Steinberger Spirit GU-7R (Blue)

blue flamed, 2001
This is one of those "cheap" Spirit model guitars manufactured in Korea through Gibson (who now own Steinberger) and sold through exclusively through MusicYo.com (though mine was purchased through eBay, see below...).

Note that you'll be lucky to find a blue one of this model that is, in fact, blue.  For some reason they turn out turquoise instruments that they claim are blue.  Guess what?  I ordered one and sent it back, then spent the next few years watching eBay till I got what I wanted.  It was worth the wait.

The tremolo is simply unbelievable on this guitar.  You can yank the strings a considerable distance in either direction, and they will still return to the original pitch.  I have never been able to abuse a tremolo on any other guitar to such an extent without going out of tune.  This thing dive-bombs and pulls screaming harmonics across several octaves with no problem.

The virtually perfect pitch of this guitar makes it the perfect instrument for a beginner.  We all know how frustrating it is to retune constantly when you haven't even developed an ear yet.  This guitar makes it easier to get on with practicing.

However, the EMG Select pickups that were in the guitar when these pics were taken were absolutely terrible!  They are very muddy, so they are barely okay with distortion, but are impossible to use for a clean signal.  It's a shame to include these in a guitar that looks this nice and has other great features.  The upgrade to real EMGs was inevitable.


Modification: Starr Switch 3+*
Function: Active pickup selector.  It allows you to select any combination of pickups (including all of them) by pressing the LED embedded buttons.  They are self-canceling, so if you press one, that pickup is selected and the other(s) is(are) de-selected.  To select more than one, press those buttons at the same time.

Overall the system works well enough.  It certainly looks great against the blue finish and

Getting everything to fit in the guitar's control cavity proved to be a tremendous challenge as there is entirely too much wire to be crammed among two potentiometers, two 9 V batteries**, and two sizable circuit boards**.  In the past, I've been pretty lazy about insulating exposed solder joints because things didn't rub against one another.  Things proved much more difficult this time around in trying to keep any of the pickups (let alone the whole circuit!) from shorting out.

*Available through Gribblin Engineering.

**I had a Chandler Tone X (see Les Paul page) installed in this guitar at the time this was written.


Modification: EMG 89 in the neck
This pickup is unique in EMG's line in that it can be coil tapped... sort of.  I'm not sure what is going on under the hood, but I get the impression this is not a true "tapped" humbucker.  At any rate, it doesn't sound at all like an EMG SA, the single coil variety this is reputed to emulate (I have these in my creme Strat).  Still, I do like it.  Also, EMGs are great in single coil mode (as are their regular single coils) in not having the 60 Hz hum of most other single coil pickups.

The "coil cutting" (let's just call it "mode switching) is accomplished via a push-pull pot under the volume knob.  I actually have mine wired backwards so that the "default" position is the single coil mode and it goes to humbucker mode when pulled.  Pretty neat!



Modification: EMG 81 in the bridge
This is regarded by many as the ultimate thrash pickup.  Most famously it is used by Kirk Hammet, Zack Wylde, and every other testosterone victim to play lead guitar.  It's pretty heavy, but kind of limited in my opinion.  I'll probably change it in the future.  Stay tuned.

The schematic
Coming soon(er or later).

Non-electronic Modifications
String adapter - The blessing and curse of Steinberger guitars is the "double-ball" system.  For those unfamiliar with the concept, the strings have a ball at both ends.  This is great because it means you can just drop the string in and just go.  Changing strings takes just a couple minutes.  However, you can have a tough time trying to find double-ball strings at most guitar shops.  Even the big guys don't carry them routinely.  I finally gave up and bought the string adapter from MusicYo.  This just clamps down on regular strings almost precisely like a Floyd Rose locking nut, except that you still have access to your tuners since they are in the bridge/tremolo.

New knobs - This guitar came with plain black metal knobs.  Unfortunately, when I had the Tone X installed, I really needed to be able to see the position of the knob.  The pointer made it possible to know what sound was going to come out when I activated the circuit.  I lucked out and found these knobs in a pawn shop, and they're dead ringers for the standard knobs on the original American-made models.  However, similar knobs are available through many electronic component dealers or a similar one is available (over-priced) through Stewart MacDonald.


It takes two...
Yes, I know I'm a nut, but I ended up with two of these guitars.  Originally I bought the red one when, as mentioned above, I found that MusicYo's concept of blue was undenyably turquoise.  I sent it back and exchanged it for my second choice: red.  Later, after watching eBay off and on over the next could years, I ran across my perfect blue one. 

This being the best guitar for a beginning player (since it never goes out of tune), I let my girlfriend borrow it and keep it at her place.  After all, she's a winter.  She looks better in red than I do.  Of course, guess who ends up playing it more between the two of us?  Yeah, exactly.

Updates: I eventually sold the red Steinberger when Dani gave up playing it.  Once we moved in together, it seemed pointless to have two very similar guitars.  Later, I sold the blue one when I bought by my Steinberger GM-4S and figured I didn't need two blue Steinbergers, even though the quality and features were quite different.  However, I later ran across a deal I couldn't pass up on Craigslist for another Steinberger GU-7R, this time in green.



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