Category Archives: Guitar gear review
The transcale has a piezo pickup and a bridge that pivots left-right/front-back/up-down via the three screws on top and locks via a single screw on the side. This allows extremely acurate intonation and action setting using a tri-axis rotation to get it just right.
The double ball transcale strings I got were not well made so I switched to single ball D’Addario flat wound chrome 10’s. The high E and B strings slip from the head screws, so I took an old ball from another string and wound it on the high E and it works like a charm! The B string still slips but I torqued it’s screw in a bit more and it’s held for two weeks.
Now about the sound: this guitar is made for any tone you wish to extract from it! The flatwound chromes give it a silky smooth feel, and I adjusted the action simply by pivoting the bridge in about ten minutes to perfection. I cannot believe how bar chords become a dream to play. The tone on this guitar is extremely clean and wide in frequency spectrum due to the mix of piezo and EMG active humbucking coupled with the baritone timbres that the neck does a superb job of not damping. The guitar has extremely good sustain and I get clean jazz tones that rival Lee Ritenour’s Gibson L5 CES.
The neck is similar to the Gibson 50’s profile found on it’s first edition Robot LP, which I have as well. So it’s a bit beefier toward the joint but if the action is adjusted right, it’s very comfortable to play.
Bending is not a good thing on this guitar because it does not have the lateral stabilization afforded by a nut, as the strings are held down by a capo that can be rolled from baritone scale length to mandolin-esque length. It maintains timbre but if you bend strings, they will slip under the capo and if feels like the guitar gets wonky when you get a string slip under the capo toward another string. So all in all, excellent tone, timbre, hard rock to jazz tonality, but no bending.
This guitar will make an Al Di Meola out of players who are willing to adapt their playing to the constraints of the guitar but will drive players with a set way of playing totally crazy.
I think it has a lesson to teach us – flexibility in a different set of directions than the ones we are used to, on other guitars. But at a price – we have to be willing to adapt to get the reward and benefit of it’s awesome tonal width and timbral range.
I cannot put it down when I start to play it through my Roland Cube 60 or Epi Blues Custom 30 (but not bends…).
I hope there will be a future version that has a built in MIDI capability using the Graphtech MIDI hex pickup system. In the meantime, I am thinking of putting a Roland GK-3 on it near the bridge using the tape mounting method, and send it’s sound via the GR-20 guitar synth to experiment further.
First the -0.5 point deduction on quality due to poor Steinberger strings: I bought a red one last week, came with crappy light baritone Steinberger strings, B & high E strings were twisted so I replaced the whole set with Steinberger Std. Baritone double balls. The 5th string didn’t fit the groove on the head. Too thick to fit so I switched to D’Addario flat wound chrome 11’s with single ball ends, using the screws in the head to secure them. (It takes double balls or regular strings).
Then I intonated the bridge by adjusting the three screws on it after loosening the side screw. The action came out perfect, but the high E & B strings kept slipping as I tuned it. So I ended up making my own double ball on the high E by using the ball from an old discarded string and twisting the string around it at the right length.
The action is so perfect I hardly touch it for perfect bar chords across the length of the neck now!
I put it through an Epiphone Blues Custom 30 amp and tried the various piezo/EMG active pickup settings and switched to neck, both and bridge pickups while changing the treble and bass tone knobs. The sound quality and variation in tone and timbre when rolling the capo from zero to second fret is simply astounding. This guitar a beguilingly innocent looking – but can turn into Hellboy in a second. I can take it from superb jazz tones that remind me of Lee Ritenour’s Gibson L5 ($12000 guitar) on Stolen Moments all the way to AC/DC tone snarling fire on every note in two seconds flat going straight to the amp without any pedals in-between.
I then ran it through my Roland GT-8/RC-50 looper into my headphones. Using the GT-8, I applied about 100 different patches using various amp/speaker pairs to it. The tonal range and width on this guitar is very large coming from the EMG active pickups and the awesome one-piece piezo bridge. Ned Steinberger responded to an email by me that it’s one piece to ensure superb piezo tonality, although he could have done a six piece hex bridge and pickup system (I was looking for MIDI from a hex piezo PUP on this guitar so wrote to him to ask).
Despite the initial string mess I got into due to poor Steinberger string quality, the guitar is utterly astounding – the neck is phenolic – try finding that in anything under $5000 – Parker Nite Fly is probably the closest to this neck, but the graphite U channel by the truss rod that give so this guitar it’s extreme stability is patented so cannot be found anywhere else.
Buy this guitar! You won’t find anything better to play any style you want to! I have a Gibson original robot, an Epiphone Black Beauty, a Yamaha nylon string and three acoustics plus an Ibanez Mikro. The Synapse Transcale Custom is all I keep playing since I received it. Whatta guitar man! Simply astounding sound and balance, playability and tone. There is a slight gouge in the back of the guitar so when it’s snug against your body, it tilts so you can see the entire fretboard clearly without having to lean forward. So you feel totally comfortable, and at 6.5lbs, this thing can be used all night and all day without getting your vertebrae crushed.
The rolling capo is good but you have to watch it when playing open string chords, as the side protrudes and interferes a bit with your index finger but it’s easily avoided once you become aware of it. The capo shines in that I can move it around at will during a song and it yields low, thundering rumbles on baritone scale at zero fret, while going to mandolinesque tones in the next moment by moving it past the 5th fret.