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Another SA-200 Review!

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by manjar, Apr 12, 2006.

  1. manjar


    Dec 8, 2005
    Hi all-

    This is my first review posting on Talkbass. I recognize that it may not be the most "technical" or golden-ears review, but my only intent is to capture my experience using this product.

    Anyway, nearly 15 years ago, I bought the first bass amp that I truly loved, the SWR Basic Black. This was at a time when the solid state, graphic EQ, "bells and whistles" movement was well underway. What that amp taught me is that it is possible to have an amplification system that you can walk up to, plug into, get a great sound quickly, and very quickly be doing what you should be doing, which is playing bass.

    Since then, I've been on a search for an amp that can take these qualities to the next level, both in terms of amplitude and flexibility, but with a minimum of added complexity. After spending a couple of months with the SA200 and evaluating other products, I'm pleased to say that I've found my solution.

    Here are some qualities that really stand out for me in the SA200, as they hit my requirements dead-on:

    * minimal and intuitive tone shaping controls. Intuitive to me means the knobs match how I think of my sound, which in turn means less time getting a great sound. Regardless of the style I'm playing, from power-pop to funk to singer-songwriter sideman, I can quickly dial in an appropriate and distinctive tone. Lots of compliments from folks. In short, the amp is musical and designed for playing music now, not for possibly containing a good sound that must be "tweaked" out by a fanatic. Stop tweaking! Start playing!

    * very sweet overdrive characteristics. By "sweet", I don't mean to suggest that it can't get very dirty indeed. What is sweet is that the vast majority the overdrive's range is usable for one purpose or another, from warm transient smoothing to deeply affecting nastiness.

    * once you've dialed in what you want from the above, the volume control magnifies in a linear, balanced way. In other words, you can just make yourself louder without having to dial your sound in again. This characteristic of the amplifier has really underlined the limitations of some cabinets and even most rooms. And again, more time playing and sounding great, less time striking a deal with your kit.

    Other than that, it is a professional-looking and very solidly-built piece of equipment, supported by Sadowsky's world class team. My amp spends an unfair amount of time in the trunk of my car going to gigs and rehearsals (and on other errands when I'm too lazy to take it out of the car). The SA-200 has worked without a single problem or issue despite the moderate abuse that I inflict on all my gear. I appreciated Sadowsky's active follow-up when a design issue with the rubber foot screw was found to possibly cause problems (it didn't cause problems for me). I strongly recommend racking the unit in a shallow 4-unit box with nice handles on it. Doing so yields a reasonably portable package. Also, out of the box the unit has some sharp non-flush screw heads that can scratch, so put the feet on it or rack it straightaway.

    In sum, the SA200 is another great product from Sadowsky. It has clearly been designed and constructed with the actual needs of working bassists in mind, and achieves a very impressive level of musicality, usability, and durability that would be impressive at almost any cost. As with any product, I have gone a few rounds thinking "if only it had..." (multiple channels, savable presets, etc.), only to come back to recognizing the appropriateness of the simplicity and power of the available features. For the price and weight, in my view it's a no-brainer.

  2. You should post your review in the review section.
  3. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    Great review. The heck with the 'golden tone palette' stuff.... you've told us what we need to know... how is it on the gig, how do you schlep it around, service and support, and the usability of the tone controls, etc.

    Very cool review... thanks.
  4. ibz


    Apr 14, 2005
    Columbus, OH
    Also, what cabinets do you play the behemoth through?
  5. manjar


    Dec 8, 2005
    Thanks for the feedback! To answer some of your questions:

    * regarding mids control, did you mean not having a parametric control or a graphic EQ? My approach, again probably not the most technically sophisticated, is to use the "mid" control on the SA-200 and the pickup "blend" or "balance" knob on my bass. This way I can quickly get what I'm looking for. I know that strictly speaking this is a constraint, but it is one that plays out pretty musically in this amp and for the sounds I am generally going for. I should mention that I have a prejudice against parametrics and graphics.

    * as far as cabs are concerned, I'm currently playing through an SWR Workingman's 4x10. I think there is some room for improvement here, and I'll be going down to More Music in Santa Cruz hopefully this week to plug the SA-200 into some Euphonic and/or Bergantino cabs, which I've like with other amps of this type. I have not seen or heard the Sadowsky cab yet, but would happily do so if I can find one in the area.

    * amplitude-wise, it nicely suits my needs, which include (but are not limited to) playing loud hard-pop music in medium-size rehearsal studios and small- to medium-sized venues. By that I mean to say competing with two distorted guitar stacks. In these situations I am getting to the upper end of the master volume range, but I haven't had to max it out yet. Glad you mentioned this, because I forgot to mention how happy I am that an amp that does the hi-fi thing so well also holds up with the more aggressive, overdriven, picked (with a pick) material.

    BTW, I would be happy to take SFjonstarr's recommendation and post this in the "reviews" section, unless there is a way to move the thread there? I just created a topic for it.
  6. 57pbass

    57pbass Supporting Member

    Great review...

    I am seriously considering flipping my WW Ultra for this head...
  7. manjar


    Dec 8, 2005
    >>it seems like it'd make it unusually difficult to make changes where they count the most.

    OK, I get you now. Yeah, I guess I'd have to say that I'm with the other folks you've talked to, as I haven't had any problems getting my sound to sit and/or cut through. Never even crossed my mind. I've done a small amount of recording with it as well, to the same effect.
  8. Smash, I remember a thread where Roger addressed the issue of no low mid knob, he said the low mid range is where a lot of bass players ruin their tone. He said that standing close to the amp that low mid bump can sound great but in the audience it sounds muddy. He also said that the eq on sadowsky basses and (IIRC) amps are interactive, so turning the bass down will give a bit more low mids etc. Hopefully I haven't mistaken any of his comments.

    By the way, great review.
  9. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Great review, manjar! Thanks for sharing. :)

    SMASH, as for the midrange control, I find that I prefer midrange tone control around the 800 Hz level, so take my comments with several grains of salt. But I find the SA200 to be a very full, yet articulate, amp throughout its range. The mids have that tube warmth and presence to them, but in a balanced way, with no obvious scoops. So, you may find that the midrange is pleasing as is. Futhermore, as manjar points out, pickup blends (and hand placement) can have a big effect on the tone as well, particularly in the mids. If you like a major mid boost around 250-350 Hz, you could always use a cab that possesses such characteristics. And keep in mind that boosting/cutting certain frequencies can have an effect on the perceived level of other frequencies.

    And you also have the Clean/Fat switch, which to my ears definitely has an audible impact on the 250-350 Hz area (among other frequencies).

  10. seebee


    Dec 17, 2004
    I had a chance to play thru the SA-200 last week while visiting Sadowsky. It was butter baby. I never touched the EQ. I played at a low volume and it was warm and full like a comforter on a cold night It was thru the Sadowsky Cab. Best I've heard years. maybe ever:bassist:
  11. Plain Old Me

    Plain Old Me

    Dec 14, 2004
    Basses Electric Acoustic just got one of these in recently, and I will be out to try it pretty soon :)
  12. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    I want one bad. Every time I go to Brooklyn for a visit I fall in love all over again. Very soon


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