SWR Baby Baby Blue
Byline: Ed Ivey
SWR’s penchant for reducing the size of its bass amps is again manifest with the new Baby Baby Blue ($1,099). The Baby Baby Blue is a versatile, well-appointed combo aimed at working players who prize small gear but demand professional features.
The amp packs 120 watts into a 39-pound package and offers just about everything you need for session and small-club work. And the Baby Baby Blue’s portability allows you to get it into your import car’s trunk without a wrestling degree.
The Baby Baby Blue’s predecessor, the Baby Blue combo, sports twin 8-inch drivers, a tweeter, a 160-watt power section, and a 12AX7A preamp tube – a combination that immediately garnered high-profile users and great reviews when it came out in the early 1990s. The amplifier’s 3-band semiparametric EQ and clean direct output received raves from players and engineers alike, but at 45 pounds and more than two feet tall, the original Baby Blue was a handful for a musician on the move.
The Baby Baby Blue is only 19 inches tall and is just as rugged and stage worthy as its bigger brother. It also includes a 3-band semiparametric EQ, but adds a 16-gauge steel grill; a no-nonsense slant-top design, which offers protection for the knobs; and a thick, carpeted covering. Best of all, the Baby Baby Blue is a snap to carry with one hand and is powerful enough for most workaday recording and gigging needs.
The Baby Baby Blue’s features include SWR’s Aural Enhancer variable-tone circuitry, a low-noise sidechain effects loop, an XLR output with an innovative combination variable pad/ground lift pot, headphone and tuner outputs, and an effects bypass switch. The newly designed cabinet features a 1×10 PAS speaker, a Le Son piezo tweeter, and a retractable handle on the bottom that can be used for tilting the unit when it’s onstage and for lifting the amp with two hands.
I used the Baby Baby Blue at dozens of gigs with top-grade results, not only on bass, but also on acoustic guitar, keyboard, and mandolin. The EQ section was precise and dependable, and the amp’s effects loop made using my effects a breeze. In particular, my string bass sounded robust and full through the Baby Baby Blue, partly because the tweeter added sparkle to the high end (sometimes even a bit too much). By following the instructions in the amp’s manual and using the EQ, I was able to minimize feedback while maximizing the volume.
But in some cases, the Baby Baby Blue was just shy of being loud enough to handle a large room without requiring me to send a balanced output to the front-of-house system. In situations that had noisy crowds, I added an extension speaker, which negated the reason for having a small combo in the first place. However, the Baby Baby Blue sounded great with a 2×12 extension cabinet. And, with its low weight and array of features, it’s still the handiest bass amp under 50 pounds that I’ve encountered.
I found a few of the amp’s design aspects to be annoying. For example, SWR placed both the tweeter-attenuation switch and the speaker-defeat switch on the back of the amp, but they aren’t sufficiently recessed: simply carrying the amp can be enough to disturb the positions of the switches. At one gig, I kept wondering why the amp seemed so anemic. I eventually discovered that the internal speaker’s switch had been knocked into the Off position when the combo was being moved, and I was running only through the house system.
In addition, the internal speaker output has a semipermanent plug in it, which prevents the user from unplugging it and using both speaker outputs for extension cabinets. I would have liked to have had that option.
UP AND RUNNING
Night after night, this amp delivered great sound and was very easy to haul around. That means a lot to a working bassist.
The SWR Baby Baby Blue seems like a good value for the professional player who understands the importance of portability and will take full advantage of the amp’s features. SWR has developed a strong reputation for producing quality bass amps, and this little amp upholds the family tradition just fine.
a[ordinal indicator, feminine] Rating (out of 5): 4
SWR Sound Corporation; tel. (818) 253-4797; Web www.swrsound.com .
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