Hands-On Review:Steinberger Synapse TranScale Electric Guitar
Steinberger Synapse TranScale Electric Guitar
Revolutionary design innovation results in a whole new breed of guitar
By Mikey Lank
Manufactured with American-made electronics and graphite structural elements, Steinberger's new Synapse guitars and basses provide the flawless integrity you expect from a high-end Steinberger without the high-end price tag. Offered exclusively by Musician's Friend, the Synapse Series includes the revolutionary TranScale guitar, which incorporates a rolling capo on an extended 28-5/8" scale for unprecedented creative possibilities.
Ned Steinberger is one brilliant dude. The original designer of the headless, fat-free solidbody certainly hasn't lost his edge. The Synapse TranScale ST-2FPA is the coolest innovation I've encountered since... well, since I first played an electric guitar. The integrated capo fits into grooves on either side of the fretboard and rolls freely up to the 10th fret, giving you effortless access to open playing positions for 11 of the 12 possible keys.
Play this guitar with the capo at the second fret and it's a standard 25-1/2" scale. But roll the capo down to the head and you're a whole-step lower, which really opens up the bottom end of the guitar, especially for playing open chords and scale patterns.
But that's only the most obvious advantage. Use an open tuning with the TranScale and suddenly you have access to 10 additional open tunings. Especially if you haven't experimented much with a capo, plan to spend at least a few months exploring what amounts to 11 new instruments. It took almost no practice before I was moving the capo on the fly while playing. It's almost as easy as moving a slide, but all your fingers are free for open-position riffing. When you factor in the different tonal possibilities that come from a different string tension, the possibilities are truly endless.
Cut the fat
As a young player, I often envisioned hacking off all the useless, heavy wood from the top and bottom of a solidbody guitar. So I was intrigued the first time I saw a picture of John Entwistle playing a Steinberger bass. Here was an instrument with no superfluous wood—not even a headstock.
As Ned Steinberger told me himself, the idea of removing the head came first, when he was grappling with the problem of conventional basses being so neck heavy. "At one point I was putting lead weights in the back end of my conventional bass," Steinberger said, "and then a light bulb came on and I said, 'My God, I'll put the tuners back there and my problems are over!' ... The size of a traditional bass is also somewhat unwieldy. So I just minimized it any way I could."
All MacGyvered up
The TranScale guitar, like the entire Synapse Series, cleverly takes care of all the functions that are served by the body of a traditional instrument. An elegant strap hook extends from the heel, stays out of your way, and provides a perfect balance point to attach the strap. A fold-down leg rest positions the instrument balanced and stable on your thigh. It's subtle wedge shape gives your right forearm a contact point. And—much better than a traditional instrument—both bottom points of the body-wedge have strap buttons on which you can stand the instrument. So it's actually more stable just leaned against a wall or amp than is a normal guitar in a stand. There are also nifty little features such as a recessed rear output jack and a niche that holds a couple of Allen wrenches.
String changes are effortless and extremely fast with the patented 40:1 direct-drive double-ball bridge. The system also handles single-ball strings without a hitch. I found tuning this guitar considerably easier than tuning a traditional instrument. Since the strings are not wound around pegs, they don't stretch out with time. You just twist the tuners, which is not difficult, until the string reaches the proper pitch. After that it's totally stable. I mean totally! With twice the range of the original Steinberger tuners, these things will present no problems for any open tuning scheme.
Structure of sound
The TranScale's three-piece maple neck extends through the body and features a pair of maple wings that are capped with brilliant flamed maple on the Custom model. As with all the Synapse instruments, the center of the neck features a graphite U-channel which encases the truss rod. This unique design provides a snappy resonance and solid integrity you can feel in your hands and really hear when amplified.
Active EMG humbuckers make the most of that acoustic resonance and deliver a tone that's edgy, substantive, and extremely punchy. Plugged into my tube stack, these pickups couldn't wait to crank out very hot distortion with loads of ringing harmonic highs and gutsy mids
The TranScale's secret weapon is the under-bridge, one-piece piezo that can be mixed in with the magnetic signal and adds brilliant high-end sparkle. This piezo is not designed to imitate an acoustic guitar but to broaden the palette of the electric guitar with a unique and sweet sound all its own.
To clue me in on the rest of the Synapse line, Musician's Friend also sent me a Synapse SS-2F Custom. Wow! This is an amazing instrument that certainly deserves a review of its own. I've never played a more resonant, player-friendly, sweet-sounding guitar. As Ned Steinberger put it, "It's a professional-quality, full-scale, high-end instrument that's smaller and easier to carry than most travel guitars." You could fit it in the overhead bin of most airplanes. Bravo Steinberger!
Features & Specs:
|Synapse TranScale ST-2FPA guitar:||Synapse SS-2F Custom guitar:|