A vintage-flavored semi-hollowbody 4-string with some modern charm.
Warwick’s motto “Basses, Amps & Rock ’n’ Roll” is what this endorsee-rich company has been committed to since Hans-Peter Wilfer founded the outfit in 1982. And be it one of their instruments from HQ in Germany, or one of the Pro Series or RockBass offerings that are manufactured in East Asia, Warwick pretty much has something for most bassists—aspiring or pro. Here, we take a look at a newer offering from the RockBass line that dons the historic Star Bass name. It’s a vintage-looking thumper that’s a more affordable alternative to the German-built version of the model.
Wish Upon a Star
The Chinese-made RockBass Star Bass is a semi-hollowbody that presents some modern twists along with the old-school look of yesteryear’s classic basses. After pulling it out of the box (case not included), I couldn’t wait to check it out. This double-cutaway, medium-scale (32") axe just had that kind of vibe you can feel even before plugging in.
The top, back, and sides of our Star Bass tester’s body are fashioned from AAA-grade flame-maple laminate, finished with a high-polish vintage burst, and then dressed with creme-colored binding. RockBass Star Basses are also available finished in black, creme white, Daphne blue, and gold metallic.
The set neck is carved from maple, adorned on the backside with a pair of thin ekanga-veneer stripes, and topped with an East Indian rosewood fretboard that’s 1 1/2" at the nut. (A fretless, tiger-stripe ebony fingerboard is also available.) It’s a personal preference, but I have a fondness for fretboards sans position markers and appreciate that Warwick enhanced the elegant look of this bass by leaving them off, as they do with many of their models.
Another thing I dug about the Star Bass are the Warwick hardware appointments that really set it apart both visually and functionally from some other instruments in this category. The downward-angle position of the smooth-action tuning machines isn’t just there for show. Reaching for and adjusting the tuners really feels right—it’s an ergonomic design. The Star Bass is also outfitted with Warwick’s solid Just-A-Nut III nut and 2-piece 3D bridge to complete the trio of tools taking care of the strings.
Looking over the Star Bass from top to bottom, I didn’t find a glitch, drip, scratch, or gap that might raise a red flag about the construction. The build was quite impressive overall with the only exception being a few frets in the upper register that could have used just a little more attention during the final dress, but I’ve seen rougher edges on basses that cost much more.
Strapped and standing, the ample-feeling 9 1/2 pound Star Bass was comfy and well balanced for a semi-hollowbody and there was no real significant neck-meet-floor scenario. Its medium-scale DNA just might be the answer for a number of players who are looking for a middle ground between short and standard scale. The neck felt fast and easy to navigate, and I should add that I didn’t have to lay a hand on the bridge or nut because the setup was spot-on (and this is after the bass was shipped in a simple cardboard case).
A semi-hollowbody is often going to have more sustain than a solidbody, but I was still pretty impressed with the amount the Star Bass mustered when played unplugged. It’s a very resonant instrument acoustically—a great sign for what was to come.
For electronics, the RockBass Star Bass sports a pair of passive, vintage-style MEC single-coils that from afar look like a set of big-ass humbuckers. They’re controlled by a standard 3-way toggle, and there are dedicated volume and tone dials for each pup.
Ready to hear what the RockBass Star Bass sounded like plugged in, I paired it with a Gallien-Krueger 800RB pushing an Ampeg SVT-410HLF with all the amp’s EQ dials set flat. I started out soloing the neck pickup with its volume knob dimed and the corresponding tone knob set about halfway. I was met with a big and warm tone that really responded well to changes in my hand position and attack. It’s right here you’ll get those smooth and thick sounds that are perfect for ’60s and ’70s bluesy rock and soul.
Switching the toggle all the way down to hear just the bridge pickup in action, I dimed the corresponding volume and tone knobs. The tone certainly thinned out as expected, but I liked the degree of mellowness it still possessed (for this almost all-maple instrument) when dialing in the more pointy and tight tones the Star Bass has to offer. Players who don’t often work their axe with only the back pickup engaged may surprise themselves by doing just that: It’s got enough muscle to sound really good hanging on its own.
In both solo-pickup scenarios, I detected very little to no hum. And when playing at a quite loud clip while facing the amp directly, there wasn’t a trace of feedback. I looked down at the bass again just to make sure it was a semi-hollow with a pair of single-coils. Yep.
I didn’t get too much play spinning the tone dials, but engaging both pups and tweaking their volume levels allows for some useful sound shaping, and I’d suspect many would most likely keep the toggle in the middle. I found myself pretty much sticking with the neck pup dimed and the bridge just a touch above the halfway point, which resulted in a great tone for picking rock tunes.
It certainly seems that semi-hollow and hollowbody basses with an old-school vibe have been having a renaissance of sorts, and that there are a lot more available options than there were just 10 years ago. The RockBass Star Bass is one pretty awesome option considering how versatile it is tonally and its level of build. The quality of this bass is further testament to how far overseas guitar manufacturing has come and that countries don’t make good instruments, well-trained people do. Slap stylists probably won’t go here for their primary instrument, but for those looking for a solid, workhorse bass that’ll get the job done for a number of styles and has a different aesthetic than the usual suspects, the RockBass Star Bass is certainly worth looking into.