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Warwick Thumb Questions (kinda long)

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Lyle Caldwell, Sep 8, 2004.

  1. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Hello, this is my first post here. Nice to meet everyone.

    Some back story for my questions:

    Long, long ago (like 3 weeks) I had a lovely Jaco sig fretted Jazz Bass. I loved everything about it. The look, the feel, and of course the sound.

    Then some waste of oxygen stole it.


    Ok, I can talk about it now without throwing things.

    Anyway, yesterday my insurance check arrived, and I went off in search of a replacement.

    Before the Jaco, I had owned a 62 RI Jazz, a 62 RI P, a 57 RI P, and a Stingray. My favorite bassists are Jamerson, Family Man, and Sting, so that plus my bass history ought to tell you the sounds I'm after.

    So yesterday I went shopping, and found no good Jazzes or Ps anywhere in the city. I was ready to hit Ebay when I saw a used but mint Warwick Thumb 5 BO in a store. They had it priced at the going Ebay rate, but I offered $700 cash and it followed me home.

    Now, I had often admired the look of Thumb basses, but had never thought of owning one, given the high cost of the NT models. But as I got this one at a ridiculously low price, I figured if I didn't like it I could turn it around on Ebay for some profit and then find another Jazz.

    And now that I've done a setup and put fresh strings on, my jury is out. I can get used to the thick neck and even the neck diving. I'm tall, so the 35" scale is no problem, and the low B sounds great. I love the looks, and I like the string spacing now that I've adjusted it.

    I'm about one more tweaking session tonight away from having a perfect fingerstyle setup that will still allow some serious digging in.

    Here are my questions, but first let me say that I am not trying to make it sound like a Fender. I know that it won't, and that's ok. It has phenomenal sustain and a good growly sound.

    Ok, the questions:

    While the "neck" pickup sounds pretty good, the bridge pickup (gold MECs in both) really sounds horrible. This is after experimenting with different pickup heights, different strings, and different amps (from my home studio's SWR Workingmans's 12 SWR to a 400W Eden 4x10/1x15 rig). If I have the blend all the way to the neck pu, it sounds pretty darn good. As soon as I blend in the bridge, there's an awful honky upper midrange sound. When it's bridge pu only, it's completely unusable, with nothing but honk, harsh attack, and sterile (2d) lows.

    So first, for those who have tried other pickups in their Thumb 5s, what is a set that actually offers a usable bridge sound and all combinations? I've like Basslines in the past, thought about Bartolinis, but I really want something worth listening to in the bridge. Given that the Thumb is such a different bass than all of my old Fenders, my experience with other pickups might not relate to the Thumb.

    Second, the preamp is not great. The low boost is too high, as it adds a bunch of 200Hz mud, and the treble is way too high, offering a lot of shattered glass but no pleasing timbres or subtly increased definition. And there is no control for the mids at all. Given that the mids are the biggest problem area for these MEC pickups in this Thumb, the lack of a mid control is a big problem. I had a 2 band Aguilar pre in my old Stingray, and thought it was great, so I'm considering the 3 band Aguilar for the Warwick, assuming I could use the exising three control holes (haven't researched it yet).

    Third question is should I just forget it, sell the Thumb, make a quick profit, and get a good Jazz? Is it possible to get a usuble bridge pu sound out of a Thumb 5?

    Now, if I were a slapper or a rock pick player, the current bridge pickup would probably be great for me. But I'm not, and it certainly isn't.

    If it helps, this Thumb has the ovankol neck and body with the wenge fingerboard. Other than the DR 45-whatever longscale tapered strings the bass is still stock. I play with my fingers 99% of the time, and rarely slap or pop.

    Thanks in advance for any and all help.
  2. Anti_Wish


    May 14, 2004
    Boston, Ma
    that's why i love my NT thumb 4. it has a midrange knob. typically when i'm playing i roll the mids all the way off, and boost the highs and lows all the way, and solo the neck pickup. some might say that my slap tone would suffer from this, but it actually sounds better than almost every other bass i have played. it's thick, but still sharp and powerful. so i say just get a concentric volume/blend pot, a mids pot, and keep the concentric high/low pot and drop the mids and solo the neck. believe me, it's worth the confusing wiring diagram. i put this setup in my buddies jazz bass. he found this P.O.S warwick proline which had no neck or other parts except the pickups and pots. i put it together and he says its better than anything he's played too. he plays pseudo reggae and what he likes to call schitsofranic jazz, and he never slaps at all. he's also bumpin rotosound flats.
  3. pistoleroace


    Sep 13, 2002
    I can't tell you what pickups to try but I had a Thumb 5 BO and I thought the preamp was pretty good. I worried about not having a mid in it too because I also had a Thumb 4 NT at the same time which did had the 3 band preamp but I ended up loving the tone. I have to admit though that I have never been a fan of just using the bridge pickup in any bass as I don't like that tone, I need a little more meat in my tone. I would suggest giving it a little more time to allow yourself to adjust to the Thumb because it will never sound like any other bass however, if the tone isn't for you then you will never be happy with it.
  4. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Well, I partially found and fixed the problem, though the bridge pickup is still too midrangey and "boingy", so keep the suggestions coming.

    Anyway, last night I did an initial setup, with a minor trussrod tweak. I wanted to let it settle overnight before doing anything else.

    Tonight, I decided the nut was too high. So I tried to lower the allen screws in the nut. They wouldn't budge. Looking closely, there was some plastic substance covering them. I decided it was probably superglue or locktite, so I went ahead and forced them loose. Ok, they went pop and came loose...

    At which point I discovered that they neither raised nor lowered the nut (remember, I bought this bass used). Looking more closely, I thought I saw some kind of shim beneath the nut, so I loosened the strings and removed the nut.

    Ok, the previous owner had seriously kludged things under the nut. He had apparently stripped the treble side allen screw, so the screw would pop out of the threads under string pressure. So he then glued three layers of rubber(!) beneath the nut to get the nut up to the height he wanted. Apparently he was playing slide bass or something- it was really high.

    So, realizing I'd need to replace the "just a nut" whether I keep or sell the bass, I removed the rubber shims (again, ***? rubber under a nut?), set the bass side allen screw, and used two metal shims under the treble side. At this point I noticed that the previous owner had also broken off the bass side "just a nut" tab (the part that keeps the nut from sliding off to the bass side of the neck) and had superglued it back in place. So now instead of just having to replace the plastic nut, I have to replace the metal nut shelf as well. Big fun- I'll be calling some dealers tomorrow. Guess it can't cost too much.

    Anyway, now that the rubber shims (I really can't get over that) are gone and the nut is at a good height (really quite low- this bass plays incredibly well now with just a hair of relief and a very low action), the tone of the bass has changed decidedly for the better. Kinda shoots down the old "rubber = tone monster" argument, huh?

    So now my notes have a nice definition to the attack and harmonic response is greatly increased, all without touching the broken glass (oops, I mean treble) knob. The mids aren't quite as tubby, and the lows are more defined.

    So it's a much better sounding bass, but I'm still not in love with the bridge pickup or the pre.

    BTW, in reading this group before posting this thread, I saw a lot of people complaining about how hard it is to string a Warwick, cause "you can't keep the string secured at the bridge while turning the tuning keys."

    Here's my advice- put the ball end of the string in the bridge slot, run the string one and a half tuners past the one you want to use for the string, and cut the string at that point. Then remove the ball end of the string at the bridge end. Run the cut end of the string straight down into the tuner hole, then do two wraps around the post. Then bring the ball end to the bridge plate. You may have to slightly tighten or loosen the tuning key now to get the ball end lined up with the string retainer slot, but it's right there. Once the ball end is in, tighten the tuning key as usual.

    Done this way, it's really fast and easy to do, and the string doesn't twist up , which leads to a very stable tuning for new strings.
  5. Alexander


    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    I would guess if you are a Fender guy, the Thumb wouldn't be your thing. I switched back to Fenders and never looked back... But, as always YMMV as many people love theirs.

    I found the Thumb to be much darker sounding (which is not to my taste) and agree on the sound of the bridge pick-up\pre-amp. I replaced my electronics with Bartolinis which helped a whole lot. The Bart pre I used had an adjustable trim, which could change the character of the bass from subdued to downright nasty when cranked (a bit noisy, though). But overall a smoother, warmer and clearer tone than the MECs. I found I could actually get a decent tone out of the bridge pickup by favoring it slightly (by maybe 1/3rd), while boosting the lows a bit but cutting the highs. Leaning on that pickup compensates for the EQ adjustment nicely and creates a nice, even tone overall. If you want nice, clear highs I don't think Warwick will deliver regardless of electronics because (I assume) their choice of tonewoods - I find all of the highs (especially when played on the G string) to be way to sizzly for my taste.

    But again, different strokes... :cool:
  6. The Hammer

    The Hammer

    Jul 13, 2004
    A Warwick is not a Fender. I would sell it and get another Fender or some Fender clone. It sounds as though you might have gotten a bass that had been experimented on. I have a Warwick thumb 5 neck thru that I love. It sounds exactly like a Warwick i.e. very woody and dark. when I want a different sound I play through another bass. Sell and move on :hyper:
  7. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    Well, I just got a nice email from Warwick's tech support, and they're sending me a replacement nut for free. Big thumbs up in my book (no pun intended).

    And this bass is growing on me. It plays like a dream (now), and the sustain and lows appeal to the Tony Levin lover in me.

    So now I'm thinking I'll try other pickups for this,and then buy a nice 4 string Jazz in the next 6 months, and have both. Like I said, I don't expect this to sound like a Fender, but then again, the Fenders I've had couldn't get the low end and sustain this bass has. And yes, I've tried Fender 5 strings. Urgh.
  8. Bartolini pickups and electronics made the thumb sound way better in my opinion