My B string Shootout- Conklin vs. Dingwall vs. Smith vs. Warrior

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Eric Cioe, Jul 15, 2003.

  1. Eric Cioe

    Eric Cioe Supporting Member

    Jun 4, 2001
    Holland, MI
    A new music store opened up about 2 miles from my home, called Firehouse music. It is a chain store, having about 3 other stores. One of them specializes in guitars, one in drums, and this is the bass store, or it is becoming that.

    I first went in about a month ago, and lo and behold there was a Dingwall Afterburner 5 hanging on the wall. I tried it out, and liked it a lot. A week later, there were two more hi end basses in- a used lacewood Ken Smith 5, and a used Warrior 5 with a Music Man style pickup (and the rounded body style, not the angular one).

    A few days ago I got the bright idea to do a B string shootout between these 3 basses, and my Conklin GT-7.

    So the test basses were-

    My Conklin GT-7 - $1000
    Dingwall Afterburner 5 - $1700
    Smith neckthrough 5 - $1650
    Warrior 5 - $1700

    My Conklin's scale length is 34, the Dingwall's B is 37, and I am pretty sure the other two were 35s.

    Amp with all basses- Ampeg B-5r with BSE 4x10(ported) and 1x15 cabinets. Clean channel only, run flat.

    First bass- Dingwall 5. Let me say that the B string on this bass is great. The string itself is very tight, and when you start playing on it quickly, it keeps definition and doesn't get sloppy. I went through all 4 pickup combinations, and some sounded better than others on the B, but the general consensus was that 'this B string is great.'

    Second bass- Smith 5. I think the tone of the whole bass isn't great. Maybe it's the lacewood, because I've played 2 other Smiths that were pretty good. That said, the B string was pretty good. It wasn't as deep or clear as the Dingwall, but more like a big pillow of bottom. When I started to play some faster parts on the B, it started to loose defintion, but it was still pretty good.

    Third bass- Warrior 5. I don't know about this instrument. It's the only Warrior I've ever played, so I can't compare it to others, but it isn't versatile at all, and doesn't even sound that great at what it does, in my opinion. It only had one pickup- a music man style pickup, with a series/paralel (I think) switch. I don't know which setting was which, but one of them sounded much more full on the B. The B wasn't bad, but not what I'd expect from a $1700 used bass. It was similar to the Smith, but sloppier.

    Last bass- my Conklin GT-7. I'd say that the B on this bass almost tied the Dingwall. It was deeper and more clear than the Smith or Warrior, but it also had the versatility enough to dial in some warm B tones.

    The verdict- scale length makes no difference in B string tones. The shortest and the longest had the best B's by my ear, and the two "must have for a good B" scale lengths weren't nearly as articulate as the 34 or the 37.

    So, on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best B of the day...

    Dingwall Afterburner 5....10.0
    Conklin GT-7...............9.8
    Ken Smith lacewood 5.......8.6
    Warrior MM 5...............7.2

    Side notes- the Smith was the only neck through, the others were bolt on. All the strings had been replaced about a month ago, all with Dean Markley (I helped restring them, it's my bass teacher's store), except for the Dingwall, which came new to the store a month ago with whatever strings Sheldon uses.
  2. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Thanks for the review. There are a couple of things I would point out, in reference to your "Scale length makes no difference" statement.

    1) The Smith has a 34" scale, and I'm pretty sure the Warrior does too. So, you compared three 34" scale basses with one fanned fret bass that had a 37" scale B.

    2) All three basses were rather different in the woods they used, the neck construction, the pickups, etc.

    So, you can't really conclude from your test the "scale length makes no difference in B tones", only that "scale length isn't the only thing that makes a difference in B tones". After all, you had three 34" scale basses, all of which had rather different B's. And also, "It's possible to have a very good B with a 34" scale".

  3. ColonelZulu

    ColonelZulu Not Impressed By Those Who Flaunt “Authority” Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    Good feedback.

    I usually like Smiths for the mids/highs. I only messed with one Conklin, just not for me. I saw a Dingwall once, that's it. I also tried a Warrior Soldier. I have to agree that the tone was pretty limited. Also, the body of the bass was too close to the strings where I dig in with my right thumb and middle finger. The action was crazy low.

    I thought I'd get more out of a Warrior. Maybe the Studio/Signature models are mo' better.

    So far, nothing touches the B on my Warwick Thumb.
  4. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    These basses were all hanging in a music store, correct? If so, you had no control over the following:

    1) String gauge and brand
    2) String freshness

    These are two critical factors, particularly #2, because the difference between "brand new" and "kinda new" strings could mean the difference between a rating of 7 and 10. A set of strings doesn't necessary die evenly: it's possible (and even likely IME) that the B string will start to fade first. So, while your comments are very interesting, I would not draw too many conclusions from them! :)
  5. Eric Cioe

    Eric Cioe Supporting Member

    Jun 4, 2001
    Holland, MI
    Actually, I was there when new strings (Dean Markley SR2000's) were put on the Smith and Warrior a month ago. The Dingwall had new strings when it was shipped a month ago. So, #1 is somewhat controled (my bass has month old SR2000's on), but you're spot on about #2.

    Ok, so scale length isn't the only factor in a good B. However, many people make it out to be the ONLY factor, and only want 35" scale basses. That is limiting.
  6. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    I completely agree.
  7. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    You're quite right--scale length is a factor, but only one among many, and probably not the most important one. It's quite possible to make a 35" scale bass with a sucky B!

    Also, it's great that you had the chance to do a "head to head" test, because it seems like having other reference points right there to compare to can make a huge difference. Memory gets kinda tricky when trying to recall how the bass you tried 2 months ago compares to the one you have in your hands at the moment!

    Thanks again,
  8. Eric Cioe

    Eric Cioe Supporting Member

    Jun 4, 2001
    Holland, MI
    Thanks for the kind words Mike. If any other higher end basses come through the door, I'll be sure to do more of these. My bass teacher is the manager, and we did this last night after the store officially closed, and I'm sure we could do more stuff like this.
  9. bben

    bben Guest

    Feb 28, 2002
    Santa Fe, NM
    Thanks, I think these types of direct comparisons are very useful.
  10. I used to be one of those "35 inch scale or nothing" guys until I was looking for a high end bass and picked up a Pedulla. 34" scale and it blew all the 35" scale basses that I had played that day out of the water in both sound and feel of the low B.

    Made me a believer that there are many other, dare I say, more important factors than scale length.
  11. If I get another 6 string bass, it will be a John Myung sig Yamaha, I have heard it had a great B.
  12. Eric Cioe

    Eric Cioe Supporting Member

    Jun 4, 2001
    Holland, MI
    That wasn't my experience, but if you like it, go for it.
  13. Bernie Connors

    Bernie Connors Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2002
    Indiana, USA
    If you check out JT's website, he talks about factors that determine a good low B. Rigidity of the neck, and the overall mass of the instrument are the two he thinks have the biggest effect.
  14. j-raj

    j-raj Bassist: Educator/Soloist/Performer Supporting Member

    Jan 14, 2003
    St. Johns, FL
    Eric Cioe,

    You put time and effort into this and it is hip to get reviews from fellow TB'ers... Thx dude.

    One thing that I'm assuming might not has been seen, Was the B & E Strings on the Warrior going through the body or fixed at the bridge... The reason I say this is that I also was a cat that would only consider a B-stringed bass if it was going to have a 35 inch scale length. The Warrior 5 string Soldier that I have has both the B & E Strings going through the body, opposed to the A D G strings that are just at the bridge.

    IMO it does make a difference. I had changed the strings due to a set up and completely didn't realize that I was supposed to use 'Extra-Long Scale' bass strings. This was to afford me the length of the B & E Strings going through the body. The diffence was that the low two strings didn't sound as full and the sustain wasn't entirely all there. Like before

    Did the other basses that you tried have some/all strings routed through the body?

    Just a thought...
  15. Eric Cioe

    Eric Cioe Supporting Member

    Jun 4, 2001
    Holland, MI
    Yeah, I saw that it had the ferules (is that the word?) on the end of the body, but the B and E were top loaded like the rest of them. All of them were top load, otherwise known as "not string through body."
  16. Hi Eric:
    Thanks for the time and effort to do this review.

    Like yourself, I also found that Dingwalls had the most playable, most articulate, and best sounding B string (thats why i play them). The next closest great sounding B string I found was on a Zon.

    So since many of us don't play all that often on the Bstring- would you also comment/review what you thought about playability and tone of the 4 basses as well. (as you know B string is the only reason to play a bass)

    As an FYI-Sheldon has his own strings custom wound (there really long). Not sure who the maker is.
  17. j-raj

    j-raj Bassist: Educator/Soloist/Performer Supporting Member

    Jan 14, 2003
    St. Johns, FL
    Yeah that might make a difference... After that one time with the 'regular scale strings', I will now always use the extended length ones through the body... I think the B is quite clean and clear... that's IMO... Granted the other bass that is my work-horse is a Fender Jazz MIA with LaBella Flats on it, cause I do a bunch of Blues, Zydeco and Motown... So who knows..
  18. Eric Cioe

    Eric Cioe Supporting Member

    Jun 4, 2001
    Holland, MI
    Yeah, I can do that next monday when I go in again. Let me warn you- my Conklin is already top in playability, no doubt.
  19. Eric:
    I care not who is the winner of the bass shootout, lets face its all in the eyes (and ears) of the beholder.
    I would like to know how your thought on how the basses played; how easy they were to get around on the neck, how the neck felt, how easy it was to dial in a good tone, and how suitable the tones were.
    I figured since you logged in time on the B-strings, you musta fiddled w/ the dials.
    Just curious on your thoughts. The B-string alone wouldn't sell me on a bass.
  20. Eric Cioe

    Eric Cioe Supporting Member

    Jun 4, 2001
    Holland, MI
    Very true, that the B string doesn't sell the bass, but it seems to be a big requirment for a 5 string.