The Steinberger guitar series began with the Steinberger bass in 1979. Eventually the company was sold to Gibson instruments and its inventor, Ned Steinberger, was forbidden from using his name on subsequent guitars he produced. Although the company was sold, Ned went on to found NS Instruments that continues to produce guitars and bass guitars.
The line in general is noted for its use of composite materials, especially graphite, and its unique ‘headless’ design. Most guitars feature a neck, and a tuning head, with strings tuned using gears at staggered lengths. The Steinberger guitar, however, is tuned at the bottom of the guitar, leaving all strings even and protruding over the end of the neck with no tuning head. These features provide a clean sound that was distinctive and unique at the time it was introduced.
The Steinberger line began with the L2. Only about 1500 were produced, and demand often outstripped supply. Because of the new tuning system the L2 required unique ‘double ball’ strings, which were unique to the instrument. The L2 was one of the first bass guitars to use graphite-reinforcing strips. The line was offered in 4 models, which offered different impedance configurations.
The L2 Bass, originally simply called the Steinberger bass, was improved on in the XL, and XQ series. The XL built upon the original concept of a purely functionalist guitar. The XQ series borrowed the modern stylized designs prevalent at the time, and merged it with the trademark graphite neck, and innovative tuning system distinctive of the Steinberger line.
Eventually Steinberger produced a design that used some traditional wooden components. Many of these designs were actually licensed copies of the Steinberger. These designs used all-wood, and none of the composites the line was originally known for.
The Steinberger line features some of the most notable innovations since Leo Fender ignited the electric guitar and bass industry. It’s attention to functionalist detail, and quest for the best materials resulted in some of the most distinctive features in the history of the guitar. These instruments, especially the original lines, are some of the most sought after in the industry.