Workingman's 2004 review by SWR

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.6 (8 votes)
SWR: Workingman's 2004
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Purchased from: Musician's Friend

Sound — 9
I typically use an Ibanez SR506 6-string with Bartolini's (the guitar is low-impedance, wired (the only one I've heard of) with an XLR plug v. 1/4"), a Fender Precision fretted, Fender Precision/Jazz hybrid fretless and an Ibanez Roadstar II (850 a Spector copy) for kicks (very light guitar and clear as a bell). I play rock and classic rock predominately; I also play acoustic guitars through this amp and it does very well (I really didn't want to spend the money on a separate acoustic amp to use it for a half-dozen songs). The 2004 is very quiet, although I once detected a slight buzz in a funky ground situation (nothing that wasn't overshadowed by everything else around me or that had been an issue, and I certainly couldn't hear it while playing). SWR ampifiers have a very distinct sound, and you have to be aware of that before you buy. While the 2004 is versatile in its ability to amplify a variety of basses and faithfully reproduce differing genres and styles, there is no mistaking the over-arching SWR sound produced. It's a modern tone, the best I can describe it, and very clear; this is not an old Fender Bassman! I never run my amps where they're butting up against headroom, so I don't know if this amp distorts at high gain (if you need to run your amp on "seven" then you need a larger power amp); forced distortion (high gain, low master) is nothing to write home about (I don't use this method anyway, opting for outboard effects to accomplish this), so I can't really comment on its affect in terms of my like or dislike of this amp.

Overall Impression — 9
As previously mentioned, I play rock, everything from The Byrds to Ozzy to Better Than Ezra, and this amp can realistically emulate the tones needed to give this music the right "feel" with very little tweaking. Much of this has to do with the Aural Enhancer. If you've never used one you'd be amazed at what it adds. We've used one on vocals since the very-early '80s but it never really occured to me to add it to my rig. I hope to keep this amp around for a long time, God knows how much longer I will be able to hit Sammy's vocal range (or somewhere there'bouts), and can see no reason to change. When I get old (older than I am now) I can always bring half the rig, or a 1x12 cabinet or something, right? I've been playing for 35 years now (oh, man, that just hit me) and I don't know that I've ever been more pleased with an amp, pound-for-pound, than I have with this setup. If I lost this head somehow I wouldn't hesitate to get another. Overall, the amp has a unique but versatile sound, is sufficiently powerful for most any rehearsal/small-medium club situation and is rife with features. I compared it to Ampeg, Eden, Hartke, Behringer (why did I do that) and Fender and either was as happy with the sound with the far-more expensive brands or it blew past the others. The only elements that bother me or I wish it had are the location of the XLR and its limited feature (direct out only) and maybe slightly more wattage ("just in case," although it's never been an issue). For the money (and more) I can't beat this amp.

Reliability & Durability — 8
It took me a little while to become comfortable with bringing this amp solo, predominately due to the fact that the first amp Musician's Friend sent me blew, at low volume, nonetheless, after only having it for about a week. The output section was completely gone. MF did a good job of sending me a new one in three days and I've had zero problems since. I can now say that I'd use this without a backup, although we always have a backup amp with us anyway (a versatile old Fender, why tempt fate). Having used predominately Sunn amps and Crown power for many years I still can't get past the fact that this head only weighs around 25 lbs. That makes me somewhat nervous as far as a good "solid" feel is concerned, admittedly, but I'm getting past it. The SWR head and cabs are showing no signs of wear and are definitely well constructed (the carpet covering picks up lint and grass but can be brushed off if you want it to stay "pretty"). Despite the aforementioned mishap, I'm rating the reliability on this a tenuous "8", because of the first one blowing (I hope this never comes back to haunt me).

Features — 9
Purchased this amp the year it was manufactured (ironically, 2004) to use only for rehearsals as a substitute for lugging around my 75 lb. rack + 3 speaker cab combination (which was to be used going forward for gigs only). Age (mine) and weight (the amp's) soon changed that, I now use this thing for both! While initially wanting to go with something tiny e.g. a 100-watt combo practice amp, I just couldn't bring myself to do it, having played for years with a small "wall" behind me. The compromise was this 200-watt amp mated to an SWR 4x10 and 1x15 (both "Workingman's" series also). This combination alone cut more than 100 lbs. off of what I had been carrying. More importantly, however, I found that I could pull sounds out of this amp in no time that rivaled that of my full rack (which contains a tube pre-amp, various effects, electronic crossover, parametric EQ and 300-watt power amp). With the SWR I can make my fretless moan, slam the drummer with a fat low-B on my six-string and punch through a Vox AC30 and Marshall with my other basses without problem. Although SWR/Fender no longer manufactures this model (the Workingman's series has been reduced to a few combos), replacing it with the very similar Working Pro series (I believe the Workingman's series had been around for about ten years), this amp would be an exceptional buy on the used market. Feature-wise SWR has thrown in most everything you need to create great tone and it is versatile enough to use it for anything I've made it do; as an aside, I thought I'd miss my tube pre-amp. I don't. The 2004 is a single channel head with separate active/passive inputs, an effects loop/blend (with a single rack space built into the cabinet, nice touch; I use it), headphone jack, speaker defeat, limiter, compressor (both controllable/defeatable, although why anyone would want to defeat a limiter is beyond me), pre-EQ/effects XLR out (although I wish it were located in the back instead of the front panel, what were they thiking? And were switchable between line or direct, but you can't have everything), aural enhancer (can't say enough about this, think "fat sound") and a versatile, very musical tone section with shiftable mids. Power is rated 200 watts @ 4 ohms. It's a loud 200, but not seriously powerful enough for anything larger than a small or mid-size venue (that's why you have a line-out/PA, anyway). I've used this thing both outdoors and in, always on stages where I'm about 15-20 feet in front of the amp and it cuts through very well. A couple of "headlining" bassists have used the rig when we opened for them (these guys often have the luxury of traveling without much equipment) and have loved it as well.

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