True Genius: Remembering Steve Rabe And SWR

Rick Carlson remembers amplification legend Steve Rabe with Marcus Miller, Bryan Beller, Freddie Washington, Rickey Minor, Jimmy Haslip, and others

True Genius: Remembering Steve Rabe And SWR

Rick Carlson remembers amplification legend Steve Rabe with Marcus Miller, Bryan Beller, Freddie Washington, Rickey Minor, Jimmy Haslip, and others

By Rick Carlson for Bass Magazine  The bass amplification world lost one of its pioneers with the passing of Steven William Rabe on September 30, 2021. In the mid-’80s, when hair bands stalked the stages and behemoth amps ruled the backline, Steve Rabe started his company in the San Fernando Valley of California with partner Ed Randolph, christening the newborn with his initials: SWR. That moment, like the first breeze of a Santa Ana Wind that foretells of the impending heat wave to come, kicked open the sonic door and the bass world would never be the same. During his tenure in service departments at Acoustic Amplification and A.M.P., Steve developed the concept for a bass amp with a hybrid design: a tube preamp for warmth and clarity integrated with a solid-state power amp. The new amp design would also incorporate an EQ that would cover the broad frequencies needed for bass, even reproducing the low B on 5-string basses that were gaining in popularity at the time. Starting literally in his garage, Steve’s first two amp models were the PB-200 (later updated to the Studio 220) and the iconic SM-400; both were two-space rack-mountable heads in an aluminum chassis. With two assemblers and two additional business partners, Daryl Jamison and Richard Robinson, SWR soon needed a bigger space and someone to help promote the brand. SWR moved from the garage to a small industrial complex in Pacoima, where it shared a suite with Groove Tubes. Shortly afterward, SWR brought me onboard to oversee sales and marketing. Having first met in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium, Steve and I reconnected at the Summer NAMM show in New Orleans and spent an evening on a paddle-wheel riverboat discussing his designs and the music industry in general. I was working for Linn Electronics at the time and found that we had similar beliefs when it came to listening to the ideas and needs of musicians and incorporating that feedback into products that would help them express themselves. The first day I showed up at SWR, the work force was just Steve and his two trusted and highly skilled assemblers, Martina and Haide. As is true at many a startup, we wore all of the hats in the day-to day-operation and did everything, at least temporarily. As sales picked up, Steve’s wife, Linda, joined the team to manage the office, and the production team grew and grew. With the growing success of the SWR amp heads, we needed to develop a cabinet that would reproduce the full audio spectrum, EQ ra
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Bass Magazine   By: Bass Magazine