In last year's December issue (Vol 19 No 12) we had the pleasure of running the rule over Warwick's 2008 Limited Edition model, a swanky Streamer LX constructed with exotic woods, loaded with tonal options and produced in a very limited run. For 2009 Warwick's Custom Shop has decided to give the Corvette $$ (Double Buck) a similar treatment, and we've got our hands on the five-string version.
Warwick's flagship models - the Corvette, Thumb and Streamer - are all very compact in nature. This Corvette measures around 305mm from top to bottom edge - a Fender Jazz is closer to 360mm - and this is very much part of its appeal. Another attractive element is the rather elegant and beautifully finished olive top; it might only be a 5mm veneer, but what a gorgeous 5mm it is.
The Corvette's body itself features an ultra-stubby lower horn and an upper horn rather like the index finger on one of those giant foam gloves you see being wielded at major sporting events, pointing to some spot on the horizon at a 45-degree angle to the neck. Beneath the olive top and the thin underlying layer of ekanga wood is a two-piece mahogany core, carved on the back to include a comfort-enhancing ribcage chamfer and routed to house an electronics cover plate of the handy quick-release variety.
The four-bolt neck joint is heelless and scalloped for ultra-comfortable access to the highest of the 24 medium jumbo frets, all of which are fashioned from hard-wearing bell brass. The rosewood fingerboard is adorned with offset oval abalone inlays, while the neck itself is made from maple with mahogany stringers. The faintly chubby neck makes it comfy to play rather than super-fast.
At the furthest extent the neck morphs via a strengthening bulge beneath the nut into a headstock that looks much like a three-year-old's attempt at drawing a square. It's faced with more glorious olive and carries five slanted tuners, an abalone logo and model name on a black plastic gherkin-shaped truss rod cover.
The other major piece of hardware to report on is the black two-piece Warwick bridge, made by Schaller. The saddle sections are screwed into a brass block, which should contribute positively to sustain and aid clarity of tone - all crucial elements on a low-B bass.
Warwick loads the Corvette with MM-style pickups by MEC, and MEC also provides the active electronics which are hooked up to Volume and Blend (the latter a stack knob which, when pulled up, coverts the bass to passive mode) and Bass, Middle and Treble controls. There are also two mini toggle switches for three coil modes: select up for parallel, centre for single coil and down for serial mode. This, with the EQ, promises a dizzying array of variations.
The MEC pickups deliver a lively tone with good width and fresh-sounding highs. The midrange is fairly clean but a slight nasal zing at the note edges betrays a little bias towards the higher mids - a widespread trend with modern active basses, and not exactly what you'd call even or full-range. This fairly subtle but ever-present high-mid edge does help in clarity terms, and on the Corvette it's not an especially dominant element, but dialling in room-shaking levels of Bass doesn't totally remove it.
This setting, though, proves to be a silky rock/pop sound that retains a nicely focused B-string, albeit one of the cursed tapered ball end variety (we have no idea why people insist on fitting a string configured to reduce tension where this is a key element in the quality of the note). Anyway, it's a testament to Warwick's build quality that it sounds good in the first place. Reducing Mid level reduces the nasal tendency but increasing the Mid level works better overall, introducing a darker punch that's great fun to riff on. Highs via boosted Treble are wiry and a little choked rather than explosive, and extreme treble hikes avoid fret-noise but add a brittle zing.
The neck MEC is much earthier-sounding, and although the zingy edge persists it adds a pleasing chime to the growling lower registers. Spooning on a generous mass of Bass EQ adds massive power and impact, and boosting the Mid knob makes the Corvette snarl and punch way above its weight, even on the low B. Increasing Treble level gets you cut and bite that's best when the starting point is fairly bassy.
Given the zingy bias you might expect a super-burpy bridge pickup sound but it sounds fairly natural, and lower registers are fat with a hint of a growl and pleasingly even in volume. You can get that radical burp by maxing both Bass and Middle, and you can also add a nastier edge courtesy of the Treble control. This, perversely, is where the highs sound most natural and open.