Steinberger introduces first new instrument line in over a decade

UPDATE AS OF 1/15/05 - Production in Korea should be shipping finished instruments in the upcoming weeks.  We've confirmed Musician's Friend will initially be the exclusive retailer for these instruments, with anticipate stock dates in late February to early March.  They've already posted product pages and listed the prices.  Click here to the see all the details.

On Saturday July 24th, joined with during NAMM for a day of activities devoted to our favorite brands.  The highlight of this event for the headless crowd was the evening's exclusive Steinberger preview.  It was the very first public display of this completely new line of instruments for anyone outside of Gibson - and even a first viewing for some on the inside!

The introduction of a complete line of new instruments is an aggressive move for the brand.  It's an indication of the sustained & renewed interest in headless instruments, and Gibson's overall commitment to the future of the brand.  Named "Synapse", the line includes both guitars and basses and features a number of construction, hardware & electronics innovations.

The preview began with the introduction of Jim Rosenberg, head of Epiphone / Steinberger / MusicYo.  He then introduced Ned Steinberger to join him for the unveiling.  Ned proceeded to introduce another key member of Steinberger's history, Hap Kuffner, one of the four founding partners in Steinberger Sound and still an avid supporter of the brand.  The three of them then proceeded to introduce the Synapse line.

From left: Hap Kuffner, Ned Steinberger and Jim Rosenberg.
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Rosenberg began by outlining some the past historical achievements of the line.  Many of these achievements are not so ground breaking today, but were decidedly revolutionary for their time.  They then jumped right into showing the instruments and detailing all their features and innovations.

First up was the SS-2F.  This is a standard Synapse guitar featuring a 25.5" 22 fret neck.  First thing you'll notice is that the new Synapse body is a bit wider and longer than the L series it was modeled after.   It also features back body contouring for a more ergonomic fit.

Studio shot of the SS-2F.

In it's basic configuration the guitar features a new fixed bridge.  The very first Steinberger GL's were hardtails, though at the time they were introduced (1984) tremolos were all the rage.  Ned felt it was time to once again offer a hard tail and this version is an improvement over that first fixed bridge.  Similar to the standard 4 string bass version, it adds an intonation screw for precise adjustment.  Plans are to offer a trem version in the future, but these first instruments will offer only fixed bridges.

Close-up of the new standard fixed bridge

Perhaps the biggest innovation of the Synapse line is the CybroSonic™ neck.  The body of these instruments is a one-piece maple neck-through construction, but the neck combines composites with traditional materials to produce a "hybrid" neck - the sonic clarity and definition of graphite with the warmth of wood.  The composite core of the neck is made through a state of the art pultrusion manufacturing technique.  This allows for precise tolerances, quality and consistency in the material.  This composite/graphite core is mated to a custom designed truss system and then integrated into the maple neck-through Synapse instrument.  The neck also features a phenolic fingerboard which adds more stability and bite.  Again this hybrid neck system provides the stability & even tonal character of a graphite neck, but introduces the feel and warmth of a wood neck.

Rear body shot of the Synpase guitar showing the body contour.

Another noteworthy improvement is a new dual use headpiece.  This new headpiece accommodates standard double ball strings, but also includes an integrated string adapter for use with any brand of single ball end strings.  

Fuzzy close-up of the new headpiece.
It accommodates both single and double ball end strings.

To help with balance on a small bodied instrument, Steinberger has designed a new strap extension.  This bar protrudes form the body and approximates the upper horn found found on traditional shaped guitars.  Ned contends this setup is superior to past Steinberger designs, as it allows the instrument to balance better and hang in a more natural playing position.

Close-up of the guitar strap extension.  

The output jack on the Synapse line has been moved to the back where it is less obtrusive.  They've also added a small tool holder to secure the hex head wrenches for use on the headpiece and bridge.

Rear shot of the Synapse showing the new output jack location and the tool holder.

Synapses are the the output jack & theThe Synapse guitars featured two active EMG humbucker pickups (EMG-81 in the bridge, EMG-85 in the neck) housed within newly designed stabilizing housings.  These new pickup housings minimize the wiggle that most humbucking pickups are prone too, and also eliminates the need for a separate mounting ring.  The instruments also feature an active preamp system custom designed by EMG.

Though the pre-production instruments on this page show a battery holder cover attached with screws, the production instruments will sport a pop-up battery holder.

The new SS-2F Synapse guitar is introduced.
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The first Synapse guitar on stage sported an upgraded custom figured maple top.  This upgraded top option will be available across the Synapse line and will carry the "custom" tag.

Preview of the TranScale guitar.
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Next up was the ST-2FPA featuring the revolutionary TranScale neck.  The TranScale system consists of a 24 fret extended 28 5/8" neck with integrated capo.  The capo allows for standard E tuning at what is now the second fret at a standard 25.5" neck length.  The capo can also be lowered down to two step and anywhere up to the 11th fret, allowing for quick changes of tunings and voicings.  Changing the strings to a heavier low B gauge allows for true baritone style playing, and the headpiece will handle the larger gauge strings without modification.

Close-up of the TranScale integrated capo system.

Also previewed on the TranScale equipped Synapse was a newly designed piezo bridge.  A "traditional" single piece saddle is given the Steinberger treatment, with a highly engineered adjustment system.   The saddle is stepped & angled to mimic the setup of normal individual saddle intonation.  It is also highly configurable, allowing for lateral and height adjustments.  The use of a individual saddles negates the need for small individual elements.  The result is a system which is inherently balanced and subtle, providing for a wider range of sound.

Close-up of the new piezo fixed bridge.

Last up was the XS-15FPA bass.  The first model Synapse basses will be 5 strings and feature a single EMG magnetic pickup located in the "sweet spot".  It will also feature a bass version of the piezo system & integrated adapter headpiece.

Introduction of the Synapse bass.
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The upper part of the body has been extended and a longer strap extension attached to handle the more extreme balance needs of a bass guitar.  The lower portion has been slightly sculpted to facilitate upper register access.  18v power has been added, as has additional dual tone controls for the piezo system.  Plans are to offer 4 and 6 string basses as well as the custom figured top option.  Traditional two humbucker pickup versions (without the piezo system) will also likely be available.

Synapse XS-15 bass body shot

Availability of the Synapse line is planned for the 4th quarter of this year.  They will not be sold through MusicYo, but will be sold through retail outlets, most likely online retailers at first.  Specific dealers have not be finalized at this time.  Estimated street price for these instruments is $800 - $1200 depending on features and finishes.

Steinberger World member Troy Fancil and Rob Turner of EMG inspect the new Synapse TranScale guitar.

Fancil plays the new TranScale

The first prototype graphite L2 bass next to the new Synapse bass.
Despite the illusion, the scale lengths are actually the same.

We'd like to extend deep thanks to Jim Rosenberg and Ned Steinberger for giving us this exclusive peek at the new line.   We'll keep everyone posted as these instruments move towards production and will be ready for sale.

Here are some additional studio shots of a matte black TranScale guitar: