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The Key to a Killer Warwick

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bongostealth, Apr 12, 2012.

  1. bongostealth

    bongostealth Supporting Member

    Jun 3, 2011
    Atlanta, GA
    I currently have two problems: (1) that I am obsessed with Warwicks; and (2) I love tinkering with them. By this I mean, experimenting with pickups and electronics combinations. As a result, I have come across what so far has been the more satisfactory setups, IMHO, and would like to share my findings since there are so many people that are not happy with their current Warwick set up. This is only what I have found and there are other combinations that I'm curious about and would like to try.

    I believe that the key to a killer Warwick is to have a setup that captures the most of the woods' natural tone and growl. There's just no other way for me to stress that enough. A BIG part of this equation is having a good quality preamp with at least 3 bands of EQ... the mids are crucial for Warwick tone.

    I have to point out that all of my testing was done through headphones via a headphone amp. Keep in mind that the way a bass sounds through headphones could be vastly different than how it sounds live. This will all depend on your rig, effects, the venue, etc. All of these factors in their totality can give you a different version of your bass's sound as well as a different "perspective", so to speak. There is no right or wrong set-up and combination. This is all a matter of PERSONAL PREFERENCE.

    Here are my findings...

    For an excellent sounding Warwick (German-made):

    Woods: The Warwicks I've owned have been comprised of Wenge, Bubinga, and Ovangkol. I had a Thumb that had an all-ovangkol body with wenge neck and wenge fingerboard. I felt that this one had a warmer sound to it because of all of the wenge. Wenge is a denser and warmer-sounding wood. However, the "warmth" of that bass was not a hinderance but rather REALLY enhanced the natural Warwick growl. Other Warwicks I've had were all-bubinga with ovangkol necks and some with ebony fingerboard or wenge fingerboard. To me, bubinga seems to be a bit on the brighter side . However, it has a killer natural tone to it. I find that it's perfect for gospel. But then again, it's just killer for any application. I have not tried nor owned a Warwick with any of their other exotic woods such as snakewood, black wood, zebra wood, afzelia wood, etc. However, if Warwick chose those woods, then it's for a pretty damn good reason. 'Nuff said.

    Preferred Brand of Pickups: so far my favorites are MEC and Seymour Duncan Basslines. I would have to say that I prefer the Basslines over the MECs. I find that they are brighter and slightly hotter. They beautifully capture that typical Warwick growl and just sound killer. In addition, you can get a pair of Basslines (the Phase I ASB) for $190. This is an incredible value for what you get.

    Other Brands of Pickups Used: I have previously used Nordstrand Fatstacks, Nordstrand Big Singles, and custom-wound Roscoe Bartolinis. I wasn't too impressed with how these all captured the tone. While they are all excellent pickups, they are not the best option, at least for my taste. The Nordstrands will cause you to lose that piano-like glossy tone. To me they sounded like the highs were capped off. Also, the Nordstrands have exposed magnet poles and large and powerful magnets. Because of the extra magnetic attraction to the strings due to the size of the magnets and the closeness of the pickups to each other (these were installed in a 6-string Thumb), I found that this contributed to slightly increased string tension. Once I switched to Basslines, the string tension was reduced as the magnets in the Basslines are not as powerfull as the Nordstrand Big Singles. The Bartolinis where the same as the Nordstrands (except for the exposed poles and magnet size) but instead had low output. No matter what preamp I used, I found myself having to crank all the way up when using the Bartolinis. Further, any custom sound from the Roscoe Bartolinis went out the window, IMHO, as the natural sound of the Warwick woods drowned out the Roscoe Bartolini custom tone. They ended up sounding pretty must just like regular Bartolinis.

    Pickup Brands to be Tried: I would like to experiment with Delano, SGD, EMG, and Ken Smith pickups (the Ken Smiths for poops and giggles). I've had Delano in other basses and they are just superb. However, they are EXTREMELY transparent and EXPENSIVE. I'm not sure that the value is entirely there simply because of their price. I've also tried EMG in other basses but I have to admit they tend to sound a bit artificial at times and a bit lacking in their versatility. But I could be wrong. The Ken Smiths would definitely be an interesting experiment.

    Prefered Preamps: as of right now, I would have to say that my preferred choice of preamps are: EMG BQC, John East U-Retro, and MEC 3-band equalizer preamp. The EMG is the best value, IMHO. It is transparent, you get great lows and highs as well as sweepable mids. The whole thing is dead-quiet and the best part is the price... all of this for $110! You can't beat it! The only downside is that there is no passive option. Active is all you get. The John East U-Retro is also killer sounding with sweepable mids and a bright push/pull feature. However, the price is not so killer. The U-Retros go for about $325. Ouch! In addition, the U-Retro is a bit on the warmer side. For my personal taste, a Warwick's tone shines through best without added coloration and/or warmth. Finally, the MEC 3-band equalizer preamp is great as well. Transparent, boutique, and effective. Because this preamp works so well with the MEC pickups and the Basslines, I usually just run it either in passive mode or run all of the EQ flat. It gives me delicious Warwick tone!

    Other Preamps Used: I have previously used the MEC 2-band preamp and Aguilar OBP-3. IMHO, the MEC 2-band is not that great nor useful. It's seems to be in a class much lower than it's MEC 3-band equalizer preamp counterpart. It doesn't have mids. The mids, IMHO, is critical for capturing Warwick tone and growl. The Aguilar was good, but I'm not too impressed with how they sound on Warwicks... but that's just me. I've heard them on several Warwicks and I was never really moved. IMHO, the Aguilar preamp is a bit on the darker side. Not warmer, but darker. However, they still manage to be transparent and have great decibel ranges.

    Preamps to be Used: Glockenklang, Delano Sonar, ACG Filter preamp, Mike Pope Flexcore, Bartolini, and Audere 3ZB 4-band. The only problem with wanting to try these is not the preamps themselves but rather that the preamp cavity in most Warwicks is room-prohibitive. There just isn't enough room in there for 4 or 5 pots plus switches. Not to mention that few preamps out there offer 3-bands of EQ in just 3 pots. (the '3 pots' is in regards to the standard pot set-up found in Thumbs and Corvettes Standards; Streamers and other Corvettes have 4 pots; some of the newer Thumb Single Cuts have 4 pots and some switches, if I'm not mistaken)

    Strings: As of right now, my preferred pack of strings on a Warwick is D'Addario ProSteels. IMHO, you just CANNOT beat their value. They are inexpensive, sound killer, and retain their brightness for what seems like forever! Not to mention that they have some of the lightest string tension in the biz! Although steel strings are not as smooth as nickel strings, these more than make up for that in the way they really let that Warwick tone shine! They sound beautifully mid-sy and crunchy.

    Other Strings Used: D'Addario XL nickel-wound, and DR Black Beauties. The XL nickel-wounds are everything the ProSteels are except that they are not as bright and have a smoother feel. The DR Black Beauties looked killer with their black coating but had more string tension than the D'Addarios and lost their brightness very quickly. This is because they are handmade. For their price, I don't think the value for DRs is as much as the D'Addarios.

    Tuners: these will not affect your sound but can help with some of the neck dive. It won't eliminate it entirely but it can help. I find that the best tuners are the Hiptshot Ultralites. Not only do they look killer but they help shave off some weight from the headstock.

    Well.... that's it for now. As with everything I have stated above... your results could be different OR they could be the same but rather you find that you prefer that which I don't.

    Any comments would be encouraged!!! :bassist:
  2. purfektstranger


    Apr 10, 2003
    Wow....for anyone contemplating mods on their Warwick I think you just saved them a ton of research.
  3. 4StringTheorist

    4StringTheorist Supporting Member

    Excellent work!

    The one thing I'd say is that the the magnet strength and how close you put your pickups to the strings are what will determine how much string pull there is.

    Whether or not the magnets are exposed will have nothing to do with it because plastic doesn't alter the magnetic field. The plastic pickup case is essentially transparent to the magnetic field. The difference in magnet string pull from pickup to pickup that you've noted is caused by the manufacturers using different strength magnets.
  4. Dave Siff

    Dave Siff Supporting Member

    Thanks for this. I just acquired a '99 Thumb NT 5-string and have been considering some Hipshot Ultralites. So, it was your experience that they didn't change the tone at all? That's my concern. I love the way the bass sounds, but the balance certainly could be improved.
    What's your take on taper-core B strings vs. regular on a Warwick?
  5. sprocket123


    Feb 15, 2012
    Wow , you did some big testings & search in there . Might be helpfull .
  6. bongostealth

    bongostealth Supporting Member

    Jun 3, 2011
    Atlanta, GA
    Yes. You are absolutely right. I actually thought about this last night. Thinking about it, what you said is correct because my 6-string Thumb was the one with the Nordstrand Big Singles and pickup placement on a Thumb is quite close together. That would explain the string pull. Not to mention that the magnetic strength on the pickups is substantial due to the big size of the magnets -- hence the name 'big singles'.

    **I will correct my findings above.**
  7. bongostealth

    bongostealth Supporting Member

    Jun 3, 2011
    Atlanta, GA
    The tuners will not change your tone at all. The effect is the weight on the headstock. Because your bass is a NT, you already have great sustain. The woods on your bass and their weight contribute to your bass's sustain. The effect of the difference in tuner weight will not make a difference. Also, the problem with balance on Thumbs is that the upper horn where the strap is attached is shorter compared to most horns. This does have something to do with the way the bass sits and its overall balance, IMHO. It's the only drawback to Thumbs. It makes it uncomfortable to play standing up, much less for prolonged periods of time.

    As far as taper-core B strings, I find that taper-core are ideal because they will sit perfectly within the bridge. As far as sound, I haven't noticed a difference. But then again, I haven't actually paid attention to that. My instinct is to say it shouldn't make that much of a difference in sound.. if at all. Playability is pretty much the same.

    I hope this helps.
  8. fuzzychaos


    Mar 17, 2008
    I have a Corvette Proline that I absolutely love. I have thought about experimenting with an upgraded preamp (like the MEC 3 band), but I'm almost afraid to, thinking I might mess up the current tone. :eek:

    I suppose I could always revert anything I do to the original, however. Anyone know the best place to get the MEC 3 band pre?
  9. Dave Siff

    Dave Siff Supporting Member

    Thanks. I've got a wide strap on the way, and may swap the tuners. The bass is quite uncomfortable to play standing up, but it's worth it for that tone! I've got a .130 non-tapered B on there now and the ball end barely fit. Definitely gonna go with a taper-core B when I change strings.
  10. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    The audere preamp can do 4 band with 3 stacked pots, classic 4 band, for example. The 3zb would need to have a 3 way mini switch or 6 way rotary.....but the Clssic 4 band can be done in 3 pots and are extremely shallow (pot height inside the cavity is right under 1/2" tall, they're similar to the 9mm "Alpha" pots), you just do not get the "z modes" or "active/passive" option with the classic 4 band.
  11. coyote1


    Mar 23, 2012
    OK. So I have a stock, passive MEC Corvette fretless. I love its tone as-is.

    However. I do NOT love the fact that it picks up hum.

    How can I retain the same approximate tone while killing the hum, and without needing to add knobs?? I know the MEC active circuit does not hum....
  12. Garey

    Garey Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 23, 2003
    Northern California
    Artist Relations/Product Specialist: Mesa Boogie
    Wow...great info! I, too, have become somewhat obsessed with Warwick's after running through every model at the NAMM show. There are so many models and options....something for everyone / every tone! Thanks!
  13. bongostealth

    bongostealth Supporting Member

    Jun 3, 2011
    Atlanta, GA
    I only know of one place to buy it and it's directly from Germany. However, it will cost you close to $350. Not worth it for that price. I have an MEC 3-band equalizer preamp I can sell you but it's the 4 knob version.
  14. bongostealth

    bongostealth Supporting Member

    Jun 3, 2011
    Atlanta, GA
    I would suggest taking it to a tech for the purpose of making sure everything is grounded properly. You might need to ground some stuff. If that doesn't work then you might want to try changing out the pickups. Seymour Duncan pickups (Basslines) do a very good job at retaining all that Warwick tone plus some. The Basslines should be split-coil, but there are some that are single-coil.

    However, keep in mind that if you were to get single-coil pickups, they would have some degree of hum. That's just the inherent nature of single-coils. However, MECs are split coil and thus hum-cancelling. This is why I suggest you make sure everything is grounded properly and/or doing some extra grounding.
  15. XtheDeadPawn


    May 24, 2008
    Very nice advice. I'd love to get myself a Wick my wallet can't pay for it though.
    I just wish that Warwick comes out with a 5 string P/J.
  16. fuzzychaos


    Mar 17, 2008
    $350? Holy Cow! I'll stick with what I have, or maybe try something else later.

    I don't want to drill a hole for the 4th shaft, but thanks.
  17. bongostealth

    bongostealth Supporting Member

    Jun 3, 2011
    Atlanta, GA
    Keep an eye out for used Warwicks here on TalkBass, as well as eBay, and the "Used Gear" section of GuitarCenter.com. Kick-butt Warwicks are always coming out for sale at excellent prices.
  18. JonKim

    JonKim Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2011
    Key is: ss2
  19. staccatogrowl

    staccatogrowl Supporting Member

    DiMarzio Model J's are passive pickups that will preserve the standard tone and output of your Corvette, while eliminating it's hum. They will fit your bass and use the stock pots and wiring. Model J's are affordable, and easy to find, install, and use. Keep the MECs if you ever decide to sell the bass. Original part inclusion preserves resale marketability and price.

    I used Model J's in a Corvette for years. They sounded great, and eliminated the MEC single-coil hum. The 60-cycle hum, by the way, will remain if you add a preamp, while keeping the original MEC's. Best!
  20. scubaduba

    scubaduba Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    How about G&L MFD's?