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.
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.