News Flash – The End of Klein Electric Guitars?

The ongoing struggles of Klein Electric Guitars appear to continue with this latest bit of news from their site. Since yesterday, the home of this ergonomic guitar site is down with only this to be seen:

Klein.Electric.Guitar.Site.Down.gif

According to the message provided by web host provider Bluehost,

There is no website configured at this address.
You are seeing this page because there is nothing configured for the site you have requested.

Back in October 2006, I reported on an update to the Klein Electric Guitars site indicating that they had officially stopped taking orders for guitars – Is Klein Electric Guitars No More?.

What does it all mean? Only time will tell but clearly the site has been removed at this point. Meanwhile, it leaves me wondering about the rumor I heard a while back that Steve Klein was looking to get back into the business of making electric guitars. Could this be a first step?

UPDATE 06.02.2007: I checked out WhoIs Information for Klein Electric Guitar’s site (public information) and it still shows Klein Electric Guitars as owning the site and Lorenzo German as the site contact. Meanwhile, there’s still no web site configured…

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16 Responses to “News Flash – The End of Klein Electric Guitars?”

  1. Well, that seems to be it it for now, with the Klein at present. I shed crocodile tears. I’ve heard that Lorenzo fell ill – very ill – and had (has?) a bad case of rheumatism or similar. He could barely hold any tool.

    I think it’s too sad when such great luthiers as both Steve and Lorenzo have to call it a day. I have yet to hear/see anyone blindfolded that can tell the difference between a Steve made Klein or a Lorenzo made Klein. I don’t know, but I think both of them should wind up getting someone who knows business. Lawyers, sorting out patents and make deals, that nothing are left out. It seems that they had a falling out between each other, but that has settled now.

    It’s like that with all one man shops. If one decides to call it a day, it’s gone. No support, no service. I think basically it’s a combination of two-three things. Say that you get a demand for your guitars and are not being able to catch up with the demand. Sooner or later, you’ll get an ulcer, or hit “the wall” and get ill and can’t work anymore. If you have to hire staff, then the price will increase, so much, that it will turn customers off. It’s an evil threadmill, or catch 22 so to speak.

    Steinberger dropped the Klein design, due to bad sales. They said, if only 200 are sold, that could be left over one single luthier, as they did. Now, for Lorenzo, the orders increased, they didn’t wane. He was all alone in the end and couldn’t keep up. Then someone starting to sue, or pay attention to patents design, whether it be Ovation, or Steve Klein or Steinberger, or Gibson or a customer who paid deposit. All things kept piling on top of each other.

    Another one man shop, Joe Barden (joe barden pickups) was also struck by similar struggles, but managed to wind up people, who knew about business, accountants and so on. He resurrected his company after a 2-3 year hiatus.

    By and large, I think that both Steve and Lorenzo are too kind, and too eager to please, for their own good. They should license out the guitar making to contractors now if they have decided to call it day.

    Ed Roman wound up buying all the REAL spare parts from old Steinbergers, that are worth any. The Korean made stuff, is of lesser quality, but not by much. Old Trans Trems and S-trems on Steinbergers still wears out at a slow steady pace. And whether you should give Ed Roman any kind of money is up to you. He’s taking a lot of flak already so I wont go into this here. But there’s still a healthy dose of caveat emptor before doing business with Ed Roman.

    1. Thanks for the bit of history! I think you really hit on something that escapes many crafts people and artist types – the need for business acumen. If you yourself don’t have it, learn it. If you don’t want to learn it, associate yourself with someone who does.

      One of the recurring questions on guitar forums is “How do I become a luthier?” Well, suffice it to say, most folks answer by focusing on the knowledge and skills related to the specifics of being a luthier. Few ever think of the business skills needed to turn a craft into a successful venture.

      1. Hi Robert,
        A couple things:
        – Since you’ve already built a Klein, this is your opportunity to take over the business! Go for it! 😉

        – Also, I think your comments about business acumen are right on. I am a management consultant (among other things!) and I come across this all the time with small businesses. A one-person “practice” is quite different from a business, and then there are the changes involved — both systemic and mindset — when growing the business and “letting go” of some level of control, so to speak. OK, I could on forever, but I think you’re correct!

        OK, one more comment: You probably know Tim Diebert of Timtone Guitars (http://www.timtone.com — who also made some nice Klein-like guitars). He closed his shop down for a few reasons: too much work for one guy, he sees himself as more of an artist (similar to the comments about Steve Klein), guitarists are a pain if the butt to work with, and he could make better money making custom furniture, which is what he’s currently doing!

        THanks,
        Marc

      2. Thanks for the feedback Marc. My own background is in management and in Information Technology. I started in management, moved into Information Technology and then combined the two.

        That said, my make up is probably quite a bit different from the craftsman who decides it’s a good idea to jump into building guitars for a living. From my management experience, I have an understanding of the challenges associated with running a business. From my background in Information Technology, I have more of an engineer’s perspective on things than an artisan’s. There’s creativity associated with the role of an engineer but its expression is different – its in coming up with elegant solutions to complex problems. So, you can see why I gravitated toward the subject I blog about.

        As a consequence, if I were ever to get into professional guitar building, I would go into it with a fairly structured approach. But, before we start thinking about a business plan for me, how about I get started on guitar project #2? 😀

  2. Steve considers himself to be an artist. True to that nature, it is hard to make multiple numbers of anything, let alone stick with it long term. I have first hand knowledge of guitar production at huge numbers, a person can become weary quickly. It makes sense to me that he would not continue to make a line of any style of guitar. He’ll probably continue to make the one off artsy acoustic instrument and be happy doing that.

    1. I can imagine! Like I stated in my reply to Mats, I think this is a problem that many face in trying to turn a craft or art into a viable business. Many forget to discover what it takes to run a business – especially a small business where you are accountant, sales person, customer service, shipping, and manufacturing. It can become overwhelming and take the joy out of the process. If Steve Klein is looking to get back into electric guitar production, I wish him the best along with an associate that can handle the business details so Steve can dream and create.

  3. We, the customers, or public, should really not probe too deep into Steves or Lorenzos personal problems or whatever that made them call it a day. If Lo’s ill, then I really hope for fast full recovery, that’s all! Regardless of him returning to luthiers trade or not.

    JG og JG guitars here in Sweden, has ventilated to me some similar stuff. He just wants to build guitars. He doesn’t even want to know when the wood supply is going out. Then he has to stop, make deals, procurement, bargaining over the price over the net, fax, phone, mails until hell freezes over. It’s all this BS that he would gladly hand over to someone else – who’s definitely better at it – if he could afford it.

    He admitted to the advantages of having full control of ANYTHING in this guitar building nusiness to ensure consistent quality, and price/cost awareness throughout the whole process, but at the end of the day, once that is settled, he – sort of – wants to move on, and away from that side of things.

    He does not really even want to talk to future customers anymore. Prospects that is. He wants to hand over that to a skilled salesman instead. He does not want to try to “pitch” it anymore. And someday when demands really exceeds supply, then he must decide on whether to continue with expanding his business or, stop. The main thing, which doesn’t makes sense, he can’t just stay where he is. He can’t stay small, or medium size business. He has to stop or grow.

    I think Taylor, and PRS started out the same. One small shop. Think of it, everyone must’ve started out single handedly once upon a time.

    1. I don’t disagree that personal matters should stay personal. However, there is the mitigating fact that Lorenzo dropped off the face of the earth while having deposits on hand from several customers. It’s not a surprise that folks started to wonder and discuss personal matters such as his health and finances. If I were one of these customers I would merely be looking to either get a commitment from Lorenzo (which proved impossible according to several folks on the Yahoo Klein Electric Guitars Group) or my money back. I would expect anyone presenting themselves as a business to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner. Going underground and ignoring customer inquiries while holding someone else’s money is completely inappropriate.

      As to JG’s comments, I’m not all that surprised by them. This seems to happen quite often. Many have tried to turn something they love into a business and find themselves unprepared or unwilling to deal with the business side of things.

  4. Of course, we the customer should only just care about the deposit, and bussines side just as we would have dealt with Fender or any one of the big names. If he becomes incapable in any way, some trustee or receiver (?) should step in, winding down business slowly at a professional pace, with finishing back orders, and not accepting new ones. But of course, you have to find some luthier that is willing to accept it. And that luthier isn’t Lorenzo.

    Joe Barden had a slightly more professional way of dealing with this. He went underground as well for two years, then resurrected his company.
    But that was different. He took orders from music shops, and when all had run out of pickups, they simply wasn’t available, no deposits, or back orders. Agreed, one shouldn’t vanish from the face of earth, when people had paid large deposits. He might as well have fled to Cayman Islands, with all the deposit money.

    Now, enough of this, this is about ergonomic guitars, not how to run business. :-)

  5. […] Since yesterday, the home of this ergonomic guitar site is down with only this to be seen: According to the message provided… Visit Building the Ergonomic Guitar for all the details, pictures and commentary. …more […]

  6. […] Since yesterday, the home of this ergonomic guitar site is down with only this to be seen: According to the message provided… Visit Building the Ergonomic Guitar for all the details, pictures and commentary. …more […]

  7. I used to work for Lorenzo. Really nice guy, with an amazing product. He was having a company do the bodies, out of materials he hand selected, including roughing the neck to point where it could be hand-adjusted for each player. They were attached with highest quality machine bolts, brass inserts (into rosewood, very strong) and with custom made plates. Mostly Joe Barden pickups, with some very cool wiring that kept the sound amazing. Everything was shielded to the max, using some industrial 3M stuff that cut radio frequency and all sorts of signal. He tried to find people that could economically create a system to continue the Steinberger design, since, as mentioned before, the overseas produced stuff just fell apart. I had to leave when the shop was moved 40 miles away from its previous location, and I could tell having one employee who only spent part of the time working on guitars, was a drain. At that point, getting any quality parts (Barden’s material excepted) was difficult. I can attest that the necks and bodies were some of the best I have seen, on any guitar, and the internal work was flawless, just a supply issue. I have not seen Lorenzo since I left, and hope that whatever may ail him is over. I cannot speak to the Ovation issue (see Breadwinner) or his relationship with Steve Klein, other than, to my understanding, Lorenzo purchased the rights for building the instruments, including the name, design, jigs, client list, everything.

  8. I was one of the people who had my deposit with Lorenzo for years while he promised over and over again to finish my guitar. He not only lied about progress, but refused to return my money until I initiated a law suit. In the meantime, he sent people to my home to try to get me to stop “bothering” him about the negotiations. I heard that there were problems other than “illness” and all in all I had a lousy, heartbreaking experience. I think I was one of the last people to ALMOST get a guitar out of that shop.

  9. Michael sorry to hear that it ended that way. But I’ll bet you, that I would go places too, if that happened to me. Don’t give up, I hope you’ve got your deposit back. Lawsuit can be effective. But tedious and time consuming. I think the L.A och Californian business conduct (if there is a some authority like that) had numerous, repetitive complaints from customers to mr Ed Roman, and he got his 3 warnings within one year, and then had to close down his shop in Vegas. Reopned it elsewhere under another moniker of course. I read that over at the Steinberger World forum. You should see to that Klein Electric Guitars got the same marks in this “black book”.

    It’s funny to begin private or personal talk when discussing Klein. The company is – to us customers – Klein Electric Guitars, no matter if it’s Steve Klein, Lorenzo German, or God who runs it or not. We paid a deposit. A company. It’s seems like that, we, the customers, are guilty of what’s happening, or should be, sort of, more prone and forgivable to accept any kind of excuses on their side, to the Klein company just because we happen to know this is run by one person. We can’t do anything to it, it’s Klein electric guitars, whether it’s Lo, Steve or Ed Roman or some guys at Warmoth / USA Custom Guitars who does some moonshine business on the side. I know that the “illness” thing has been confirmed at least. There may be consequences of that, and other things on top of it. Or, frankly speaking, that these other things lead to his illness. I don’t know, and really does not want to know. The main bad business conduct thing from Klein, is that they shouldn’t just vanish and not telling customers or anyone what they’re up to.

    It would be absolutely of no trouble letting another luthier take over and build Kleins while Lo got ill. You wouldn’t tell who built it anyway. Albeit, that the order time would be considerably longer, since that luthier must handle his own work first, but anyway. I can’t think of that neither Steve nor Lo have tried, to get someone else to take over FOR A WHILE. There ARE just as skilled luthiers out there, who can do a stand-in job as good as Lo and Steves work. A stint. And we wouldn’t know the difference. Of course, at a higher end price but so be it.

  10. Heard from klein this very day who says that klein electrics (ergonomic) are NOT dead and to keep eyes peeled for a new design release!!

    1. I’ve been waiting to hear more since this coverage on BTEG – The Return of Steve Klein and the Klein Electric Guitar?