The REAL story behind what you may have heard. . .

Part of the reason for the creation of this site was to correct certain stories we've heard.  Some are true; others are not.  The inaccuracies and misconceptions about Steinbergers are sometime just out in the general public with others actually posted out here on the web.  The last ones are the kinds of stories that make us scratch our heads.  Other times they get our blood boiling.  Here's the real deal. . .

LEGEND #1 - Steinberger is dead

This one has good basis in fact.  Steinberger Sound was sold to Gibson in 1987 and continued to make guitars through the 90's.  Faced with slumping sales, Gibson decided to mothball the Steinberger line in 1998.

In 2000 MusicYo entered into an agreement with Gibson to produce the lower cost Spirit line and sell them directly to buyers though the web.  This cut out the music store retailer (and it's related markups) allowing a substantial cost savings to consumers.

Pleasantly pleased by the sales MusicYo got the go ahead to begin production of the wood bodied / graphite neck models in 2001.  Not having graphite building expertise, the necks this time around are made by Moses Graphite.   Options include: EMG & Seymour Duncan pickups; TransTrems, S-Trems & R-Trems (GR); custom figured tops; and HAZ Labs active electronics. 

There are no concrete plans to bring back the all graphite L series at this time.  If sales of the wood body / graphite neck models gain strength there's always a possibility.  We wouldn't anticipate this happening before late 2003 / early 2004.

LEGEND #2 -  Steinberger never paid artists for their endorsements

For most of its early press-worthy years Steinberger Sound was a small operation by most standards.  It was born out of lofty ideas, not deep pockets.  There were several reasons that Steinberger never paid for endorsements.

First off they didn't have to.  There were plenty of artists who would willingly buy these instruments and be seen playing them on stages all over the world.  At that point Steinberger wasn't able to keep up with demand, so it wasn't a matter of needing to sell more guitars.  They couldn't make them fast enough.

It also came down to dollars.  Endorsements can cost big bucks.  Without the type of big company backing management felt that money was better spent on R&D or expanding production than going into bidding wars for the most popular players.  It can be argued that this hurt the company, but very few other upstarts from that time made the type of splash that Steinberger did, so it's additional benefits could be argued.

LEGEND #3 -  Steinberger models have corresponding names

No, they never really did.  There was an attempt to put names on the models after Gibson bought the company.  It was supposed to bolster sales but failed miserably.  The names only showed up in some European and Japanese advertising; never here in the U.S.  This idea was abandoned shortly (less than 6 months) after it was launched, with legal disputes over the names being the common cited reason.

We've spoken with others who were in the meeting where this "plan" was hatched.  From all accounts it was merely a small announcement with no discussion (more of a "by the way" thing) that was of no real consequence or historical mention really.

Remember that this naming scheme was started AFTER the letter designations had been in use for over 10 YEARS!  The names were chosen to fit the letters, not the other way around.  There's a reason you've never heard of the names before - THEY WERE NEVER REALLY USED!

This myth continues to be spread by one old Steinberger dealer who was a "consultant" to the company at the time and hatched the flawed naming plan.  For some reason he continues to confuse people by using these "names" today, over a decade after Gibson abandoned it.

LEGEND #4 - "The GL and XL models are the LEAST costly models to manufacture!!!"

This one amuses us.  Though the arguments we've seen seem logical on the surface, they show a complete ignorance about composite instrument construction and the specific techniques Steinberger utilized.  Although the reason this statement is not true can get somewhat complicated, we'll try to summarize it like this:

There are two components to any manufacturing: material and labor.  For the L's there is considerably more material involved than on just a neck.  The graphite fibers in particular can be costly, and the L's have more and longer ones (which increase cost).  You've also got more epoxy, gel coat and resins.  Overall we'd guess there's over 3 times more material in an L series body/neck combo than just a neck.

Likewise the labor involved in precisely measuring and arranging the materials is greater, and require greater precision and more time - both of which reflect in the production costs.  Though it was a measured process with tight tolerances it was always done by hand - there was never enough production to justify the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would cost to automate it.

Also the instrument was not finished when it came out of the mold.  Without getting into finishing details here understand that there was a considerable amount of sanding and buffing required - equal to what a wood guitar body and neck would need.  And if a mistake is made on any one part (either in production or finishing) the whole instrument might have to be pitched, resulting in greater potential loss. 

You've also got specific costs that are unique for composite construction - molding, tooling, molding maintenance, etc.  These facts have all been confirmed by former workers we've talked to from the Newburgh plant.  For a more information on how Steinberger built their guitars click here.  

For a general primer on composite construction we've found an excellent online resource here.  It's the site for Valspar Composites, an industrial supplier of composite building materials.  Specifically read the 'Mold Making' and 'Gel Coat Application' how-to's.  Note that this was not the company that supplied the materials to Steinberger Sound, but the manufacturing techniques are generally the same.

Did Steinberger charge a premium for L's being as were the top of the line ? Yes.  Were they the cheapest to make?  Not really.  Why would someone claim this?  Well, if you wanted to make Steinberger clones and could only produce the wood body / graphite neck versions, you might be inclined to position those as superior to make sure more money goes in your pocket.  That's our conclusion anyway.

LEGEND #5 - The M series instrument was designed by Mike Rutherford of Genesis.

Rutherford, along with his guitar tech Geoff Banks and English luthier Roger Giffin, developed Steinberger's first full bodied instrument.  

Click here to read the official Gibson press release.
Click here to go the 'M' series page.

LEGEND #6 - Pre-Gibson instruments are better

I guess it's human nature to think the things were always better in the good ol' days.  In this instance, it's just not necessarily true.

First off the term "pre-Gibson" gets thrown around rather loosely, usually by sellers trying to get top dollar for their instruments.  We'd like to go on record as saying the whole "pre-Gibson" tag is very misleading.  It somehow implies that anything made from the moment Gibson took over is less than ideal.  The fact is the entire team at Newburgh stayed on through the buyout and most were on staff until the move to Nashville. Ned himself also stayed on as a technical consultant for several years after they sold the company.  So all instruments shipped in the years directly after the buyout were designed and built by most of the same hands as before. If anything, reports are that Gibson's deep pockets allowed them to augment the staff and finally get the additional skilled help they needed in the various departments.  All of the key production team members & management stayed in place right up until the Newburgh plant closed.

On the other hand using the term "Newburgh" carries some weight. Much of the staff in Nashville had to be trained as they had no prior composite building skill. To my knowledge no key production folks ever permanently relocated to TN.  Gibson also moved Steinberger production in with Tobias in Huntington Beach, CA only to be relocated again to Nashville about 9 months later. Any time you move around like that things are bound to suffer. We don't know the exact dates on this leap-frogging, but was probably around 1995 or 1996. 

There were known quality issues early on with the graphite construction in Nashville, specifically construction and molding issues. It's one of the reasons Klein Electric Guitars went to Moses Graphite for their necks in the mid 90's - the quality of the stuff coming out of Nashville wasn't up to snuff.  But production was very slow at that point so the number of instruments this could impact would be relatively small.

Does this mean all the Nashville stuff is bad?  No way. We've talked to many players who have L's or bolt-on's from there that play and sound fabulous - equal to or exceeding Newburgh instruments.  Yes there was a time where the staff was learning how to do this fabrication properly, and that led to errors.  However by the time production ended in 1998 the staff had gotten the consistency back up and was turning out high quality product.  Gibson added some nice touches too, including the figured tops on the GM's. Ned was personally involved in all of the redesigns & improvements (the v2 XQ body, the angled heels, etc.) and all of the original suppliers (HAZ Labs, Zen-On, EMG, Seymour Duncan) were doing the same things they always did.

The early Nashville production issues obviously resulted in more defects, but they weren't present in every single instrument. And many of these problem instruments were identified before they were sold (either at the plant or by dealers).  We'd bet most of the bad ones have been weeded out by now.  Remember: there are some who claim the Brooklyn L basses have the best tone.  This was before the XL migration, and before any production GL's were ever made.  Almost all the L's were made before the general public was readily familiar with Steinberger.  So it's all a matter of perspective.

LEGEND #6 - "The Moses Graphite necks sound warmer because there's less stiffener in the mix."

Yet another patently false statement from one notorious website.  

First understand the rigidly of the original Steinberger necks is due to a highly engineered use of graphite and fiberglass fibers in a matrix of polyester resin.  Technically this is not an epoxy.  If Steinberger did use any epoxies it was cyanoacrylate -  commonly known by the name "Super Glue".  It was used specifically to glue the threaded inserts into the bolt-on necks.

A stiffener is added to certain composites to act as a catalyst and begin the curing process. More or less stiffener will usually only cause the material to harden quicker/more slowly.  This usually does not dramatically affect it's structure and can be good or bad depending on the application.  In this instance either way really doesn't have any effect on the tone of the neck.  And it's not how Moses Graphite achieves sonic differences.

Moses necks were designed from the beginning to sound more "woody".  If you were to cut one up you'd notice that it's construction is not uniform - it's different up and down the neck.  The specific placement of these variations allow the neck to in effect be "tuned".  A traditional wood neck has a very pronounced up curve in the midrange frequencies.  This is what our ears normally equate to a "warm" sound.   Moses uses construction variations to retain more mid-range frequency response and hence sound more wood-like.  Ned Steinberger designed the original blend necks to have a very even frequency response.  By comparison a stock Moses neck has a decidedly "warmer" tone with those beef up mids.  

When Moses was designing the new Steinberger necks Ned suggested flattening the frequency response.  This was done a little, but they still have a bit more of a mid curve than the original blend.  As stated before this was done by manipulating the internal structure of the neck, not adding less stiffener.  These new blend necks are now officially known as the Steinberger M/S blend and are exclusive to Steinberger guitars and basses.

If you've got a story or rumor you'd like researched, please email us.