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Steinberger - L2 or XL2 - what is the REAL difference?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by markorbit, Dec 7, 2006.

  1. markorbit


    Apr 16, 2004
    OK so I've dig out my old XL2 and I'm starting to think 'wow, what a great bass' BUT it just doesn't quite have the mojo of the old L2 that I used to have and I'm not sure why.

    I know that on the original L2s:-
    - the screws are on the top faceplate
    - the battery compartment is centered
    - the 3 knobs are styled differently
    - the pickups are the orig EMG SS (mine has been retrofitted)
    - the bridge has the knife-edge saddles

    But what else changed? I THINK that the XL2 doesn't sound as Steinie as the L2 did and unless it is my imagination the neck seems a little more chunky but that could just be poppycock.

    Can anyone shed any light on these excellent basses. Are L2s better and if so, why do you think that is?
    RawOrange likes this.
  2. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    IIRC the XL2 also had a different 'nut' system for holding the string balls than the original

    all the best,

  3. Jerry Ziarko

    Jerry Ziarko Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    The two of you have pretty much nailed it. One other thing was the knee rest on the L2 was detachable, where it just flipped down on the XL2. I owned both for several years, and to tell you the truth, they sounded and felt almost identical.
  4. markorbit


    Apr 16, 2004
    I was under the impression that the mould changed structurally and I wondered if anybody could confirm that and say 'yes, the old ones resonated much better' or something...

    Wonderful basses though. I'm definitely going through a Steinbergers are so cool phase.

    I'm always accidentally rotating the knobs though, wish I could really tighten them up somehow.
  5. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    I must have had a transition XL2 then, as mine had the removable 'half hoop' leg rest (not the flip down thingy) and XL2 style nut. I really like the original leg rest, and how it would pivit - really made this comfortable to play sitting.

    I don't recall the XL2 having a battery box ... XL2A maybe, but the XL2 was passive all the way.

    FWIW, mine was Ser#1066 IIRC

    all the best,

  6. lowrez

    lowrez no.

    Nov 27, 2004
    New Englandish
    All XL2s have a battery compartment as the emgs require em. The xl2as also have a active preamp... I think the only passive basses (spare spirits) were The Flying V-ish looking P series.
  7. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    There seems to be a bit of confusion here about active versus passive Steinbergers. The EMG pickups in all the L-series basses (Ls and XLs) are active, while the XL-2A also has a Haz Labs preamp (active electronics)

    I've owned a few of each over the years (except for an XL-2A) and I definitely hear the difference between the SS PUPs in the L2 and the later ones used in the XL-2. The L2s sound considerably warmer. I usually had flats on them, as I do on one of the two early L2s I own now.

    The only other difference tonally might be due to the knife-edge bridge, but I can't quantify it. The sustain on all the graphite Steinbergers is insane.

    The necks might have a slightly different profile, but I never noticed a particular difference.

    The pivot plate changed as well with the newer model; they are slightly different in size, and the later one has a mottled matte finish while the one on the L was smooth and glossy.

    The only other relevant issue I've heard about involves some VERY early L2s. Apparently Ned was experimenting with different composites for the bodies, so they weren't identical at first, and thus some might sound a bit different.

    There are a lot of transitional examples out there, with one or the other leg-rest, for example.
  8. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
  9. stacker

    stacker Banned

    Feb 24, 2010
    Have to say I agree - to an extent - with One Drop's comment that L2s sound warmer. I've not long taken delivery of an early '80s model and, compared to my XL2A, it does sound a tad warmer. I'm gonna have to explore this A/B test a bit more, but I doubt it's the pups; possibly the active circuit, even set flat? Unless someone with both an early L2 and and later XL2 (non active circuit) has done a similar comparison? Perhaps they can comment?
  10. DrDAV14

    DrDAV14 Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2008
    Denver, Colorado
    It is the p/u's. The early L2's have what is now considered HBCS pickups. Most of the XL's have std HB pickups. Call Don at headless USA, he keeps HBCS's in stock. It will warm up the sound to the L2. I have done this conversion myself. Beyond that I have a set of Bartolini CB pickups that are reported to add a lot of lowend heft to the L2/XL2 sound. I'll report back once I've tested that theory. Rock on.
  11. I can confirm that. That's what I was told by the guy doing the fabrication when I ordered mine in '81. He also said they had to discard many of the castings due to imperfections, which was at least part of the reason for dabbling with the composite formula, and why they were falling behind on production. Mine was # 082. It was quite heavy and had a dull satin sheen. The next one that arrived at the dealer a couple months later was # 063 or # 064. It was much lighter weight than mine, had a shiny "plastic-like" appearance, and sounded noticeably thinner. So yeah, the early ones can differ in material and their serial numbers didn't necessarily run sequentially along a build timeline.
  12. Bkpettengill


    Oct 30, 2016
    My L2, I bought used, is a work of magic. 1300's serial # built in Newbergh. Funny thing is.....when I bought it in '90, I'd just bought a Spector NS and had no idea they were related....

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