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Synapse preview - Part 1

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  • andyyak
    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
    Message 1 of 36 , Jul 25, 2004
      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. . .

      Andy Y.
    • andyyak
      ... One output jack in mono. Again this is a mid level priced instrument, so some concessions have been made. Besides, the jack is placed on a custom
      Message 36 of 36 , Aug 10, 2004
        > Has the output path for the piezo equipped guitars been decided
        > and, if so, what is it?
        > My preference would be separate output jacks in the style of Carvin
        > which has one as a combined mono jack unless you also plug into the
        > other jack, which is for piezo only, which automatically disables
        > the piezo output from the combined jack. This eliminates the need
        > for a stereo cord, which are hard to find and expensive. I realize
        > that space is at a premium on the small body guitar, but since this
        > is only on the hardtails, then all they need to do is widen the
        > recessed area for the jacks.

        One output jack in mono. Again this is a mid level priced
        instrument, so some concessions have been made. Besides, the jack is
        placed on a custom recessed plate on the back of the instrument so
        it's not as easy as just adding another jack.

        > I would also like to put in for completely separate controls for
        > the piezo and magnetics. How you set the tone and volume for piezo
        > is very different from how you set them for magnetic, and that is
        > one of Carvins failings. Consider stacked pots to add versatility
        > while conserving space.

        For guitar there is an internal piezo volume/output level and piezo
        tone control inside the control cavity. Once you set those, there's
        a piezo/mag blend knob on the front. The bass adds dual (high/low)
        tone controls in the cavity along with the output.

        > One last question, since the bass went for the offset cutaway, why
        > didn't they choose to be consistent and do the same for the guitar,
        > thus also ending any visible confusion to the original GL?

        Ned referred to it as a cutout at the preview. In actuality what he
        did is extend the upper body portion. This was necessary on the bass
        for balance - a longer neck cantilevers more and moves the pivot
        point more out towards the neck. The upper "horn" was extended and
        the extension bar is also longer than the guitar one. They could
        have just made a really long extension bar, but I reckon for strength
        and astehetics he went this route. I like it and it will be key for
        the 6 string bass. I've tried to work on some small bodied custom 6
        string basses before so I'm intimately aware of the problem. I
        strapped on the Synpase 5 string and it hung and balanced perfectly.
        So I can safely say the end result is it works as advertised.

        I don't think confusion with the L series was a concern at all. The
        Spirit GT/XT have looked like them for years. The logo will say
        Synapse, the hardware will be different - there will be lots of
        visual clues if you look close enough. They may end up using the
        pickups and hardware on thye GLB's. There you'd have more confusion.
        Then again, I can't tell Mexican and American Strats apart at a
        distance so it's not like this is unique in the instrument world.

        Andy Y.
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