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SWR Rig vs. GK Rig


Funky Monk

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Hello all,

 

I am actively gigging in a RHCP tribute band, and have a new party rock/dance cover band in the works as well. I play Ernie Ball Music Man 4 & 5 string basses with these bands.

 

I've been playing thru an SWR SM-500 amp and an SWR Goliath III (4x10) cabinet for about 5 years. I was reasonably satisfied with this setup until last year, when I was at a large venue and had to turn up kinda loud to hear myself. I ended up damaging the cabinet - needed a speaker re-coned. Several months later, after another big gig, I needed to have the other 3 speakers re-coned. Frustrated by this, I gave some thought to my rig and figured that adding another cabinet to the setup would lighten the load on the Goliath III. So I forked out some cash for a new SWR Son of Bertha (1x15).

 

Now gigging with a full stack - a 500W head sending 250W into a 410 & and 250W into a 115, I was a little disappointed to find that my sound was only a little louder, and I wasn't exactly in love with it. But I continued on, and then was shocked when I realized after a gig a few weeks ago that I think the 410 has at least one speaker needing another re-cone!

 

I spoke with a sales guy at the local music store, and he said that my problem is quite possibly the result of having too LITTLE power in the amp, and it's clipping. The clipping is damaging the speakers. Seems to make sense to me - does everyone agree with his assessment?

 

So after my long-winded tale, I finally want to see what the forum thinks about this: I am debating a complete swap of my SWR rig for a Gallien-Krueger rig. I have my eye on the 2001RB, with the 410RBH & 115RBH cabs. Works for Flea, so should work for me, right?!

 

I'd be pissing away money since I won't recoup the cost of my fairly new 115, but the horn config of the 2001RB doesn't match up as nicely with the SWR options.

 

Does anyone have experience with both of these systems (SWR & GK)? Obviously tons of big-name players are using SWR, so it's not like low-end gear. I'm just looking to see if anyone argues for or against the change.

 

Thanks to all for reading my novel, and I'll be excited to hear your opinions!

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Yes, it makes sense that an underpowered amp would damage speaker cones. However, you may want to find out more about how much power your amp was actually delivering to each cab. Check what ohms each of your cabinets are rated for. The SM500 head is going to deliver different amounts of power into different ohm loads. I believe SWR cabinets are usually 4 ohm cabs, but I could be wrong. Anyhow, just make sure your amp actually is underpowered for the speaker loads you were using before you spend a lot of money on a new rig. The SM500 sounds like a powerful enough amp.

 

I love the GK 700/1001/2001RB series heads. They offer a lot of power for the money and I love their bi-amp system. Most bi-amp systems use two large power amps to drive a full range main speaker and a sub. The GK bi-amp system is unique because it uses a large amp to drive your woofers and a small amp to drive your horn. This allows you to control your horn levels at the pre-amp stage, rather than using a passive resistor in the attenuator on the back of your speaker cabinet. Be warned though, the GK gear is a much different flavor than the SWR gear. SWR amps and cabinets tend to have a sparkly, scooped sound that emphasizes lows and highs compliments of their enhance or contour knob. The GK sound is slightly more even, but gritty to my ears. The 700/1001/2001 series in particular has a distortion circuit that can sound "farty" in the hands of the wrong player.

 

Try before you buy, and don't limit yourself to just those two brands. Even if you are in a RHCP tribute band, you can get Flea's sound with other gear.

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With all due respect, Funky Monk, disregard jrob's first paragraph. First of all, I'd guess you have two 8 ohm cabinets, as this is the "norm" (which doesn't mean you can't use two 4 ohm cabs if your head/poweramp is up to the task). Also, you'll want to have as much power as possible, and for your needs I'd probably go with a separate pre amp combined with an sufficiently capable power amp.

 

Originally posted by jrob:

Anyhow, just make sure your amp actually is underpowered for the speaker loads you were using. The SM500 sounds like a powerful enough amp.

I'd say just the opposite. Make sure you have plenty of power to drive those cabinets cleanly. I'm talking about wattage (ballpark) figures of 120-150% of your cabinets' ratings. It's better to have too much power than not enough.
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Yep. Underpowering and failing to hear the results-in-progress causes more speaker failure. Headroom is needed, and good EQ practices too.

 

Some people fail to hear the results in progress of sufficient power too, but this is not so often the case. For brutal subwoofer driving for touring and large installations power amps are often at least 2 times the RMS of speakers, and some are comfortable with as much as 4x. These guys can hear what is going on when they work with their systems, but they don't often need to worry anyway.

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There's actually plenty of detailed past threads about the power issue here, but to get 3dB of headroom, for peaks is actually a pretty conservative practice and that requires (when all components are honestly rated) TWO TIMES the power amp rating.

 

So if speaker components have suitable xmax -- excursion ability -- for the job, if the cab is rated at say 500 watts RMS, it's common to drive with as much as 1000 watts RMS power amp. But the key is still paying attention to clipping via visual indication of LEDs and ears.

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Oops! I meant to say that he should make sure the amp really is underpowered, before he dropped a lot of money on a new rig. I would never recommend buying an underpowered amp to drive power-hungry cabinets. I've edited my original post to reflect my original intentions. It wasn't really clear in my first post.

 

It just seems to me if the SM500 really was delivering 500 watts into the Goliath 4 x 10", he should have had more than enough power. IIRC, most SWR cabs are 4 ohms and most of their amps advertise their wattage at a 4 ohm load. However, if his Goliath was an 8 ohm cab and the SM500 is rated for 500 watts at 4 ohms, then maybe his SM500 head was really only putting out 250 watts (or something in that ballpark) and his rig really was powered. There are all kinds of possibilities. All I'm saying is he should find out exactly what is wrong with his rig, before dropping the whole thing for a new head and two new cabs. Sounds reasonable, no?

 

================================================

 

Some quick research. An SWR Goliath III cab on americanmusical.com is listed as an 8 ohm cab that can handle 700 watts. An SWR SM500 head on music123.com says it delivers 500 watts mono at 4 ohms and 400 watts mono at 8 ohms. IMO, 400 watts at 8 ohms should have been enough to drive the 8 ohm, 700 watt Goliath cab, unless you were playing too loud and really cranking up the bass frequencies on the EQ.

 

The real problem came when he added the second cab. Assuming the 15" cab was also 8 ohms, FunkyMonk should have connected the the two cabs in parallel to yield a combined 4 ohm load drawing 500 watts of power from the SM500. Unfortunately, from his post it appears FunkyMonk may have connected the two cabs in stereo (the SM500 has a stereo mode). The SM500 delivers 300 watts stereo at 2 ohms, 250 watts stereo at 4 ohms and only 150 watts stereo at 8 ohms. Therefoer, if both cabs were truly 8 ohm cabs, then each cab only recieved 150 watts from the stereo amplifiers, meaning they were certainly underpowered.

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Originally posted by jrob:

All I'm saying is he should find out exactly what is wrong with his rig, before dropping the whole thing for a new head and two new cabs. Sounds reasonable, no?

Yeah that sounds reasonable. If I were a betting man, I'd go for too little power being the reason for doin' the Manowar thing, blowing those speakers.
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i am technically challenged, so i will abstain from making comments on correct wattage, etc.. but i will say this..

on the road with some "name" artists, i have to use backline gear, provided by the rental company.. swr is always available as is GK, usually the gk is an older 800rb, but more and more, i see the newer 1001rb and an ocassional 2001rb. I ALWAYS ask for GK gear, it delivers the 3tone i like, SWR always sounds too scooped and thin to me. If you are fortunate enough to get the GK matched cabinets ( Neo and RBH series ) you can use the "management system" which has a dedictaed biamp for use with the bab, you can control the gain on your tweeters from the amp itself- it is wonderful- and you don't blow tweeters because it is powered correctly for them. At home, i have teh 1001rb and a Neo 212, then, the same rig as a combo. It works beautifully for me, that is why, after having owned a lot of boutique systems, I am an avid GK user and endorser... my .02

peace!- Adrian

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All -

 

Thanks so much for the great responses - and I'll still be looking forward to further feedback, especially from more folks that have played thru both SWR & GK setups to see what their opinions might be.

 

In response to the ohmage question - my cabs are both rated @ 8 ohms. I was originally running the SM500 in bridged mode into the 410. Since acquiring the 2nd cab (the 115), I have been running the 410 from the Left output and the 115 from the Right output. I'm fairly certain that equates to 250W going to each. Whether or not this is a good thing I cannot say, but I do know that it is one of the recommended configurations from SWR's website.

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Originally posted by Funky Monk:

In response to the ohmage question - my cabs are both rated @ 8 ohms. I was originally running the SM500 in bridged mode into the 410. Since acquiring the 2nd cab (the 115), I have been running the 410 from the Left output and the 115 from the Right output. I'm fairly certain that equates to 250W going to each. Whether or not this is a good thing I cannot say, but I do know that it is one of the recommended configurations from SWR's website.

Check your manual to be sure. I'm guessing that the left and right outputs mean you're running in stereo, which means each stereo side of your amp is pushing an 8 ohm speaker load, hence, the amp can only deliver 150 watts per side. It seems to me you would want to run your amp in bridged mode and connect the speakers in parallel to yield a 4 ohm speaker load drawing the full 500 watts from your amp. In this set up, your two cabs would act as one big cab recieving 500 watts. You would want to make sure that you did not connect the two cabs in series, which would yield a 16 ohm speaker load which would draw less than 400 watts from your amp. Again, this should all be made clear in the amp's manual.
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Yeah, whenever I see STEREO mentioned for power amps/heads I cringe. It's usually not going to be used in stereo fashion, rather dual mono. Which, if everything that's been said, is not the best way to get maximum power.

 

Really helps to read manuals and understand what's what. I figure jrob took the trouble to check out a pdf so I won't bother.

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Also, though I haven't test benched these, I am guessing that SWR power figures are kinda optimistic compared to GK ones, which in my sampling have been pretty realistic. That doesn't necessarily translate into an easily hearable discrepancy, but it can make a difference between safe headroom, and clipping.

 

EDIT: I'm talking about the power amp in the heads here, not the cabs.

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My SWR Goliath II (I apologize for earlier posts where I said it was the III, it's the older version) is rated at 400 watts into 8 ohms. Powered that a few times with a Peavey Mark VI. I'm sure I ran at least 250 watts RMS into that cabinet a few times without hurting it. The prior owner of this cabinet ran an SWR power head (jeremy has the same head and I can't recall the model number at the moment) and used that rig with a 2nd cabinet, either a Mesa Boogie 15" or a Carvin 4x10", and I knew he played louder than I did on several occasions.

 

I think the newer Goliath III can handle more power than that, so I'm going to assume (a) it was the stock speakers that blew, (b) the cabinet was kept in a low moisture environment (the paper cones can soak up moisture over time) and © the speakers blew due to peak transients caused by overdriving the head. Whether you choose SWR or GK is up to your tonal preferences.

 

That said, I'm keeping my Goliath, my two Workingman 15s, and am totally happy with the sounds I get out of my SWRs.

:wave:

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Just to throw a wrench into the works you need to consider if your tens were reconed properly.

When speakers are reconed the voice coil is also replaced. If the recone does not use original parts(and most don't)the power ratings of the speakers will be different. Now only a hack would recone speakers with a different ohm voice coil but it does happen.

 

Now back to your question you are underpowered using that head in stereo. But if it's clipping you should easily be able to hear it. If it's not clipping really hard you won't hurt the speakers. Lots of you use distortion boxes which clip the guitar signal, by itself it will not destroy speakers.

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BDFM,

 

Using a distortion pedal is hardly the same as clipping a solid state power amp. But as you say (but for different reasons) it's no big deal to clip lightly and occasionally. It's only when being well into clipping for longer periods that damage is a danger.

 

Fred,

 

Just to clarify what I said about SWR power ratings, I was talking about the heads and not the cabs. I wasn't sure if you were reacting to that earlier statement or not...

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Just wanted to respond to one of points Fred the bass player made -

 

I have been keeping my rig in my garage after gigs - the last thing I feel like doing when I come home at 3am from a night of jumping around on stage is schlep a pair of heavy speaker cabinets into the house (with sleeping wife and toddler), and proceed to drag them down to the basement.

 

Maybe this is a dumb question, but is that practice putting my cabs at risk in the various climates of Chicago? The opinion from the guy I spoke with at the music store was that it wouldn't matter.

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My rig and PA - all but the basses actually - sit in my van and/or garage overnight usually, in Montana winters.

 

Just let them come up to room temp before turning anything on. And be aware of long-term humidity/condensation problems not only on cones, but on electronics in general - I've seen some guys rust their connectors pretty bad on heads and stuff from doing this.

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Posted by Greenboy --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

No they aren't the same. If that was the case there would be a lot more blown woofers in home systems from listening to recordings of metal bands, and in SR from reproducing what's coming from the backline ; }

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Answer from BD;

Exactly, distortion wether from a distortion box or amp clipping will not blow speakers. Thanks for giving me another example of why the "underpowered amp blows speakers" myth is just that.

 

The only scenario that will cause a underpowered amp to blow speakers is a total failure of a transistor amp putting DC voltage out to the speaker. This will blow the speaker after a short amount of time.

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Good discussion. Although I, by far, am not the most talented or trained bassist, I have spent alot of time with the technical aspects of equipment.

 

It does seem to me that Monk's cabs were set up in stereo, which was cutting the power potential considerably. I think JRob explained it best. You want you rig to function as one big 4 ohm system.

 

Monk, please set up your rig your original way, in stereo, then set them up in series for a comparisn. I am interested in the results. Let us know.

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Originally posted by greenboy:

Also, though I haven't test benched these, I am guessing that SWR power figures are kinda optimistic compared to GK ones, which in my sampling have been pretty realistic. That doesn't necessarily translate into an easily hearable discrepancy, but it can make a difference between safe headroom, and clipping.

 

EDIT: I'm talking about the power amp in the heads here, not the cabs.

I'll second this for sure. I remember trying out a SWR 350 and a 800rb at the same gig. Same cab.

The 350 wanted to squeeze while the GK was clean. I also have compared the 750x with the 1001. Both nice amps, but the GK has superior headroom. The 1001RBII is a gutsy little amp. The 2001 must be rediculous.

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Originally posted by Funky Monk:

Just wanted to respond to one of points Fred the bass player made -

 

I have been keeping my rig in my garage after gigs - the last thing I feel like doing when I come home at 3am from a night of jumping around on stage is schlep a pair of heavy speaker cabinets into the house (with sleeping wife and toddler), and proceed to drag them down to the basement.

 

Maybe this is a dumb question, but is that practice putting my cabs at risk in the various climates of Chicago? The opinion from the guy I spoke with at the music store was that it wouldn't matter.

I keep stuff in my little Hyundai all the time so I'm ready to rock when the cellphone rings and there's a payday comin' up. (plus my landlord is the son of Satan, but that's another story) My rule is to get the amp into the club and let it acclimate for 20-30 minutes before powering up. I've broken that rule several times, of course (who hasn't showed up 20 minutes before the start of a gig and set up in a panic?) but nothing has gone wrong yet. (knock on veneer) All I know is that those amp covers are worth the investment, keeps the rain and stuff off them speakers.

 

gb: I got it, you were talking heads and I was talking cabinets, different strokes, we're good, we're jiggy. Haven't gotten around to owning anything bigger than my current stuff because the Peaveys and Ampegs are hard to kill and the Wm15s have served me well 90% of the time. Good stuff lasts a lifetime if you take care of it.

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Girls, girls, girls,

 

It's NOT stereo - it's DUAL MONO. Dual mono is sending the same signal to both sides of a two-channel power amp. Stereo would be when there are actually two different signals of the same mix, one sent to each side. Which is not to be confused with biamping.

 

BDFM,

 

Your news will come as a big shock to the many people who have burned speakers using too little power. Maybe you should send out a memo.

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Interesting... I have the SM-500 head, and I have never encountered a problem with a lack of power no matter how I run my cabinets or which cabs I run.

 

I'll have to check my rig and see precisely what I have going on there...

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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I didn't say lack of power; I simply said that the spec was perhaps optimistic. Most people can't hear the difference if gain structures are done right. After all there is so little difference between 300 watts and 400, though THD shadings in the spec can make a difference in clean headroom.

 

Not too many power sections in heads come out well when compared to SR-style power amps, usually spec'd with more THD, less s/n ratio and dynamic range, and less linearity. Corners get cut to meet the price point.

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