BGRA: AMPEG SVP Pro Preamp
||SVP Pro Preamp|
||$410 (new) including Dual Footswitch|
Dimensions||19" w x 1.75" h x 10" d (Single Space Rackmount)|
Effects||Mono Effects Loop|
Controls||Gain, Drive, and Output Level Controls, EQ Level Control|
Other||Mute Switch (Tuner out still works), Input Pad,|
Whew - Look at all that stuff on a single space rack mount
pre-amp! If you like to twiddle knobs you will be in heaven.
All of this and a FIVE tube preamp as well. From what I understand
the only transistor circuitry is the Graphic EQ.
The only thing I would have like to have would be a built in
crossover, but since most people don't biamp, and panel space
was at a premium, I can live without it (I use an external
crossover for biamping anyway).
I bought the optional footswitch, which is pricey at $29, but it
has the classy Ampeg logo on it, and two LED's. The footswitch
let's you select the mute function without having to walk back
to your rack, and toggle the EQ in and out. One real nice feature
about the footswitch is that it takes a stereo TRS 1/4" cable,
instead of having the cable built in. That way if you frag
the cable, you don't have to pull the box apart to fix it.
Also these cables (1/4" TRS Stereo) used to be hard to get, but
are now readily available in lengths up to 30', so you are not
limited to the 5 or 10' you typically get with a footswitch.
Anyway - how does it sound?
FANTASTIC (with one caveat)
I've had this thing for 6 months now, and the newness of it has
worn off, so I feel I can give an unbiased review now (everything
sounds good when you first get it home).
According to a number of people I talked to, and the salesman
at the store, there are really only two tube preamps worth
considering (not counting ultra high end stuff like the Aguilar).
I compared the Ampeg SVP Pro to the Alembic F1-X and chose the
Ampeg. The Alembic is a great piece, basically it comes down to:
1. If you want a real clear, deep, uncolored tone that will
compliment your bass, go for the Alembic.
2. If you want a sound where the amp is an integral part of the
sound, if you want agression and attitude in your tone, the
Ampeg has it with a capital A.
This preamp has made the biggest contribution of anything to my
sound in 20 years. I wasn't even aware Ampeg was making it until
about 2 years ago when I picked up a new catalog of theirs.
I wished I hadn't waited a year and a half to buy it.
I'll put it this way, usually other band members are ambivelant
about bass tone, as long as it's not too loud they don't care.
As soon as I plugged in the SVP Pro, they all went WOW, what the
hell is that sound?
Another thing that is cool is the DI. Although the output level
is pretty low, the DI sounds great, and since it comes off the
tube preamp, it imparts a lovely "tubeyness" to a recorded tone.
The DI gives you a switch to select PRE or POST EQ, a nice touch.
One day at practice, I set up for a live to tape recording
(multitracked, where the bass got it's own track). I set up for
my regular live sound, set the DI to PRE out, and we played.
The signal chain was the DI into my TASCAM M1516 board (not exactly
a high end board), with a direct out to my TASCAM TSR-8 analog
reel to reel 8 track. Virtually no EQ on the channel.
When I played the track back, it had a great, fat, warm tone,
with a defined midrange that just killed. It was one of the best
recorded bass tones I ever got, and I wasn't even trying!
Now normally my direct chain for recording bass consists of
running the bass into a Countryman DI (one of the better active
DI's out there), then into a RANE FMI-14 mic preamp, with a
parametric eq in the insert, then a direct out into the deck.
While this gets a great sound, the Ampeg DI just sounded more
"real", like I was standing there playing the bass instead of
the sound coming off tape.
If I had a studio (I mean real, not a basement one like mine), I
think I would get an SVP-Pro for the DI sound alone...
There are two problems with the SVP Pro, neither of which is
1. There are so many controls, eq etc. and everything really
interacts, it can take you a while to dial in the tone you
want. In particular, the drive control has MAJOR effect on
the sound of the EQ. I was thinking the EQ was just ok, and
then I turned the drive control up and all of a sudden, the
EQ really came alive.
Basically you set up the gain and pad controls (You will
probably have to use the pad, even with a passive bass)
to get a good level, then use the drive control to get
the amount of "tubeyness" and EQ punch you need.
Unlike a guitar amp, the drive control doesn't really
contribute overdrive or distortion until it's up really
high (like over 8) and then only in conjunction with the
gain being really high (at least over 5).
If you want that old Jack Bruce sound, or the Geddy Lee
"Moving Pictures" grrrr, this thing has that in spades.
It can also sound very clear and clean (except for some
preamp hiss) if you want it too. It's very flexible, in
fact TOO flexible in some respects.
It took me about 4 or 5 practices to really dial in the tone
I like, but it was worth it.
Once you get the sound you like, there is a master volume
that turns everything up or down. Unlike some preamps, this
doesn't really change your sound except for making it louder.
This preamp is very responsive to touch also, it will track
your dymanics very well, purring along until you spank your
bass, then it will rip your head off.
As I said, the EQ is VERY flexible, there are not really
any bad settings, it reminds me of a high end analog recording
board (like the vaunted API EQ), you don't twiddle the EQ
knobs to find a good sound, it all sounds good. You twiddle
the knobs to find the sound that fits the musical context
you are in.
2. Now the real downside - There is a considerable amount of
preamp hiss, although in the SVP Pro's defense, the Alembic
had a bit of hiss too, just not nearly as much.
The problem was excacerbated when I bought a 2 x 10" cab
with a horn. I normally biamp, and use a compressor with a
gate, so the idle hiss isn't real bad but for some users
with low powered power amps, you may have to turn up high
and get an objectionable amount of hiss.
The SVP - Pro is known for this problem, and it was suggested
to me that replacing the tubes with Ruby STR-7025's (for the
12AX7's) and replacing the 12AU7 tube would reign in the hiss
I think this mod improved the tone and the hiss a little, but
then again it might have been the $50 I spent on the tubes!
I guess complaining about this hiss is like complaining you
can't hear the stereo over the sound of the engine on your
Ferrari - it's there but doesn't really detract from the
sound once you start playing.
Compared to a guitar rig, or even some PA's, it's not bad
I realize that I have fawned over this thing a lot, but it really
is one of the best pieces of bass gear out there (especially for
under $400). When I checked with some bass forums about choices
for bass pre's , a lot of people pointed me towards the Alembic.
As a measure of how good the Ampeg is, one of these Alembic owners
later bought an SVP Pro, and says now that he likes it better
(he also says the Alembic is more appropriate for some situations).
The Ampeg SVP-Pro is billed as - "the sound of an SVT in a single
rack space". If you've always lusted after that SVT tone, but
didn't want the weight, retubing expense and hassle of the real
thing, this is about as close as it gets.
I would recommend this piece to any player who wants a thick,
in your face tone...