Hotwire/Warmoth Custom 5

Hotwire/Warmoth Custom 5

Year: 2006/2017

Made In: Germany/USA

Specs: Ash body, maple neck, maple fretboard

Electronics: 2 x Q-Tuner BL-5 pickups, ACG/East EQ-02 preamp

Controls: Volume and blend stack, bass filter stack, treble filter stack

The long and troubled history of this bass is best left elsewhere. However, having gone the custom route and been unhappy with the execution while still believing in the concept, I’m happy to say this bass is a triumph of persistence.

An ash-bodied 5-string Jazz bass with a maple neck is nothing new, but it is a known quantity and I wanted a secure vehicle for a pair of Q-Tuner pickups paired with a sophisticated electronics circuit. After much work and multiple times where cutting my losses seemed the easiest path, there’s a feeling of vindication now that the instrument itself is worthy of the electronics.

The Q-Tuners are an articulate and extremely powerful pickup with very detailed high-end. That’s not to say they’re short of low end, there is plenty in there too, just that there is more upper-frequency information in there than I’ve heard in any pickup. The closest pickup I can think of, in terms of sound, is the G&L MFD, but the MFD doesn’t have anything like the high-end of the Q-Tuner.  It requires serious reining in to approach anything like a vintage tone, but that’s not what I wanted from this bass.

Replacing the neck has been an eye-opening experience. I’m not one who subscribes to the concept of particular woods meaning particular tonal characteristics, certainly not in electric instruments where the pickup plays such a substantial role in the voice of an instrument. The impact of replacing a maple/maple neck with a different maple/maple neck has been enlightening, however. Where one neck was muted and stifling, the other sings and I must praise the quality of Warmoth for their quality, while acknowledging that it is possible for a piece of similar wood to simply not work.

This bass is a traditional looking but elegantly voiced 5-string with extensive tonal capabilities. It took a lot of work to reach this point, but I feel it was worth the journey, both in terms of lessons learned and the supremely playable end result. It’s a unique sounding instrument in a traditional shell, the one I set out to achieve all those years ago.

 

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Hotwire Custom 5

Hotwire Custom 5

Year: 2006

Made In: Germany

Specs: Ash body, maple neck, maple fretboard

Electronics: 2 x Q-Tuner BL-5 pickups, ACG/East EQ-02 preamp

Controls: Volume and blend stack, bass filter stack, treble filter stack

My first and, thus far, only custom build has had a few changes made since it initally arrived at my door. I like the Jazz design a lot and wanted a five string with a setup which just wasn’t available anywhere else at the time. It still isn’t, come to think of it. I bought a pair of Q-Tuner pickups and a Noll TCM3 preamp, so electronically, it was a fairly advanced setup within the traditional J shell. To be honest, it was a bit of a disappointment when it arrived.

There were a few build and finish problems and the Q-Tuners weren’t really working with the Noll either. Doing some fret work helped, as did installing a string tree on the headstock. The low B was still a bit weak and replacing the Badass bridge with a heavy ABM unit improved that somewhat. I decided to replace the Noll and installed an ACG/John East filter system which really opened up the tone nicely. I was still having intonation and tuning problems and eventually figured out the nut was a couple of mm closer to the first fret than it should have been. It was a very disappointing discovery, given the money it cost.

Fundamentally, I believed there was a really good bass in there, so eventually I had the ebony fretboard replaced with a maple board with a smaller radius and fretted with small, vintage sized frets. It made a huge difference, both in terms of intonation and the fundamental tone of the bass. The Q-Tuners are really powerful pickups, combining balls and clarity and the filters offer almost limitless tonal shaping. Despit the traditional appearance, it’s a long way away from V-V-T.

I think there’s still some room for improvement, but it’s a lot closer now to the bass I hoped it would be ten years ago when I placed the order.