Steinberger Synapse bass reviews

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by drivenmore, Mar 28, 2005.

  1. I received my amber Steinberger Synapse XS-15FPA Custom fretted and fretless last week, and have had some time to review them. Please excuse the format, as I reviewed them at HC, and am copying it here. Remarks regarding the fretless are in bold; regular text applies to both basses equally.

    Just-released new entry to the Steinberger line of guitars and basses.

    This is the amber(burst) satin-finished flame maple top model. Features include:

    * Cybrosonic Technology featuring an integrated graphite U-channel combined with a three-piece hard maple neck
    * Maple wings
    * Phenolic fingerboard
    * EMG40-P5 USA humbucker
    * Piezo bridge
    * Ebony saddle
    * Direct-Drive double-ball bridge
    * Fold-down leg rest
    * Recessed tool holder
    * Recessed output jack
    * Strap hook
    * Combo headpiece
    * Zero fret
    * 34" scale
    * Takes single- or double-ball strings

    In addition, it's an 18v system, has 24 frets, weighs about 8.5lbs, with 17mm spacing and a 1.75" nut. Very well-padded gig-bag with protective end-cushioning flap. Position markers for every position, both on side of neck and on fingerboard. The 3,5,9,12, etc. markers are larger dots; there are no double-dots at the 12 and 24.

    Absolutely amazing! The EMG pickup coupled with the piezo produces an expanded tone, both low and high. With the blend knob at 40% mag, 60% piezo, and the bass tone up just a notch, this baby sounds like an XL/Rick Turner Renaissance hybrid. Even response on the neck, notes ring out crystal clear, and the B string is tight and punchy. Literally the best of graphite and wood. And TONS of mwah. Easily the smoothest feeling fretless neck I've felt.

    Bass came setup perfectly for my tastes. The satin amber finish is actually a lot more of a burst, as the edges of the front and the back of the body and neck are a reddish-brown, in contrast to the first amber synapse 6-string guitar that we saw at Steinberger World that had a lighter stain (and was also a gloss finish - they changed from gloss to satin mid-stream for the basses, apparently). However, on close inspection, you can see that there is some slight marking in the fingerboard from the roundwounds (can't be felt, just seen). There seems to be some overspray of the phenolic (maybe?) on the side of the fingerboard, as if it edged off the top a little while wet, like paint. Not very noticeable, and doesn't affect playability. On top of the neck by the 3rd position marker, there's a very small strip of maple that wasn't stained the darker color.

    The one thing that I didn't like was that the bare wire connections in the cavity are being held together by CLOTH TAPE?!?! Apparently this has been rectified with heat shrink tubing, as evidenced by another owner with a slightly newer blue bass. The most glaring thing was when I originally plugged the bass in: NO SOUND AT ALL!!! Replacing the batteries brought it back to life.

    Kinda worried that the dead batteries might have been an electronic issue, but barring that, this thing is built solid, and I would definitely gig with it as my only bass. My only concern is about the placement of the back strap button; with the satin finish, a strap could start to wear down the finish over time. It's hard to tell.

    Limited lifetime warranty. Haven't yet tried to deal with Gibson regarding anything.

    This is my 20th year playing bass. My first "real" bass was bought back in '84: a Steinberger XL-2. I traded it away a few years after, but got the fever again last year and traded for an L-2. I also swear up and down on the "bang for your buck" value of the Spirits (got an XT-25 and an XZ-2db). The Synapse is a similar, but unique creature for those people wanting the clarity of a graphite-necked instrument, the warmth of wood, and the expanded sound I've described above. Despite the finish flaws and my concern over the batteries, it is an absolutely incredible sounding and playing bass. I haven't quite warmed up to the body style yet (wish it were more symmetrical like the XLs), but the sound more than makes up for that. I think I would've preferred the gloss finish, and in fact, was expecting gloss when they changed it to satin. Still looks awfully pretty, though.

    Pictures can be seen at
  2. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Holy jumpins! Thanks a bunch dude, I've been waiting for SOMEONE to get one, if not BOTH of these. Great review.
  3. Lo end PUNCH

    Lo end PUNCH

    Jan 28, 2005
    Slap tone? I really want one of these when the sixes come out and Im a person who needs my basses to have a good slap tone and lots of punch. Can you give us just a wee bit more on the fretted version as far as tones go? :bassist:
  4. barroso


    Aug 16, 2000
    this steinie design really looks good

  5. Hmnnh...since you've got the mag/piezo blend control to play with, you can pretty much imagine it like this: a supercharged P-bass (the EMG is essentially a P-pickup) with a layer of acoustic/electric overtones. If you've got an acoustic/electric lying around, do some popping and slapping on it, then superimpose that onto a P-bass.

    Sorry, I know that probably doesn't do it for you. I'm still trying to figure out a way to record and post some sound clips for those who are interested.
  6. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
    drivenmore, you are a {insert cuss words here}. After being GAS free for a couple of weeks and even selling some of my instruments, you post a positive review of one of the few instruments I'm actually interested in buying........:)

    I'd go for the basic black myself.
    I still miss my XL2

    Out of curiousity, what's the nut width and neck shape (rear profile) like?
  7. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown Supporting Member

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder: Wing Bass
    They're gonna make a sixer? When? Fretted and fretless?
  8. Hey Dharma -

    I won't be back with my basses until Thursday, but I'll check it out for you.

  9. Hey AJ -

    The sixers will probably be out by the end of the year. I know they've done the tooling for the 4-string hardware, but haven't heard yet about the sixers. I get all my info from, so that's the place to keep an eye on.
  10. WesW

    WesW <>< Supporting Member

    Jul 25, 2002
    St Joe Beach, FL
    Great review Drivenmore!

    I've posted this link to another list.....nice.

    BTW - those are pretty....:)
  11. psi


    Mar 11, 2005
    New Jersey
    What's the spacing between each of the 5 strings above the pickup? Just curious.
  12. About 13/16", middle to middle.

  13. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
    Hiya, are you able to give me a description of the neck yet please?
    There are none down here to try.

  14. That's over 3/4 "- at the pickup(!), & it will be slightly more at the bridge. 16ths(of an inch)are hard to read- at least for me; maybe you misread? If these basses are that wide, I may have to have one- but I'm doubtful. :meh:
  15. psi


    Mar 11, 2005
    New Jersey
    13/16" is huge! Are you sure?
  16. Hi Dharma -

    Actually, no, I'm not able to give you a description. I've never been able to tell a C neck from a D neck or whatever. :bag: I don't even know how to go about it. Sorry
  17. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
    No worries, thanks anyway. Just gives me more incentive to wait a while longer for more reviews and think about it later. GAS is a dish best served cold....
  18. That's what I measured. Keep in mind, the pickup is at the sweet spot. Take a look at the pic; it's pretty wide. I'll be more than happy to measure again tonight (it was pretty late when I did it the first time, so it's possible I'm off, but I doubt it).
  19. psi


    Mar 11, 2005
    New Jersey
    Nah, I believe you. I forgot that that particular EMG pickup is like 4 inches wide so I had the wrong scale in mind.

    Anyway, I'm a huge fan of this bass and this is really the only thing I'm worried about. All of the basses I've owned have had string spacing pretty close to 9/16" (the Fender standard I believe). I recall going to the Guitar Center and trying out a bass with narrower string spacing and my playing ability dropped tremendously. I suppose it's something you get used to, but I feel like I want to try something similar out before I order this. (And I have some time too, because musiciansfriend has it backordered until June 30 I think.. hehe)

    So any advice? Any basses with similar string spacing?

  20. slombovia


    Jul 15, 2003
    I am a determined follower of Jesus Christ and am a Mormon.
    ...I can tell just by looking at the pic it is not a wide spaced 5. In fact, I would call it medium. Would you mind measuring again? Heck, even a Fender Precision (wide) is not 13/16" over the pickup though it might be at the bridge. I'd bet 11/16" at the bridge, no more - but hey I am just eye-ballin the photo!

    BTW - Are they really going to come out with a 6-string Synapse bass?! I'm thinkin 5 or 6 would make a great piccolo bass!