle towards the threads - that's facing down towards the body. If you don't do this the clips will easily fall out. You'll know what we mean if you ever have to replace these.

Can I order replacement parts from Hohner, Cort or other headless makers?. 

As with the Spirit models, these two brands have subtle design differences from their branded counterparts and we can’t say for sure that they’ll work.  The Hohners are made in the same plant as the Steinberger Spirits, and we’ve heard that those two lines share the same parts.  

Also, be aware that some of the ‘Steinberger’ parts for sale at online auctions such as eBay may in fact be from other manufacturers 'Under License'.  We’ve seen a Hohner bass bridges offered as a genuine Steinberger replacement bridge.  However, the two share a slightly different footprint and therefore are not be interchangeable.  Just be careful that you educate yourself on the part you need to replace and the details of the one you may be bidding on.  It will save yourself time, aggravation, and wasted money.  

I’ve gotten a quote for a replacement part.  Why is it so expensive?

Because of the lack of parts, many parts sellers have turned to cannibalizing working instruments to get them.  We also can’t discount the economic principle of supply and demand.  And with such little supply, some sellers are taking advantage of their position to drive the prices up even higher.  Until new replacement parts are available to the public again, chances are we’ll have to deal with it for the short term.

The contents of the Steinberger factory currently sit in a trailer at the Gibson facilities in Nashville, TN.  MusicYo, exclusive seller of Steinberger instruments and parts in the U.S.,  has moved into a new warehouse in Nashville and will be inventorying these contents shortly.  We're hopeful there's a moderate supply of parts to begin offering them through their website. 

Where can I get a replacement neck?

Moses Graphite makes replacement necks for all Steinberger models.  Many players actually prefer them to the stock Steinberger necks.   

Realize that a lot has been learned about the science of sound in graphite construction since Ned started making them 20 years ago.  Moses necks are designed more for sonic quality - the original Stienberger necks were designed primarily for stiffness and stability.  Click here to read more about Moses Graphite necks.  

If you really need an original one, there are a few sources but prices are exceedingly high.  Occasionally eBay has old Steinberger necks available.  There have been occasional talk about Moses producing a short run of necks to the original specs, but no plans have been finalized and they seem not so interested in doing this.  

Additionally Status Graphite is working on replacement necks as well.  These will have the identical radius and profile of the original necks.  They'll also probably be closer in tone, since Status' design techniques are similar to how Steinberger made them.

What are the Moses replacement necks like?

Again some people prefer them, saying that they have a more woody and earthy tone to them.  But if you really like the more “clean” tone of the original necks you may be disappointed.  They also have a different profile, being a little slimmer than the Steinberger ones.  Click here to read more about it.  

Where can I get my instrument serviced?

If you call Gibson they will recommend Peekamoose Guitars out of New York City.  They are an official Steinberger/Gibson service center, and continue to do a brisk Steinberger repair business to this day.   They have contributed to this site and to our sister forum on Yahoo!

Because working with graphite and phenolic fingerboards is totally different from wood, we recommend sending your instrument to a professional that has experience with these types of material.  Your local luthier may be great at wiring or wood finishing, but refretting a phenolic fingerboard is something they may not be qualified for.  And because repairs in composites are more difficult and more time consuming, the cost is subsequently higher.  We suggest you spend the money on UPS to avoid any costly mistakes.  

Click here for repair shops we recommend.  There are other qualified repair folks out there as well.  Contact other Steinberger owners for their recommendations.

Why does a refret cost so much more compared to a wooden neck instrument?

By its very nature graphite is a hard substance – much harder than wood.  Because of this it can also be brittle.  Removing and replacing frets in graphite takes a little more skill, patience, time -  and the correct knowledge.  Also, since Steinberger repair is considered somewhat of a "vintage" service, you won't find many younger luthiers qualified to do it.  You're paying for experience.   All of these factors get reflected in the cost.  

Can I just have my local luthier just do refret for me?

There are some local luthiers out there who have experience with Steinbergers, and may do a fabulous job.  In general we've found those folks few and far between.  As stated before we recommend putting your valued instrument in the hands of a trusty luthier skilled in this type of work.  It can cost less than $30 to ship your instrument fully insured via UPS, so the cost of using an out-of-town luthier is minimal.  Click here for repair shops we recommend.  

The graphite on my neck/body has been slightly damaged.  What will it cost to have a professional repair it?  Can I fix this myself? 

The outer shell of your graphite instruments has a covering called a gel coat, akin to the lacquer on a regular guitar.  It is a polymer based coating which provides an outer shell for fiberglass, graphite, epoxy and other types of "space age" materials.  It is actually a "common" material, especially in it's prevalence on fiberglass boats.

Those folks who are handy have been successful at fixing minor damage themselves.  Actually the process to fix your Steinberger is just like fixing a boat mentioned above.  Most modern boats hulls have gel coat finishes too, and gel coat repair kits found at a local boat supply store (if found in your area) are what we've successfully used.  But unless you’ve got some intermediate to advanced woodworking, finishing/painting and/or technical skills, it’s best to have any repairs done by a trusted, experienced luthier  

One of the pots/switches on my instruments is broken.  I can’t seem to find a replacement that will fit anywhere.  Where can I get replacement electronics?

First off, don’t call EMG.  In 98% of the instruments they only supplied the pickups, not the active electronics.  The boards & pots were designed and manufactured by Henry Zajic at HAZ Labs.  Basically if it has a printed circuit board (either active or passive) Henry made it.  The only thing he didn’t provide were the hand wired passive systems.  These were supplied by other vendors (some from EMG, most not) and were assembled into the instruments by the Steinberger staff.

The good news is that because HAZ co-owns the design of all of these circuit board units, they still manufacture and sell Steinberger factory active electronics packages to this day.  And you can even get them with the quick connectors for easily swapping out in your L series!  

HAZ Labs keeps replacement parts stocked for most of the units they manufactured, including the 3 button pickup selectors for the guitars.  Click here for directions on how to contact HAZ Labs and get your unit serviced, or order a new one.  

My instrument is passive.  Can I add active controls without having to replace the pickups too?

Probably.  Even though they put passive electronics in many instruments, for the most part they used low impedance (active) pickups.  These can be wired with either active or passive tone controls.  We recommend checking with the pickup manufacturer first before doing any work though.  They can tell you exactly which pickups you have and what wiring options are available.

If I can’t buy a one new, where can I find a good used model?  

eBay and Harmony Central are good places to start.  The proliferation of online auctions means that it's easier than ever to find the instrument you’ve been looking for.  There are also other music-centric sites out there - GuitarBase and DigiBid come to mind though they tend to have less of these items come up   Click here for a comprehensive list of links to these sites.

As always it pays to do your homework.  Know what you want, what it will take to get it, and what you’re willing to spend.  Watch the auctions over time and you'll get a good feel for what the average prices should be.  We also recommend using third party services for payment (PayPal, Tradenable) to insure you're not left high and dry.

Our contributors and members have bought and sold many instruments through these channels, and been happy with the results.

What is my instrument worth?

We are not appraisers by any means.  We must say however, that we've found many of the 'official' sources for prices (Kelly Blue Book specifically) to be wildly inaccurate in terms of available models, options and costs.

The best judge of value is the open market.  eBay and Harmony Central often have Steinbergers for sale in varying types of condition.  If you’re really interested in determining the worth of your instrument, take note of what others of similar type, age and quality are going for.  Watch over time - the supply (and subsequently prices) tend to ebb and flow.  Sometimes you won't see certain models for sale for weeks; next thing you know there are 5 on eBay at the same time.  

This overall approach should give you a good indication of the market value of your individual instrument.  

If you're buying from a dealer you could pay 20%-50% more for the same instrument.  Considering many of these instruments sold for $2000-$3000 new, the used prices we see are usually quite reasonable.  If they've got the one you want and there's no other option, you'll need to pony up.

When is Gibson going to produce new graphite Steinbergers again?

MusicYo is a direct to consumer website founded by former Gibson management and the company still has close ties to it's parent.  They have successfully resurrected Gibson's “dead” lines (namely Kramer, Tobias and Steinberger), and have been producing and selling the Korean made all-wood Spirit version of the instrument for several years.  

In 2002 they resumed production of the GM and GR guitars featuring custom blended necks made by Moses Graphite and assembled here in the US.  The end of 2003 will see the reintroduction of the Newburgh style bound GM's and the XQ basses.  They also plan a new wood bdoied / graphtie neck GL version, officially dubbed the GLB.

There are no definitive plans at this time to bring back the original design all graphite L's.  MusicYo's ultimate goals are to bring back the entire line as they were. However there are no concrete plans or timetable for this.  Ned is also designing new instruments, and the first of these may appear in the first half of 2004.


If you have any corrections to the above list or any additional information you think would be helpful, please email your suggestions to andy@steinbergerworld.com.

Last updated September 30, 2003