Price paid: £ 220
Purchased from: dv247
Sound — 7
The sound is not the main feature of this guitar - its the small size, good balance, and easy carrying. That said it doesn't sound too bad with most Amps, particularly modeling amps or solid state. Having very little body it doesn't make a lot of noise itself which is good when using with headphones late at night! The Single pickup is quite quiet and I don't tend to use it much. The Humbuckers are okay - I can hear the difference vs a Gibson Studio or even a Yamaha 112V with a good amp on clean or without too many effects but its not too bad. The higher models come with Active EMGs which might improve the sound further.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall its a good travel guitar and unlike cheaper alternatives can be used instead of a regular guitar. If you are only allowed one guitar you can manage quite well with one of these and will barely notice any impediments to playing. For the money you could buy a guitar that will sound slightly better if you have a good Amp but for many it will be good enough. Its also very light and can be used really easily on a strap. For carrying when not playing I bought mine an upgraded Gig Bag which protects it very well but I would still like a proper rucksack style pair of straps for use on a Motorbike. For travelling by air its great and I have never had any problems nor anticipate any with Airlines. I have this and a Gibson Studio and play both even when at home. The Gibson feels slightly nicer and has a slightly less muddy sound whilst the bigger body gives your strumming hand a good position whilst sitting but the difference is only noticeable when directly comparing the two and with a high quality Amp and I can Imagine many people would be happy playing with one these as their only instrument. I play a wide range of music although prefer humbuckers even on "cleanish" settings and this guitar is fine for playing anything I do. The Trem would probably be limited for severe whammy use and the tone is a little bland but that's the compromise for size. I won't be selling it for a while (unusual for me) and if this was stolen I would consider buying another.
Reliability & Durability — 9
The neck is good, the body and neck feel like one piece and it generally feels that it could stand many minor drops etc. They stay in tune very well. They have a single colour which is well finished (white on mine sadly I would prefer the black). The tuners are simple and should be used with an Allen key but can be just turned by hand. The "R Trem" works well when locked down (i.e. not as a trem). When raised its okay for a few minor tweaks and since the strings are well anchored it probably won't go out of tune as easily as some but the tremolo bar isn't screwed in place so can fall out and is very close to the pickups (Actually it can't be anywhere else). The Gig bag it comes with is very poor - The strap is not removable and is only just big enough so it doesn't lend itself to being used on a motorbike and it doesn't have much padding. Steinbergers usually take special strings which can be easily purchased on the internet but are not frequently stocked by Guitar shops. An adapter is available to take normal strings but I like the stock strings feel. You could use this guitar in a Gig and I would have no additional qualms using one compared to any other guitar (backup is always sensible anyway) except I would make sure I had a spare set of strings.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
Steinbergers are made by Gibson at a moderate price and the quality doesn't feel too bad probably better than an Epiphone... The neck is good, the body and neck feel like one piece and it generally feels that it could stand many minor drops etc. The coloured finish is very deep and continuous. There is no sign of fading anywhere which can be common with white... Mine was a returned "B Model" so I got 75 knocked off the price for a minor scratch. I'm happy enough with it. The service in dv247 was good, they checked it over gave me the chance to give it a full test with amp.
Features — 8
The Steinberger is a small headless guitar with a Steinberger bridge (R Trem) & three pickups (HSH). Whilst some people might buy them for their "80s anti-guitar look" most people will probably buy them because they are a practical and relatively cheap travel Guitar - they have a small body but because the neck is headless they still have quite a good balance either on the strap or on your knee. A fold down lever thing allows it to sit quite comfortably on my knee whilst sitting on a settee for example. Alternatively it can be used whilst standing up easily and for prolonged periods. They come with a gig bag, allen keys, trem bar and bizarrely a manual for the Synapse (the higher model with a built in capo and better pickups). The manual doesn't say anything about how to use the R-Trem but it is relatively easy if you google it. It has two modes and can be quickly swapped between the two (fixed and floating). The Gig bag is pretty poor - It has one strap and very little padding although better bags are available. The R-Trem is quite rare and mine was setup in locked position - it took me an internet search to find out how to make it float and to adjust it but actually its really easy. There is a lever at the back that locks the trem and a thumbwheel that adjusts the spring tension (when floating)... The pickups are very basic although do have EMG branding. A five way switch allows the usual combinations. The tuners are small and mounted on the bridge. They are design to be used with an Allen key when they are quite smooth and well geared but can be stiff when adjusted with fingers. Retuning is very easy - I play frequently in a number of tunings and this is easier than a Gibson to re-tune (particularly when the R-Trem is locked).