As some people would know, I was in Lismore from Monday 26th of May until Wednesday the 4th of June, however, on Sunday the 1st of June, I came back up to Brisbane for the day to go to the Guitar Show at the Brisbane City Hall with my dad and sister.
There were some very interesting and unusual guitars there, particularly in the accoustic section. Of course there were also some very rare and expensive guitars, including a couple that were $90,000 and $100,000. Then of course there are the ugly B.C. Rich and … guitars that all the young kids seem to love. I am of course a bassist though, not a guitarist, so I was more interested in the basses that were lurking around in various corners.
I came across a few interesting ones, such as some LightWave basses, that don’t use traditional magnetic pickups, but optical pickups. I have heard about them a couple of times, but I haven’t seen or heard any of them before. Anyway, the guy showing them wouldn’t let me play one, but gave me the card of a place in Brisbane that sells them and suggested I go have a look there, so I’m thinking I’ll go there and have a look sometime.
The other basses I cam across that were particularly interesting were a brand I haven’t heard of before, Warrior Basses. The Guitar Brothers had 3 of them there, they were all quite expensive basses, starting at $5,000 for one of them, and the other two were $7,200 (though they did offer them to me for $5,000 each if I bought one then). For anyone that knows about me and my white Spector NS5, you would know how much I love it and how much I firmly believe that it is one of the best basses in the world, well, these Warrior basses are getting up there comparatively.
I played the two $7,200 ones (the $5,000 one was sold already so they didn’t want me to play it), they were both identical, except one was a four-string with two J style pickups, the other was a five-string with a J style pickup near the bridge and a humbucker close to the neck. They both used active Bartolini pickups.
I played the four-string to start off with, and what was immediately obvious was just how close to the body and neck the strings are. It is an amazing bass to tap on because you hardly have to press down and it rings out vibrantly, maintaining an excellent tone.
Due to how low the strings are, it meant that I had to adjust my playing style for slapping and popping, primarily because I can’t actually get my fingers under the strings easily in order to pop them. Additionally, due to the position of the pickups, there is little space between the pick up and the neck in order to actually pop. This may not be a big deal if you are only popping with one finger, even two isn’t too bad, but when you start using a third and fourth finger, it is very tight.
Now, I suppose this may all sound like negative points on the basses, but it is quite the opposite, I spent half an hour or so playing it, and once I had adjusted my technique to suit, I was able to slap and pop faster than I could previously, and this has transferred over to my playing in general. When I try to play how I used to, I can’t play as fast as I can using my new technique, and these Warrior basses lend themselves to it excellently.
Next I played the five-string, it had some interesting differences to the four-string, aside from the different pickup configuration. The low B and E strings, were actually strung through the body, whereas the others weren’t. This apparently changes the way tension is placed on the strings and provides a fatter low end sound. I have to say this is very true, even compared to the E on the four-string, it is a much fatter sound.
I forgot to ask if it is a 35″ or not, it felt like it was only a 34″ neck, but I gather the strings through the body gave it enough tension that the B didn’t feel floppy, so it felt similar to how a B feels on a 35″ neck.
The thing I didn’t like about the five-string was that it had a horrendous tone for slapping and popping. The only thing I can put this down to is the humbucker instead of the second J pickup. If you changed the volume around so that it only uses the J pickup, it is passable, but nowhere near as full and sharp as on the four-string. Regular plucking and tapping, it sounds great, just like the four-string, but that popping tone lets it down significantly.
Overall, my Spector NS5 is a much more versatile five-string than the Warrior I played, and tone-wise, the active EMG pickups in the Spector retain a better tone overall than the Bartolini’s. That being said though, the four-string is on par with my Spector in my opinion. If I had a spare $5,000, I would have bought it then. The five-string, while I would have loved to buy it, it just didn’t quite warrant the price tag in my opinion.
As far as I can tell, Warrior basses are all custom made, so I assume they are all going to have different pro’s and con’s, and that not all of their five-strings will have the same tone issues as the one I played. All in all though, these are definitely some of the best basses I have had the pleasure to play.
Both of them had a very smooth neck that was a good size, the five-string did not have an excessively fat neck, and they were both quite light and comfortable.
I have to admit that they were very addictive to play as well. The raw wood textures and combinations give them quite a nice look and sound, I could play one for ages.
All of my photo’s from the Brisbane Guitar Show are up on my Flickr account.