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Warwick Thumb

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by SgtKoi, Feb 19, 2008.

  1. SgtKoi


    Oct 27, 2007

    Ok, now I'm considering the Warwick thumb (decisions, decisions). Is it a good all-around bass? I love the Warwick growl, but am still very interested in Laklands. I would probably buy a used 90's model because of the changes that Warwick made in the recent years. I think I would get more range with the Lakland, as it has a humbucker in the bridge, but I could probably dial out that tone with a good preamp and pickups in the Thumb. I also kinda like and dislike the body shape of the Thumb, but I think it's growing on me.


  2. alexit


    Feb 21, 2006
    Get a double-buck for excellent versatility in a warwick. Dual humbuckers switchable to single-coil.
  3. jedibass5


    Feb 14, 2008
    I have a Warwick Thumbass and have had it for years. The bass suited me just fine for awhile but then grew to dislike it. First for a small bodied instrument, it is way heavy. The balance is just bad. With such a small body and a heavy neck, it tends to dip bad when I would use it on gigs. So not only did have an aching back by the end of the night but also had shoulder pain from trying to hold that thing up. One fundamental flaw that I found in its construction and balance issues was the horn, or lack there of, and its relationship to the 12th fret. Usually a well balanced bass' horn will line up with the 12th fret. String spacing can be an issue too if you're into slap. My index finger would be thrashed from the contant friction. Slap tone for me was kinda take it or leave kinda thing. I would try hard to dial in a good slap tone but could never get the right sound. But on the other hand, the bass does have a great finger style tone. This is just my opinion and you know what they say about opinions. Plus just food for thought.
  4. It took me forever to find a Thumb with decent action around where I live, but when I did, I was very impressed! The 4 string version has a chunky but fast neck, and the tones that came out of it was so much different than all the Fenders, Epiphones, and other basses. On the downside is price, those things are expensive! The weight is an issue for some people, but I actually prefer heavy basses (I'm weird I guess). Bad balance is another problem, and playing slap takes a while to get used to compared to other basses, but it's not too hard.
    Overall, it's a very nice bass with a great tone, but it's heavy and unbalanced. If you like the feel and the tone enough to compensate for it's flaws, then I'm sure you'll love it!
  5. warwick.hoy


    Aug 20, 2006
    Spokane, WA.
    Beta Tester: Source Audio.
    At first I didn't like the Thumbs. I preferred the Streamers, but after a while they grew on me. So much so that I bought one (5 string Bolt-on) and it is my one and only bass. I love it.

    The tone is killer, although a little less traditional in a sense, but very punchy. I like the way it records too:


    Those are improvised live recordings (rehearsal). I'm not with that band anymore either, and I find my playing a little embarrassing but hey, that's improv

    I find it to be versatile enough for me between the pup blend and the two band eq, although an onboard mid cut/boast would be nice. I will admit that the highs can get a little shrill, but I found that loading my SVT-IIp with some vintage Mullard 12ax7's warmed that shrillness right out.

    It plays great. I don't like the neck profile on the 4 strings, but the 5 string's neck is quite comfortable. I still find myself wanting a Jazz Bass be it a Fender, Lakland Skyline JO, or perhaps a custom build (looking at Tom Clement in the near future)


    I combat the balance and heaviness issues with a homemade leather strap. It is wider than most straps (around three or four inches) where it rests on my shoulder and does the trick quite nicely. Problem solved. I think the higher mass (heaviness) is what contributes to its growly tone and good sustain.
  6. buzzbass

    buzzbass Shoo Shoo Retarded Flu !

    Apr 23, 2003
    I own both, a thumb 5 and a 55-94. The thumb is more "my" sound. I fight with my Lakie sometimes to get my tone. It is a bit more sensitive to bad rooms and amps. The Warwick is more set it 'n forget it, for me anayways.
  7. easy


    Mar 16, 2005
    your bass sounds killer, dude. what kind of amp were you using?
  8. I had a Thumb neck-through 4-string for a couple of years. It was my dream bass at the time, I bought it new and it remains the most expensive bass I've ever purchased. Here's what I experienced:
    Pluses: great tone and awesome punch. It cut through the mix like no other bass I've had, with a killer combination of aggressive low-mids and smooth, woody character. I used it to record with a friend's band, and it's by far the best sound I ever got in the studio. The extended range up high is cool, too.. when I recorded with it, I played one part that went all the way up to the 26th fret on the G string. Fun stuff.. just make sure the intonation is set right!
    The Thumb also has a unique vibe, owing mostly to its looks, but it also feels like a work of art.
    Minuses: As others have mentioned, the Thumb balances horribly. It's also a long reach down to first position, and I'm a fairly tall guy. I also found it to be very tempremental, as far as the neck moving with the weather. And, I didn't enjoy waxing the bass all the time.
    Your mileage may vary, of course. I'd say overall, the Thumb is a cool axe, but it's definitely got its faults.
  9. warwick.hoy


    Aug 20, 2006
    Spokane, WA.
    Beta Tester: Source Audio.
    I PM'd you
  10. SurrenderMonkey


    Aug 18, 2006
    Thumbs are polarising, they play and sound like nothing else. If you have never played one, I certainly would not recommend them blind. More than any other bass, they NEED to be played, especially with a good strap. It took me a long while to get accustomed to mine, and in the end, it didn't work out (although I miss it :)). It had a killer sound for downtuned heavy stuff though.

    and btw, they look miles better in the flesh. They are gorgeous instruments.

    A Lakland imo would be easier to recommend :) In the same vein, a Peavy Cirrus or Ibanez BTB for all round quality instruments that don't break the bank and will compete with a thumb or Lakland.
  11. funkybassplayer

    funkybassplayer Commercial User

    Sep 16, 2003
    Longview, TX
    Nordstrand Audio, Epifani
    I have a '88 Thumbbass NT4 that i absolutly LOVE. I have had a few issues with it becasue it is old but this thing has the tone that i want and the character that inspires me. the general tone of the thumb is a thing that people either love or hate. there's not much inbewtween with most people. I happen to love it and if you do too then i think you should go with the Thumb. (get one with a wenge neck instead of the ovangkol if you can) you won't be sorry.

    BUT... it sounded like from your post you are pretty iffy on the thumb but "it's growing on you". IMHO you will have more options tonally from the Lakland.

    It's your decision: one bass that has a specific tone, oddly shaped body, or one bass that could pretty much cover all the style you would want to and a body thats a bit more tradional and familiar feeling.
  12. The Thumb has been hit and miss with me as well. I've owned the NT and bolt on and preferred the neck through by a mile. The NT was older with a wenge neck and surprisingly light.

    Ultimately it came down to balance and ergonomics. The small body balances so that the headstock and first five frets feel a mile away. They both had that distinctive sound but I just couldn't get over the feel.

    Every time I hear a thumb bass I GAS for one because the tone just can't be matched. I've sold both my Thumbs.

    I can't speak for the Lakland but I don't necessarily think it would be a better bass, just different. I would think of the Lakland as the bill payer if you will. Just an overall workhorse that'll get you some very good and very usable tones. Again, I've never played one but I imagine the tone is kind of generic.
  13. Funny that, I was expecting a bevy of tonal variation to spew forth from the $$ I tried, but I was very disappointed in the end.

    I wouldn't call the Thumb a good all-rounder either.

    Just my 2 cents
  14. I played a Thumb 5 and just didnt like the feel of it. It was hard to be comfortable and play deep hard notes for some reason. I love the look of it though.
  15. jleguy

    jleguy Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2006
    DC Metro
    Get a 1998 or older Thumb. These older Thumbs have an all wenge neck and having had a 2006 Thumb BO 5 that did not and now a 1997 Thumb BO 5 fretted that does it makes all the difference in the world in tone. And the older Thumbs can be had for a bargain. I picked up my 1997 for $700 with a hardshell case that only needed cleaning and a setup. I also have a 1998 Thumb BO 6 with the same tone as the 1997 and a great 1998 Thumb BO 5 fretless.

    Edit: Older Thumbs also have the brass adjust-a-nut but I can't say for sure this contributes to the tone. The older Thumbs have slimmer neck profiles.
  16. Jared Lash

    Jared Lash Born under punches

    Aug 21, 2006
    Denver, CO
    I've played fretted and fretless neck-through Thumbs, and I've never had a similar experience of loving the sound of a bass but not liking the feel at all.

    The Thumb has an incredible sound. While all Warwicks growl, to me the Thumb IS the Warwick tone. That said, the weight didn't bother me nearly as much as the bad balance and the chunky neck. But if the ergonomics suit you (as they do for some) then you can't go wrong.

    As for me, I finally decided to ask Chris Stambaugh if he could come close to the Warwick sound in a more user friendly shape. I can't wait to see how it comes out.
  17. maxbass


    May 22, 2002
    Milano Italy
    Assuming hat you're talking about the Thumb NT, it is a very original bass.
    You either love or hate it, usually.

    It growls like few other basses, with a dark growl and very tight lows.

    Thumbs made in the last years are brighter and a bit less growly (no Wengé).

    I dig older ones, especially made unti 1990.

    Major events in Thumb's history:

    1) Introduced in 1985, 7 pieces Wengé/Bubinga neck, Wengé fingerboard, Bubinga body wings, brass hardware.
    Either EMG's or Bartolini pickups, MEC 2 way Electronics. Few ones with Seymur Duncans and OBL pickups. All 6 Strings have Bartolini's

    2) in 1987/88 the new 2 pieces Alembic style bridge (made by Schaller) replaces the Schaller 3D. Around 1988 Warwick puts a push/pull that deactivates MEC electronics circuit.

    3) 1990 Introduction of MEC pickups as a standard on 4 and 5 strings models. 6 strings still carry Bartolini's.
    Inlay Dots became an optional.

    4) 1992 the 2 pieces bridge is now made of Zama, a cheaper and lighter alloy. Visually the bridge is identical to the brass one.
    This makes the Thumb even more unbalanced, because of the lighter body's weight. The 6 strings bridge is still made of Brass for some years, the manufacturer is ABM instead of Schaller.
    In this period Warwick starts using artificially dried woods, to keep place with the higher demand

    5) Since 1995 all Warwick neck throughs are CNC made, from 1985 to 1994 they were handmade. Around 1994/1995 Warwick introduces the 18 volts 3 way MEC electronics

    6) 1998 Ovangkol replaces Wengé in the neck, which is now 7 pieces Ovangkol/Bubinga
    introduction of the wilferite Just-A-Nut II instead of the brass Just-A-Nut I.
    I think around this time Warwick starts making the 6 strings Zama bridge.
    Newer necks are heavier, thus neck diving is accentuated once more.
    Bridge pickup become less oblique on 4 strings and more oblique on 5 strings.

    7) 2001 Introduction of the 5 pieces all Ovangkol neck. Ebony replaces Wengé for fingerboard.
    Around this time Warwick introduces the 9 volts 3 way MC electronics.
  18. kevteop


    Feb 12, 2008
    York, UK
    I've got a '91 Thumb 4 (neck-thru - I don't think they made bolt-on basses until a few years later).

    It is beautiful to look at, and that shape/those woods still look great after all these years. Timeless bit of design. It also does "that Warwick sound" better than any other Warwick, and whatever you do with the output it retains a bit of that honky, parpy character.

    It's heavy (heavier than my buddy's 5-string Stingray) but the compact shape makes up for it a bit, and the balance is a bit head-biased but nothing like as bad as you'd expect for such a small-bodied bass.

    As someone already mentioned, first position is quite a stretch due to the stubby top horn, even for us 6'+, spindly-fingered people. Shifting the strap right up to the side of your neck improves matters, but long stretches of playing down there can burn a bit!

    In short: It does have its flaws, but I just love the sound. It's the bass I pick up the most often.
  19. specs


    Mar 14, 2006
    Hastings, UK.
    I own a custom ocean blue thumb bass NT. The body is made out of ash with a maple top, for the blue to go on. And there are blue led's in the fretboard. Got that in 2003, Getting a custom Sadowsky soon....
  20. I find mine more versatile then people give it credit for. Put on some flats, boost the bass and you've got yourself a much more traditional sound, while still being thumby. Hit the rounds, put some treble back in and feel the growl.

    The best slap sound ever is the neck pickup soloe'd on 4 stringers.

    Also, be careful the 5 has a very odd pickup positioning, much different sounding to that of the 4, so they sound very different!

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