on March 24, 2012
I've always been a closet Steinberger fan since the '80's and eventually owned a GL2T/a in the early 90's. I liked the Gl2t a lot but it was the most bland sounding guitar I owned at that time. Maybe it was the EMG's and a growing interest in old Wood, vintage guitars, and PAF's but it was sold for a healthy price several years later. Just some background for a frame of reference and my experience with instruments. Typically I build my own guitars and amps but own several Les Pauls from the 70's to 200X era historic's, a Gibson Explorer, Hamer's, 3 custom shop Strats, Ernie Ball Music Man guitars etc. I always play Marshall Plexi Amps (late '67 and a few Metro amp clones) and have 2 Egnater's for practice. I'm picky about pickups and like Bareknuckle's, Voodoo 59's, Several Duncan's, and have purchased several custom winders pickups. So you know I'm not a punk reviewing his first guitar ;)
The Steinberger XT3 caught my eye about a year ago. Unique looking body shape and an updated Transtrem. Sweet. Price seems to be pretty fair too, cheaper then that past few guitars I've bought and cheaper then the parts I used to build the last few. A few early reviews on the 'net caused some concern regarding quality control. I figured I could take a risk and fix any issues myself. So I was not expecting a while lot more then an average (at best) sounding guitar with a Transtrem. Maple body, will this guitar will be bright? Quasi sucky Gibson built pickups that came in Kramer imports? Hmmmm.......This might be more work then I thought.....made in Korea.....yucky! Some concerns for a self admitted guitar snob.
What came in the mail the other day EXCEEDED my expectations. I was shocked just how well built and finished the guitars was. It was also a pleasant surprise to feel how resonant the guitar was. Exceptionally lively and snappy. Action and feel of the C shaped neck is superb. Fretwork is also pretty nice. I immediately changed the strings to Steinberger calibrated '009-.046's I ordered earlier in the week and set up the guitar from scratch. This involves setting up the scale lenght intonation, action height, truss rod intonation, and trem balance. From there, it is a simple procedure to setup the transposition function by tuning in the locked F# position and setting the jaw height in the lowest D position. This entire process took about 30 minutes and didn't take an engineering degree. I did watch Ned Steinberger's video earlier in the week to prep for the initial setup.
After the setup was complete, I plugged it into my old Marshall and the Steinberger lit it up. I was expecting that the pickups would be a deal breaker and would be swapped out immediately. They are actually a good match for the guitar. The bridge pickup sounds like a cross between a Duncan JB/Dimarzio super distortion with the midrange of a PAF. These stock pickups are a good match to the guitar. In fact, I had several good pickups put aside to try in the Steinberger but right now, I'm not touching a thing.
Against the odds and working against an indifferent parent company (Gibson), the ZT3 is way better then it deserves to be. I'd love to hear Ned's take on development but this is a fine instrument in its own right especially for the price.
on September 10, 2014
Ok, we've all heard good and bad about these guitars, so I bought 2, they came and the objective was to try them both out and keep the better of the two, I'm Picky. Ive been playing for 20 yrs and my experience taught me to listen to electric guitars in a quiet room unplugged and feel their resonance, then on the amp. So heres the results. I could tell these axes have made the rounds (bought and returned) but my over all impression is they're OK. The necks were both straight, no buzz at 3rd, 5th 9th, and 12th, the finish is pretty good although the TRB (transparent black) one had a couple of small dings around the Trem area, the trem on the black one also had a little roughness of the bearings at a certain point, Both of them had the issue of the neck pickup cavity being too far forward and the pickup rings were being pressed upon and distorted by the neck causing the plastic to crash into the pickup rolling the pickup back a little (c'mon Gibson) but not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, cut the ring at the front and get on with life. I have some very nice axes and the reason for adding this to the collection was the TransTrem does some very unique things, and I always wanted to be a Steinberger owner. The playability of the guitar is good, nice sustain, the "Kickstand" places the guitar in a position I've never had before and after a while found it very easy to practice scales and just play. On the strap it's balanced, the curved top is easy on the right forearm, not as good as a Suhr or Strat but it,s OK, slight belly cut is nice, position of the neck is pretty much central so rhythm and leads are comfortable, the neck is a "D" profile so if you need a slim neck, don't get this one. Fretboard is phenolic on a hard maple neck making for a bright sounding string set, don't know if my local Luthier will be able to do the fret job when it's time but well see. So My overall impression is that it's Ok, workmanship left a little to be desired but all in all it's a nice guitar, the small stuff can be worked with and the design was pretty well thought out and they're not makin em anymore from what i've been hearing so get em while you can, that's my two cents, rock on guys hope this helps.