SWR Headlite, Amplite & Golight

UNTIL THIS YEAR, SWR HAD BEEN A notable holdout from the industry-wide shift to neodymium cabinets and lightweight Class D/SMPS heads. One couldn’t help but wonder why, considering the ubiquity of the trend. The reason, it turns out, was not ignorance of the new technology or the conceptual aversion to it that some manufacturers continue to have, rather it was SWR’s commitment to releasing lightweight products that sound and perform like their conventional counterparts. This focus on coherence with the SWR identity resulted in a long R&D process that’s finally come to fruition in the headlite, amplite, and golight products. In designing the amps, SWR wanted to offer a professional-quality head that boasted the tone and featureset common to SWR’s other Professional Series heads, but simply happened to be lightweight. Similarly, the golight cabs were designed to be light versions of the lauded Goliath cabinet line.
By Jonathan Herrera ,

UNTIL THIS YEAR, SWR HAD BEEN A notable holdout from the industry-wide shift to neodymium cabinets and lightweight Class D/SMPS heads. One couldn’t help but wonder why, considering the ubiquity of the trend. The reason, it turns out, was not ignorance of the new technology or the conceptual aversion to it that some manufacturers continue to have, rather it was SWR’s commitment to releasing lightweight products that sound and perform like their conventional counterparts. This focus on coherence with the SWR identity resulted in a long R&D process that’s finally come to fruition in the headlite, amplite, and golight products. In designing the amps, SWR wanted to offer a professional-quality head that boasted the tone and featureset common to SWR’s other Professional Series heads, but simply happened to be lightweight. Similarly, the golight cabs were designed to be light versions of the lauded Goliath cabinet line.

HEADLITE & AMPLITE

I remember an architect friend of mine explaining that Frank Gehry’s famously sinuous buildings like the Walt Disney Concert Hall are wholly dependant on computer- aided design software to exist. One gets the same sense with the new SWR amps. The headlite is an engineering achievement, packing an extraordinary amount of stuff into a remarkably small little box. Popping off the top reinforces this impression, with a densely packed interior that despite its size, manages to incorporate the same 12AX7-based preamp found in other much larger SWR heads.

Indeed, the 400-watt headlite’s frontend shares much in common with other SWR amps. It’s not lacking for features. Its contoured front panel includes controls for an input PAD, MUTE, GAIN, the AURAL ENHANCER, the 3-band semi-parametric EQ, FX BLEND, compressor, and a MASTER volume. Each of the buttons light up when depressed and there’s LED indicators for the compressor/preamp clipping and power amp clipping. I’m mixed on the front-panel legibility. The knob labels are difficult to see from any distance, but the amp’s physical size is what it is—the type couldn’t be much bigger.

Considering this is SWR’s smallest head, it offers a more robust EQ than some bigger amps in their line. Its three-position AURAL ENHANCER offers “classic” and “modern” voicings, like the Marcus Miller preamp, and a new bypassed flat setting. Like the venerable Baby Blue combo, three concentric pots control the head-lite’s three bands of semi-parametric EQ. I appreciate the adjustability, but I think SWR should consider putting center detents on the frequency ring of the concentric. As it is, it’s quite hard to know exactly where you are.

The headlite has all the connectivity you’ll need out back, with effect SEND and RETURN jacks, a full-featured XLR direct output with a parallel 1/4" TRS jack, a PRE OUT to daisy chain to an additional power amp (like the amplite), and a jack for the headlite’s cool optional footswitch, which offers muting and effect bypass switches and doubles as a tuner when the mute button is depressed.

I played the headlite on a variety of gigs and rehearsals ranging from aggressive funk to mellow jazz. My first impression: it’s definitely an SWR amp, offering the crisp transient response, bumped-up bass, sizzly treble, and ever-so slightly scooped midrange that has come to define the “SWR sound.” The EQ offers a lot of adjustability for the vagaries of different rooms or styles, and the multi-voiced midscooping/ bass and treble boosting AURAL ENHANCER is a quick shortcut to even more dramatically carved-out scoop for slap or modern metal tone. The 400-watt head was loud enough for most everything, although one admittedly too loud rehearsal definitely pushed it to its limit, especially when I really dug in on a slap tune with massive transient dynamics. This, however, is where the cool amplite power amp proves useful.

The amplite is essentially the power section of the headlite. Not only is it great for pairing with the headlite (both together are still way smaller and lighter than the average Class AB/linear power supply head), but it’d make a great lightweight supplement for any amp that yearns for a power boost on particularly loud gigs. Input to the amplite is courtesy a Neutrik combo jack and there are two Speakon outputs to the headlite’s one.

GOLIGHT CABINETS

The golight series, with the exception of the unique Marcus Miller 4x10, is basically a lightweight iteration of SWR’s Goliath line. SWR combed through the Goliath series looking for components that could be replaced with lightweight alternatives. Neodymium speakers replaced the Goliath’s ceramic drivers; lightweight okume plywood replaces the Goliath’s birch cabinetry; and the grilles and handles are made from aluminum, not steel. The result is significant weight savings. For example, the Goliath 4x10 is 89 pounds—the golight is 56.

The Marcus Miller 4x10 differs from the golight 4x10 in a few key ways. Its neodymium drivers were custom-tailored to Miller’s specs, and most significantly, it’s a sealed cabinet. Sealed cabinets don’t have the low-frequency extension of ported cabs, but they do offer an appreciably punchier and more focused sound. There aren’t many sealed 4x10s, and there are certainly fewer sealed neo-driver-equipped 4x10s. Good on SWR for making one available.

I happened to have some Goliath cabs on hand to compare to the golights, although there is no sealed 4x10 in the Goliath line. All in all, the cabs sounded quite similar. Like the heads, they have a burly low end, a slicing treble attack, and just a hair of midrange scoop. Compared to the Goliath, they were a touch quicker and more delicate with perhaps a slightly more textured and rich midrange. The Marcus Miller 4x10 is a different animal. It had a substantially more present and aggressive midrange and an overall more focused, quicker attack.

The new lightweight SWR stuff may have arrived well into the weightobsessed trend’s maturity, but the products themselves reflect this. They are well designed and effective, and accomplish the mission of delivering light gear that successfully communicates the SWR sound. I hope the line expands, particularly the golight series. A small 1x12 or heck, even 1x10, would be an excellent mate for the tiny headlite amp.

TECH SPECS
SWR HEADLITE & AMPLITE
Street headlite, $699; amplite, $549
Pros Nice design and excellent versatility for
the size; solid SWR tone
Cons Front panel is a little cluttered, although
this comes with the territory

SWR GOLIGHT
Street 4x10, $899; Marcus Miller 4x10, $899;
2x10, $649; 1x15, $649
Pros Lightweight; crisp attack and big booty;
Marcus Miller is an awesome sealed alternative
to the ported 4x10 for more midrange
punch
Cons None

HEADLITE
Power output 400 watts @ 4Ω minimum load
Tone controls Bass: ±15dB @ 40Hz–220Hz;midrange: ±15dB @ 240Hz–1.5kHz; treble:±15dB @ 1.5kHz–8kHz; AURAL ENHANCER: complex mid-scooping contour centered at 200
or 600 Hz
Power amp topology Class D
Power supply Switchmode
DI output Balanced XLR with ground lift and PRE/POST buttons
Weight 3.6 lbs

AMPLITE
Power output 400 watts @ 4Ω minimum load
Power amp topology Class D
Power supply Switchmode
Weight 2.9 lbs

GOLIGHT
Drivers Neodymium with high-frequency horn
Power handling 1x15, 350 watts; 4x10, 800 watts; 2x10, 400 watts; Marcus Miller 4x10,800 watts
Frequency Response 1x15, 45Hz–15kHz; 4x10, 40Hz–15kHz; 2x10, 45Hz–15kHz; Marcus Miller 4x10, 55Hz–15kHz
Weight 1x15, 45 lbs; 4x10, 56 lbs; 2x10, 38 lbs; Marcus Miller 4x10, 55 lbs

Made in Mexico
Warranty Five years
Contactwww.swrsound.com