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Warwick Fortress vs Thumb

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Felix Riley, Mar 28, 2014.

  1. Felix Riley

    Felix Riley

    Aug 2, 2013
    I am stuck between a Thumb BO and a German Fortress One. Which one do you guys prefer, and why? And, if anyone has one, I would be willing to buy a Fortress for around $600-650 dollar range. :bassist: Shred on, mates!
  2. The Fortress has a wider variety of useable tones, and balances MUCH better than a thumb.
  3. BKuettel


    Apr 8, 2011
    Oneonta, NY
    Get a Thumb 5 string German model. The best bass I have ever played. I originally had a corvette 4 string as my main bass, but the Thumb feels and sounds so much more professional. Well worth the price IMO.
  4. pjinserra

    pjinserra Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2014
    Richland, WA. USA
    I owned a 1994 Fortress One and still own a 1996 Fortress One ...both 4-stringers. My 1994 had the Warwick MEC PJ pups and MEC preamp.....my 1996 Fortress One has been mod'd with Bartolini PJ pups and Bart preamp.
    Also currently own a 2004 Thumb BO 5 string with original MEC pups and pre.

    Really tough to compare against each other since the tone is so different. I agree with the previous post that the Fortress One has a much greater variety of tones, although I would say that it's tone(s) are less unique to some other basses out there than how the Thumb sounds.....it's own signature sound. Siting in a funk groove, I really love the sound of the Thumb on the bridge PUP. The 2004 model Thumb has "neck" pick up very closely stacked up to the bridge pickup.......so even with it selected and bass eq boosted, it still retains a deep growl and doesn't mud out on me.
    Obviously since you're looking at Thumbs, you will have noticed that the pick up positioning varies from series years to series years (although I'm not aware that Warwick specifically created and named series years specifically....just seems that they moved the neck pup location and kept right on going.

    I really like the Fortress One (solid wenge neck and fretboard) for its balance (the extended horn helps this, because mine is a solid maple body and not light), and the neck is so rock solid, I never touch the truss rod, and even after months of not playing it (I have way too many basses.....did I just say that....now I sound like my wife!), I can pick it up and it's still in perfect tune....pretty amazing. Warwick went to multi-piece Ovangkol necks as wenge became more scarce (I'm guessing that was the reason, because IMO, the wenge neck was superior in structural stability and was one of their "signature" characteristics that set Warwick apart from producers of their day, so there had to be a good reason to switch).

    Maybe not a fair comparison since my Thumb BO is a 5 string, but in general, with such a small body and the sizable neck, neck-dive is noticeable and fatiguing after playing it for a while. Also, because of the body shape, it doesn't settle into your thigh very well when playing it sitting down (in my practice room). The sculped curved back on the Thumb is really nice however if you wear the bass up high....and if you have a bit of a pot belly, it really settles in nice and provides a good angle to the neck for left wrist position (works for my playing style anyway!) I have not tried a Thumb 4 string, but with the same body size and a smaller mass neck, the neck dive would be less.....but I would bet it still is not very well balanced in comparison to what one might expect from playing other manufacturers' basses. I also have a Spector NS-5CR-FM (a.k.a., predecessor to the Euro 5) that (typical of Spector) has a body size slightly smaller than many other basses on the market.....and it has a beefy neck....and a bit of neck-dive as well, but less so than the Thumb.

    Big difference on slap tones......the Thumb is killer and very unique....the Fortress One is less impressive, but still a bit unique probably due to the body and neck wood combination.

    Of course, the German Fortress Ones are hard to find....there are Thumb BO's for sale all over the place.
    If you can get used to the neck-dive (obviously many people do) you will dig the Thumb for it's funk!:bassist:
  5. pjinserra

    pjinserra Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2014
    Richland, WA. USA
    My Thumb BO:

    Attached Files:

  6. hampulator


    Feb 10, 2012
    The Fortress...best bass I've ever owned. Mine's a 97' Fortress One,PJ Pups etc... The Thumbs are also nice,as is My $$ Vette,but the Fortress is just balanced so well,fits like a glove,and sounds (IMO) the best outta all the Warwicks I own. Got it on EBay for $750 last year, best money ever spent on a bass. Peace,hope this helps.
  7. pjinserra

    pjinserra Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2014
    Richland, WA. USA
    My Fortress One 's
    1994 on the Left, 1996 on the right.
    I might mention that at one time I had the 1996 Fortress One strung B-E-A-D and was experimenting with progressive tensioning concept (see Zachary Guitars website www.zacharyguitars.com/Strings.htm..... he comes off like a flaming jerk, but I tried his methodology and it really creates a nice sound). I used a mix/match of strings (all D'Addario XLs) so that the highest tensioned string is the low B (at about 52 lbs !!!) ...that's just the opposite of what you normally would have for a 34" scale low B (say a 0.125 or 0.130....they would tune up at a tension of around 33 lbs, hence a bit sloppy-floppy). I used a D'Addario nickel 0.140 for the B string and man it rang clear....like a piano.
    Circle K Strings has "Balanced tension" string sets that shoot for a consistent ~42 lbs across all your strings....their proprietary wrap configuration gets this tension on the B string using a 0.142" dia.

    My rambling on above is only to accentuate how stable the Fortress One wenge neck is......I probably would not have attempted to go to such high tension on most necks in fear of breaking something (maybe I'm just overly cautious).

    Attached Files:

  8. Helaskold

    Helaskold 100% Mediocre

    Jul 22, 2012
    Austin, TX
    FORTRESS! So sweet!
  9. GBassNorth


    Dec 23, 2006
    Thumbs up For the thumb! I'd get a Streamer before I got a Fortress.
  10. I've never played a Fortress, but to back up what pjinserra said about the neckdive and balance, the Thumb takes a big hit in that area. I had a BO 4 as well as a NT 5, and they both balanced pretty badly on a strap, even the wide ones that I bought specifically because of it. Their tone was very unique, as he said, but not the most versatile. I honestly preferred the Corvettes that I had to the Thumbs, as ridiculous as that may seem.
  11. gleneg61


    Jan 10, 2008
    Osaka Japan
    Fortress wins ergo n sound versatility, Thumb for sound uniqueness, growl n used availability. I don't have a prob with my b/o thumb 5 ergos but I play pretty high strapped & others clearly don't like the 'dive' so best to try one out 1st if u can. Good luck!
  12. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon. Supporting Member

    Big time.

    Best balanced Warwick model IME.
  13. bassfootballguy

    bassfootballguy Spectacularly Average Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    A small, small town
    I have owned both and GREATLY preferred the ergonomics of the Fortress and the tone of the Thumb BO. The best Warwick for me, though, was a Fortress Master Man or a Corvette I had in gold sparkle.
    Both terrific basses I wish I had back.

  14. Felix Riley

    Felix Riley

    Aug 2, 2013
    OKAY! I am pulling the trigger on a '98 Fortress One P/J today! Thanks for all the advice guys!
  15. Thumb definitely
  16. Papersen

    Papersen Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2002
    I´ve owned the both and prefer the Fortress One.
    Much better balance and player friendly ergonomics.

    The Thumb BO might have more flexible electronics but never felt natural to me.
  17. jojoslap


    Jan 28, 2014
    I had a German made thumb BO five string for many years. It sounded great but was very heavy and had horrible neck dive. The neck also felt like it was a mile long. If you have to stand on your feet for hours playing at a gig it can get uncomfortable. The neck was very thick but felt great and played wonderfully. The tone can be tricky, it never cut through as good as my jazz and p bass. It's been a while since I played some of the other warwicks so I can't compare. But on other threads where the thumb is discussed many seem to prefer other models over the thumb.