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Hohner Pro Series Guitar And Bass

GuitarCheck, BassCheck

Dave Burrluck has a look at more guitars to lose your head over


Ned Steinberger's effect on the electric guitar and bass has been drastic to say the least. Not only in terms of his radical designs and choice of materials but also in his approach to competition. A rival company already had a headless six-string in production before Ned himself was ready to launch his own instrument. This, as many original manufacturers will tell you, is not an unusual story. Of course the obvious thing is to take the copyist company to court but this is an expensive business especially when the actual patents themselves in some cases are too specifically granted. The slightest deviation from the patent can often render it redundant.

So instead of viewing all copyists as the scum of the earth Ned Steinberger made sure his products were as protected as possible — the body shape is actually trade marked — and set about licensing his product to companies such as Cort and latterly Hohner. Thereby certain aspects of his products were given to these companies to be produced outside of the Steinberger factory.

The Hohner involvement in the Steinberger instruments is extremely interesting. Not only was the tuning system licensed but also the trade marked body shape and flip up leg-rest. As well as that a special tremolo was designed for the Hohner guitars along the lines of the 'S' trem locking system. The result is a wooden 'Steinberger' guitar that is as close as anyone can legally get to the original and one that is aimed at the low end of the market. This, of course, is the important part — the price. Even Ned Steinberger admits that not everyone can afford his instruments. The P series of course is an attempt to offer a cheaper Steinberger but it is still pricey and the wooden 'V' shaped body isn't everyone's ideal Steinberger. But is the strange collaboration of these two companies a match made in hell or heaven? Therein lies the big question. Does the Hohner version of the brilliant original hold up to close scrutiny or do we really believe the advert?

G2T Six-string



As with the original the first thing you can't help noticing about this axe is its lack of size, only 30" from top to tail. The shaping is the same as the Steinberger GL models and the thick black lacquer hides the fact that it's made from timber. In fact what we have here is a centre spine of Maple with unspecified 'wings'to form what body there is and a Rosewood fingerboard with a blackened face. The neck has the familiar round full profile of the original which is comfortable although a bit bulky compared to the rest of the guitar market.

The twin octave fretboard is fitted with 2.5mm (approx) width fret wire slightly smaller than the originals and while the frets are well installed they are left extremely rough in places. This kind of shoddiness is out of place even on a guitar of this price. Apart from the fretting, though, the construction and finish is par for the course, although I notice that the finish has been touched up around the tremolo cavity with what looks like an indelible black marker pen!

LookMa! No head

The quality of the hardware fitted seems quite high with the customary black anodised silk finish. The string retainer at the top of the neck has the access hole for the adjustable truss rod as well as a recessed hole for each of the ball ends. Like the originals these Hohners use double ball end strings which make string changing so much easier and neater. Strangely there is a small black rubber band sitting in a groove in front of the ball ends parallel to the zero fret — quite what its function is totally fails me.

The Steinberger tremolo bridge has been especially designed for this range of guitars. We have the familiar tuning assembly with a 40:1 gear ratio, the action of which is good but not as smooth as the real thing. Each saddle has height adjustment via two screws and is manhandled into position before being locked by a single grub screw at the side of the bridge block. This is the same as the Steinberger assembly, the only difference is that these saddles don't have a string roller.

The tuning unit is pivoted on two knife-edge fulcrum points hidden from view under the front edge of the bridge. There is a single large spring in the unit, the tension of which is affected by the large black knurled knob below the tuners. When the arm is pushed down the spring is squashed or compressed — quite the opposite method to a Strat trem assembly.

Another feature of the trem is a locking lever situated under the tuners which stops the pivot mechanism when you require; ie when tuning or attempting two or more note bends. Also if you break a string, tuning can be restored by locking the bridge — all in all a handy device even though its positioning is a mite on the awkward side. Two holes are provided for the trem arm, left and right, and the snap in arm is well shaped although a bit on the long side requiring a little re-bending.

In theory then the tremolo bridge is very good but this one is let down by an extremely stiff spring which gives it a very stiff feel. The travel of the unit is fine and tuning stability is good but it's just a drag that it's such hard work.

It should be noted that Steinberger are at pains to illustrate the difference between an 'in-house' product and a licensed one. The real Steinberger hardware carries a Steinberger System logo, while the licensed hardware should have Steinberger System Under License all in the same size lettering. Also anywhere that the Steinberger name appears on the instrument it must be three times smaller than the actual brand name, in this case Hohner.

The neat flip up leg rest is fitted on the lower side of the body. Again it is a licensed design but works very well and even has a couple of rubber feet to stop it marking the finish on the guitar.

The pickups and electronics are fairly standard on the G2T. Two GH-8 humbuckers are fitted — I can't tell you anything about them as they have black plastic covers which don't want to come off — I did try! Each has two screws for height plus a third to enable the pickups to be tilted to match the angle of the strings. A simple volume and tone hook-up is featured with a three way mini-toggle pickup selector switch situated between the two rotary controls. The controls have neat black knurled knobs and the actual pots used have a really smooth and quality action. A ¼" jack socket is fitted on the side of the instrument in a smart and functional recessed housing.

While the Hohner may look like a Steinberger unfortunately it doesn't sound like one, which isn't really surprising. After all it is made of wood and doesn't have those wonderful EMGs on board. Still, the sound from the Hohner ain't bad at all in its own right. The bridge pickup is loud, punchy and bright while the neck unit is warmer but somehow not as defined. The actual non-amplified sustain is very good reflecting the dense hardware and design as well as the good quality timber construction. The fretting lets down the otherwise fast feel and there is a little bit of choking on the higher frets when the strings are bent. However, the string tension is good and slinky and I was left feeling that a bit of time spent on the set-up of the guitar would improve it no end.

Of course the feel and balance of the guitar is very akin to the original and the headless design takes that bit of getting used to. Frankly the guitar is crying out for a better set of pickups, better tremolo tension and a better fret job. The potential is definitely here, it just hasn't been fully realised.

B2A Bass



Compared to the guitar, the bass version of Steinberger's design seems enormous. Of course it isn't, being only 39¼" long doesn't qualify a bass into the large category. What we have in the B2A is an instrument of the same construction as the G2T featuring a full two octave 24 fret scale, plus of course the Steinberger licensed tuning assembly, leg-rest and trade-marked body shape.

The construction details are straightforward, only here we have a far better fret job, although the set-up was a bit lacking, the 'E' string especially having a habit of buzzing around the 5th fret. The neck shaping is good with a medium round profile that is comfortable and easy to handle.

Two Hohner humbuckers — BH-7s — are installed looking identical to those on the guitar. Again we have a three screw height adjustment but no option to alter the response of the pickups. The control hook-up features an active pre-amp circuit plugged in by a mini toggle and there's a red LED status light to tell you if you're in active or not. The three controls are simply neck and bridge volume and master tone. The active circuit doesn't affect the controls but when switched in gives a noticeable improvement to the sound in terms of clarity, sharpness and richer bottom end.

Bonceless Bass

The Steinberger bits, the tuner and leg-rest work admirably; the increased size of the bass tuning assembly produces a better result which is responsive to tune but lacking the finesse of the original. However it provides the string with a good solid anchor also aiding sustain which again is very good on the bass. There's no surprises (or rubber bands) at the topstring retainer, just a straightforward Steinberger-like retainer attachment which also provides the truss-rod access point.

In action the bass sounds very presentable. The back pickup has a middly, punchy and almost nasal tone while the neck pickup is a bit softer. The two volume idea might be a bit unnecessary here, possibly a pan pot and master volume would be more useful. The active pre-amp, as I said, makes a great difference to the sound and I just left it on all the time. The battery access plate also hides the 9 Volt battery plus an attached silver cased object that presumably houses the active electronics. There's a hole and + and - signs in this unit and by poking a screwdriver through the hole and turning the screw inside you can alter the active mode output from nothing to slightly higher than the passive output. Not particularly exciting, but at least you know what it's for!

Knowing what things are for is a important part of any instrument; there is a male XLR socket next to the jack output which we are not given any info on. Is it an alternative output if you prefer using XLRs or is it the more usual out? I tried taking an output from the jack into a stack and an output from the XLR into the unpowered mike input on the desk. Unfortunately this results in an earth-type buzz as well! Individually both outputs sounded fine but without the ability to combine I would have thought use is limited. Specification on the output impedance and voltage outputs should also be included to avoid possible damage and interface problems. I wonder how often I've said that of a Japanese or Korean guitar?

Conclusions



Both these instruments provide excellent value and potential for the prospective 'headless musician'. But they both fall short on the many counts that I've illustrated. The Steinberger link is valid both in terms of sales potential and solid design but the fact that these instruments have Steinberger licensed parts doesn't mean that they are totally Steinberger designs and therefore doesn't guarantee the result.

However, I seriously considered buying the guitar bearing in mind I'd want to alter the pickups and the tremolo action. The bass is attractive too, but its sound is only adequate and playability wasn't its highest scoring area.

Still, the bottom line is the retail price, which is good but not cheap for a Korean instrument. While both instruments are offered in a choice of black, red and black and white finishes I have to say that the idea and appearance is more interesting than the actual resulting product. Basically if Hohner want to establish themselves as a major name in this price bracket they have to pay more attention to detail — the Steinberger link alone is not enough to produce a good guitar. The potential is there — just sort out the problems!

Hohner Pro Series G2T Guitar & B2A Bass - RRP: £249 Each


Also featuring gear in this article



Previous Article in this issue

Roland RD1000 Piano

Next article in this issue

Studio Diary


International Musician & Recording World - Copyright: Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.

 

International Musician - Aug 1986

Gear in this article:

Guitar > Hohner > G2T

Bass > Hohner > B2A


Gear Tags:

Electric Guitar

Review by Dave Burrluck

Previous article in this issue:

> Roland RD1000 Piano

Next article in this issue:

> Studio Diary


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