Sunday, April 3, 2011

SWR Super Redhead Bass Amplifier


Hello!

Why did I ever sell this amplifier? I was caught up in Markbass frenzy when I offed my pre-Fender SWR Super Redhead, and had I been thinking clearly I never would have let it go. This is one of the worst gear swaps I ever did.

SWR was started in 1984 in the San Fernando Valley, and became well-known for their solid SM-400 amplifiers and their humongous Goliath speaker cabinets. The company was sold to Fender Musical Instruments Corporation in 2003. Rumors are that quality went down after Fender bought SWR, but I cannot vouch for this. You know how rumors are.

I bought my SWR from the Hollywood Guitar Center in 1999 (if I remember right) because I was drawn to the overall package. It was easily transportable, had plenty of output and looked gnarly. I cannot remember what I paid for it, but it was not cheap -- $1200 maybe? I think my GK/Hartke stack sold for about the purchase price of the SWR, though.

First off, I love the design of the Super Redhead. It is compact (though still almost 100 pounds), and it had a trick latch-on front cover that can be used as a stand to angle the cabinet upwards. The removable casters are definitely helpful, and there is a spare rack space in case you want to add mount-rack effect.

The cabinet on mine was built beautifully, using high-quality 5/8-inch 7-ply birch with joints made by true craftsmen. All of the joints were nailed and glued, besides being dadoed and/or rabbeted. Fuuuudge. I can do without the fuzzy carpet covering, but that is the industry standard, and I should acknowledge and move on.

The cabinet was loaded with two 10-inch speakers and a horn. I do not know who supplied them back then, but they held up well for me for the seven years that I owned it. The cabinet was ported along the bottom edge of the front panel, and could really move some air.

Of course, the amplifier was the belle of the ball for me in this package. The Super Redhead has a single-channel amplifier with two 12AX7 pre-amplifier tubes (one for the pre-amp and one for the tube DI), and a solid-state power section.

There were passive and active ¼-inch inputs, an effects loop (with a blend control knob!), a 4 ohm extension speaker out, a balanced output and an unbalanced (like me) output.

The amplifier settings had a few deviations from normal. There were the usual gain and master volume controls, bit the equalizer settings were a little goofy. For the mids, both the level and frequency were adjustable, and there was a bass knob with a “turbo” setting and a treble control with a transparency setting (both used push/pull pots). Ooh, and don’t forget the Aural Enhancer. Whatever that is. I never liked the sound of it, so I kept it turned down.

And on the front, there were an array of Direct Out controls that I also never used, but would have come in handy if I ever needed to do any studio work with this amp.

This SWR amp had a bunch of other unexpectedly cool features too. Like switches to defeat the internal speakers and the cooling fan. How about a 120-volt outlet on the back of the unit? And the headphone jack was a bonus feature that I did not have on my old Gallien Krueger 800RB.

And hey, it is nice to have the power switch on the front. Maybe Genz Benz could learn something from these guys.

Aside from the well thought out packaging and a gaggle of standard features, the Super Redhead sounded great too, and I never had a single problem with mine. I was an idiot for letting it go.

If you want to buy a new one, they are still being sold today. The power output is a bit more (400 watts), and a tuner out, but the price is a bit more too. The SWR Super Redhead has a list price of $2349, and a street price of $1649. SWR provides a 5-year warranty, which should provide some peace of mind if you pull the trigger.

Mahalo!

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