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How about the SWR Workingman's 12?(longish)

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by Roy Fawcett, Apr 16, 2001.

  1. Roy Fawcett

    Roy Fawcett

    Apr 15, 2001
    Denver, CO
    Hello all,

    I'm researching the purchase of my first combo amp. I'm new to this board, but I've done some searching of previous posts, so I've read about the Acoustic Image and some others. I haven't seen anything about the SWR Workingman's 12, though I have seen some posts about some other SWR products which the authors seemed to be satisfied with. I visited SWR's web site and read a review they posted there from Bass Player magazine (Aug. 1999). That review said some really nice things about the Workingman's 12, but I'm not familiar with the magazine, so I don't know how much stock to place in their review. I'm curious about the Workingman's 12 and would like to hear what any of you might have to say about it (how loud, quality of tone for DB, etc.). I would also be glad to hear any other suggestions you might have. Details of my intended use follow.

    I would be using my amp with an acoustic folk trio. We have two acoustic guitars and 3 vocals that we will be running through a small PA (Yamaha EMX 660 powered mixer and 2 Yamaha SM12IV speakers on stands). It's great for the guitars and vocals, but the PA speakers don't have adequate bottom end frequency response for the bass, hence the need for the bass combo.

    One of our regular gigs will be weekend mornings at a bagel and coffee shop. The room is small, maybe 40' x 40', but seats about 50 people (packed tight). We are there to be background, and many of the people want to talk during the performance. I don't have any problem with that; we knew that when we took the gig, but with the conversation and noise from the food preparation area, it does get noisy. Our other gigs will be evenings at coffee shops, generally much quieter venues. We also want to be able to play an occasional small backyard party. We DON'T want to be so loud that the police show up but I want to be sure I get enough volume from the combo to be effective for a radius of, say, 50 to 75 feet.

    Perhaps I should add that we are just forming this group and haven't actually done any gigs yet, but we are practicing with the PA. I had hoped that it might not be necessary to amplify the bass in these small rooms, but the other members of the group want me to. Even in small practice rooms they want to hear more bass. I've been told at music festivals that my bass is actually louder than most others, but my belief is that the instrument projects mostly toward the front, so my fellow musicians don't hear it because they are standing nearly beside it. I certainly experienced that when I let someone else play my bass and stood about 15 feet in front of it. I was amazed at how much better it sounded from that position.

    Thanks for your help,
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I've own an SWR Baby Blue, but I've played on a workingman's 12 and also a workingman's 10. I have to say, I don't care much for the 12...on my basses, it brings out the famous SWR bottom, but as soon as I get to my G string, the sound is thin and wimpy and unfocused. The WM 10" has a tighter, more focused sound, and if I had to choose, I'd go with that. Be careful not to be lulled to sleep by the "aural enhancer", as it tends to sound unnatural once you get used to it. Just my opinion, though. A lot also depends on what kind of sound you like and what kind of pickup you're using.

    Welcome to the board.

  3. Hi Roy,I use a SWR WM12 exclusively at all my gigs (no choice) and would have no problem recommending it for the type of venue you list regarding volume.A good preamp and pickup combination is essential ,my personal choice is the excellent K&K system.No doubt (all hail)Bob will be along shortly to endorse the Acoustic Image range of products he also sells,which have had great reviews.Half the weight but (in the U.K.)twice the price.As Chris said the aural enhancer is a matter of personal choice,i find it usually brings out the lows too low,if you know what i mean.As every venue is different,so will the setup on the amp etc,so it is a case of suck it and see.By the way,when i first used the amp on a gig,two long standing respected (locally) electric bass players commented on the quality of tone and warmth of the sound from such a small package.Try one in the shop if you can,with your bass and the rest of your band listening for an opinion before you buy,and compare with other amps also.

    Good Luck!
  4. AlexFeldman


    Jun 18, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I use the WM 12 combo in rehearsals with a group I play in. It's a perfectly decent amplifier. I also use the K&K preamp with it. It would be fine for your coffeehouse gig.

    I've seen a lot of guys using the WM10 with upright bass. I saw a guy using two at the same time, actually. He got a pretty decent sound out of em.

    My advice is to find a store that has the 10 and the 12. A/B them. The 15 seems like overkill for upright bass.
  5. I recently got a WM10 and really like it. I played in an acoustic group-- harp, two guitars and bass, and the WM10 is more than adequate for a setup like that. I should mention that, unamplified, I could barely hear myself playing!
    I'm using a Bass Max/Golden Trinity pickup/mic rig from (all hail!) Bob G.
    I've also played it in an "electric" setting, and again it did the job against a very loud electric guitar.
    If weight is a consideration, the WM10 weighs 15 lbs. less than the WM12, according to the specs on SWR's site.
  6. Roy Fawcett

    Roy Fawcett

    Apr 15, 2001
    Denver, CO
    Thanks to those who have responded so far. That was exactly the kind of information I was hoping for. Out of courtesy to those who are taking time to respond, I wanted to let you know that after more research and reflection, I'm now leaning very heavily toward the Acoustic Image Contra. That said, it still might be worth continuing this thread for a while for the benefit of others who may have been wondering about the SWR combos.

    It isn't that I think there's anything wrong with the WM 12 (or maybe 10). Besides the posts here, I've also seen some on another board, and the consensus seems to be that a lot of people really like the WM 12 for DB (note taken of Chris' dissenting opinion).

    My main reasons for leaning toward the AI Contra are 1) the way everyone raves about the sound being "just like my bass without the amp," and 2) I think the omnidirectional quality of the lows would really help overcome the "I can't hear the bass" complaints from the people in my group. (It isn't just *my* bass by the way. I was in a previous group with one of these same people, where I was doing vocals only. That group was all acoustic except for a guy playing a fretless electric through a combo. Although the bass seemed just right in the house, my friend from my current group complained that he couldn't hear it well when the room got noisy, even with the combo pointed almost right at him! I'm gonna need all the help I can get!)

    Add to those qualities the relatively light weight and I begin to think the Contra might be well worth the extra $225. The extra $$ will be soon forgotten, but I'll be living with the amp for a long time.

    Thanks again for the responses, and of course I would be interested in any other thoughts.
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    To muddy the waters somewhat: all amps have their weak points, and the single caveat I have heard about the contra is that it isn't terribly loud or direct - it just sounds like your bass. I'm currently using an acoustic image Clarus amp (guts of a contra) with a couple of extension speakers. Maybe (All Hail) Bob G or Don could comment on the Contra with more details relating to your specific situation.
  8. I have a Contra. It's loud enough that I use it with an 11 piece salsa band in which each member of the horn section and percussion battery is miked. People have different ideas of what loud is. IMO, is loud enough for any reasonable gig.
  9. I also use a CONTRA. I asm very pleased with it. However, if anyone is on a budget, you can't beat the workingman's 10. At less than half the price of the GK or Contra, it's a very versitle lil' bastard that has a nice sound for all kinds of gigs.
  10. Chris, which was the best among these three SWRs?
    Did you also try the California Blonde?

    Thanks in advance.
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The Baby Blue is a professional series amplifier with a tube preamp, built in parametric EQ, adjustable XLR out, and other features. When it was still being produced, it listed for well over $1000...given that, you would expect that it would sound head & shoulders above the Workingman's series. I think that it does, which is why I bought one (used). Having said that, I think the Workingman's 10" is still a great little amp for the money.

    Oh, and I should mention that I never tried playing BG through any of them. The two 8" speakers on the Baby Blue MIGHT not be able to handle the attack transients of a BG as well as a larger speaker, but that's just a guess.
  12. Quintin


    Dec 6, 2005
    I have a swr pro 350x head and a 4x10 cab. I am not opposed to using the cab but with a good pickup can i pull an above average natural tone of of my swr? I am a stickler for tone by techniqe first so i just want the ability to be louder. what pickup would you recomend?
  13. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    The WM10 is an amazing little amp. If it had a tube preamp it woulfd be...well the Baby Baby Blue I guess.

    I used a WM 10 for a practice amp with a 10 piece band to theatre shows and it was great. If you have a nice preamp you'll be fine.
  14. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    You didn't mention budget, which is dangerous on this board. I don't think you can compare the WM10 for example to the other combos that we typically banter about without understanding if budget is a consideration.

    From my (somewhat limited) experiences with the SWR combos; in the WM series I prefer the 10 to the 12 for price, weight and tone. I wish it had the power of the 12 or the 15. It it did, I think it would a very common choice for working doublebassist (anyone from SWR paying attention?) The 10 has plenty of headroom for what you described and more, but it's not a powerhouse. The 15 is not an ideal choice for DB.

    The California Blonde is a great DB amp. Basically the WM12 with acoustic voicing. But pricey and a bit heavy. In that pricerange, you start looking over the wall at other choices.

    For the money, WM10, especially a lightly used one is an uncontested choice, IMHO.

    With respect to AI; it's not a perfect solution, but it is a cool amp. A lot of guys use and love them, some are not satisfied with the combos. They don't seem to work real well with Realist Pickups, but I have a friend using one with a Stat-B and loving it. He sounds great. Come to think of it, I saw a guy with a coda combo, realist and Velvet strings once who I thought had the perfect sound.

    I AB'ed over a 3 hour jam session once 2 basses, both with Realist Pickups each through an AI combo and then through the GK MB150. All the bassists and the horn players we asked preferred the GK on that given day.

    Not to talk down that amp, a different room, different pickups, different strings, different result, but be advised. I bought my GK used for about $450. I'm not sure the going price on used AI's. New ones, you just can't compare to the WM10 in terms of price.

    So, you know better than we do if budget is an issue. My only real point, is don't think that for an extra $xxx you'll have the perfect combo amp no matter which one you choose. Very few of us feel like we have it, which is why we spend so much time in here bantering about it.

    Let us know where you land, though.

  15. I just played a gig with a large accoustically dead room with I guess 60 in the audience plus large big band with a series ll contra - I was loud enough or at the volume the band asked for - the gain at 12 o'clock and the master between there and 5 past. I was using an SD systems mic BTW which comes with its own preamp.
  16. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    I owned both the Baby Blue, and the Baby Blue 2X8 Extension Cabinet. I did play my Fender Precision through it. I'd have to agree with Chris here, I don't remember being blown away with it as a EB cabinet. Interestingly enough, if you do a little research on the Baby Blue, most of the players involved in the research and development of that amp were Electric Bassists, not Upright players. I have a close friend here in St. Louis that uses the Working Man's 10 and with his bass, it sounds great.


    SWR was the first 2X8 cabinet on the market that I'm familiar with.
    If was followed by the Flite Sound 2X8, the Euphonic Audio VL 2X8 (now known as big daddy) and the LDS 2X8. So it was kind of a ground breaking design when it was introduced.
  17. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    I just picked up a used older WM12 (pre-Fender) last week. Played my first DB gig with it last night. Jazz standards with a sextet at a medium sized restaurant/bar. Signal chain: New Standard Cleveland ply bass-->Revolution Solo PU-->SansAmp Acoustic DI-->WM12.

    I was quite pleased with the sound--detailed, full and punchy, nice highs even with the tweeter off. I mainly used the SansAmp so I could control volume/tone while standing away from the amp on a crowded stage. I've been using a GK 200MB as my DB combo but I wanted something with a little more oomph--it tends to get lost on anything louder than a trio. For bigger gigs I usually use an EA iAmp 800 head into an EA Wizzy or Bergantino HT-112 cabinets.

    I haven't used the WM10 for DB but I've used it for BG for big band/combo work at the local university and like it a lot. I tried a guitarist friend's AI Coda combo (with both BG and DB) several times. I like the amp section but I feel like the speaker section sounds a little artificial--I preferred the sound of the AI head plugged into the Wizzy. The WM series might not be totally state-of-the-art, but it's good, solid gear that can be found quite cheap on the used market.
  18. larry


    Apr 11, 2004
    That Baby Blue with the 2-8"s is still the best-sounding amp/cab combo I've ever heard. It just severely lacks head-room. Even w/ DB (Edit: I meant to say EB) the sound is great - you just can't push it. I have not played through a EA VL208, but I imagine it's like the SWR but with head-rooom. I ended up selling mine when I got into Bergantino cabs. I still use SWR heads though.
  19. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    The Roland Cube 100 for bass is also very nice. I think I would probably get that over an SWR WM10 - and I do like and have owned the WM10. I tried a Cube100 at a store and just about bought it:

    - 100-watts with 12" coaxial 2-way speaker
    - 8 COSM amp models
    - chorus/flanger/T-wah/delay/reverb
    - 4-band EQ, compressor
    - Shape switch for detailed adjustments
    - Balanced output (with pre/post switch)
    - Line out for connection to mixers
    - Recording/phones output
    - Pad switch
    - External speaker jack output

    $450 new from Sweetwater:


    Check it out...
  20. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    I have the WM10 and WM12. I didn't mean to have both but it just happened. Both are great amps. They are relatively cheap and sound great. The 10 is good but is not that powerful. Ok for cocktail stuff. The 12 gets plenty loud. If I have to be louder than that (minus a big club or outdoor venue with a pa) I don't really want the gig.

    I should add that I use a Sansamp in line with both. I carry my Sansamp with me everywhere. It'll make even a bad amp workable. When I've had the occasion to tour it is not always possible to big your amp. The sansamp levels the playing field.

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