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Any SWR Interstellar Overdrive Owners?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Tapp, Sep 28, 2001.


  1. Tapp

    Tapp

    Aug 29, 2001
    USA, Mississippi
    I'm curious about the SWR "Stella" Interstellar Overdrive. I've been told that it's the closest sound to an SVT if used as a preamp; even with a nice SS amp. Also, are there any differences in the old style blue colored unit vs. the new black looking unit. Some people think that SWR's quality has gone down since Steve Rabe left.

    thanks for any info

    tapp
     
  2. jasonbraatz

    jasonbraatz

    Oct 18, 2000
    Oakland, CA
    i should be getting mine next week, i'll let you know!


    design wise, they're the same (blue vs. chrome)


    oh...maybe this is a good place for this question. i heard that SWR uses kinda cheapy chinese tubes, i'm sure it'd be a sound upgrade if i went to some really good tubes. which ones? not much is around in terms of reviews of EL84's for bass...and what would be a good preamp tube?



    jason
     
  3. Tapp

    Tapp

    Aug 29, 2001
    USA, Mississippi
    Thanks for the info Jason; please let me know your thoughts when you get the preamp. Did you find out from SWR that the blue and black units are the same? I had heard somewhere that SWR is using cheaper components than when Rabe was at the company. This could be false info.

    As far as the tubes go, I would try the original tubes initially and let your ears decide for you. Many of these manufacturers design they're gear around the cheaper chinese tubes and as a result sometimes the NOS stuff doesn't sound right. I would definitely try our different things if it were mine. JJ EL84's and EI's have gotten good reviews from the guitar guys.

    tapp
     
  4. JPJ

    JPJ

    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    I have been using an SWR IOD for several months now and might be able to give you some helpful insight as to the merits of the unit. I have an SWR Redhead (the old version, not Super Redhead) and have been using it exclusively as my rig for about 8 or 9 years. The Redhead is fantastic and is probably the best all-around amp you can get, but as my taste changed and I began to find MY sound, I determined that the Redhead was too clean and "modern" for the sound that I had in my head and that I could not get from my existing setup. I was looking for a pushed tube amp sound or slight to medium distorion that bass players got in the late '60's as they turned up lounder and louder to try to compete with the new Marshall stacks of the day. While the players that I'm thinking of didn't not ALL use SVTs, I'm sure that the sound is generally similar. The key was to find a unit that could get THAT sound (in addition to a modern, fat, clean tube sound, a full-bore distortion sound, and everything inbetween) that was still light-weight, easy to carry, and was more reliable than a tube head. So far the IOD has done just that. The unit, when used as a preamp, does a reasonably good immitation of a Kern or a Demeter when no distorion is dialed in, can still sound "modern", and has been very reliable. Also, as is its purpose, it produces a WIDE rage of distorion, from no noticable "push" at all unless you dig in (the unit is very sensitive to playing style) to full out raunch and buzz, if that is what you're looking for. For reference, listed to live Led Zeppelin from '69, Grand Funk Railroad, or any of the Black Crowes first 4 albums, and you will get a pretty good indication of the tones that the IOD can produce.
    While the IOD does a lot of things well, it isn't perfect in my opinion. First, as some other reviewers have mentioned, the 'sweet spot' on the drive control can move within a gig as the tubes get hotter and pushed harder as the night progresses. This isn't a big deal, though..just turn the knob from 11 to 10 o'clock and you're back where you used to be. Also, I had hoped to used the unit as an effect and NOT as a preamp. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed with the IODs performance as an effect, and have since decided to use the IOD as a preamp and just use the power amp section in my Redhead. As an effect, teh distorion sounded thin and weak to me, lacking the depth and complexity that is present when the unit is wired as a preamp. Also, I find it hard to control the drive using the drive control volume pedal. The sweep isn't broad enough, but again, this is a minor concern that can easily be worked around. As for your concern that SWR's quality has gone down, I can't comment as to the merits of this claim, but I can say that I have been very happy with the performance of my Redhead, and haven't had any technical problems with the IOD. They offer a good warranty, so I wouldn't worry. The only other thing of interest that might be relevant is that when high drive settings are used, you will probably have to turn off the tweete to your cab(s). If you are a slapper/popper, this may not be feasible. However, when I turn off my tweeter, I've found that I can dial in all of the high end that I need by using the treble control. Besides, classic SVT gear wasn't known for their sizzling highend response! Hope that helps and gives you more to go on that "Dude, my 'Stella ROCKS!" Feel free to follow up if you have any more questions. If you're confused, my overall opinion is that, after working with the unit for a few weeks, I was finally able to get THAT sound in my head and am very pleased.
     
  5. Tapp

    Tapp

    Aug 29, 2001
    USA, Mississippi
    Cool JPJ; thanks for the details!! Do you own the newer blackfaced model or the older blue faced? I'm really curious about the "Stella" from the standpoint that tubes are getting so costly especially for high powered bass amps and I like the good tubes (ie. KT90's). I'd like to try the Stella with a nice Crest or Stewart SS amp with my Eden 2-10XLT's.

    thanks again,

    tapp
     
  6. JPJ

    JPJ

    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    Glad to be of help. I have the newer version that is a part of SWR's new "chrome" line. I tend to go for fairly neutral or universal colors, and the black and chrome fit nicely in my Redhead's one rack space unit. As far as the tubes are concerned, I haven't even thought to check to see who manufactures the tubes that come in the Stella from the factory, but I would imagine that you are getting quality tubes that will last a long time. I probably know more about tubes than the average bass player as I also play a little...and I mean a 'little' guitar...and have a Mesa Boogie Tremoverb-all tube. I would recommend focusing on whether this is a unit and will get you where you need to be as far as finding the correct tone for your style and playing situation. I doubt once you hear it that you will be worrying about changing tubes. Also, I think that you're on the right track with the amp brands that you mentioned. I forgot to point out that, for what ever reason, when I use the IOD as my preamp and use the power section from my Redhead, I have to crank both volumes (Redhead AND IOD) to get to the same volume level that I normally play at when I just go straight into my amp-when the IOD is not connected. I normally play gigs with my gain set at 1:00 and my volume set at around 11:00-12:00. To get that same level of "loudness" when using the IOD, I have to set the IOD level at 9:00 and my Redhead volume between 2:00 & 3:00. Not sure if the IOD is just not as efficient or if the tubes don't put out as much gain...who knows? Anyway, I would suggest having a good amount of reserve power/headroom just in case you need a little more to bring your level up in a live situation.
     
  7. BigBohn

    BigBohn

    Sep 29, 2001
    WPB, Florida
    so Warwick5S, any thoughts about the IOD?????? i really wanna get it badly.
     
  8. Date ugly girls.

    :D

    Man-o-man do you have a bad GAS attack for an IOD... I hope you score a nice one, then you can tell everybody about it, and maybe create some MP3 for us to listen to. I can't find an IOD here in Sacramento to audition.
     
  9. BigBohn

    BigBohn

    Sep 29, 2001
    WPB, Florida
    heehee, i will, i mean i will get the IOD and show the online world about it, not the dating ugly girls part, lol:p
     
  10. JPJ

    JPJ

    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    I thought I'd give you guys a tip just in case you did't now all of the details on 'ole 'Stella. The OID is a special order item, which means that you will NEVER find one in a store. No SWR dealer in the country...not even the big mail order warehouses or the bass specialty stores, carry this in stock. It has to be ordered. Unfortunately, the only way to go is to try to find one used in a music store-good luck-or to just bite the bullet and buy one. However, in my opinion, it is the ONLY way to go if your into tubes and that classic '60s sound. I would even go with an IOD over an SVT for pure convenience reasons, not to mention the options that this little unit gives you. Just keep in mind that I'm not that fond of the unit used as an "effect", so if you get one, make it your main preamp if at all possible.
     
  11. leper

    leper

    Jun 21, 2001
    damn it all!

    see, I have been lusting after the IOD for quite some time, but completely intended on using it as an effect. just how bad is it as an effect? I mean, does it sound bad, or just not as good as when its used as a preamp?

    anybody have any other suggestions for a really good sounding unit akin to the IOD more suited to effect usage?
     
  12. coyoteboy

    coyoteboy easy there, Ned Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2000
    Sactomato, CA
    I tried one out at a store! It was a new one too, being passed around the area by SWR on its way to someone as a result of a custom order. I really liked it. Especially if you have 18v in your bass to drive the front end a little better. I should be getting mine tomorrow or the next day. Cant wait to crank and tell.

    for "effect" try running the IOD parallel to your current preamp, and rout the output of the IOD to the effects loop return, then you can use the FX level control, if you have one, to control the IOD mix. I might be mistaken, but I think the IOD has an input--> through capability.
     
  13. I played an SVT4Pro and SVT Classic at the music store the other day... all they sounded like were "bass amps". I was expecting some revelation of "grind" but didn't get it.

    My Alembic F-1X gives me a very nice tube sound... thick, buttery, all those adjectives. I was hunting around for something with more "grind" as a second preamp in my rack. The clean/dirty via footswitch appeals to me, as I hate interrupting playing to fiddle with switches on my RB5.

    I figure if I ever buy an IOD, I will be used from eBay, and taking a chance. I can always resell it, should it not sound the way I want.
     
  14. jasonbraatz

    jasonbraatz

    Oct 18, 2000
    Oakland, CA
    the reason it's my favorite preamp ever is that you can get the "l.a." traditional SWR sound, vintage SVT sound, and any blend of the two, with as much overdrive as you want at whatever volume.


    jason
     
  15. barroso

    barroso

    Aug 16, 2000
    Italia
    i have found one used for 150$. it's the blue model. tomorrow i'll go to the shop together with my swr sm 400s and i'll try it. i'm thinking about using it as a "pedal". i mean: what do you think about using it not in the effects loop but
    bass---IOD---amp in the usual intrument input?
     
  16. Tapp

    Tapp

    Aug 29, 2001
    USA, Mississippi
    You dog Barroso! $150 is a steal considering the new ones list for like $800 or so. BTW, I asked an SWR tech and there is no difference between the blue one and newer black glossy one other than cosmetic. I just got one myself (a silver/blue one) and will be using it as a dedicated preamp with a Stewart PA1800 and 2 Eden 2-10XLT's. I'm still waiting on my Stewart being shipped now.

    Jason and I have been talking by mail about the circuitry of the ISO. I will give you a heads up. The ISO is different from anything on the market (that I've found). Besides being a preamp, it does have a tube output section with push-pull fixed biased EL84's. This means that when you changed your EL84's you should have the bias checked. The tech at SWR biases the new units at the factory with a scope but this can all change if you change to new or different EL84's. I'm going to do some testing of different tube types I have in the coming weeks and will report back what I "hear".

    I will mention too that I read an old thread on TBL from Steve Rabe (originator of SWR) himself concerning the ISO. He said it was an extensive R&D project and quite costly as far as parts are concerned. That tells me that SWR put a lot of thought into this little unit.

    Tapp
     
  17. JPJ

    JPJ

    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    Sorry for taking so long to get back to this thread, as there have been several postings since this followup was originally asked. There really isn't anything "wrong" with using 'Stella as an effect. The "pushed tube" grind and distortion you get from this set-up is probably better than the tone of any stomp box or any other preamp on the market right now. However, I found the tone to be a bit thin an one-dimensional. Most of the action was on the top end, and I felt that the complex "push" in the mids and lows that makes the IOD so great were simply lacking in comparison to what you get with the IOD in preamp mode. The manual and SWR literature will tell you the same...the IOD is not INTENDED to be used as an effect, although it CAN be used as one and sounds good....just not GREAT! Hope that clears things up.
     
  18. barroso

    barroso

    Aug 16, 2000
    Italia
    so you suggest me to try the intestellar overdrive this way:
    passive fender precision bass---IOD---SWR SM 400s

    will this be good for the preamp stage of the SWR sm 400s?
    or will i damage the preamp of the SM 400s?i think that this could work, isn't it the same of playing an active bass? i mean is my passive bass plus outboard preamp such as the IOD comparable to an active bass with onboard preamp?
    thanks

    i really think that 150$ is a great price. this unit was in a studio tht went out of business. i'll try it a lot and then i'll decide. sound first, good price second!
    thanks a lot guys!!
     
  19. JPJ

    JPJ

    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    I've mounted my IOD in the one rack space unit on my Redhead, use it as a preamp, and use the power section from my Redhead. Its an easy setup, but I don't get a much volume as I used to. Not too sure why that is, but I still have enough volume to do any gig in the Chicago area.....just not AS MUCH volume as I have with just my Redhead-straight. You should have a great system with that rig.
     
  20. BigBohn

    BigBohn

    Sep 29, 2001
    WPB, Florida
    umm, maybe a active onboard preamp would be better than a passive because I hear the volume is pretty low on the IOD, and it doesnt have a gain knob, thus you'd have to raise the volume up on the guitar, or the poweramp, maybe? well, im getting the IOD soon, and I will have to acquire a new 18V or higher onboard preamp so I can get some volume boost and maybe some headroom:D