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SWR 400-S vs. Thunderfunk

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by DLM, Sep 13, 2004.

  1. DLM


    May 25, 2004
    I've been using an SWR 400-S for years now. It's been good to me and because I've not tried a lot of gear over the years, I can't really compare it to anything. All I know is that it works for me and sounds good to my ears.

    How would you compare the SWR with the Thunderfunk? Would the Thunderfunk necessarily be a step up?
  2. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    IME and according to SWR owners I know who've checked out both the ThunderFunk's predecessor (AMP BH-420) and the ThunderFunk, yes. Back-to-back it's hard to believe they're both rated at the same power. The SWR also seems to
    require more tweaking to get a good sound.

    Bear in mind, it all hinges on what you want. Maybe the SWR is the sound you prefer, maybe not.

    Good luck.
  3. DLM


    May 25, 2004

    Aside from tone, what about reliability, power, etc.? As you probably know, the SWR has a tube pre-amp. Also, it's been stated that the saying, "A watt is a watt is a watt..." isn't necessarily true when comparing similarly-powered amps.
  4. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Can't comment on my TF long term as I've only had it a few months. If it's anywhere near as reliable as the AMP BH-420 (Which I've used for more than ten years) that preceded it, reliabilty should be excellent.

    Mine is probably the loudest 400w head I've come across. I rotate several basses and still haven't seen the need to tweak the EQ. At ~16 lb. it's fairly lightweight. It's also extremely quiet when operating... no annoying hiss.
  5. JOME77

    JOME77 Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    I've owned at least one SWR SM-400/400S/500 amp since 1989. I've always loved the SWR sound. I tried various preamp/power amp rigs but always migrated back to the SWR head. I recently purchased a TFB-420 and absolutely love it! While the SM-400/500 amps are capable of getting some great sounds, as Brad stated, some sounds can really require some tweaking. With the TF I can get great fretted, fretless, Slap, finger, or pick sound sound simply with slight adjustments of the "Timbre" or "enhance" controls.

    As far as power, I long aborted the belief that "watts are watts"! The TF is the loudest 400 watt amp that I've played through. Even powering my 8 ohm Goliath Jr. cabinet the TF produce more clean sound @ 240 watts than the SWR bridged @ 400 watts. Maybe due to the TF limiting design. What ever it is, hearing is believing :meh:

    As far as dependability, I've only owned my TF for a couple of months and it's performed flawlessly. I can't say that I've heard of any problems with the TF amps on TB and believe me, if TB'ers have problems with equipment, you hear about it! :D
  6. NeedMoreBass

    NeedMoreBass unregistered

    Feb 14, 2003
    OK, here I am stepping on some toes again. I've owned the TF and presently own the SM-400S. The TF is a fine amp but I like the SM-400S. The tube gives it a more natural tone and I threw out the SWR manual on setting up the gain structure and run the master wide open all the time and the pre about 3/4 full. This setting opened up power I've never heard before and really unleashes the tone. Yes the SWR may take a little more tweaking but you've probably owned the amp long enough now to know your way around it.
  7. Thunderfunk


    Mar 27, 2004
    McHenry, IL
    I've been thinking about this "loudest 400-watts I've heard" comment(s) and I think it might be that it's difficult to get the TFB420's preamp to clip. When an amp puts out a distorted sound it doesn't necessarily mean that you've run out of power. It could be that something upstream clipped and now you're amplifying a distorted preamp signal. I'm not saying anything "bad" about the Bassman 400 amp, BUT :ninja: that clipping indicator they have is sourced from quite a few (5?) different places throughout the signal chain. It's not a "you've run out of watts" indicator... it's a "you've overloaded something" indicator. A nice feature, and something you can use to make sure you don't overload anywhere. And you can certainly overload the Thunderfunk preamp with a very hot instrument signal, but the preamp itself loses power (push) before the power amp does. We did increase the early preamp gain slightly and it gives the amp a punchier sound. :hyper: Of course, this is a complicated thing to figure out as it all depends on how hot the instrument is, and where the controls are set, but basically, as I've said, the power amp can take a very hot signal without distorting. That's probably why it sounds so loud.

    Dave Funk
  8. Another vote for the SWR here. Hell - even the guitarist in my band likes to play through my SM-400S :p

    It took me a few weeks of mucking around to find 'my' favourite sound with the amp & my FNA Jazzman's preamp, but now I've got it, it's not going anywhere. :)

    Just waiting to get my 2 x 210XST Edens now...and ditch the 410 Warwick cab. :hyper:
  9. DLM


    May 25, 2004

    Let me get this straight...you set the master volume all the way up (about 5 o'clock) and control the volume through the gain knob? :confused: I've got to try this!

    As you probably know, the manual says to set the gain to the point of periodic clipping to maximize the signal-to-noise ratio and then tweak the master volume. Can you clarify what tonal results you get with this method? Also, do you do this on every occasion (i.e., from soft solo practicing to loud gigs)?
  10. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Again, it's all about what tone you're after:D

    I can't think of any amp with a preamp tube that I'd really prefer, especially for the kind of full-bodied yet quick response I'm after.
  11. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    It's funny that the SWR manuals don't advocate running the master all the way up because on amps that have just one volume knob vs. a gain/master setup that is what you're doing already! I understand that tweaking the gain first yields optimal S/N but it's not like the preamps in these heads are overly noisy.

    One weird feature of the gain on the SWR amps is that "0" is not OFF. If you keep the master all the way up and set the gain all the way off, some signal will still pass. It's more like the trim control on a mixing board than a volume control.
  12. Mel Monihan

    Mel Monihan

    Mar 30, 2004
    I have not owned the 400 model, I did sell my SWR 750 when I got my Thunderfunk.I liked the SWR sound, but it did not have anywhere near the flexability of the Thunderfunk.I must admit that I was spoiled though, I had the AMP-BH420, and I loved that amp already.It is all in your ears though, everyone hears things they like and no not like about any amp. Good luck.
  13. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    I've had the opportunity to check out both of these amps, and I assure you that it's much, much, much easier to get a good tone from the Thunderfunk than the SWR SM/Studio preamp. It's overall just alot more musical. With the Thunderfunk, EQ experimentation yields many unexpected good to great tones, while I felt I was struggling just to find something usable with the SWR.

    I was going to say that the biggest difference is a tighter, more musical lower midrange -- but in fact, the TF just wins out in every frequency range.

    I was mislead by the visual similarity between the faceplates -- tonally, there's a world of difference.

  14. On my SWR 750 the last little tweak on the gain knob from mayby 3 o'clock to 3:15 produces much more gain difference than going from 12 to 3 o'clock. To me it sounds better and louder finding the sweetspot on the preamp first, and then adjusting the master accordingly. Whenever I find myself doing it the other way around, I know it's because I essentially need more power or more cabs (never tried it on my swr, but my hartke3500 wasn't loud enough)

    Question: Does it have any effect on headroom and powerampclip if the mastervolume is at max and the preampgain is adjusted for overall volume?
  15. jerry

    jerry Doesn't know BDO Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    I still have my SM400 that I have had since the 80's, great amp and tone...........but IMHO the Thunderfunk gets me the tone I'M looking for, a lot easier, and to ME sounds a lot louder than my SWR. I've had my Thunderfunk for a year, and no problems yet. The other thing I noticed between the Thunderfunk and the SWR, is speaker damping. When I tried my SM400 with a Bergie HT112 the speaker was dancing all over the place, with the Thunderfunk the cone hardly moved at the same volume. But what ever works for you.....is the best for you :cool:
  16. JOME77

    JOME77 Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    Exactly what I've experienced! I experienced the same extreme speaker movement with my Goliath Jr. III using the SM500 or SM400S. The TF just produces a much tighter and louder sound and the speaker movement is greatly reduced. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I've owned a SM400/400S/500 for the better part of 15 years so you know I like their sound. I just like the TF sound and ease of obtaining sounds (with the TF) better! :D
    IMO the Thunderfunk is a step up! :smug:
  17. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Endorsing Artist: Black Diamond & SuperSensitive strings
    Thanks for posting the note from Steve Rabe. I suspect the cone movement on the SM-400 is from its low-end 10 hz frequency response, rather than damping. I bet many bass amps roll off above that. And yes, I do see the famous dancing cones on my cabs with the SM-400.
  18. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    I thought Russ Alee was involved in the design of the AMP BH-420 that the TF is based on. I wouldn't consider the TF an "emulation" of anything... it's an evolution of a design... AMP BH-420 to Gibson GB440 to TFB-420.

  19. Lync

    Lync Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2004
    If these "tricks" do work, then what is the problem? How many times have you played an "upper echelon" amp only to have it sound great in the bedroom, but lost on stage?

    The Thunderfunk not only has more than adequate headroom-it sounds excellent in the band environment...

  20. jerry

    jerry Doesn't know BDO Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    Hey Lync, I take it your happy with your Thunderfunk :bassist: I'm stoked for you :cool: