Most people are generally confused about the names used for various Steinberger instruments. Some people have owned a guitar or bass for years, never really knowing which model they owned. These names (like everything else Steinberger did really) were not traditional for the industry but do follow a specific, logical formula.
Once you understand how the names are generated, you realize that most of what you need to know about the configuration of a given guitar or bass can be learned simply from it's correct name. This is not true of other instruments, where all of the options must be listed in additional model designations or descriptions. Let's take a sample name:
The first letter [G] designates the type of instrument it is. 'G' is used for guitar, 'X' for bass.
The second letter [L] indicates the series model of the instrument. The models are charted below as well as being detailed on the Instrument Models & Options page. Know that this site is dedicated to the original graphite instruments; the all wood Spirit models are not covered in detail here.
All instruments start with a two letter designation.
After this comes a number , which indicates the pickup configuration. This is sometimes shown after a dash or hyphen, sometimes not. Official Steinberger/Gibson documents show it both ways. For most of its history they didn't use hyphens, but Gibson has started using them again and both variations may be seen throughout this site. Note that for guitar vs. bass the numbers can (but don't always) indicate completely different configurations on each. Most notable is the '3' config detailed below. In the example we've chosen above, the  indicates a hum-single-hum pickup configuration according to the list below.
Next come the other options. These are listed in order, usually with the bridge hardware coming next [T in the example above for TransTrem] and active tone [A] (if installed) right after that. Other options are listed accordingly.
In some cases the color selection was added to the end, especially the white color on the L series. Since this was not consistently used we have listed it below for historical rather than practical reference.
Is this starting to make sense now?
To make things even more confusing, a few later Gibson-made instruments had three letter prefixes [GSX] or suffix level name designations [GL Standard, GL Pro, GL Elite]. These additional names replaced the second alphanumeric option description and were used during the final years of production. For example: the GL Pro had active EQ, a TransTrem and a H-S-S pickup configuration. Traditionally this would be called a GL4TA. See the later catalogs and price lists on the Marketing Information page for specifics on what options these named configurations possessed.
The premium "Elite" tag was an interesting one. These were offered only on the L's and consisted of a top of the line configuration (TT's, active EQ, etc.). The logo on the faceplate was gold colored and was accompanied by an "Elite" tag in script right next to it. They also came with a certificate of authenticity signed by Ned Steinberger himself. From all accounts this was almost entirely a Gibson marketing gimmick, as the same configuration could be purchased (sans logo and signed certificate) for sometimes up to $1000 less. Interesting indeed.
These days most people now refer to all of the instruments by the older, more established alpha-numeric than the late-model Gibson name designations.
Also, the new Synapse line uses a slightly different naming scheme. The basses sport an XS prefix, while the guitars use either an SS (Standard Synapse) or ST (Synapse with TranScale).
Below is the master list of product order codes. This was collected from several sources including catalogs, brochures and old websites. For some (especially the colors) we have the listing but not the corresponding code. Again the color was used for ordering but rarely showed up in the instrument name.
|STEINBERGER USA / GRAPHITE SERIES|
|L||Original all graphite neck through "boat oar" or "paddle" design. This is the traditionally recognized Steinberger body style. Guitar and bass.|
|P||Entry level graphite neck / wood bodied model. Small arrow shaped body, also called a "mini-V". Shortest lived of all models as it was hard for them to produce at the reduced price. Has recently been reintroduced by MusicYo in an all wood Spirit version. Guitar and bass.|
|M||Traditional strat-style wood body / graphite neck combo inspired by Mike Rutherford of Genesis. Original ones had contrasting outer body binding (black w/ white binding, white w/ black, red w/ white). Gibson later dropped the binding but added options for upgraded figured tops and translucent finishes, mostly on guitars. Guitar and bass.|
|R||Lower end strat-style w/ wood body / graphite neck. Similar to and often confused with the M. Featured less costly R-Trem bridge and only solid color bodies. Guitar only.|
|K||Collaboration between Ned Steinberger and Steve Klein, featuring the Klein designed ergonomic body with Steinberger neck and hardware. Roughly 300 GK's were made though Klein Electric Guitars continues to sell these instruments directly. Guitar only.|
|Q||Contemporary full-sized wood body introduced in 1990. The original basses went by the Q4 moniker (or Q5 for the wide 5 string). A redesigned body was introduced in the mid 90's and sold as the XQ. All are now referred to as XQ's with either a v1 (Q4) or v2 body. Bass only.|
|S||Short lived strat-style with headstock model. Featured the revolutionary Steinberger designed Gearless Tuners. Guitar only.|
|STEINBERGER SYNAPSE SERIES|
|SS||Standard Synapse guitar. Guitar only.|
|ST||Synapse guitar with TranScale neck system. Guitar only.|
|XS||Synapse bass guitar. Bass only.|
|SPIRIT BY STEINBERGER SERIES|
|T||Spirit all-wood copy of L series. Guitar and bass.|
|U||Spirit all-wood copy of v2 M series. Guitar only.|
|Z||Spirit all-wood copy of v2 Q series. Bass only.|
|1||Single humbucker pickup. For bass this was offered on early L's, (not the later XL's) and was recently reintroduced on the new Synapse basses. Guitar and bass.|
|2||Two humbucking pickups on guitar. On bass indicates dual humbucking or dual soap bar pickups. Guitar and bass.|
|3||On guitars indicates 3 single coil pickups. On bass, indicates P-J pickup configuration. Only known to exist on several Newburgh bound XM3's and one XQ3 bass. Guitar and bass.|
|4||Single (neck) - single - hum (bridge). Guitar only.|
|5||Single (neck) - hum (bridge). Single coil is angled. Guitar only.|
|6||Single (neck) - hum (bridge). Single coil not angled. Guitar only.|
|7||Hum - single - hum. Guitar only.|
|8||Three humbuckers. Very rare factory configuration; only seen on a couple of guitars and one XL bass. Guitar and bass.|
|There may be other configurations out there but are custom, and as such do not have an official number designation.|
|T||TransTrem. Both guitar and bass.|
|S||S-Trem. Guitar only.|
|R||R-Trem . Guitar only.|
|F||Fixed bridge / hardtail. A couple hundred original GL hardtails were made early during GL production (mostly pre TransTrem). This bridge setup was reintroduced with the new Synapse line. Guitar & bass.|
|P||Piezo fixed bridge. Introduced with the Synapse line. Was also used as internal ordering/part # code in Nashville plant for passive EQ instruments. The omission of the 'A' in early designations assumes passive EQ. Guitar and bass.|
|Z||Z-Trem. GS guitar only.|
|J||Jam Trem. GS guitar only.|
|12||12 string TracTuner. Guitar only.|
|A||Active tone control produced by HAZ Labs. The key indicator is that they almost always have a center detent on the tone knob. Click here for more info. Guitar and bass.|
|H||High impedance / passive pickups. Again was only used for ordering/part # codes in Nashville plant. Other than the GR's, most instruments came with active, low impedance EMG's. Guitar and bass.|
|GR||Integrated Roland midi controller. This is a suffix designation, not to be confused with the later GR series guitars. Guitar and bass.|
|DB or D||DB Tuning Bridge. Bass only.|
|5||5 string bass. On XM, XP & XL basses these have narrow 5 string bridges on 1.5" at zero-fret (4 string) width necks. On XQ's & the Synapse line they have wide 5 string bridges on 1.75" at zero-fret (true 5 string) width necks. Bass only.|
|W5||Wide 5 string XL with 1.75" at zero-fret width neck. This differentiates it from the narrow 5 XL (XL25) listed just above. XL bass only.|
|6||6 string bass. Offered on Synapse line only. Bass only.|
|LF||Lined fretless. Bass only.|
|UF||Unlined fretless. Bass only.|
|LL||Left handed model, strung left. Guitar and bass.|
|LR||Left handed model, strung right. Guitar and bass.|
|CS||Custom Shop. Any non-standard options (color, configuration, etc.) was given this designation. Guitar and bass.|
Factory Color Options
** These were used mainly for ordering purposes and are seldom listed in instrument names. Not all were available at all times, but were added and dropped throughout production**
|BL||Blue - This was specific to a handful of blue colored GL's.|
|Silver - Only offered on a handful of L series instruments for a special Guitar Center promotion.|
|EB||Electric (Metallic) Blue|
|TB||Tobacco Burst - Black on edge to yellow in center|
|HB||Honeyburst - Warm red on edge to amber/golden yellow in center|
|CB||Cherryburst - Bright red on edge to bright yellow in center|
|FB||Fireburst - black on edge to yellow in center. Basically the same as tobacco burst.|
|CW||Clear White (translucent white)|
|BKST||Translucent black (black stain)|
|CK||Crackle finish - Prefixed by undercoat color designation.|
|HR||Hand rubbed natural oil|
|KO||Clear finish on koa body|
|FT||Flame Top - Followed the translucent color designation.|
|Like any guitar maker, other custom colors and finishes exist as well.|