Ned Steinberger launched the guitar company bearing his name in New York in 1979. He produced a series of instruments with radically modern construction and design – typically saving weight and improving balance by utilising composite necks without headstocks. Many instruments were constructed entirely of man-made materials. These non-wood instruments were strong, necks did not warp and no truss rod was required.
In terms of design, Steinberger instruments were highly original. The shape of the L-series basses was minimalist to say the least. A small rectangular body with headless neck, tuning performed at the body end of the strings; strings themselves having matching ball ends. Perfect for the future-facing synth generation of the 1980s.
In 1987, the company was acquired by Gibson. which itself had changed hands only a year earlier, and the new owners were clearly looking to the future. Ned Steinberger stayed on for some time in an advisory role, designing the new 20/20 bass in this time.
The 20/20 took some of Steinberger’s stylistic approach, and mixed it with Gibson tradition. This bass looked like a Steinberger with its angular, futuristic body, but was actually made entirely of wood. A hard rock maple body and neck, matched with a 24 fret two-octave ebony fretboard. There was a headstock, but it was tiny compared to every other Gibson before or since. Gibson used their existing wedge bridge design (requiring regular bass strings) with tuning performed the traditional Gibson way. Interestingly the tuning pegs have a different arrangement to other Gibson basses, instead of the usual EADG layout clockwise around the headstock, they run AEGD.
The bass also had new active humbucking pickups with ‘Gibson’ in gold on their covers. The requisite 9 volt battery was situated in a small cavity just beyond the bridge.
Model: Gibson 20/20
Pickups: 2 Gibson active humbuckers
Neck: 24 fret, 2 octave. Maple with ebony fretboard, dot markers
Hardware: Black throughout.
Adjustable Gibson bridge
Sperzel tuning keys
9v active circuit
Finishes: Ferrari Red and Luna Silver
The 20/20 appeared in two catalogues – in 1987 (see pic), and the 1988 Gibson catalogue. This one is finished Luna Silver.
Legend has it that maybe just over two dozen of these basses were ever produced.
This one is in great shape. Plays superbly and feels balanced. A few marks here and there, and some obvious wear on the bottom rear – see pics. But nothing too bad, and certainly nothing structural.
And it sounds huge – the active circuitry definitely works well. Lots of tonal options and easy to play all the way up the neck.
The 20/20 bass fused Ned Steinberger’s 21st century vision with Gibson’s tradition of craftsmanship. Both visually and functionally, the 20/20 makes a strong statement – its crisp lines, well-considered balance points, and active pickups unite to produce an instrument with uncommon range and clarity.
And what a design – some well thought out engineering here, nicely balanced, and with a look that will definitely turn some heads.
Originally these basses were shipped with a Gibson-branded soft case, but this one comes in an owner-built hard wood case.