SWR's declining popularity

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by vision, Nov 30, 2005.

  1. vision

    vision It's all about the groove!

    Feb 25, 2005
    Ann Arbor, MI
    I can remember not too long ago when SWR was seen as THE bass amp company...but in the last few years they've kinda fallen off in popularity. Part of it is probably because of the Fender buyout, but I don't think that the quality has really dropped in the last couple years. (It's not like the Gibson buyout of Tobias and others.) But I think where they are really lacking now is in product development.

    The bass amp would has improved by leaps and bounds within the last 5 years or so. if you just look at the segment where SWR used to dominate (professional hi-fi amps with clarity and punch) the competition is REALLY fierce now. And almost all of the competition is coming with new products on a regular basis to offer more quality sound in smaller and lighter packages. Some of the sacrifices you had to make with SWR to get that modern, punch-sizzle sound aren't necessary anymore, (hiss, harshness on the high end, lack of clarity, lack of mids, etc.) Bergantino, Epifani, EA, Thunderfunk, Schroeder, and others have improved on SWR's formula. Even Eden - their long time competition - has managedto keep a fresh product line and constantly improve what is being offered.

    I don't think SWR has come out with one truly new product in the professional line since Steve Rabe left...I think the last professional line addition was the Mo'Bass (which is discontinued) and the Megoliath. I guess they've focused on new producs for low to mid range prices.

    So what you you guys think? Will they turn it around and up their game on product development? Or will they continue to fall off and end up losing all of the high end market segment they once dominated?

    (By the way, I own 2 older SWR amps, the SM400 and the Studio 220.)
  2. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    I think the "quality sound in smaller and lighter packages" development has a lot to do with this, and it prompted me to attempt to sell my Goliath III a few months ago. I love the sound, but dislike the weight. Alas, with the declining popularity, I didn't get a single inquiry. I had intended to switch over completely to G-K Neo cabs (I have a Neo112 for rehearsals and small gigs) for easier portability (and the killer sound of 12's), but I'm not sure I'll take the plunge if I can't sell the Goliath.

    I've been waiting for SWR to join the others with an innovative, lightweight line of cabs, but they don't seem to be in any hurry.
  3. Doug Parent

    Doug Parent Supporting Member

    May 31, 2004
    San Diego, Ca.
    Dealer Nordstrand Pickups.
    I agree with your observations as a whole. It appears SWR is going after the higher volume entry level market leveraging thier name and reputation. I can't disagree with thier expanded market direction and objectives, BUT it would be cool to see more refined advances on the pro level.

    I doubt they will change anything though, why screw up a good thing. Witness all the big name chains and musician's catalogs that feature SWR gear. Ride that pony to the bank, hopefully and Steve Rabe got a good deal on the back end for future %.
  4. getz76


    Apr 3, 2005
    Hoboken, NJ
    I disagree.

    SWR seems to be doing fine. Their gears flys out of mega-stores and mega-online-shops.

    Your average forumite is not your average player.

    Your average forumite is not playing a Fender. However, go see a local band, and 80% or more of the time you will see them holding some sort of Fender. More likely than not, they will also be playing through some non-boutique rig (Peavey, SWR, Eden, Hartke, etc.).

    I still see more SWR Goliath cabinets than any other 4x10" cabinet, at least in my area.
  5. vision

    vision It's all about the groove!

    Feb 25, 2005
    Ann Arbor, MI
    I know what you mean...I tested the waters a couple months ago on my Studio 220, at a REALLY low price, and didn't get any response. I mean, even if you were to use it as a preamp, you could never find a tube preamp at that price. Even the Groove Tubes preamp, which is EXACTLY the same, was selling for more used than the Studio 220.
  6. I really think the Fender buyout was the final nail in the coffin for their declining popularity. I still think it's great sounding stuff, but sold my 900/GIII rig a couple of years ago when the neo stuff hit the market.

    Also, their original lower line (the Workingman stuff) was not even in the same league (IMO) as, for example, the Eden Nemesis stuff. Finally, the new 'pro' products (750x) etc. seemed to be positioned directly against Ampeg and the 'rock' market versus their original 'hi fi' funk sort of marketing vibe. It's pretty hard to battle the Ampeg boys (and girls) on their home turf.... just my 2 cents :)
  7. vision

    vision It's all about the groove!

    Feb 25, 2005
    Ann Arbor, MI
    I agree with you, although I wasn't really speaking about their total business...as a company I'm sure they are doing okay. I just mean they used to be an innovator in the high end segment. They were seen as the top of the line gear...and now they aren't.

    In my area (metro Detroit) I rarely ever see anyone playing with new SWR professional line gear...you may see someone with an older model Goliath or SM400, maybe a Redhead here and there, but the only new SWR gear that seems to be "flying off the shelf" is the Workingmans and Working Pro lines.

    The key thing to look at is SWR's resale values on their pro line gear...if you buy a new Goliath III or SM 900 for example, you're gonna take a HUGE hit if you try to sell it...
  8. burk48237

    burk48237 Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2004
    Oak Park, MI
    I think the first post hit the "nail on the head". 1] They have competition 2] Their competition nails the "SWR sound" better then SWR. 3] They have had almost no innovation 4] Their catering to the low end of the market has killed their high end resale 5] To some extent their "sound" (Hi-fi sizzle) has fallen out of favor, definitely in the pop market (Where boomy is in) and in the R & B market (as vintage sounds become more of a force). Not to say some people still don't want that sound it's just not the "Holy Grail", or a "grail shaped beacon"! :D

    As far as the workingman, the 12 was a cool amp initially, but the competition has caught up. The new low end stuff doesn't even compete well against low end competitors. Hartke, GK, Nemesis, and Crate all seem to make better value stuff. The good news is theirs some pro SWR stuff, sitting on shelves that you could probably get a good deal on!
  9. vision

    vision It's all about the groove!

    Feb 25, 2005
    Ann Arbor, MI
    This is a great point...I love the hi-fi sizzle sound, but it is really not as prevalent in the R&B world that I'm usually playing in...when neo-soul hit the scene, gear changed with it. Now you see more rhodes and organs instead of keyboard synths; drummers are using deeper snares instead of the piccolos they used in the 90's; and bassplayers are going for a more vintage, warm sound instead of the bright punchy tone SWR was known for. And even if you still love that sound like I do, SWR's competition is offering products that can do that and also do just about everything else!
  10. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    Yep, all entry-level gear flies out of those stores, just like Peavey - not what SWR used to be . . . unfortunately.

    I'm entertained by your thought that Eden isn't considered boutique gear . . . their heads sure are in my neck of the woods . . . just goes to show you how perceptions differ
  11. getz76


    Apr 3, 2005
    Hoboken, NJ
    I would think SWR's staple is selling the Goliath, Goliath Jr., and Son of a Bertha. They seem to be competively priced. Their heads are running into the same problem everyone else's are; a glut of feature-filled, powerful, cheap imports. $2,000 for an SM-900 or $300 for an Ashdown MAG-300?

    Eden is pretty widely distributed; easy enough to buy it off of Musician's Friend. I see it less often than SWR and Ampeg stuff, but I wouldn't say that makes it boutique.

    In addition to a SWR head on top of a Goliath, two very standard setups you see in my neck of the woods are a SWR SM-500 on top of an Eden 210XLT and an Eden WT-series on top of an SWR Goliath. The other rig I see a lot is the "Hartke Stack of Doom", the 3500 amp on top of a 4x10" and 1x15". I usually cringe (personal preference)

    A lot of the backlines in Manhattan are SWR; a lot of Workingman 15 combos, SM-400 or SM-500 heads, lots of SWR Goliath IIIs that look like they have been run over by a train, and one Super Redhead that I have never seen in use at the C-Note on Avenue C.
  12. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    In my scene, by far the most popular setup is SWR 2002/4004 head atop Workingman's 4x10 and 1x15 cabinets.

    When I lived in Miami, a lot more people used Ampeg/Mesa gear. I guess people out here (Albuquerque) are cheap. :p
  13. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    I think the reason they seem less popular is because there are more choices available however this perception would be from a TalkBass point of view. Many bassist that don't hang out on TalkBass don't know anything about Bergantino, Epifani, Schroeder, Avatar, etc.
  14. Agreed, I'm also from Hoboken (11th & Garden) and the rehearsal studios we use are primarily Eden WT's and SWRs Goliaths in various combos. I see mostly Hartkes out gigging in NYC and Jersey Shore areas. I love my pre-Fender Super Redhead and find it very capable handling small-med sized rooms using my 4 strings but lately I've been favoring less sizzle & a more Ampegish sound.
  15. I think Vision was originally pointing out that based on retail sales of the newer higher end units, and the very low resale value of the older stuff, that the sheen is a little off this brand... due to a number of reasons commented on above. That doesn't mean that there aren't a ton of 900's and GII's and III's still cranking out there!
  16. Exactly. The vast majority of the world has never heard of that stuff because it's not sold in the vast majority of places.
  17. FireBug


    Sep 18, 2005
    Exactly! I've been waiting for someone to make this point as I was reading. TB is a wonderful thing for bassists and boutique manufacturers alike. Every time I buy a piece of used gear or meet another bassist I ask if they are a member of TB. So far I haven't come across anyone yet. And do you know what gear these people are using? GK, Fender, SWR, and Peavey. Had I come to TB a long time ago I would have saved my money for somehting like EBS or Bergantino instead of spending on a Goliath III - which is something I regret. TB offers a wealth on information that really isn't available anywhere else.
  18. Valid point... except it still doesn't explain the very low and declining resale value out in the 'non TB general market'. Don't misinterpret my comments, I still like the stuff! But you sure don't see the new ones as backline out there much with the pro's any more, and the resale is very poor.
  19. vision

    vision It's all about the groove!

    Feb 25, 2005
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Yep, that's exactly my point...for example, a new SM500 costs $1200 in the store. A used SM500 is going for $500-600 right now. Thats a HUGE drop off! So why would you spend $1200 on the SWR when you could buy a Thunderfunk, an Eden WT550, a UK Ashdown, a high end pre/power setup, an EA, etc., with much more resale value. Or an even better question is - why spend $1200 on a new SM500 when you could find a used one in great condition for half the price? The same goes for the Goliath III, there are tons of options for a 410 in the $900 range, without nearly as much dropoff in resale value.

    One other point to consider is this...I know that relatively few bassists are on this site, but that doesn't mean that players in the high end market haven't heard of Epifani, Bergantino, EBS, etc. Maybe the average bassplayer in a bar hasn't heard of the newer gear, but the guys that are spending $2000 plus on their head/cab setups are doing research on their purchases, even if it isn't on the net. All you have to do is pick up a Bassplayer mag and you're gonna read about all the new options available.
  20. getz76


    Apr 3, 2005
    Hoboken, NJ
    Low resale value for high-end gear does not just effect SWR.

    I have seen Bergantino HT322 cabinets sell for $600 and less on eBay. You can find deals on Aguilar cabinets left and right on bassgear.com and ebay. People give away Ampeg cabinets on eBay (saw a SVT410HE go for $200). I have seen Ampeg SVT3-Pros go for under $300 on eBay. I recently purchased a beat-up Son of a Bertha for $150.

    Part of this has been a surge in affordable alternatives at your local super-store; Behringer's 410 is $200 new, as is and Hartke's VX410. Buying new is now cheaper than buying used, and since a lot of people who buy used are beginners, some of them would rather have something new than something used.