Hohner GT3-BK Headless uses a Steinberger licensed design. This is a lower price all maple wood version of the Steinberger. Most original and higher priced Steinbergers are made from a proprietary graphite and carbon fiber mix. My first interest came when I was thinking about buying a guitar I could travel with.
These are some pictures of the GT3 with stock pickups (below).
I compared the Hohner GT3 to Traveler EG-1 Custom and the Voyager Transaxe Telair both of which actually cost a bit more than the GT3. I felt these shorter scale “travel guitars” were more of a “one-trick” guitar and ended up opting for the GT3 instead. The GT3 is shorter in length than my Martin Backpacker only being about 30 inches long. Pretty amazing for a guitar with a 25 1/2 full scale. I felt I would not only bring this on trips a few times a year, but would play it on other occasions as well.
The Hohner G3T-BK (BK is for black) Headless Guitar being lightweight and quite compact makes it great for travel. But much more than a “travel guitar” as it is a very cool instrument. It features a maple neck-thru construction and maple wings, poly finish, 24-fret 14 inch radius rosewood fingerboard, HSS pickup configuration and licensed Steinberger locking tremolo. Controlled with mini toggles for each pickup, a coil tap for the bridge-position humbucker, one volume, one tone control and includes a adjustable truss rod and fold-out leg rest. The C-shaped neck is on the fatter side and feels a bit like my Les Paul. Weight is a bit heavier than I might have expected at 5-lbs 11-ozs.
This is my first headless guitar. Might not be my last as I really like it. The Steinberger style GT3 reminds me of a shortened Flying V. Almost looks like the illegitimate “son” of a Gibson Flying V. Light, small with easy access to 24 frets. What’s not to like?
These are unique guitars designed by Ned Steinberger, a true innovator in solid body electric guitars. The locking tremolo bridge is one huge feature that make Steinberger owners love their instruments. The Hohner GT3 being a budget model has what is known as an R-Trem that utilizes a design more like a traditional knife edge tremolo. Steinberger S-Trem and Trans- Trem bridges are more advanced. Note that not all Steinberger bridge types are interchangeable and may require a different route. Visit SteinbergerWorld to learn more about bridge types on these guitars.
The GT3 utilizes a zero fret so open notes have a similar tone as fretted notes. Being a neck thru design makes the guitar pretty resonant and gives it sustain. These guitars are well thought out, but the strings they use….
The first thing you find out about headless Steinberger style guitars is that they use double ball-end strings (each end of the string has a ball). First off they are expensive and you will be limited to only a few string makers. If you are like me, you probably have your favorite makers and strings sets. So the first thing I did was look for a String Adaptor that will allow the use of standard strings. These can be found on eBay for about $40. BUT…. WAIT!
In comes my new best friends at HeadlessUSA who have educated me on all things Steinberger. They offer what I considered a better more elegant solution. I bought a JCustom Steinberger Combo Headpiece that allows for the use of ball-end and standard strings. Plus no sharp string end that will stick out like the other string adaptor. This headpiece just replaces the stock one with just two screws. Kind of makes you wonder why not all Steinberger style guitars had this. I also bought a nice padded gig bag (my GT3 did not ship with a case) and a guitar stand (as I realized none of my guitar stands will work with the GT3).
NOTE: Unfortunately the JCustom Steinberger Combo Headpiece ended up not fitting my Hohner GT3. I had to return it for a refund. I purchased the brass String Adaptor instead.
GT3 is a nice player and better built than you may expect for a guitar at this price point. The hard maple construction makes it a bright sounding guitar. Does take a bit of getting used to, but easier to play than you may expect for its size and shape. The volume knob placement would be my biggest complaint as it tends to get in the way, but not that big a deal. The GT3 like most comes with a foldable leg rest for comfortable playing while sitting down. The tremolo arm can be fitted on the left or right side of bridge. They also include strap buttons on both sides as well. So left handed players are made more welcome.
Tuning of course is done at the bridge and does take a bit of getting used to from playing guitars with headstock tuners all these years. Basically, you lock the tremolo, tune the guitar to pitch with bridge tuners. Then unlock the tremolo and check tuning in unlocked position. There is an adjustment knob at the bridge to adjust the tremolo if needed.
The passive Select by EMG pickups (one humbucker, 2 single-coils) that come on this guitar are pretty uninspiring. They are adequate and probably have to be expected with a guitar in this price range. These are not the active EMGs you may have heard. My intention is eventually swap this out for better pickups. Trying to decide which ones. Thinking Hot Gold Lace Sensors with a Lace Dually Gold/Blue in the Humbucker position or some Seymour Duncan pickups. The rear control cavity in this guitar is quite small. The 500K pots are mini sized. Changing pots, switches and capacitors will be a bit of an operation, but quite doable. The easiest swap would be to upgrade the pickups to the better EMGs, but I am opting for something else.
The factory setup has the string action a bit high. Fret work was decent, but the frets could use a bit of polishing. I will take care of this and do a setup on this guitar once I get the new headpiece mounted.
Anyone looking to buy one of these guitars will see that the Hohner GT3 and the Steinberger Spirit GT-Pro (Steinberger is owned by Gibson) look pretty similar. Well they are both made in the same factory in Korea with only slight differences between these models. I opted for the Hohner as I liked the mini toggle switching more than the 5-way switch on the Spirit. The discounted price I paid made the cost about the same. Seems the Spirit tends to sell a bit cheaper. The GT-Pro ships with a gig bag, but it is a low-end thin one and will not provide the protection you may want for any “real” travel.
My new friends at HeadlessUSA tell me that Gibson has cancelled these guitars and soon no more will be arriving to the USA (at least for awhile).
Make no mistake this is a nice guitar for the price point and great for travel due to its size and shape, but not a replacement for a higher-end Steinberger.
The other guitar I considered was a Erlewine Lazer guitar (made famous by the late great Johnny Winter), but they are hard to find used and cost a bit more than I would want to travel with. They are custom built by Mark Erlewine (around $2900) and are pretty awesome guitars!
Hondo used to make a licensed copy of the Lazer (agreement with Erlewine expires some years ago), but some these guitars suffer from quality issues. Even the Hondo’s I have seen were selling for $1000.
I removed the double ball end strings and the stock headpiece. I used some steel wool to polish and clean the frets. The fret work from the factory was not bad, but the frets were a bit dirty (even on a brand new guitar) and they needed some polishing.
Next I used some lemon oil to treat the rosewood fingerboard that looked quite dry. This process only took about 20 minutes. Gave the guitar some polish as well. Looks better now.
I spent tons of time researching and listening. I ended up deciding on Seymour Duncan pickups – SH-11 Custom Custom Medium output humbucker for the bridge, Vintage Rails for middle and Cool Rails for neck position. This should be a good combination that adds a lot of nice tone possibilities and are well matched to each other. These pickups usually sound especially good in brighter guitars and many people use these in Strat style guitars. The Cool and Vintage Rails are actually humbuckers that are in a single coil size and sound a bit like a combination between humbucker and single coil in my opinion. This makes for a quiet guitar with less hum. Very good when listening thru headphones while plugging into Amplitube and Guitar Rig on Mac/PC or an iPad as I intend to do when I travel. They will certainly be a great improvement over the stock pickups.
I ripped out the stock pickups and mounted the Seymour Duncans. Pretty much a direct fit for the neck, middle and bridge pickups. Mounted Seymour Duncan’s Triple Shot pickup ring with the SH-11 Humbucker. I kept the original factory 500K volume/tone pots and capacitor. The mini toggle switches will allow for many different pickup choices along with the Triple Shot switching this guitar will have many different sound possibilities.
I adjusted the truss rod to get the neck a bit straighter as it had more of a back bow than I preferred. The brass string adaptor fit perfectly (unlike the JCustom Steinberger Combo Headpiece). Now I was able to mount some of my favorite single ball strings – Elixir Nanoweb 10-42s. Did the setup and the action is now nice and low. More playable and the pickups are a big, big improvement.
Now I will put the stock pickups up on eBay and see if someone likes these more than I did. They are not terrible, but I was not getting the sounds I wanted.
One fret up around the 22 position is a bit high and needs a small amount of leveling. The fret work from the factory was better than I expected for this lower price point guitar. Used a fret rocker, small file and sanding stick and leveled out a few frets that were a vert small amount high and were causing a slight string buzz way up on the fretboard. Plays better now.
I am waiting on new DPTT On/Off/On mini toggles I ordered. This will allow me to wire middle and bridge pickup with a phase reversal and off position. Between these mini toggles and the Triple Shot on the bridge pickup you can get a mind boggling amount of sound selections.
Mini Toggle Switch (Middle and Bridge):
Position 1 – Pickup On
Position 2 – Pickup Off
Position 3 – Pickup On with Phase Reversed
Note: The neck pickup just has an on/off mini toggle
Note: Phase reversal only has an affect when you are using two pickups at the same time (or two coils of a humbucker). Reversing the phase makes the different pickups cancel each other yielding usually a thinner sound. Reversing phase for just one pickup has no effect on the sound. If both pickups are phase reversed they will sound basically the same as they are in the same phase. Two pickups or coils need to be out of phase with each other to get any effect.
Using the mini toggle switches allows you to use any combination of pickups with any one of the pickups being phase reversed. The Triple Shot switches allow for the bridge humbucker coils to be run in series, parallel or split slug or adjustable coil by itself. Pretty cool and let’s not forget the locking tremolo. Makes for a pretty versatile guitar.
This so much more than a travel guitar now, but it is only 30-inch long and weighs well under 6-lbs. Standard Telecaster is about 39-inches long and usually weighs in around 8-lbs. The GT3 is a full 25.5 scale like a Telecaster, but has 24 frets. Most Telecasters are 21 (modern ones have 22). The padded gig bag I bought should provide plenty of protection and will fit in an overhead airline bin without an issue. Just to put the size and mobility in perspective.
With the Duncan pickups and the switching options this is an extremely versatile guitar allowing for many different sounds. The bridge SH-11 humbucker by itself can sound like a Les Paul with PAF when dialed in. Using the Triple Shot ring to coil split can give you an decent approximation of a Telecaster or Stratocaster bridge single coil. You can use the slug side or the adjustable coil and both have a different sound. The slug side when split is a bit grittier and has more crunch. You can run the SH-11 in series (normal humbucker) for maximum output or parallel which has a thinner sound.
Combining the Triple Shot voicings with the other two pickup combinations allows for some interesting things. You can run all three pickups together or any combination like neck and bridge, neck and middle or middle and bridge. The mini toggles I installed for the middle and bridge pickups allows for phase reversal. In order for reversing phase of the pickup to yield a different sound it must be combined with another pickup. If you are running two pickups and one is switched to reverse phase the pickups will cancel out some frequencies and you get a thinner sound. With the switching I added I can basically put any pickup out of phase with another.
This project is complete! Sounds and plays much better and now much more than a small travel guitar.