Did it take a while for the Ampeg SVT to become "the bass rig"?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Analogeezer, Aug 2, 2021.

  1. Analogeezer


    Jul 29, 2021
    I am sure all of you know the back story; the SVT was originally supposed to be a guitar/bass amp, to compete with the 100 watt Marshall so if 100 watts was good, 300 watts should be better right? I am sure the sealed cabinet was part of the design intent to be able to use like a Marshall, even by 1969 some bass gear was starting to be ported.

    Anyway when I think back on all the concerts I attended as a yute, I don't recall seeing many SVT's on stage or at all for a long time. Believe me as a young bass player back then the first thing I did was to check out the bass player's rig!

    Acoustic kind of ruled the roost, along with various custom cabs with JBL 15" speakers, some guys I saw were using 18" Cerwin Vegas.

    So at some point some guys figured out an SVT with a Precision played with a pick was a great rock sound and you started to see a lot more SVT's, but this was in the early 1980's I started to note SVT's on stage a good 10 years after that amp came out.

    Did I just miss seeing a lot of SVT's being used or was there initial market resistance to them because "bass needs 15" or 18" speakers and surely that thing with a buncha 10" speakers cannot possibly sound good for bass?"

    Funny thing today, even though there are TONS of alternatives to the SVT, a lot of times when you see a big time act that has roadies to move the gear; the bass player uses a SVT :)

    EatS1stBassist and dbsfgyd1 like this.
  2. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Ampeg was sold to MTI around 1980. I don't remember SVTs being massively popular in the 80s. In fact my impression is they had fallen out of favor, as MTI went bankrupt. Around 1986 SLM bought Ampeg and inherited some left over parts. They issued the Skunk SVTs in 1987. These were the last amps made with the original circuits. FYI, both the MTI and Skunk SVTs have black cosmetics. You can easily tell them apart because the front edge of the side panels are straight on the MTI. On the Skunks the top part of the sidepanel angles back to be parallel to the face of the preamp.

    SLM later introduced the SVT CL, and my recollection is there was a bit of resurgence around that time, coinciding with the increasing popularity of grunge.

    To be honest I have rarely seen SVTs on stage or in music stores. I have seen a lot on TV. The first one I ever saw in person was the MTI rig I bought in the early 80s. I toured professionally for over two decades. I saw way more GK, Eden, and SWR gear. So my take is the SVT is sort of a dream rig for a lot of players, but I was not around during a time when they were common with the typical bands you are likely to see around town.

    For the record I consider buying my MTI a huge mistake. I was after more of a modern, full-range sound and to my ears an SVT with an 810 is extremely vintage/LoFi by modern standards. I wound up biamping my SVT with a Orban 672A and a Fender Twin Reverb loaded with JBL E120s. I was huge and extremely heavy, but I got the HiFi sound I was after.

    I sold the MTI around 1989-1990. It was in near mint condition and the entire rig sold for $500. It sat on consignment at the price for year.

    Oddly I now consider selling the MTI a mistake as well. Now I own a 69 and an 87 Skunk. I don't plan on buying an 810E, as that is the part of the rig I don't like. Don't get me wrong, the sound is perfect for certain styles of music, but it's just not what I am after.
  3. Blues Bass 2

    Blues Bass 2 Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2001
    Davenport Iowa
    A buddy of mine bought one in 1973 , head first , then the cab . He used the head with a large cabinet he built with JBL D140F speakers . The first time I played through it I was hooked by the tone and feel , made my Bassman 100 seem inadequate through the same speakers . Later he bought the matching cabinet and used a Thunderbird and a P bass through it and both sounded awesome . A year later I traded a Les Paul Deluxe and a 60's Showman for a used Magnavox SVT head . I had the short Cerwin Vega loaded Peavey 18" cabinet and it killed everywhere I played . I used that head till 1979 . I saw many bands using them in the 70's . Black Oak Arkansas , Johhny Winter , REO and the Stones to name the ones I remember . For sure Acoustics were the big rig of choice for probably more bands than the Ampeg SVT in the late 60's and early 70's but I saw a lot of SVTs too .
    EatS1stBassist, Marz Redd and Wasnex like this.
  4. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    While a lot of us drool over SVTs, I'll agree with @Wasnex in saying that it has never been "the bass rig." Too expensive, big, and heavy for most working musicians. I recall seeing exactly ONE on a stage - that was Mike Finnegan's band, Lawrence, Kansas, in about 2005 or so... and that may have been supplied by contract rider, along with the B3/Leslie Finnegan was using.
    red_rhino, Wasnex and wcriley like this.
  5. Raw N Low

    Raw N Low If I can't hear it, hopefully I'll feel it Supporting Member

    Jul 16, 2009
    Denver, Colorado
    Lots of marketing that based on revisionist history. The Ampeg B-15 and B-15S were probably the most popular and affordable at that time. Most of the big rigs including the Acoustic 360 were way too much for the average working musician at the time.

    The '80s were all about hi-fi gear and that's right around the time Gallien Krueger started to take off. On the other hand, Ampeg would see another big resurgence in the '90s when rack gear started to get popular.
  6. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    I don't know the answer to the OP's question, but I toured the US playing arenas and clubs for 6 weeks with an SVT/810 in February/March 1973. All the bassists in the bands we played with were using SVT/810 bass rigs. I'm talking The Doobie Brothers, Rare Earth, Nils Lofgren and Jo Jo Gunn. The only guy who didn't was with Al Kooper. If I remember right, he was using a Sunn stack.
  7. The 80’s was my era and I remember seeing a mixed bag of bass rigs with the bigger touring bands. I do remember seeing a fair number of Ampegs on stage. I also saw lots of GK’s. Bi-amping was the rage and a lot of manufacturers offered at least one in their product line. The 80’s bands that continued to tour post grunge era for the most part had Ampeg SVT’s at that point ( as well as the grunge bands too). It was the bassist that didn’t use an Ampeg live that I found unusual. If the live bass sound is great I could care less what is being used. I love the SVT sound live but again if the bass player is using something else and it sounds good I’m not complaining.
    coreyfyfe and EatS1stBassist like this.
  8. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Can’t speak to the history, but I do miss the smell, look, and sound of my old SVT-CL. There was something so comfy about that rig. And to be honest, I always got the most interest from audience members and other local musos when I used it. There is certainly some mystic about it.
  9. Blues Bass 2

    Blues Bass 2 Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2001
    Davenport Iowa
    Another couple bands that used SVTs in the 70's came to mind . Rod Stewart and Faces and the bass player for Atlanta Rythm Section . The bass player for ARS used a Ric with an SVT . That's what I used too and the tone he got was very familiar to me . Also Geddy with Rush used them .
    EatS1stBassist likes this.
  10. Michedelic

    Michedelic MId-Century Modern

    By 1969, Acoustic and Sunn were the heavyweight bass amps of choice, you’d see some Kustom here and there, and while there was some sentimental loyalty for Fender, they couldn’t seem to get it right. Vox was over with by ‘68, but they never really had a great bass amp in the first place. Ampeg had some serious catching up to do because of founder Everett Hull’s stodginess, but once he was out of the picture, they really outdid themselves, and lucked out with having the Stones beta testing for them(while other British bands were showing up with Hiwatt and Orange, those were still exotic, and as much as Marshall was strong for guitar, they were weak for bass). Even though Acoustic and Sunn hung in there in the early 70’s, changes in ownership or models started to cause a downward spiral, so Ampeg was last company standing in many respects. Peavey was creeping in because of their price point, Mesa eventually came along toward the end of the decade, but was more of an 80’s phenomenon, and then the rack thing happened.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2021
  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I'd say that's about how it played out. Except the new owners of Ampeg were completely overwhelmed with orders for them and had no idea it would happen, so they ended up selling to Selmer/Magnavox. So it did take some time for them to become ubiquitous.
    spatters likes this.
  12. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass

    Apr 26, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    Been gigging since 1969 on all kinds of stages. I don't recall even seeing an SVT/810 rig on stage (other than maybe a big name touring band) until about maybe 1978-9. In my memory, Sunn rigs were pretty common with a mix of Kustom and Fender. In the 80's I started to see SVT's on the circuit I was on (midwest out of Chicago), but also plenty of Acoustic and then lots of GK stuff. I seem to recall that the Blues guys out of Chicago really favored Fender gear for a long time too.
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Wish I could sling one around like I used to. And I wish I did more gigs where it's appropriate. I'd still be using it today if I was. No problem, though...I've still got my SVT's but this is now my SVT on gigs. Or at least it would be if I was still gigging:

  14. beaglesandbass

    beaglesandbass Think first, then post? Staff Member Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2001
    Philly Suburbs
    Yes, since for most people, it's still not. ;)
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  15. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    In 1973 we were using The Faces Ampeg touring rig. We had the same management for awhile. The Stones had a big Ampeg touring back line as well, including SVT/810's for bass and guitars.
  16. johnpbass


    Feb 18, 2008
    Glen Mills, PA
    I recall starting to see them here in the Philly/South Jersey circuit around 75-76ish. You saw more Acoustic at the time. V4s for guitar were starting to pop up at that time as well. I had a V4B/SVT810 as did some other local bassists.
    EatS1stBassist and VolstateMark like this.
  17. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I bought my first SVT head and cabinet in 1974. When I was doing a lot of openers about five years ago, most of the back lines provided an SVT head and cabinet.
  18. lbbc

    lbbc Supporting Member

    Sep 25, 2007
    Seaford , DE
    I had an Ampeg SVT rig in the early 80's. I only used it on 2 gigs...great sound but heavy as heck and really overkill for the small places we were playing. I traded it for a combo amp (plus cash)
  19. Michedelic

    Michedelic MId-Century Modern

    If anyone wants to observe the cavalcade of gear in the early/mid 70’s, and has the time, there are all those Midnight Special clips on Youtube. Besides the Stones and Faces, Bad Company, Black Oak Arkansas, and J. Geils had walls of Ampegs. In ‘78/‘79, five club shows in a row that I went to, Ramones, Lou Reed, Todd Rundgren, Joe Jackson, and The Police were all SVT. Hey, it was good enough for Sid….
  20. BrotherRay


    Nov 28, 2016
    Detroit, MI
    Right! Wasn't there some situation where the Stones gear was all lost and Ampeg stepped in and supplied SVTs for the whole tour? Ampeg couldn't ask for a better advertising strategy. ("Man, did you see those amps the Stones used? I'm getting me one just like that!") That would at least help push the SVT to be "the bass rig". But i don't know when that happened. Somebody on here knows that story better than I do.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2021