Price paid: £ 550
Purchased from: GAK
Features: This guitar was built in Korea, made with hard maple and a flame maple top with trans-blue paint. It's pretty much the R2-D2 of guitars, it packed with features for such a small guitar. Rather than the traditional Steinberger graphite neck, it has a 3-piece maple neck and a graphite core, with a 24-fret phenolic fingerboard. The pickups are EMG 81/85, and additionally, it has a piezo built into the bridge, controlled by a pot that can go from full magnetic pickups to full piezo. Aside from the master volume and piezo blend control, it has an onboard EQ for treble and bass boost/cut.
When playing standing, it has a strap extension which balances the guitar perfectly, which was originally the reason for removing the headstock on the original L series. While playing sitting, it has a fold-out leg rest, and it also has a carved back so it fits against your body incredibly comfortably. To keep the lead out of the way, it has a recessed jack input, and a recessed Tool holder that has some allen keys, so you don't have to carry a little bag of them around with you.
One of the biggest innovations of this guitar is the built in capo, which, if set at the 2nd fret, the guitar is a Standard 22-fret 25.5" scale guitar. Set at the zero fret, it is a full Baritone guitar, and the capo can be easily rolled up to the 11th fret. A slight flaw with this design is that there are two large grooves running all the way up the 12th fret, however, these are easy to get used to. Another thing which is a bit hard to get used to is that the fret markers on the fretboard are Standard, with the double mark at the 12th fret, but on the side of the neck they are pushed up two frets to show the frets when the capo is on the 2nd fret. It's not a bad idea, but it's a bit frustrating the first few times you play it. // 9
Sound: One of the original complaints with the L series was that the amount of graphite used in it took away from the tone and made it sound sterile, however, the Synapse series uses a substantially larger amount of wood to give it a more conventional tone, I suppose. It still has a fair amount of graphite in the neck to find a good balance of tone. EMGs have become synonymous with metal in recent years, and it gives the guitar a much wider tonal range in comparison with the piezo, which can perfectly emulate Acoustic tones. I find a 50% magnetic/piezo blend using the neck position EMG (the 85) can get a really great clean tone. // 9
Action, Fit & Finish: This guitar was set up to be immediately played. The trans-blue paint on the flame maple looks beautiful, and physically this guitar isn't biased towards any one genre. I might lower the action at some point in the future, but it doesn't need any drastic changes. I'm not sure how it comes from the factory as it's been in a shop and handled by the staff, and possibly adjusted. I can't find any flaws with it, though. // 8
Reliability & Durability: I'm sure this guitar will last a long time. There's a video on YouTube of Ned Steinberger lying the guitar down with the ends on two chairs, checking it's in tune, standing on the guitar and bouncing around a little, then getting down and checking it's still in tune. If this video is anything to go by, I'm sure it'll last a good long time and hold up as a live guitar. I've been carrying it around in the soft case that came with it, and because of the small body and lack of headstock, it's incredibly easy to carry around, despite the Baritone scale length. // 10
Overall Impression: I like to play around with a lot of different genres, but ultimately, I'm a metal player. The EMGs are well suited for the style of music I play, and they can be tuned to a higher output (the piezo can, too). If I could change this guitar in any way, I would replace the HardTail bridge with a Trans-Trem, however, the string spacing is different and it would need some serious routing done to it.
As great as this guitar is, if it was stolen or lost I'd save my money and try to find a GM on Ebay, as they're discontinued and is my dream Steinberger. This isn't to say it's not worth replacing, but I don't see the value of getting multiples of the same guitar. // 9