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SWR SM-400 vs GK 800RB

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by CrawlingEye, Sep 14, 2003.


  1. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    I haven't had the chance to try an SM-400, as they're discontinued. The common word I've gathered about SWR is that the SM-400 was one of their better heads. The 800RB seems like a solid classic, and a much more viable option out of the GK line, as the rest only support biamping in 'biamping cabinets' which I undoubtably won't be pairing the head with.

    I'd like to hear some unbiased comments in comparing the 2. A highly probable setup for me will/could be 2 bag end 1x15"'s, possibly without the coax (possibly with, I need to retry the non-coax 1x15"'s).

    I was just trying an 800RB (for about the 15 thousandth time) and really enjoyed it, being played through the bag end, but am slightly turned off by GK's quality control, or there a lack of.

    From what I understand (correct me if I'm wrong) this stems from poor input jacks? If so, for the users of GK equipment, who've had to have work done, what was the extent of it? If there are problems, once cured, are they recurring?

    I'm very tempted to get the 800RB but I wouldn't mind a slight bit more warmth (I'm not fond of the SVT-ish tone) to my sound, which is what I hear the SM-400 has to offer.

    Thanks.
     
  2. TRIPSTER

    TRIPSTER

    Aug 13, 2003
    Sulphur LA
    The SM 400 is very good. The SWR is warmer and deeper and the GK is faster and punchier. The only problem I ever had was when my SWR fan broke on a gig. The amp was too hot to touch and it NEVER shut down. Kudos to the amp gods. It turned out to be a blessing because SWR said the fan was silent or quiet and it was neither. It was loud and annoying. I solved future cooling issues with a $8 Wal-Mart clip-on fan. Which was quieter!
    I used to work for GK and there were some quality control issues. But from what I understand they have been tamed now. The 800rb is a workhorse. I don't think you can go wrong with either.
     
  3. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    I've owned both. I've owned the SM-400 (pre-fan version) for over a decade. It's simply a great little amp. There are the heat issues that 80's pop freak TRIPSTER has mentioned. It's a two rack-space amp that needs to be in a four-space rack with nothing else in it.

    I owned the 800RB for less than a month. Just sounded too cold, sterile, and dead to my ears. However, I've heard a million guys sound great with them, and they seemed to fix what I didn't like with the introduction of the 1001 model.

    I'd go with the SWR if it were my money I was spending.
     
  4. TRIPSTER

    TRIPSTER

    Aug 13, 2003
    Sulphur LA
    80's pop freak TRIPSTER



    :D
     
  5. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    Thanks. :)
    So the general census is that the 800RB will be fine in terms of reliability and the SM-400 will be a bit deeper?
     
  6. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    I hear the SWR as a more honest and open sound than the 800RB. I'm looking for a loud and clear picture of what my bass sounds like, and the SWR gets me there.

    There's bad eggs no matter what. I've heard plenty of stories about SWR and GK stuff going back to the shop all the time, as well as stories about both simply refusing to die.

    Ultimately, it's up to the person making the buy. Good Luck!
     
  7. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Endorsing Artist: Black Diamond & SuperSensitive strings
    I own an SM-400 and an SM-400s. Also have a GK 700RB and used to have a 400RB.

    Sound is one difference. SWR is cleaner and clearer. GK is more agressive and a bit warmer, if that's the opposite of clear.

    I think the SWR amps are built more solidly than the newer GK amps, but the 800RB is real solid, too.

    One difference is power. The SWR SM-400 amps put out 400 (8 ohms) to 500 watts (4 ohms) bridged. The GK is more like 300 watts at 4 ohms and only 200 watts at 8 ohms...big difference.

    The SWR is also more flexible and its graphic EQ bands have movable centers vs the GK's fixed centers for the EQ knobs. The SWR also has a variable limiter, while the GK has no limiter.

    SWR wins in terms of power and flexibility, but both are good amps...you need to hear both and work with both of them awhile.
     
  8. TRIPSTER

    TRIPSTER

    Aug 13, 2003
    Sulphur LA
    I never did like the EQ on the 400s. I used an external one patched into the FX loop. Other folks love the EQ and it is a good amp.
     
  9. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    Actually, the 800RB is rated at the same wattage as the SM-400. The 800RB has 2 poweramps, the high amp is 100w and the low amp is 300w. Together, that's 400w. In full-ranged mode it's 300w, as it uses the low amp for it.

    I think I may go with the 800RB, based on the fact that I've tried it, where-as I can't get my hands on an SM-400 to try.
     
  10. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Endorsing Artist: Black Diamond & SuperSensitive strings
    Just to keep things straight...the amps do not have the same power.

    The 800RB can only put 200 watts into an 8 ohm cab with the low or main amp. It can't be bridged, so the high amp contributes nothing extra.

    In comparison, the SM-400 puts 400 watts into an 8 ohm cab when bridged...double the power: 400 watts vs 200 watts.

    The situation is different when using two cabs with these amps. Comparisons depend on the cab impedances and whether the SWR is run in bridge or stereo mode.
     
  11. gnome01

    gnome01

    Oct 30, 2001
    Bronx NY, USA
    I really like both amps. I've used the 800RB at some rehearsals and had plenty of power and a really warm sound. I owned an SM-400s for awhile but had to bring it back where I got it because it's sound would cut out randomly - once during a gig! That said, I think I'm going to buy the older SM-400 because I've heard older SWR stuff was the best in terms of quality control, and I really love the way they sound. The GK is loud for 300 watts, but the SWR will give you a bit more headroom. Any repair issues aside, it is one of my favorite sounding heads in any price range.
     
  12. DeadPoet

    DeadPoet

    Jun 4, 2003
    Belgium
    Hi,

    I've never owned or used the GK800 amp (did use their smaller combo things, didn't like'em)...

    I do have an SM-400s, one of the last made, with a newer Goliath III 4x10 cab.
    This is the only rig I play and want to play. I bought this setup because I can run it with the EQ *FLAT*. I add a little shelving bass (@ 1 o'clock) and cut some high and presence and that's it. I've abused this rig for 6 years now (at an average rate of +100 shows/year), replaced the tube a few times and lost almost all screws at the bottom of the head :cool: :bassist:


    (FWIW: i like hi-fi bass, very deep and very present with played instruments: musicman5's and ken smith 6)

    Herwig
     
  13. jerry

    jerry Doesn't know BDO Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    Hawaii
    I have a couble G&K's that I have had for twenty years, and a SWRSM400 that I've had for sixteen! They are all very nice heads and I don't even think I've changed a fuse on the GK's! You can't go wrong with either, they are the workhorse of both companies lines. The one thing I might add...is the SM400's 400 watt rating is a little suspect to me.......GK's are loud!
     
  14. Don't overlook that the SM 400s evolved into the SM 500 (still in production), which is basically the same amp, perhaps without any built-in biamp crossover.

    Specs-wise, the SWR is way beyond this particular GK model, if you like the sound. With a single 4 ohm cab, the GK has the aforementioned 300 watt RMS output; the SWR bridged gives you 500, plus a much more flexible EQ section (how loud the GK's watts are vs. the SWR's is debatable). The almost-unused-by-anybody extra 100 watt section on this GK is just extra weight and another 1U of rack space. The newer GK models are much more modern in this respect, except for the idea that they think it's cool to have an extra small amp inside that can only be used (conveniently) with their own brand of cab (which is cool if you like it).

    I'd go for the SWR.
     
  15. tornadobass

    tornadobass Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    Iowa City, Iowa
    Endorsing Artist: Black Diamond & SuperSensitive strings
    Lots of interest in this topic.

    I'm thinking of picking up an Avatar cab and rewiring it for use with the new GK "little tweeter amp" system.

    And besides the watts differences in the two amps, they sound quite different. The SWR sound is clearer and has grown on me over time.
     
  16. CrawlingEye

    CrawlingEye Member

    Mar 20, 2001
    Easton, Pennsylvania
    I think I'm going to snag the 800RB at a local shop (great price: $699 new). The tone from the 800RB and the 15 with coax is amazing. It'll be a wait though before I can get the bag end. :bawl:
     
  17. GregoryJ

    GregoryJ

    Mar 17, 2003
    Tokyo, Japan
    I recently bought a SM-400 on ebay for about $350. I opened it up and the date inside was the last month of production (or close to it in '93). The beast has been a great performer for me. I use it with a Goliath IIIjr and a Big Ben. With my 5 string it gets the pant legs flapping for sure. Before you invest in the GK, check on Ebay. I have been seeing them there for about $350~500, depending on the condition. The only thing that I would recommend that you do is get a different tube in the preamp stage. It has a big effect on the tone you get.:D

    Greg