Review: Warwick Steamer CV - BassPlayer.com

Review: Warwick Steamer CV

At first glance, Warwick’s new Streamer CV (Classic Vintage) may look exactly like its brothers and sisters in the Streamer family, albeit with the addition of a pickguard.
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AT FIRST GLANCE, WARWICK’S NEW STREAMER CV (Classic Vintage) may look exactly like its brothers and sisters in the Streamer family, albeit with the addition of a pickguard. But despite the CV’s outward appearance of European breeding and sophistication, on the inside it’s got the soul of a vintage U.S. classic, the passive Jazz Bass.

Like all of Warwick’s German-built models, the CV enjoys the full complement of Warwick’s technological advancements, like its two-piece solid brass bridge, the brass Just-a-Nut III, and illuminated side dots. The body is available in a variety of finishes—the review instrument came with an intriguing Nirvana Black stain under a hard-as-nails, yet very thin high-gloss lacquer. It is worth mentioning that as a part of a healthy commitment to ecologically sound manufacturing, Warwick’s lacquer finishes are water-based, so no harmful fumes are released into the atmosphere, and they set quickly with exposure to UV rays, so heat is not required for drying. In general, Warwick has been a leader in the industry when it comes to responsible manufacturing processes, energy efficiency, and sustainable harvesting— it would be nice to see more companies follow in its footsteps.

VINTAGE VIBE

While not plainly visible, the main difference between the CV and its siblings is clear as soon as you wrap your hand around the expertly carved neck. While most of the German-built Warwick instruments sport the trademark wenge neck, and a few models have flame-maple with ekanga veneer strips, the CV is the only bass in this series with a one-piece maple neck. The tone difference is immediately noticeable—while wenge produces a tight, focused response with crisp high end, the maple neck gives the CV a more “open” tone, with a lively response that makes techniques such as slapping really pop. But the biggest difference is the 9.5" radius on the rosewood fingerboard. Perusing the company website, it seems every bass Warwick builds has a much flatter 20" radius—it’s a part of the company’s recipe. Many players prefer the flatter radius for tapping, slapping, chords, and other modern techniques, but there are many vintage (read: Fender) enthusiasts who like a more rounded feel. Counting myself in the latter group, I was immediately won over by the curvature of the CV’s neck profile—it felt like a Fender neck that had been meticulously hand-crafted by a master violin maker.

The passive electronics also go a long way toward copping that vintage vibe. The CV is the only model in the German Warwick series to come equipped with the underrated MEC single-coil passive pickups. Because these pickups show up in the lower-priced Pro Series line (though not the same as the ones found in the Chinese Rockbass series), there may be a misperception of their quality, but they do an excellent job of producing the classic passive-tone profile, with a little higher output and clarity. And in spite of their single-coil nature, I heard no trace of 60-cycle hum when soloing each pickup—they were so quiet, I had to confirm with the company that they weren’t stacked or split coils.

The passive tone control scheme is based on an old Framus design (Warwick also owns Framus), where the bass and treble frequencies are divided between two controls wired together using 500kΩ pots with a 47nF capacitor assigned to the highs, and a 6.8nF capacitor for the lows. The two-control passive layout is unique, and led to an interesting misconception and discovery on my part. When the bass arrived, I spent the afternoon playing it at home, and was convinced I was playing a 2-band active instrument—it seemed to have all the depth and sparkle I associate with active electronics. Before taking the bass out for a gig, I decided it would be wise to check the battery to make sure it would last through the night. Thanks to the easy-open control cavity, even my worn-to-the-nub fingernails were able to pop the lid, only to discover I was playing a passive instrument! I realized that instead of a subtle and transparent active circuit, in fact, it was a powerful and transparent passive circuit. The bass control ever so slightly rolls off the roundness at the bottom; even turned completely off, the lows still thump. The treble control has a more obvious effect, but the advantage of having the frequencies divided between two knobs means that rolling down the highs takes away less of the mids that give the tone punch and detail.

The Warwick’s setup reacted a bit after it landed in the dry Texas climate, so some tweaking was necessary to get it feeling right. This was my first time making adjustments to a Warwick, and little details like the easy-to-open control-cavity and trussrod covers were much appreciated. Opening up the impressive maintenance kit that comes with every German-built Warwick, I found the proper wrenches and tightened up the trussrod, lowered the Just-a-Nut III a tad, and brought down the bridge saddles on the E and G strings. In particular, having the ability to instantly (and non-destructively) work with the nut height is a sweet option for home-setup fans.

AUSTIN POWER

The CV made its Austin debut at a Western swing gig at the Broken Spoke. A solid foundation was required for the nine-piece band, and the order of the day was big, fat, round bass, painted in broad strokes. Plugged into an AER Amp Three, I had German engineering covering me on both fronts, and the sonic results put a smile on my face all night long.

The neck pickup sounded deep and wide, and the tone compressed nicely with palm muting to produce a dead-on simulated old-school upright tone. Not only was the “bass energy” behind the note, the instrument responded dynamically to the unique attack of this style and let each note thump, bloom, and decay just right. Blending both pickups, a familiar J-Bass character appeared, and the extra detail cut through the denseness of horns and pedal steel without sounding bright or modern. There was no opportunity to use the bridge pickup solo on this gig, but it had the predictable burpy punch associated with a certain Mr. Pastorius. However, in my one moment of wildly inappropriate behavior (it happens), I decided to slap à la Larry Graham during the long buildup section of the ubiquitous fiddle showstopper “Orange Blossom Special.” Okay, I was out of line, but I was just doing my part to “Keep Austin Weird.” As offensive as it may have been to fiddle fans, I was knocked out by the impact the CV delivered when switching to the slap. This bass did not disappear into the woodwork (in spite of the audience’s wishes), and my thumped root–5 bass part held its own—for better or worse.

The Streamer CV is currently available in 4-string (right- or left-handed) models, although there is talk of a 5-string version in the making. If you’re a “classic-vintage” kind of player, the CV is a high-end bass you can love. The tone and feel are there, but it’s partnered with leading-edge technical enhancements and unsurpassed build quality.

SPECIFICATIONS

WARWICK

Streamer CV
Street $3,500
Pros German quality and design with a vintage vibe
Cons No 5-string model … yet
Bottom Line A high-end take on the classic passive J platform that merges vintage tone and feel with modern design and flawless construction.

Contactwarwickbass.com

SPECS

Construction Bolt-on
Body Swamp ash
Neck One-piece maple
Fingerboard Rosewood
Fingerboard radius 9.5"
Frets 21 jumbo bronze, Invisible Fretwork Technology
Nut Just-a-Nut III brass
Scale length 34"
Neck width at nut 1.5"
Pickups 2 MEC Passive J
Bridge Two-piece chrome Warwick solid brass
Tuners Warwick chrome
Weight 8.5 lbs
Made in Germany

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