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What creates Warwick's tone?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by lird12, Aug 8, 2012.

  1. lird12


    Mar 14, 2012
    Sacramento, CA
    Is it the MEC pickups? If they, were perhaps changed, would the Warwick's signature sound still be there but in a different light? Just curious..
  2. punkjazzben


    Jun 26, 2008
    I would believe the argument that wood does not affect tone; I've heard the many tests here on TB and can say that a Jazz and a plank of scrap wood really didn't sound that different to me. But, Warwick basses are the reason I don't subscribe fully to the argument. Anyone who has spent time with a Warwick, plugged in or acoustically, knows they sound different.

    I think the electronics are important, but no where near as important as the woods and construction techniques used. I think neck woods have a big part to play on the German models, although the maple-neck Korean Streamers and Thumbs still manage to cop 'the' tone, which says something about body woods and construction technique.
  3. j.kernodle

    j.kernodle Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2008
    South Carolina
    pickup placement also plays a huge part. I've played thumbs with barts, emgs, and MECs. they sound different but the all retain the thumb sound because of the pickup placement.
  4. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    The player.

    (Sorry, someone was going to say it at some point - just making sure it was said in jest!)
  5. carlis


    Dec 28, 2005
    IME, wenge fingerboard and the circuits (MEC pickups and preamp, and pickup position as well) play a vital role in what you described as "the Warwick's tone."

    Replacement of any of these factors will alter the final tone to a certain extent. There're some sound test videos on Youtube in which the original preamp was bypassed, Aguilar/Bartolini/etc. got in place, or pickups were replaced... You can hear a significant difference in tone from their reviews.

    Hope this may help.
  6. kevteop


    Feb 12, 2008
    York, UK
    I had a Corvette Proline 6 for a while. It had a maple body and a 7-piece mostly-maple bolt-on neck. And Bartolini soapbars.

    Still sounded like a Warwick.

    My current Thumb bass has more of that character (neck-thru bubinga/wenge, stock MEC electronics) but as someone above said, the Thumb sound is mostly down to it having essentially two bridge pickups.
  7. TwoThumbs


    Mar 27, 2005
    Staunton,VA USA
    I think that it has to do with the body being shaped (contoured) and not just a flat slab with cut-outs. Plus the tiny tailpiece with not so much mass lets more of the string vibration get to the wood.
  8. staccatogrowl

    staccatogrowl Savoring time on a spinning, shimmery, aqua sphere Supporting Member

    Jul 14, 2006
    My experience of different pickups in a German Warwick Thumb is that they do little to change the Warwick Thumb sound. For example, Warwick Thumb basses have shipped from the factory with a variety of pickups, including SD Basslines, Bartolini, and MEC. In each case the distinctive Warwick Thumb tonal character is distinct and dominant.

    What contributes to Warwick tone? For a German Warwick Thumb, there are many factors:

    Wood types for neck, body, and fingerboard
    Body, neck, and headstock: shape, contour, mass, size, density
    Bell brass frets
    Pickup configuration and placement
    Pickup output in relation to preamp output
    Bridge: mass, shape, mounting method, placement, and string attachment method
    Finish: natural wood with wax or stain
    String choice

    My comments relate specifically to the Thumb, as I have ample experience with that model in many configurations over time. Maybe some other Warwick users can state their experiences, as well.

    Of course there is a pickup that will drastically change the amplified sound of every bass, including the German Thumb: Roland’s GK3 mated to a GK3 or VG-99. That’s an entirely different discussion.:D
  9. rollin$tone

    rollin$tone Supporting Member

    Jul 9, 2009
    Warwick: The Sound of Wood.
  10. GBassNorth


    Dec 23, 2006
    Exactly what staccato said!
    The very very unique sound of the thumb bass is a result of the sum of it's components. Yes the wood makes a difference as does the mass and the frets and the pickups and their placement and the preamp etc.
    It's a wonderful bass, one of my favorite and most distinctive instruments from both a visual and audible standpoint.
    It really pains me to say so but as I down size my collection (moving to a new house with no room for a studio) I'll most likely have to sell my Thumb BO5.:crying:
    So back to the original question, "what creates the Warwick tone" - the answer is, the Warwick company that designed and builds this beast.
  11. kevteop


    Feb 12, 2008
    York, UK
    Where would you put a GK-3B pickup on a Thumb bass? I got one in a trade last year and thought about fitting it to my Thumb until I realised that not only was there not enough room between the pickup and the bridge, but the curve of the body would make it a pretty poor fit too.
  12. DeathFromBelow

    DeathFromBelow Never Forget. Banned

    Dec 23, 2010
    Horten, Norway
  13. Means2nEnd

    Means2nEnd Supporting Member

    Um I currently own 6 German Warwicks and placing a bid on another on eBay shortly. I will try and not go too long but will probably happen these basses get me to my voice. I have been playing bass regularly for 30 years after playing French horn. Didn’t own a Warwick until I 1998 so I have been playing them 14 years. I have owned so many basses it’s hard to keep track but I ordered an FNA Corvette Jazzman first brand new. It was the first time I ever heard a focused crystal clear B string and the sound of the wood coming through my amplifier as well as the sound of the electronics. I had an awful experience with that bass in terms of a frozen truss rod and a slightly warped neck. I didn’t go through my dealer to get any of it fixed I should have I bought it new. Despite loving the tone I was pissed off so I dumped it. I swore I loved the bass but because of the issues I was done and I didn’t own another one for 5 more years.

    We have a practice studio with recording equipment on all the time so any time we want to record we can hit a button. We play all original stuff so this is a great tool to have when trying to figure stuff out. In the next 5 years I played a MusicMan Stingray 5 maple board single HH for almost the whole time. That bass sounded great but I’m lefty so I had no pickup options as a standard. My hand cramped on stage and locked up a few times live. I never really fell in love with that bass I liked it but wide at the nut for my hands and we played busy stuff. Then Spector Euros with DC40’s and BQC preamps. Loved those basses but I’m not a huge fan of 35” basses. We don’t drop much other and E to D everything else is standard tuning and I owned a Warwick 5 string already and I knew there is no reason to need a 35” to get a brutal clear focused B. Never totally grew accustomed to the 35” and please remember this is my experience I’m not preaching this is just my take and my band’s. The Spector basses I had and I have owned say about 7 Euro all with the same electronics package. My feelings as well as the bands are they were killer well-made beautiful instruments but with electronic preamp and pickup combination 95% of what I heard from my Spectors were the sound of the pickups and preamp. Heard very little difference from all those basses one to the next. I didn’t hear the characteristics of the woods personally I love the tone but it was almost all electronics and no wood. In that time also I had a few others a Wal MK II, a Fender here and there, and a few others but that was say from 98 to 2004. I also had a bunch of amps Ampeg, G&K, Eden, Preamp/Power amp combinations. I also never got the amp tone I truly loved either until recently but that’s another story.

    So we were one night trying to put together another set to headline a gig and needed like 10 more songs in like 2 months. So we all were sitting around listening to all these recordings we had just pieces and parts from the whole past 6 years of recording practices. As you might guess I at that point was never thrilled with my tone it was too gritty or distorted a little or whatever I was and still I am a tone chaser and always thinking there is something I’m missing and I can do better. I don’t feel that way today but it was thousands of dollars and 20-30 basses and 6-7 amps to get happy like I am today. I was whining like usual about all my recorded tones I had as we were bring it all up on the computer. The (finally this whole long winded saga starts to have some meaning to the answer of the OP) Like a bolt of lightning hit me we came across some older stuff from the beginning of us getting together and recording where I sat back and said damn that bass sounds like what’s in my head I love it. Turns out it was my old Corvette Jazzman strung with steel strings and no effects and my old Ampeg B4R and an Ampeg 6/10 miced? I stood up and was like what is that what bass is that jumping all over and finally my singer who is in the super high end home audio video world and guitarist who is also in the same field said dude that’s your old Warwick and we have been telling you for almost 6 years it was the best sounding instrument for you the whole time and you never listened to us. Go out and get some Warwick again stupid and stop wasting tons of dough and crying like a bitch all the time about your equipment. I asked my wife too and she is a classically trained pianist and played and took lessons at the Conservatory in Baltimore for over 15 years and played on Steinway grand pianos and was around the highest quality orchestral instruments the whole time. She wasn’t as nice as my band but said essentially the same thing she never likes our music and thinks rock music is sort of childish but thought my Warwick and the one Wal I had sounded the best of all my instruments. She has no idea what anything costs and is brutally honest with me.

    I own 2 Thumb NTs, Streamer Stage II, another Corvette Jazzman, Limited 2010 Streamer, Limited 2010 Limited Corvette and a few others I bought and sold in the last 7 -8 years. They are my family of basses that all have different sounds and tone but yet there are characteristics that are the same in all of them. I still have 2 Spectors and I love them but I found the ones that I like a 4 string Euro with a P/J set up and a newer Tonepump that bass is insane good and sounds great has that Spector growl and grit. I have a 34” SSD Spector 5 string and its 34” and has a BQC with 40TWX picks not the 40DCs and it sounds great. I have a Warrior Dran Michael 5 string buckeye burl with Bartolini set up, I have a Zon Sonus with Bart set up, and have several other high end amazing instruments in the last few years all killer.

    It took years for me to figure it all out and although I have other basses I love and won’t sell (shouldn’t say that stuff) I found what I love from my hands to my amp. I found what speaks to me and like everyone mentioned it’s all the things about Warwick and look I change preamps and pickups all the time in my Warwicks but there is a slight change but they all have this thing. You can hear the instrument the wood you hear a crystal clear version of that bass. A combination of electronics, my touch, and the bass all equally. Yes it’s the 2 piece bridge and the sometimes the MEC electronics. It’s the dense African woods the bell brass frets. All of those things contribute to that Warwick growl and tone. It’s hard to explain for me in words obviously but it took years and years and tons of wasted or maybe not money. But all of my GERAMAN Warwicks even as different as they all are in terms of neck woods, body woods, electronics pickups, preamps, years of manufacturing, modded or un modded they all sound unmistakably like a Warwick. For me its home. My Streamer Stage II with EMG J pickups and a Seymour Duncan preamp this is my main guy. There is to me and my band and others I know a distinctive clarity to the tone, sound of the woods, articulate and piano like tone. Love or hate them they stand out they sound different they are not for most but for me there is nothing like them. Until you have a really powerful good amp and a Thumb NT 5 string and just simply pluck the B string you just won’t get it but if you do there is nothing that sounds like them. To some they will get chills other will put them down in disgust. Hell I’m getting buried with mine!
  14. staccatogrowl

    staccatogrowl Savoring time on a spinning, shimmery, aqua sphere Supporting Member

    Jul 14, 2006
    Maybe your well-stated literal point and my figurative point can coexist?
  15. I can't believe it took 9 posts to get there. I'm primarily a guitarist and even I know that...

  16. WarwickOfficial


    May 15, 2012
    Warwick & Framus Social Media
    Thanks for the excellent post Means2nEnd! Your experience and feedback is highly valuable. We offer such a variety of woods, pickups, electronics, etc - yet the characteristic sound is there. Wood selection plays a role, as does pickup placement, the 2-piece 3D bridge, bell brass frets, and certainly construction techniques. The fact that the wood is all naturally air-dried for a minimum of 3-5 years is a factor as well. It truly is the sum total of all the parts, that make the Warwick tone!
  17. phillybass101


    Jan 12, 2011
    Artist, Trickfish Amplification Bartolini Emerging Artist, MTD Kingston Emerging Artist. Artist, Tsunami Cables
    Your fingers. A bass standing all by itself without any human intervention has and makes no tone. You my friend are the first part in the signal chain.
  18. Jefus


    Feb 23, 2008
    It's not the electronics. At least not overtly. Playing my Thumb 5 BO unplugged will tell you that. The only thing that trying different strings on this instrument has changed is the high end and, to a lesser extent, the sustain.

    By the way, mine has piezos on it too; they sound phenomenal, but it's still unmistakably a Thumb.
  19. mc_muench


    Sep 28, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    I tend to agree its more of the wood. My Warwick is passive, no preamp/fancy electronics, and it still sounds like a Warwick.

    Man I love that sound.
  20. It's really just aliens like the dude said above.


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