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SWR Interstellar Overdrive Preamp.. Opinions?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Freuds_cat, Jan 19, 2006.

  1. I am currently going through the difficult job of trying to work out which valve preamp I am going to replace my TC Electronic 1140 with, as it is in its end of life death throws. This is made near impossible by my geograhical location on this great planet of ours. (Adelaide South Australia).

    Taken into consideration are the following:

    SWR Interstellar Overdrive
    AGUILAR DB 680
    KERN IP-777
    (Suggestions for any that I have missed greatly accepted)

    based on reading the manufacturers literature and reading web forums like talkbass I have narrowed things down to a competition between the SWR and the Ampeg.

    I would love to hear other players opinions of these two valve preamps.

  2. If it were me I would get the Aguilar, a great sounding preamp...
  3. Thanks rulyøngo, my main reason for tending towards the SWR or Ampeg is that I'm after an old school valve amp rock sound. I notice on other postings (more than once) that (for instance) the Aguilar and Alembic preamps while being rated as great sounding preamps are probably not what a dirty rock head like myself would be after.

    Although I would love to be able to try an Aguilar to confirm this. Tyranny of distance reigns supreme.
  4. 12bass


    Jan 2, 2003
    Victoria, Canada
    Not much experience with the IOD, but I can tell you that I really like the Drive control on the SVP-PRO. Great for overdriven tones.
  5. thejohnkim


    Sep 30, 2003
    I've used the SWR IOD for a couple years, had a brief stint with the Ampeg SVP-Pro and now use the Aggie DB-659.

    The IOD has this lean and mean sound thats very quick yet tubey. the overdrive on it is very good. I didn't know how good it was until after i got rid of it when i started to buy pedals and overdrive preamps trying to get a similar type of overdrive and failed. The EQ options were very basic but adequate, effects loop is serial only, and never really bothered with the blend-phase feature (where you pull out the knob)

    the SVP-Pro was thick and tubey, definitely has its own sound that will tend to cover your own bass's sound. its a good sound, might seem "slower" to some people, the drive on it was really nice too, more of a high-gainish overdrive to distortion, while the IOD was more of a straight-up overdrive crunch to mess or buzz depending on whether i had a 12ax7 or 5751 in it (fuzzed out with the 5751, hairy overdrive with 12ax7 on the IOD) however, my SVP-Pro had a hum problem that I couldn't get rid of, so I sold it when I found a great deal on an Aggie 659. good EQ options with the mids esp.

    the DB659 is nice. rich, thick and meaty tone. very smooth EQ (i guess tube-driven EQ's are like this?) while the SWR would sound nasal with my bridge pickup, the Aggie smoothed it over in comparison. high's seem sort of hard to coax out of the Aggie, even the bright switch's effects are not obvious to my ears, but make a subtle difference when i use effects. the Effects loop is really really really nice with series or parallel mode with blend and level controls. its only 5 lbs. and the overdrive is solid for grit and low-gain overdrive, but once you crank the gain, the overdrive can be almost 'thin' sounding. not the tone, but how it affects the clean tone. its like only half of the sound is overdriven. so i generally use pedals for heavy overdrive.

    i'd recommend any of these three, assuming the SVP-Pro is hum-less of course.
  6. pickles

    pickles Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    For truly dirty, nasty, ganky rock tones I personally find it hard to beat the sans amp bass driver DI.

    The SVP-Pro is a very good preamp, and it a real "do it all" unit. You can get a wide range of good tones from it. I don't personally like the distortion you get from it, with one exception. I love the tone of slighly overloading the output stage by cranking the master volume. The SVP has tube driven EQ as well.

    Havn't played the IOD ... I've always wanted to try it out but they are pretty rare.
  7. amper


    Dec 4, 2002
    Can't talk about the Ampeg SVP-PRO, but I've got a 'Stella and a V-Type in my rack. Although the 'Stella does a nice tubey sound, it pales in comparison to the V-Type for the old school vibe. I mostly use the 'Stella totally clean...I think it makes a very nice clean preamp. The 5 W power amp in it is pretty cool too. Lots of fun with a guitar.

    If I were you, I'd also look into the Ampeg SVP-CL and the new Fender, not to mention the Alembic preamps.
  8. thejohnkim


    Sep 30, 2003
    thats right the SVP-Pro does have a tube driven EQ, and I remember it being smooth sounding as well compared to the SWR's eq section. not that the iod's EQ was harsh or anything. but for some reason the boost's seemed more......'tubey' ...eh... hard to describe with words.
  9. Thanks for the detailed comparison thejohnkim, that was exactly the kind of info I'm interested in. You mentioned the hum problem with your SVP-Pro? The only 2 negative things that seem to reccur throught out my web research with this unit are a few dry solder joint problems and the hum issue.
    Any other negative points that I've seen all relate to personal sound preferences rather than faults with it.

    I did come across a post on another forum where a guy said that he had this hum problem and fixed it by replacing the original Sovtek 12AU7 tube with a Groove Tube 12AU7 and the four Sovtek 12AX7's with Ruby 12AX7EH's. He went on to explain that the Ruby tubes produced a hotter signal and were much more quiet. He said that the Sovtek 12AX7's would really hiss when the Treble tone control was all the way up and that with the Rubys this was all solved. Also after making comparisons by switching the Sovtek and GT 12AU7 back and forth under different settings he concluded that the Sovtec overdrive was more brittle and the GT warmer.

    I would love to try out an Aguiler but this is simply not possible where I live and the price is unbeleivable here in Australia. (about Aus$2,500 as compared to the SVP-PRO Aus$665).
  10. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    I own both the SWR IOD and Ampeg SVP-Pro. I agree with thejohnkim.

    Both units can go from clean tones to heavy fuzz. IME, the IOD has a wider range: the clean is cleaner, and the fuzz is more outrageous. The SVP-Pro has a warmer fuzz... I believe this is because the Drive control rolls off highs. That's a good thing, because few of us want harsh buzzy fuzz. The IOD can do warm fuzz simply by rolling back treble.

    I've heard a number of reports about noise issues with the SVP-Pro. Mine was retubed by its previous owner, and is very quiet, with no hum... even when I use it for fuzz.

    The advantage to the SVP-Pro is it's EQ: a number of contour switches, variable midrange. I don't even use the 9-band EQ, but it's there for those who need it... and it's switchable for those who want to change volume and/or tone for solos. The IOD is more basic: three-band EQ plus Enhance (mid-scoop) knob. The distortion feature is switchable... haven't tried that yet. But I think the IOD is more transparent on the clean side.

    I can't recommend one over the other uncategorically. If you're the kind of person who's bothered by mild tone coloration, then get the IOD. If you want the maximum possible distortion, get the IOD. If you want warm fuzz and versatile EQ, get the SVP-Pro.
  11. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Just noticed this. I also own the TC 1140. Killer preamp!! (For those who don't know, it's a 4-band parametric EQ/preamp: clean, transparent, powerful.) I'm surprised and disappointed that it wasn't more successful.

    I'm very sorry to hear yours is failing. A few years ago the knobs on mine got scratchy as hell, but I had a tech clean it up and it works beautifully again.
  12. Thanks Fuzzbass, you are right the TC E 1140 has been a fantastic clean preamp for me. The omly thing I really lacked was those warm tube sounds which I could have got using any of the many units available. The problem it has now (and yes I have the same scratchy pot issue) is that in the middle of a show I can suddenly have my tops (and or low bottoms) gradually fall away leaving me with an awfull honky middy sound that causes bizzare results when you try to adjust it out with the EQ. Especially when tweaking the tops it can cause the bottoms to boost out of any proportion. Techs here are quoting me more to fix it than buying a new preamp.
    But have to say for nearly 20 years it has been a great preamp.
  13. I am definitely a person who likes warm fuzz and versatile EQ. I'm not really after it as a distortion effects unit.

    I know this is a subjective question but how would you rate each unit in the "Presence" department?
  14. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Just bought a used IOD last week. I once owned an SVP-Pro but found it had an inordinate amount of background noise even after retubing. To each his own!

    The IOD has the regular garden variety EQ but what really defines the tone are the drive, blend, and phase controls. The blend allows mixing of direct and tube / overdrive channels. Sounds great with some basses but harsh on others. No problem! Pull out the blend knob and it kicks the two channels out of phase with one another giving a cleaner yet overdriven tone. Check out the owner's manual at:


    I've been happy so far.

  15. The 0x

    The 0x

    Aug 24, 2003
    Timonium, MD
    The IOD is the only one to use real power tubes (EL84s) to get the overdriven sound. The Ampeg uses 12AX7s, which IMHO don't sound as good as the EL84s. YMMV.
  16. Thanks The Ox, yep I understand that but then as I've mentioned I'm more after warmth and presence than overdrive distortion.To be pedantic the Ampeg also uses a 12AU7. What this all means in specific terms is kinda lost on me except to say that the original old SVT Ampeg heads had/have a great reputation for the kind of sound I want.
  17. The comment about noise and the SVP-Pro is pervasive. I guess if one buys this unit, they knowingly buy into the noise. From what I read, re-tubing does not make it go away.

    I own the IOD, don't use the grind, don't use the tone controls, don't use the aural enhancer. I play it straight through almost all the time. Very clean sounding.

    The IOD by itself is sufficient to make a whole lot of noise plugged directly into a JBL E155. Using the EL84 for a power amp has limitations: bypassing all the tone controls, for one.
  18. msquared


    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    I had an SWR IOD / QSC PLX 1602 setup for a while and it remains one of my favorite rigs to date. The only gripe that I had with the IOD is that it got fairly hot after long shows (though that didn't seem to faze it). The EQ section wasn't as versatile as the one on the SM-900 I'm using now but it was still quite useful.

    One thing I especially dug was the 5w tube power output. You could plug a small cabinet into it and get some great clean tones for recording or practice.

    I sold it because I was playing drums in a band at the time and the bass player's head died. He went over a year using my rig instead of buying anything of his own. I finally got so mad at him that I sold the whole thing to buy a new snare. I still wish I'd kept it.
  19. amper


    Dec 4, 2002
    I just happened to take a look at SWR's site today, and there seems to be no mention of the Interstellar Overdrive, or the 12-Stack and 12-Pack cabinets. I'm not sure what else is missing, but were these products discontinued? If so, I think that's the first evidence of overt Fender tampering.
  20. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    It was there as recently as last month... but you're right! Hopefully just a website re-do, or at worst, a re-brand under Fender's logo.