Well guys, it was another whirlwind Nashville trip. I know many guys
are especially curious about the details of last night's preview.
I'll give the major points now, do a flight of ideas post about the
whole trip a bit later this week, and then organize it all to post to
the website next week.
Ned and Jim Rosenberg, head of Epiphone/Steinberger/MusicYo,
presented the preview of the Synapse line. It was very well received
(even some oohs from the hardcore Kramer guys), very detailed, and
full of lots of info. These details I can now reveal:
The instruments are a composite/wood hybrid. It's in an L shape, but
has a bit larger body. Top is not flat, but has a gradual radius.
They've added a belly contour/scarf on the back for a more
comfortable fit. Both guitar and bass have a strap bar that extends
out from the body to mimic a horn. On the bass they even extend the
body a little bit more on the top and the bar is longer to provide
even more extension for balance. This replaces the pivot plate
design. The input jack is directly behind the bridge and faces out
the tuner end so the cord stays out of the way. Folding leg rest was
pretty standard design. It's new, but didn't notice any major
changes. Battery placement is the same general area as before.
These pre-production units had screwed in covers but the next
production ones will have flip up battery compartments. One nice
addition are two holes in the tuner end where the allen wrenches are
stored. The two that are included allow you to make all adjustments
to the headpiece and bridge (pickups retain standard Philips head).
Guitars had 9v, 5 string bass 18v. Active EMG's all the way.
They're using a new housing design that stabilizes the pickup better.
None of that wobble that's common. It also eliminates the need for
pickup ring. EMG designed the whole electronics package to integrate
with their pickups and the proprietary piezo system Ned designed.
More on that later.
RE: construction. This is a true hybrid. The entire instrument is
hard maple, but the internals of the neck are routed extensively. A
U shaped composite beam is inserted along with a newly designed truss
rod system (access from headless end). This isn't just narrow
reinforcing strips added. I got the chance to examine the "beams" at
the factory. It's maybe 5/8" square and in a tap test sounds exactly
like an original blend neck. This beam is extremely rigid and
uniform and carries the load of the neck. It's made by a pultrusion
technique. Most guys are familiar with extrusion, where the stuff is
pushed through molds to shape. In pultrusion it's pulled through at
low speed instead. In this instance large spools of fibers feed
through a run of resin vats and dies. The vats coat the mixture and
dies successively shape the piece, which is then cut to length..
This results not only in uniformity from piece to piece, but exact
placement and proportions of all the fibers. Very exact. Even
though they were meticulous about weighing and measuring the material
when making the necks and L's in the past, it was still a hand laying
operation. So necks could and do vary a bit from instrument to
instrument. This insures even more consistency both up and down the
neck, and from instrument to instrument. There was a name for the
neck system on the PowerPoint presentation they shared, but I'd not
heard it before and they rushed through that page.
Oh, and they're using phenolic fingerboards which also adds to a
similar original type sound.
They first showed a burst guitar with a standard scale 25.5" length
neck and hardtail. EMG 85 in bridge & 81 in neck. Only saw two hum
config at this time. Integrated adapter type headpiece that accepts
both double and single ball strings. The saddle was really refined.
Unlike all the other guitar bridges that have two height screws, this
one mimics the 4 string bridge design with a single height screw and
then an intonation screws that adjusts from the front. Much easier
to fine tune I can assure you. Also interesting to note that it
does have a side saddle lock screw. But rather than have the screw
directly lock against the E string, there's now a small like 3/8"
piece that the screw goes into, and this then presses against the
saddle. Seems to keep it much firmer with no play in the saddle.
Next up was a white extended neck TransScale guitar. The TransScale
includes an integrated capo, and with baritone strings allows you to
go down to B. There are slots running along the side of the neck,
and a rubber rolling wheel assembly slides up and down these slots.
Goes down two positions from what we know as E, and up to A. Works
very well and easy to use. You can adjust the pressure of the roller
by two set screws. This unit had a piezo bridge & same pickup
config. The integrated string adapter in the headpiece allows you to
use standard (albeit longer) single ball guitar strings, but I also
noticed packaging for double ball extended sets as well.
The piezo bridge approach is unique. I'd had in-depth talks with Ned
about this in the past. He was not trying to make it sound like an
acoustic per se, but was trying to get a "truer" full range sound of
the instrument. There are difficulties with trying to insert piezos
into each saddle piece, so he decided to go with an acoustic style
one piece saddle. It's not fixed - it can be rotated along 3 axes to
intonate. It also has an angled & step pattern to mimic how most
saddles set up on a standard guitar. On the pics later you'll notice
a "butterfly" route for the saddle itself. This allows it to be
rotated horizontally if necessary. It's a single piezo element (no
hex capability), which simply rests in the saddle bridge mount. This
allows the full vibration of the string to come through, without
compressing the signal/sound by clamping the saddle down. Plus with
one element Ned contends the definition from string to string is much
more uniform. The standard bridge will come with an aluminum
saddle, but they will also sell a graphite and ebony one for those
wanting to try other sounds.
Controls: On guitar with only mags it's volume / tone. On piezos
there is a larger knob for overall volume + 3 more knobs which
control piezo/mag blend, and high and low tone. The level controls
for both mag/piezo are on the inside of the guitar. There are two
for guitar and three for bass - the piezo is also split for low and
high tone on bass. Even the knobs are custom. For production they
will be matte black with an easy to see dot marker. You should be
able to see them in the pics.
Last up was a 5 string bass. It was a sharp looking matte black
finish. It has a single bass pickup (EMG P5 I believe) placed on the
sweet spot for the strings. Again the body is asymmetrical with the
upper (horn) extending a bit for balance and the strap extension
going out even further. As you'd expect from Ned it balanced
extremely well and the strap "bar" setup works nice. None of use
plugged in, but I found the bass to have a good weight & balance to
it. They will also be making a 4 string and 6 string bass, but I
don't know if they'll show up at first.
These models will have a naming scheme just like the other USA &
Spirits models. However I must admit I forgot them as I was focusing
on understand the features & options and there was obviously a lot to
try and soak in. As you see in the photos we all got a chance to
see, inspect, and strap on these instruments. I was impressed, and
head very glowing comment for all those who had a chance to try them
out. I'm sure those members who got a chance to do so will post here
in the upcoming week. Personally I was blown away. Nearly every
single piece (down even to the knobs) on these instruments (even the
knobs) are custom designed and its form and function considered.
Even the logo and upcoming ad they showed were very cool. The fact
that our group got this exclusive preview was exciting and humbling.
I did ask Rosenberg the bottom line questions as well: when can I get
one, where can I get one, and how much will it cost? Expected
release is Q4 this year. They will be going "retail" and not through
MusicYo. It's likely they start with web retailers before trying to
get them into physical stores. Street price (not suggested list but
what you'd expect to pay) will be in the $800-$1200 range: $800ish
for standard models, piezo, TransScale & others costing more.
Here are some quick photos. I'll be getting the pro shots from
MusicYo this week:
Standard Synapse guitar
TransScale guitar neck
Member Troy Fancil (tfancil) playing TransScale Synapse guitar
Close-up of guitar piezo bridge
5 string Synapse bass
Prototype L2 bass (circa 1978) & new Synapse 5 string bass
Back of Synapse guitar at factory showing strap extension and contours
Back of TransScale guitar - note output jack behind bridge
Member Troy Fancil (tfancil) playing TransScale Synapse guitar
Shot of standard fixed bridge
Sorry this post is kind of quick and ranting, but know many of you
wanted the details ASAP. Again I'll be editing and appending this
info into a full blown write-up a bit later this week. We also
should have some digital video footage and the official pictures &
notes. Until then feel free to drool while I try to catch my
breath. . .