Initial Impressions -- Warwick FNA Jazzman

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BLU Dragon, Mar 21, 2004.

  1. Well, I've had my new Warwick FNA Jazzman for a little over 24 hours now, so it's time to file a report of my initial impressions with the gang here at TalkBass. (Beware -- Long post follows) I don't have a digital camera, so I can't post pictures, yet, but it looks very similar to the one posted in Groove Tools' thread about the same model bass, since it has the same finish. I'll try to scan in some pictures of mine when the photos come back from Wal-Mart.

    I've never thought that the body shape of Warwick basses was particularly attractive. You could even say it's downright ugly. But, of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And even I must admit that this one looks pretty darn nice. The FNA Jazzman has an ash body with a maple top (this one has a nice "flame" figure). Mine has the "Honey Violin" finish, which is a medium brown. It lets the figure in the maple top show through nicely, and is easily my favorite Warwick finish. Gold hardware. I'm not usually crazy about gold hardware, either, but it seems to go nicely against the brown tones of the bass. Probably the ideal choice for this bass. It probably wouldn't look as nice if it had chrome or black hardware. It is also my understanding that Warwick does a very good job of plating their gold hardware, which addresses another of my concerns about gold hardware -- that it tends to chip off very easily. From what I've heard, that won't be a problem with a Warwick.

    Quality Tuners (made by Grover, I believe, for Warwick)
    Action can be set up just about any way you want (Both the bridge and the graphite nut are adjustable)
    MEC pups (1 jazz bass type and one MusicMan type).
    Active 3-band eq (with cut-off switch for the active electronics), volume and blend knob on a single shaft (which also has the active/passive switch), three way mini-toggle for three different wiring options for the MM pup.
    Stable and highly adjustable bridge.
    Nice woods used throughout, with exotic "tone woods" used in the neck & fingerboard (ovangkol neck w/ wenge 'board).

    My main gigging bass for about 25 years has been a Fender Jazz bass. You should also understand that, while I've owned a variety of basses over the years, I've never owned any of the "prestige" basses out there, such as Sadowsky, Lull, Fodera, Elrick, F-Bass, etc... So, my frame of reference is one of strictly utilitarian bass designs -- good enough to get the gig done, but certainly NOT the pinnacle of the bass builders art. That having been said, this is clearly the finest bass I've ever owned in terms of quality of construction. The quality shows through in every detail. From the quality of the wood chosen for the instrument and the quality of the "bell brass" used in the frets, to the comfortable shape of the heel joint, to the incredibly stable (and highly adjustible) bridge, this bass oozes quality and attention to detail at every turn. I'm absolutely delighted with the quality of workmanship on this bass. Very, very nice. I could definitely get used to this. :cool:

    The playing test:
    I gave up playing bar gigs many years ago, so I couldn't give it a workout on a club date. What I did do is set it up in my basement music room, and played along with several CDs, to see how the tone of the instrument sat in various musical contexts. I have about 600 CDs available for immediate access in two Sony 400 disc changers, and a pretty nice hi-fi system with Paradigm Reference series speakers. So, this might not be as much fun as inviting several of the world's greatest bands over to my house to jam, but the sound is about the same.

    Testing set-up:
    I have various amps to choose from, and the big concert rig (from my gigging days) is a component system, in which various preamps can be inserted in front of the power amp. I set up two amps. One is an Ampeg SVT III, and the other is my SansAmp PSA-1, feeding into one channel of a Crest power amp. Both were hooked up to identical speaker cabs. The SansAmp is their top of the line preamp that uses analog electronics to mimic the sound of various amplifiers, but uses digital electronics to store the settings of the knobs. There are, I think, 99 patch settings, half of which are pre-programmed at the factory, the others are for custom use. It is flexible enough to replicate both guitar and bass amps. I use some of the factory bass amp patches, and have developed several of my own. It gives me a variety of bass amp sounds from vintage to modern, all of which can be called up instantly, just by switching to another patch. First I called up the "SVT patch" and compared it to the sound I got from the actual Ampeg amp, tweaked them until they were almost exactly identical, and adjusted the gain on the power amp until they were matched. Then, I plugged my Fender "60s Jazz Bass" into the Ampeg (this was to serve as the "reference rig"), and plugged the new Warwick Jazzman into the SansAmp/Crest rig. Played them on several different songs in a variety of musical styles. Spent about four or five hours jamming, switching back and forth, but playing mostly on the Warwick.

    The results:
    First of all, I noticed that, even though I had been playing Fenders almost all of my bass playing life (almost 30 years), it was not at all difficult to adjust to the Warwick neck. The Warwick came with a factory set-up that has about the same string height as I have on my Fender. I think I'm going to drop it a bit. Maybe even quite a bit. The Warwick just seems to cry out for a really fast action. But, even as it is, I can tell that the neck is just "faster" than the JB. This may be a function of the closer string spacing, or the shape and finish on the neck. But, whatever the explanation might be, the fact of the matter is that the Warwick is extremely fast and easy to play.

    Tonal flexibility of the bass is pretty impressive, too. Although it always sounded "like a Warwick" in all settings (you can never mistake that "Warwick sound"), there was still an incredibly diverse spectrum of sounds available within the instrument. This was true even before I started experimenting with different amp sounds. (In fact, of all the times I've played various Warwick basses that belong to different friends of mine, one of the things that impressed me MOST about them was the fact that Warwicks always seem to sound good no matter what amp you plug them into. This is most certainly NOT true with Fenders. A Fender bass can either sound absolutely wonderful, with the right amplifier, or totally uninspiring with the wrong one. In particular, old Fenders don't like ultra-clean "boutique" amp sound. Seems you need a certain amount of "grind" going on in the amp, or your tone just isn't happening. With a Warwick, I've never heard them sound anything but great, no matter if they were plugged into a cheapie practice amp, or a high dollar preamp, or a classic, heavily distorted, rock and roll stack.) So, the tone is not only consistently excellent, it also offers a number of nice variations on the basic Warwick tone, AND it seems to be able to retain that quality tone through a variety of bass rigs. When you add to that the fact that it also PLAYS pretty doggone well, too, you've got a very compelling list of traits for a bass to have, IMHO.

    The tone also seemed to set very well in the mix and, once again, seemed to work well in a wide variety of settings. Even several of the songs that were originally recorded with a classic Fender bass (Little Feat's live album "Waiting for Columbus," for example) seemed to sound fine when played with the Warwick. There are enough tonal variations available on the bass, that it is very hard to find something where the bass does not fit in well. In fact, the only recording that I came across where I just could NOT make the Warwick sound right was an 1970 recording by Van Morrison (Moondance). Even with the neck pup soloed and the treble and mids rolled off, it still never really sounded right in that context. Only the Fender seemed to be a good "fit" for that music. (At least to my ears.)

    The bottom line is that this is a very, very impressive instrument, all the way around. I'm quite sure that this will become my main bass for many, if not most musical situations that I am likely to run across. (I play with a jazz combo at the local college, and regularly attend an informal jam session with some friends once per month. A few other playing opportunities also come along from time to time.)

    Gripes and complaints:
    It's really hard to find anything about this bass that I'm not pleased with. But there are a couple of things. First of all, it does not come with Schaller Straplocks. Furthermore, it is my understanding that there is no good way to install them on a Warwick, since Schallers use a standard #6 wood screw, and Warwick uses a heavier #10. It probably won't be a problem, since the strap buttons seem big enough to hold a strap securely. But, I've equipped all my other basses with the Schaller straplock system, and it would be nice if this one had it, too. I will probably just unscrew the strap button, screw it down on the strap with washers on each side of the strap, and just leave that strap permanently attached to the bass. No biggie.

    A more significant problem is the fact that the B string is not quite as solid as I would like. Its certainly useable as it is, and it is definitely better than many others I've heard. But I've also heard better. (The Lakland fivers are an example of an excellent B sting, IMHO.) Of course, all the other basses that had stronger B strings seem to have been built on a 35" scale. This one's a 34". You can order your FNA Jazzman with a 35" scale, if you like, but its a fairly expensive option (almost $300 retail). If a really strong B is important to you, you should probably cough up the extra $$$ and get that option. Personally, I will probably just settle with what I've got. It's certainly useable, as is. [Note: I no longer consider this to be a complaint. Please refer to the additional information provided in a later post.]

    Really nice bass, though. I'm definitely going having fun with it, and expect to spend many, many years playing this instrument. I'm a pretty happy camper, right now. :D

    [Edited slightly for content and accuracy.]
  2. crazytom


    Mar 21, 2004
    First off I just wanted to congradulate you on the purchase of your first Warwick.

    my good friend Tony Hunley informed me of this thread so I thought i would come and post a reply.

    I own the exact same model except mine is red. I used to own a 5 string fender american jazz bass, and the jazz bass is quite pale in comparison to the Warwick. The thing plays and sounds extremely nice compared to any other bass I have ever played. The B string on it is really tight, it's a lot tighter than the Fender or my old Carvin.

    I installed straplocks on my Warwick, I just filled the hole with wood and wood glue and let it dry and then screwed it in. I haven't had a problem out of it.

    The nut is made out of graphite. They used have brass nuts on the basses, I wish they still did. and they were also adjustable for height.

    I've owned mine for over a year now and I'm getting ready to buy a 6 string Warwick. :bassist:

    But anyway, have fun playing your Warwick. and God bless
  3. Ah, yes. Tony has mentioned your name to me before. Tony's a really good guy. And really dedicated to the art of bass playing. He practices more than any other bass player I've ever met.

    Thanks for the encouraging words. Yeah, I'm totally diggin' this bass. Going to go downstairs in a minute, and play it some more, maybe through some different amps.

    I had actually considered installing a straplock system using the method you described, but haven't decided yet. I don't really think I want to do that to the Warwick. The #10 screws that Warwick uses are probably much more stable than the ones that come with the Schaller system. And I HAVE had Schallers strip out before. I might try to find another way to securely attach the strap without changing the screw. I already had one strap laying around that didn't have a straplock on it, so I'm covered for now, until I figure out what I'm going to do about this.

    Also, I didn't mean to sound like I thought the B string on the Warwick was terrible. I traded in another fiver on it that was a LOT worse. It's just that I've heard better. That was what I was trying to say. Not a bad B string, but not the best I've heard, either. It's certainly acceptable. "Good enough for Rock and Roll" as they say.

    I see that this is your first post on TalkBass. Welcome to the coolest site on the web! This place is like a Mecca for us low enders. Stay and visit awhile.

    Thanks again for your reply.
  4. Tfunked


    Dec 30, 2003
    I like all the tones you can get from the J / MM set up.


  5. Thanks, man. I agree. Warwick was smart to add the J pup. Definitely adds some more useful tones to the mix.
  6. My right hand loves having thumb acnhoring options. The offset of the J pickup puts it a little closer to the bridge. All of the Enwhistle/Lee-type runs are played with the right hand on the J; more driving/grooving material usually gets played with the thumb on the MM.
  7. O.K. I've spent more than a week with my new baby, now, and have some further impressions to share with the TalkBass gang.

    First of all, let's deal with the matter of the B string. I had initially reported that I wasn't entirely satisfied with the quality of the B string. Well, I think that problem has been resolved, and it was more a function of the cabinets I've been using, than the bass. I've switched from 15" JBL E140s to an Aggie GS112 (I plan to add another one), and this seems to have tightened the B string right up. The B also sounds fine through the headphone out of my Boss GT-6B, which I've been playing around with quite a bit. So, while I still don't think it is absolutely the BEST B string I've ever heard, it is certainly much more impressive than I initially believed. Perfectly useable, as is. Pretty darn nice, actually. About a 9 out of 10.

    Furthermore, while the tone does seem to be extremely flexible, and seems to fit into a wide variety of musical contexts, I've also been surprised to find that it seems to be working best (for me, at least) in exactly the places where I DIDN'T expect it to. For example, I had planned on staying with my jazz bass for the jazz combo that I play in, but switching to the Warwick for the jam band that I also play with. Well, I've played with both groups in the past week, and I found that the Warwick sounded GREAT with the jazz combo, but thought that the jazz sounded better with the jam band. Of course, more experimentation will certainly be needed. In addition to playing the new bass, I've also switched out my entire amplifier chain with that group, adding not only the new Aggie, but also the Boss GT-6B as a preamp feeding directly into one channel of my Crest power amp.

    This is also largely a function of the material we have been doing in that band, which could change with the NEXT jam session. This is an open jam session, held once per month, and the type of material we play depends upon who shows up that month. We've played everything from hard rock to country to Beatles songs. Recently, two of the people who have been showing up on a regular basis (a guitarist and harp player) are primarily blues players. Yesterday's jam session was, therefore, almost entirely a blues jam. The Fender just seemed to suit that kind of music better. Next month, if the guy who wanted to just play Beatles songs all day shows up again, then the next jam session might be mostly a Beatles tribute band. And the Warwick might work better for that context. It might also work better for country crossover, or metal, or whatever else may come along. But it didn't seem to be the optimal choice for blues. (Your mileage may vary, of course.)

    I still haven't figured out what to do about the lack of straplocks. I really hate to fill the screw cavities and insert a straplock system that uses a smaller, less substantial screw to retain the strap button. I have just been using a regular strap, but after using straplocks for 20 some odd years, that just doesn't feel very secure to me. Will probably just try to attach the strap permanently to the bass with washers, using the #10 screws that came on the bass. Any suggestions?

    I've also noticed that the jazz pup does, indeed, make a nice thumbrest, as Plankspanker13 has mentioned.

    All in all, I've been VERY pleased with this axe, so far. It's definitely a keeper. :cool:
  8. leishan


    Aug 11, 2002
    Medina, TN
    This review really helped me with deciding on a FNA Jazzman. Thanks for the info BLU Dragon!!!
  9. You're welcome. Glad I could help. :)
  10. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    I'm glad you like yours. They are nice basses. Me, too, I love mine - a Corvette Standard 6.
    So, you say a better cab helped heal the B? might as well try that, too, but the B sounds bad even unplugged. Ok, its been on for half a year and its only .119.... TI makes them a bit lighter, but the rest of the set is good. Now I am trying to get a set of DRs - but it seems impossible to get them here :(

    One advice I've heard from someone: make sure to tighten all parts - especially those little black parts on which the string rests in the bridge

  11. Knavery


    Feb 24, 2004
    Denver, CO
    I'm still waiting on my Honey Violin FNA Jazzman. They shipped it last weekend and I have yet to see it. I suppose it takes about 6-10 days.

  12. Believe me!!! every second is worth waiting!!! for that bass I( have one just like the one you are getting. Its truly amazing. you'll be impressed.
  13. Yep. In particular, my 15" JBLs didn't seem to like the B string. It sounded much better through the 15 in my SWR Bassic Black and sounded great through the headphone outputs of my Boss GT-6B. Just didn't sound right through my big "concert rig." Heck, I just got back from rehearsal with my jazz combo, and it even sounded pretty good through my little Workingman's 10, which only has a single 10." Way better than I would have guessed. (Admittedly, though, this amp sounds much better with a little help on the low end from the Aggie GS112.)

    But, if your B string sounds bad even acoustically, I'd say that you've got a different problem than with the cabinet. A problem with setup would be my guess. I think you're on the right track trying different strings. Make sure the bass is set up properly, too. I definitely think it's a problem that can be resolved. And probably a lot more cheaply than buying a new cabinet.
  14. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Well, I need to get a better cab anyway, so...
    The problem is with the strings, rather - and the suply of strings... :bawl:
    I have waited for 1,5 months for a set of TIs from neighbouring Austria, and I've been trying to get DRs for two months now - the only solution left is to go get it myself in Austria... stupid dealers :mad:
  15. Just wanted to say thank you to all the TBers who took the time to read and/or reply to my long winded post. Just had to share the word about my awesome new bass. Knew that TalkBass would be the place to go talk about my impressions of it. :cool:
  16. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Well, what do you think TalkBASS stands for if not this? ;) :D