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Ampeg SVT-CL and SVT 4-Pro advice needed: reliability?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by redshifter, Sep 18, 2005.

  1. redshifter


    Sep 18, 2005
    San Francisco
    Hello all,

    I'm pretty new to the Ampeg world and I'm in serious need of guidance. This is going to be a long post, apologies in advance.

    First off, about me: I play in a very active, touring indie rock band. We play charging, loud music in the vein of Jimmy Eat World, Foo Fighters, etc. My cabinet is the typical Ampeg 810E. I play a passive US Fender P-Bass and my dream tone is the classic, meaty SVT tone that we all know.

    To that end, 3 or 4 months ago I purchased a used SVT-CL. I'm not sure of its age, but I believe it's the version just before the current all-black crop. Mine is black with a blue "classic" logo on the front - early 90s maybe? Anyway, not long after I bought it, it died on me mid-rehearsal, losing about 99% of its volume and making a pained crackling sound. I took it to our amp repair guy, and he fixed it, saying that the vibrations had shaken some connection loose and that otherwise the amp was healthy. I was encouraged.

    Then, the other night at a gig, I set up my rig, plugged in -- and nothing. Not a peep. I was very flustered, obviously. The bassist from one of our 'sister' bands was there checking us out, and when he saw my problems, he immediately started blaming the SVT-CL, saying how fragile they are and that they're not really reliable enough to count on. Having little experience with them (I had always had a GK 800RB), I don't know what to believe.

    Anyway, my SVT-CL is out of commission, we have some very important gigs coming up, and we can't afford my having an amp that's going to crap out on us. That said, I went to Guitar Center and bought a new SVT 4-Pro, thinking that it would be more reliable due to its solid-state nature. I bought it yesterday and played a gig with it last night, and frankly I'm underwhelmed. The tone is *ok*, but definitely not as warm and punchy as the CL. And, I was hitting the volume limiter all night. Granted, it was a really bad room and we were CRANKED up louder than ever, but still -- with 1200W of power I would expect enough volume to shatter windows.

    So, I find myself in a quandary: I really feel that the SVT-CL is the amp for me, but I don't know whether I can count on it. From reading message boards, it seems that lots of other players use CLs (or vintage SVTs) as their main rig without issue.

    Bottom line: Is my CL just a lemon? Two failures in 4 months is not encouraging. I don't know if I want to give my particular amp another chance, but I'm not sure I want to write off the CL completely. Is the CL tough enough to take the rigors of the road, and should I look into buying another one?
  2. The CL is an all tube amp, they are very reliable as long as they are taken care off, if its been used alot since the mid 90's, i think the logo you are talking about was 94/95, i could be wrong tho, but anyway, there is every chance that it could just need a revalve, take it to an actual amp tech who has experience with valve amps
  3. redshifter


    Sep 18, 2005
    San Francisco
    Well, that's the thing... when I brought it in to our repair guy (who is incredibly experienced with tube amps -- he rules!), he said that the tubes looked to be healthy. And that was only about 6 weeks ago. :confused:

    I mean, I'm sure he could get my amp up and running again, but I'm just afraid that it'll die on me yet again. But in general, the CL is known to be a reliable touring amp? I have no problem with tube maintenance and that type of thing, and I can get a road case for added protection -- I just want to make sure that the thing actually *works* when I need it.
  4. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    Could be a blown fuse from a loose power tube. That happened to me one night when I was setting up for a show.

    SVT-4 is pretty reliable. When I owned it, I ran it in bi-amp mode with an 8-ohm and 4-ohm cab (= some wierd load on it) for over a year and nothing ever went wrong with it. I dont think much will match up to your CL.
  5. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    Hopefully PsychoBassGuy will come across this thread. He's one of the most knowledgeable tube amp techs on this forum in my book.

    I've experienced reliability problems with a few amps over the years, so I feel your pain. I agree with you, I wasn't too impressed the the SVT 4-Pro's overall volume either, nor did I like it's tone as much as the SVT-CL's.

    That being said, I wasn't too impressed with the tone of the SVT-CL (or my SVT 2-Pro) at high volumes either, but if you're happy with it, fantastic.

    But here's an idea: My SVT 2-Pro and first SVT-CL were mid 90's models with the teal and red lettering. They were reliable as far as I could tell, but my 2-Pro had a similar problem you may want to have checked out by your tech. The amp's output jacks can somehow make contact with one another which causes this amp's 'protect circuit' to kick in and cause the amp to shut down. The tech who repaired mine said he saw the same problem on 3 other SVT heads of that era that he repaired. Just a thought.

    If you really love the sound of the SVT-CL and can afford to, I'd return the SVT 4-Pro, buy a brand new SVT-CL and have your old one gone through thoroughly. Once it's back up and running, you'd have a nice back-up. That is, if hauling an extra 80 lb head isn't too impractical.

    Or you could save some cash and look into a Thunderfunk, or go back to a G-K head.

    Please post how it turns out. Good luck.
    - Art
  6. redshifter


    Sep 18, 2005
    San Francisco
    I just rode out to our rehearsal studio and checked the fuse in the back of the amp just to make sure it wasn't something as simple as that. Unfortunately, the fuse was still intact.

    Art, your suggestion to buy a brand-new SVT-CL isn't a bad one; I was seriously considering doing that before, but I had it in my head that the CL just wasn't sturdy enough for touring. I'm getting the impression from this thread that the CL is in fact tough enough (with the proper amount of care) and that my particular amp is being more finicky than usual. I gotta say, though -- two failures in 4 months is cause for concern. But, perhaps with a new head, things will be better. My bandmates will kill me if I announce that we're lugging around two of these amps -- they grumble enough already about the current one, but hey -- whatever it takes.

    Thanks for the tips, all -- keep 'em coming!
  7. Yeah thats a well known problem with the first SVT 2-Pro's , it was a dodgy circuit, but i think ampeg will still send out a replacement if its still the defective one thats in there? (on thing i love about the SVT II, no protection circuit to kick in, just a fried amp ;) )

    However, I'd get a second opinion on the tubes, but i dare say they could be ok and its just a blown fuse or something, you did check the fuse's in the actual amp, there should be at least one pretty big on in there by the transformer?
  8. If your touring with an all tube amp like an SVT, I'd bring a spare.
  9. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    I use a solid state power amp with a tube preamp; if I were touring, I'd want a backup for it. I've had a few solid state amps take a dump during gigs over the years. IMO any type of equipment is prone to failure, you just never know.

    Hey redshifter, maybe a new SVT-CL as your main amp and a used G-K800RB as your backup?


  10. Why?
  11. [sarcasm] Because, you know, tube amps are totally unreliable and pointlessly expensive, and nothing can go wrong with solid state amps! [/sarcasm]
  12. Because tube amps generally are single channel and if it goes, your stuck. Most SS amps have two channels, offering somewhat higher availability with the redunant channel. If you one side should go, you can make use of the second channel.

    I will re-phrase, if touring, bring two amps, peroid.

    Got me wrong Mr. Mohawk. Tube-o-phile here. VBA400, Mesa 400+, SVP-CL/Stew 2.1 in case everything else fails.
  13. touche sir!

    a backup amp maybe, but tube amps are just as reliable as SS amps, just to get that point over again, aslong as they are taken care of :)
  14. Amen! I'm just paranoid.