In the late 1970s, the clear, full and powerful SWR bass sound existed only in the mind of company founder Steve W. Rabe. He simply thought that bass amps should sound better, and he envisioned a bass sound that would satisfy the needs of professional players at the highest level.
He visited studios, asking the pros working in Los Angeles what they thought.
"They all just pointed their fingers at the studio monitors and said, 'Make a bass amp sound like that, 'cause that's what a bass is supposed to sound like,'" Rabe said. "So that meant hi-fi, clean, full range."
With that ideology, SWR was born.
The SWR sound was brought to life after a painstakingly long research process in which designers tried out many different electronic circuits for the preamp, the tone circuit, the power amp and everything in between. After repeated listening sessions with Los Angeles session bassists, SWR's first "hybrid" full-range bass amplifier, the PB-200(TM) (later to become the SM-400), appeared in 1984. The first five units were made in a garage.
There was nothing on the market like it. The PB-200 had a warm but highly accurate tube preamp, a stereo solid-state power amp and a low-noise, integrated circuit-driven tone section. It was used for the famous "We Are The World" session, at which a direct-input signal was taken from the amp (as opposed to using a direct box), a then unheard-of bass recording concept. Word spread quickly.
Pros raved about SWR features such as semi-parametric EQ, side-chain effects loops and the Aural Enhancer(TM) tone-shaping circuit, all of which made for fantastic studio sounds. But what about on stage?
The full-range response of the amp required a speaker cabinet equal to the task, so designers started searching for the right speakers, the right cabinet porting and the right crossover point. In 1986, the unleashed the result: the Goliath(TM). It was the first of its kind - a 4x10 full-range speaker cabinet with a horn tweeter. To this day, it is the most copied speaker cabinet on the market.
1987 saw the introduction of the Redhead(TM) combo amp. The Redhead 2x10 and its current upgraded version, the Super Redhead, are often requested by engineers and session players and have appeared on literally thousands of recordings. Their 2x10 plus horn-tweeter configuration became another industry standard as SWR's popularity continued to spread nationwide.
The next decade saw a flurry of groundbreaking product development. The SM-900(TM), a 900-watt powerhouse, became an instant classic upon its 1991 introduction, and remains one of the world's most popular backline amplifiers. The Baby Blue(TM) combo amp redefined tonal definition for acoustic bassists. The Goliath Senior(TM) 6x10 pumped 1,000 watts and introduced an easily portable tilt-back design. Boutique cabinets like the Henry The 8x8(TM) threw convention out the window, showing that you could get the killer punch of a smaller speaker array and still reproduce frequencies down to 37Hz.
In the late '90s, with consumer demand skyrocketing, SWR introduced its first value-driven line, the Workingman's Series. A broader range of bassists could now get the famous SWR sound with simplified features. The Workingman's 15 combo amp, with more than 20,000 units sold, became the most successful product in SWR history. The California Blonde(TM) acoustic guitar amp, one of the most popular such amps on the market among professionals, made its debut.
The late '90's also saw the birth of a new class of SWR amplifier - the Bass 750(TM). It had a mono-block power configuration and simpler controls, but it was faithful to the SWR Sound. And it was loud.
Also during this period, it had become clear to SWR that it wasn't only jazz and session players who wanted "that sound" - many rock bass players wanted the clarity and trueness of SWR. The company gave them what they wanted in the form of the Megoliath(TM) 8x10 cabinet, a 1,200-watt monster that was incredibly loud, but crystal-clear. And when the speaker cabinet grills went chrome, a new trademark visual for SWR was born.
Today, more than 20 years after those first five units were made in a garage, SWR products remain true to the original spirit of the company, with the highest standards of quality. SWR's classic products are still manufactured and tested in southern California, less than 75 miles away from their birthplace. They're built with the same parts and often by the same people who've built and tested them for more than 10 years.
The tradition of innovation continues today stronger than ever, and SWR remains faithful to its full-range, high-fidelity and ultra-clean roots. It's all part of SWR's continued commitment to bassists who seek equipment that not only does the job, but also actually enhances their overall musical experience, contributes to their creative process and amplifies their future!