Read the full article
This article was originally published in issue #10
To read the article in its entirety, view the digital magazine
Life isn't all about 1000 Watt Class D heads - even for Dan Veall! We opened the Bassment door, chucked a Warwick 40 Watt combo into his lair and waited for the howls of outrage....
Germany's Warwick is not only well known for its wide range of basses but also for powerful and flexible amplification. In both markets it covers everything from professional to beginner level products and in this issue we are looking at one of a range of current Warwick combos that are designed specifically for the needs of either those looking to buy their first amplifier, or a home practice amplifier. Indeed, Warwick markets this range of combos to include teachers needing dual inputs to share with students and make use of the additional MP3 audio input, as well as for 'backstage warm up/ tune up' amplification - so they are quite clear about their intended buyers.
The combos in this specification range include the BC20, BC40 and larger BC80. If you need a bigger or more powerful combo with more features, then there are two additional models in the BC range: the BC150 that features a 150W amplifier and an effects loop (like the BC80) and auxiliary level control and the even larger BC300.
Warwick's BC40 is a step up from the baby of the pack, the 20 Watt BC20, and would do nicely for beginners who are starting to play with other musicians, who need a reasonably priced combo to get started with. I myself teach a local Rock school and have found that guitar amplifiers purchased by the students are usually of the 30 Watt 'modelling amplifier' variety, while the kids on bass usually have a combo between 30-60 Watts. So this amplifier, or its larger brother, would fit the bill nicely.
The front panel layout of the BC40 is simple, straightforward and uncluttered. The controls are functional and ideal for those who wish to just plug-in and get a good sound with the minimum amount of fuss. Warwick makes a point of advertising that the BC combos have been designed to achieve the best sound possible, employing the use of 'A Class' preamp topology for a pure signal path and a power stage that doesn't use a fan for cooling, so that background noise is kept to a minimum. The power amplifier module and its heatsink can actually be seen behind the bass port on the front of the cabinet. Cooling of the amplifier is aided by the flow of air through the port as the speaker moves back and forth. For an amplifier of this low power, this method is sufficient to keep things cool and running safely.
Tonally, the 10" Warwick bass speaker and 2" tweeter translate the tone of your instrument amicably and the addition of the port at the bottom of the cabinet adds to an amount of low end girth as the amplifier is turned up. Moderate volume was easily attainable and we found no reason to criticise the combo at all. It gets the job done and well.
A curious inclusion at first look on the BC20, BC40 and BC80 is the use of a 'figure of eight' power plug and socket on the rear of the combo (in the UK - this may be different elsewhere). I'd expected to see a more usual IEC connector on the rear, or indeed a 'hard wired cable' at this price. Warwick has a point though: a lot of consumer goods don't need an earth wire (or earth pin on the plug) due to the way that they are insulated. Warwick has taken this method and brought it to these three combos. A positive side effect of this is that with no earth wire plugging in to the mains outlet, there is less chance of noisy 'earth loops' and other mains borne noise being picked up by the combo. Clever thinking. It does mean though, you'll need to make sure you don't lose the cable - you might not find another laying about at a rehearsal space!
There are a few more features on board the BC40 that help it stand-out in comparison to some other combos in the same product bracket. For example, it boasts a 'dynamic limiter' that is said to be an improvement over standard amplifier limiting devices, because it actually senses when the amplifier is being pushed into distortion, instead of setting a nominal threshold level for a standard type limiter to kick-in. Warwick advertises this as meaning that this 40 Watt combo can be louder than an equivalent competitor unit. We were unable to test this in the studio, but can certainly confirm that it seemed to deliver a pretty good volume for such a small cabinet and power rating.
Finally, we were pleased to see two very handy connections for rehearsal, practice and learning: the inclusion of an MP3/CD input and headphone output. Both are stereo, making silent practice a joy as you'll be able to mix your bass sound into stereo headphones.
The BC40 doesn't feature all the bells and whistles of a modern modelling combo, nor is it pretending to be some boutique 'must have' valve amplifier. It is however dead easy to use and presents you with exactly what you want to hear: unadulterated bass tone that sounds full and clear. It's brilliant for those who don't need lots of effects and for those who just want to 'plug and play'. I like the sloped front of the tough metal grill, which is very pleasing to the eye. Check out the full specification to go with this review and enjoy the sounds in the video.
In summation, this is a great little combo from Warwick, playing to strengths of simplicity and tone. Looking around at the obvious competition, it seems reasonably priced, too.