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Steinberger Synapse XS-15FPA review

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by psi, Aug 9, 2005.

  1. psi


    Mar 11, 2005
    New Jersey
    Price Paid: US $1100

    Features: 9
    5-string headless; Made in Korea; Satin black finish; volume, blend, treble, bass knobs; One Active 18v powered EMG pickup; came with a gig bag, owners manual, 2 allen keys for adjustments; rest of the details are on the Steinberger site (www.steinberger.com)

    Sound: 7
    For everyone who is wondering, the sound is nothing like an XL-2 (I own one). It's a very plain sound, probably due to the single EMG pickup. I wasn't able to get it beautifully warm or beautifully bright. It sounded sort of plain at both ends of the spectrum. The sustain is pretty good, but doesn't outweight the other shortcomings. For the money I spent on this bass, overall not very impressed.

    Action, Fit, & Finish: 7
    Either there was no factory setup, or it was setup terribly. As promised by Ned, this bass sits very comfortably on the body. The weight is distributed evenly. All frets are easily in reach. The EMG pickup makes a great thumb rest for finger-style players. I couldn't get the action as low as I wanted, but I'd call it a "medium" action fretboard at its lowest (I'm not a guitar tech, so don't fully trust me on this).

    Reliability/Durability: 9
    I've only had it for a short while, but it feels very solid. Plus, I trust Steinberger's durability.

    Customer Support: N/A

    Overall Rating: 7
    The thing looks great, and feels great, but it's only mediocre-sounding. The all graphite XL-2's have much more personality. I wish it had 2 soapbars (P/J) instead of just the single P. I also wish you were able to lower the action a bit more (maybe a tech could have done this... not sure). For $1100 not worth it... maybe for $500.

    I wrote this review at http://www.harmony-central.com/Bass/Data4/Steinberger/Synapse_XS_15FPA-1.html.
  2. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
    Thanks for the review.
    I was really excited and interested in this bass when I saw the previews, but so far the response about them isn't that great, which is a disappointment. I've just got a new-to-me XL2 again after selling my first one in the mid 80's and if it's not close to that, I don't think I'll bither getting one especially as I can't try before I buy, being in Australia.
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    An L2 owner here...too bad, I had high hopes for these.
  4. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    1200 bucks for a Korean isn't cheap.
    jimmyb likes this.
  5. notrt


    Jun 29, 2004
    :meh: I was also really disappointed about this also. I too had very high hopes for the instrument when the first advance stories about this line came out...and you're hearing from a long term L2 owner...

    I keep jonesin' for the notion of a 6 string steini, 35" scale, 18-19 mm spacing @ the bridge, properly proportioned, old style body, with the old style pivot plate to solve any balence issues...and I guess it just ain't gonna happen...

    I also keep looking for these used, and thus far haven't found a one out there...

    RC a/k/a "notrt"
  6. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    It's hard for me to imagine that any Steinberger-type bass that isn't neck-thru graphite will have the same mojo and tonal characteristics as an XL-2 or L-2. It's too bad carbon fiber is so darn heavy and difficult to work with; my XL-2 has the most sustain of any bass I've ever played, and it's incredibly rock solid, though it weighs as much as my Lakland DJ5. I think if carbon fiber were lighter and easier to work with, we'd see an enormous number of graphite basses out there. It seems to me that a bolt-on or wood configuration might share the same appearance, but would lack the solidity and sweet thick tone of the neck-thru carbon-fiber models.

    With used XL-2s selling on ebay for around $1k, I'd rather have one of them than a Synapse any day. If I win the lottery, I'm buying a used "wide 5" XL!! :D

    Has anyone played a Steinie XL-2 Fretless? I wonder what the ebonite fretboard sounds like as a fretless. :)
  7. Tonally, I found the Synapse basses to be quite excellent; their recorded sound is very full, with a wider dynamic freq range than the L-2; however, the L-2 has a unique voice that is utterly amazing (yet different) in its own right.

    My main problem with the Synapse is that it wasn't working for me live in a gospel funk situtation, as it just wasn't "lettin' me b mice elf".

  8. RG


    May 11, 2000
    central Illinois
    To each his own. I have never owned any kind of steinberger before so I cant compare the Synapse to any of them but I really like the sound I'm getting. I like the magnetic/piezo combination. The feel of the bass takes some getting used to but all in all I'm glad I got mine. BTW I have a review on harmony central too.
  9. I have nothing but positive things to say about the Synapse bass. Physical balance is perfect. Tone is pure and highly flexible. Sustain is powerful and long. For a five-string, the fretboard is comfortable and easy to play all over. It's a good travel bass so it's easy to always be playing your main axe. The Synapse sounds and feels much better than the Spirit. I do not own the original L type so can't comment. I lowered the action slightly and use Status half-wounds. You can hear a few sounds clips at www.davebuerger.com.
  10. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    I had both a fretless XL2 and a fretted XL2 4 string Steinberger for fifteen years. Sold them both when I started playing upright bass. Got a Synapse 5 string fretless yesterday. I agree with the review, especially the conclusion - it's a $500 bass, at best. Mine came in with poor setup and loose fittings requiring me to take it apart to get rid of the buzzing. The controls felt cheap. But the reason I returned it the next day is that the low 'E' and low 'B' string were unusable - simply awful sound. Not nearly enough tension to make a decent tone. They just made a muddy thud - no sustain, not even a hint of growl...sounded like you were palm muting the notes. You could hear it with or without the bass plugged in. The upper three strings sounded vastly different and acceptable. I even raised the action to triple the factory height - no help.

    The bass is being returned tomorrow. A shame - I'm a huge Steinberger fan and have an NS EU5 which is amazing. Maybe Ned will do a bass guitar himself in the future...I doubt Gibson will get this right.
  11. Basshole

    Basshole Banned

    Jan 28, 2005
    Given the vast dichotomy of the last two reviews, I'd have to say just two words:

    Quality Control?
  12. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    I would really like to try one of these since they have a single pickup (an advantage in my book, and well suited to my style). I like my XM2A, but have been moving away from fours...
  13. splewis


    Feb 17, 2012
    Has anyone else experienced poor quality control issues with the finish on their Steinberger Synapse? I ordered a flat black four string model from Music123 when I open the box it looked like it had been used, but more importantly, their were particles trapped in the finish on the back of the neck. Small little bumps if you will. Also noticed a sticky residue on the body of the bass. Needless to say, I sent it back. I was convinced that it was a fluke so I ordered another one... the next one had the same issues - bumps in the neck. I called Gibson and they gave me an RMA - not sure what they can do for me, other than refinish the bass but at least they know their Korean CM isn't living up to Gibson standards. I have owned 3 other Steinbergers and I hoping this 4th will be a keeper. For $1000 it ought to be better.
  14. Davyo

    Davyo Davyo Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2008
    Las Vegas, Nv
    In the last month I have purchased two black Synapse bass's, one 4 string and one 5 string,,, both were in perfect condition including the matte black finish,,,,, got both of them off Amazon.com.

  15. ectoflanger


    Mar 17, 2009
    You know I was interested in trying one out but find it somewhat discouraging having read some really abysmal reviews of it. Some reviews are glowing such as the two I saw on Sweetwater Music's site, but have read some really bad ones on places like Amazon.

    Interestingly, what piqued my interest was seeing Dan K. Brown of The Fixx playing a Trans-Amber one in recent (second decade of the 2000's to present )live gig videos on youtube.

    Now Dan played an XL 2 back in the day for such songs as Subterranean as well as a Wal Mk II fretless (he did so for the studio version of Camphor off the Walkabout album) in addition to Fender Precisions and other brands during his career with The Fixx.

    So, I don't think Mr. Brown is hurting for money or suffering for want of a quality bass, and he apparently has no endorsement deal with Steinberger.

    So why is he playing an XS15, apart from the fact that the original all-graphite fiber ones did not come in five string models?
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2014
  16. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    I have 2 - matched pair of fretted, bought new, SamAsh via Amazon, and fretless, bought used via TB, in white.
    No finish issues on mine and I love the sounds.
    So maybe the differences are indeed quality control (I've never seen a Synapse in person other than my two), maybe it's color-related...
    As for the sound - maybe it's an expectations issue. I didn't have any preconceived tone expectations so it was just 'like it or not' ? I do.
    No reason not to try one, I suppose, although you may not find one in stock many places.
    When I bought mine, MusiciansFriend were making it sound as if they were the exclusive importer so I was surprised it offered through SamAsh, but there it was...
  17. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    Actually they did have five string models - most have very narrow string spacing, as they were the same neck+body as the fours, but there were a few wide neck five strings built fairly late in the life of the company.
  18. rojo412

    rojo412 Walnut is fun! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    A buddy of mine has a couple of these. I get to work on them frequently, if that says anything.
    His black fretless requires little attention and he put an East preamp in it, which really changed the "blah" preamp tonality. That bass is pretty nice.
    His fretted white one, though, constantly needs neck adjustments. And the stock tone is really nothing to write home about.

    IMO, these compare to the old XLs in the way that new Tobias basses compare to old ones... Gibson bought each company for the name, then didn't do a single thing to carry on the legacy for tone or construction. GO FIGURE!!!o_O
  19. ectoflanger


    Mar 17, 2009
    But who is playing XL 2's now? As far as I know, nobody with regard to pros-- back in the '80s yes-- Jamaaladeen Tacuma for one (he now plays some kind of custom traditional style bass), and just about any bassist in a pop or New Wave band by the mid-80's, notable exceptions being Mark Heyward-Chaplin, who preferred his Fender Jazz when he worked for Thomas Dolby, Lene Lovich, and The Thompson Twins, Mick Karn who started with Travis Beans and ended up with the Wal Mk 1, and John Taylor who predominantly played the Aria Pro II SB-1000 during the peak of Duran Duran's success.

    A friend of mine whose owned a music store had an XL2 back in 1989. I checked it out during a break at a gig he was playing but never played it amplified.

    All of the XL2's I've seen on youtube vids sound great, but not enough to pay close to 3000.00 USD for a used one. For that money, I believe I'd go for a Wal Mk II or a Warwick Thumb NT 5 instead.

    With that said, I could be tempted to check out the Synapse XS15, because I live on a sailboat, and it would be nice to have something that doesn't take up as much space and is less likely to have the headstocked pranged while practicing in close quarters on the boat.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2014
  20. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    I recently got a real good deal on the synapse (free :D), its the custom model in trans blue, having read through similar threads im convinced QC must be a serious issue, im happy to report i havent experienced any of the problems that seem to plague some of 'em (thankfully).
    Now, first impressions: i love the look of it, it definitely turns heads..

    Its surprisingly heavy but feels very solidly built, its also extremely comfortable to play both standing and sitting (the strap "arm" is ingenious)

    Its extremely portable, a great "travel bass", the supplied gig bag is adequate but nothing to really write home about.

    Unlike other reviews i can say the b string is great, nearly as tight as the e string, no "flop" and a very punchy, well defined sound (i own many 5ers and its easily up there with the best of them)

    The control pots seem a bit flimsy but thats an easy fix, the sound of the bass...well, this is where i have to agree with other reviews, its very "meh", its neither good or bad its just very underwhelming. When i received the bass i literally took it out of the packaging, plugged in and used it on an arena show i was on..i loved the feel and look of it but i could not get a useable tone out of it.. NOTE: i can only comment on my monitor mix, i have no idea how it sounded foh..i used it over two nights on four shows and then went back to my g&l l2500. I think there is a really good sound to be had from the synapse but i think it needs a bit of work to find it..interestingly i'd say it probably records really really well ( it sounds fantastic through headphones) but it just dosent seem to have much presence/growl to sit well in a live mix..its "there" but pretty "meh"

    To summarise, i really like it, i think its a keeper, its extremely comfortable to play, very portable, a very solid 5er (tight b string) and looks great (imo)....just such a pity about the sound :( (which could be sorted with different strings and maybe a decent preamp)