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How does Wenge compare to Maple as a neck wood?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Flux Jetson, Jul 29, 2012.


  1. I'm nearly done penciling out my next Warmoth. I really like bare necks (necks with no finishes) and I've used Padouk a number of times. To me Padouk sounds so much like Maple that I can't really tell any difference.

    Wenge seems to get some catchy remarks made about it, Warmoth says it's very "punchy" and midrangey.

    I don't have any way of testing it out myself without simply buying a Wenge neck, so I was hoping to hear what others may have to say about it's tonal qualities. Compare it to ... ley's say .. Maple.

    Wenge is the same price as Padouk from Warmoth, just to get "that" out there.

    To satisfy the curious, I was planning on using (perhaps) Rosewood or maybe even Ebony (depending on how much I have to spend) as a fretboard. And, as always, stainless frets. The body will most likely be Alder ... maybe Maple, again depending on available fundolas. It is to be a four string. Still haven't settled on nut material yet ...

    Thanks.
     
  2. TinIndian

    TinIndian Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2011
    Micco Florida
    I have a 96 Warwick Fortress with a Wenge neck. It is the best feeling neck I've ever had and I don't necessarily mean the profile. The feel of that wood is amazing and it is very stable. I can tell you my bass is quite punchy, but I cannot attribute that to the neck alone. It is now my favorite neck wood and I will be looking for another Warwick with a Wenge neck for sure. There was recently a poll in the Warwick section on neck wood. 80% prefered the WEnge neck over Maple, if that helps you any.
     
  3. NelsonNelson

    NelsonNelson

    Sep 25, 2011
    I had a wenge neck from Warmoth on a guitar back in the day before I switched to the low end. I think wenge gives a bit of brightness, but not as much as maple, with more of a kick to the mids and lows as well.

    I would personally combine it with an alder body or a similar warm sounding wood for that punchy but smooth jazz tone. Swamp ash will give you a much more brighter sound...more suitable for rock type stuff...but it's not as versatile in my experience.

    If you've not considered it, bloodwood fretboards are beautiful looking and will give that added brightness you're looking for too.
     
  4. pickles

    pickles Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    IME it is very hard, very stiff, with high-voiced treble (like 5-8k+), and a woody, direct, responsive tone. Almost like graphite in some ways, but with a woody tone.

    Maple's highs are strong but voiced lower, so its more "bright" and less "shine" up top.

    You could go with Poplar for the body, like an MTD 535, also my favorite wood with graphite. Adds a bit of round and squishy punch to go with all that intensity and clarity.
     
  5. Huh .. now this I did not expect to hear. For some reason I had it in my head that Wenge was softer/midrangey-er. I've considered Poplar bodies .. mainly because it's REALLY cost effective (bodies for like $135). I had it all wrong in my head .. thanks for clearing it up for me.

    I know that I love the feel of the Padouk necks I have .. so if Wenge is anything as good as that I'll be pretty happy.

    So, how do you think Wenge would work out with .. let's say .. a mahogany body? Tonality wise I mean. I'm into the whole 70's rock bass trip ... Chris Squire, Geddy Lee, Billy Sheehan, and even Mike Dirnt. I play through Baer ML112 (1x12 + 1x6) and a Carvin BRX 10.2 (2x10). So whaddya finkin' on Mahogany body w/Wenge neck? Keep in mind I'll be using stainless frets for certain (they wear so well and I live NO-WHERE even close to a luthier). This bass will be passive, w/no onboard preamp, and the pickups will be wired straight out - each one with it's own output jack.

    Thanks.
     
  6. pickles

    pickles Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    All of the people you mentioned use maple necks, maple fingerboards and 3 of the 4 use alder bodies. The other maple.

    If you are going to do something unusual I'd find an example of a bass made from those woods and read some reviews before proceeding.
     
  7. That's precisely what I'm attempting to do.

    As far as what those people I mentioned use ... that's all well and good. Which is why I use Padouk so much (it's sounds a lot like Maple). But just because one combination of woods makes things happen for "them" doesn't mean another combination wouldn't also work.

    Maple neck + maple fret boards + alder bodies. Isn't Maple "bright"? Someone here said Wenge was "bright" as well.

    In any case, where would you suggest I find a Wenge necked/Alder or Maple bodied bass to read a review about it? I would think the Warmoth group may have something like that in it, but I'm kinda forum-challenged and really don't know how to access that particular set of members. I'm really not one of the smartest people you'll run into. :) Kinda more like the "dull knife in the drawer" or perhaps the "dim bulb on the x-mas tree".

    Thanks.
     
  8. Hapa

    Hapa

    Apr 21, 2011
    Tustin, CA
    +1

    I have had MTD's with Wenge on Wenge necks and it is what got me hooked on wenge.I have played warwicks with wenge necks. I own a 1 piece wenge neck, 1 piece Maple necks and maple on maple necks. I am a big fan of Wenge but Maple is hard to over come. Wenge has a very fast attack and seems to give a low mid bump around 400hz and a high mid around 1-2khz. If you have good technique then if you will get great articulation... the high end frequency range doesn't get buried easily. If you play hard and have string noise issues then you will likely hear it as clacky. I have found that Wenge is also more specific to what kind of strings it is wearing. Again the shift in the high end changes what you hear out of a given string. Technically speaking, the stiffness of the neck is a lot of what I like about the wood, setting tone aside. I have not had to make a truss rod adjustment on my neck really at all since it was made, with little tension on the rod over all. Upon moving to the uber dry climate of Arizona my neck stayed stable and had no fret sprout.
     
    TonyP- likes this.
  9. PDGood

    PDGood Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    Wenge is further up the Janka hardness scale than Northern Maple. Something like 1400's compared to 11-1200's. Of course, individual pieces vary.

    It's interesting to open the discussion on tone woods of the neck. Traditionally people agree they can hear the difference it fretboards, but argue like crazy over whether the body makes a significant difference. I hadn't even heard anyone mention the neck below the fretboard - that could stir a whole new debate. Think I'll stay out of that one.

    If you want something different, you might consider Jatoba which is waaaay on up the hardness scale and therefore makes a rock solid neck. The weight is reasonable too.
     
  10. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    I haven't played too many padouk necks, but wenge tends to have a fairly open grain, so a simple oil finish doesn't necessarily quite feel as smooth on a wenge neck as it does on some other more close-grained woods. It depends on the specific piece and the finish used, though.
     
  11. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    That is what I hear on the wenge-necked MTDs I've had, as well. The pickups and strings that MTD probably emphasize that a little bit, but I've heard it on other wenge-necked basses I've owned, too.
     
  12. curbowkid

    curbowkid Guest

    Jun 27, 2011
    Brooklyn, New York
    It depends on the cut and finishing method. My ibanez sr506 has a wenge bubinga neck, feels extremely smooth. Where as a few other basses I've played with wenge necks feel a little more rough. So it's all about the cut and the finishing method. If I wanted I could get wenge feeling just as smooth as a hard rock maple neck ;)
     
  13. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    True, but I think it takes more than a simple oil finish. Maybe some of the newer oil-urethane blends? The early wenge-necked 535 I had was a little rough feeling, but it seems like the recent ones I've played have all all felt pretty smooth.
     
  14. spufman

    spufman

    Feb 7, 2005
    Central CT
    I have some great maple necks including what I consider the best one I've ever played, on my EBMM Sterling - sounds, feels and adjusts to perfection. I recently got a '97 Warwick with full wenge and I have to say, I'm really impressed. It is stiff as hell for starters - came into my house in an incredibly up-down humidity time and it's remained steady and flat the whole while. I'm one of those weirdos who likes to press various parts of a bass against my ear-bones and compare highs, lows and chords. The wenge neck sounds incredible here, Really rich, deep and beautiful, the tone blossoms with a growl and sustains like a maniac. I don't know if they're all like this one or if the bell-brass frets are a part of it, but I am sold on wenge being a different and desirable alternative to even a top-notch maple neck. Feels great too (though that Sterling neck still feels most like home).
     
  15. RCCollins

    RCCollins Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    San Diego, California
    Warwick's wenge necks (standard through 1998 or so) were always unfinished and un-oiled. They require very little protection, and rely on the oils from your palm. I've played dozens of these and they remain straight and stable after 15-20 years or more. YMMV.
     
  16. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    I wasn't making any mention at all of the stability, just of how smooth (or not) a wenge neck feels with no finish or just an oil finish.
     
  17. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    Keep in mind though that it's still nice to be able to make truss road adjustments without too much difficulty!

    Mike Tobias has changed the way he finishes his wenge necks. They are now a lot smoother to the touch.

    The only wenge necked basses I've owned have been MTDs (four of them) and they have all been paired with wenge fingerboards. It's difficult, therefore, for me to know how much of the punchy, slightly choked in the midrange (as Mike would put it) sound was attributable to the neck alone (I would guess much less than the fingerboard). If I were you I'd consider going all wenge (if that's a possibility).
     
  18. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Good to know my impressions were correct!


    My current 535 has a wenge fretboard paired with a maple neck. The tone has a lot of the same aggressiveness and clarity that I associate with the all-wenge necks on my earlier MTDs, but of course it's impossible to entirely separate that from Mike's choice of pickups and electronics.
     
  19. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    You're lucky (and I remember your bass now that you mention it). I'd inquired about wenge on maple and Mike told me he doesn't offer that option anymore (only wenge on wenge) because of supply issues.
     
  20. Sadly, I've never had the privilege to try a wenge neck. I do know a lot of players absolutely rave on and on about their tonal qualities. There's nothing like raw wood underneath your fingers when your're playing. Ever since I bought my Carvin LB75 (Koa 'n Maple w/tung oiled finish) in '97 with the tung-oiled neck, I'm singin' a different tune when it comes to playing a bass with a "natural" finish, compared to a painted neck. If I were you, I'd go with the wenge for the fretboard also. Just to get the full benefit of it.
     

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