Low wattage amps with attenuators

Discussion in 'The Squawk Box' started by nm4, Jan 18, 2014.

  1. nm4

    nm4 Senior Member

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    Hi Guys,

    I've bought a few low wattage amps this year and love them all (Jet City JCA2212, Vox AC4, Fender Excelsior). Though they are low wattage they're still somewhat loud for my apt. Decided to get an attenuator. Bad idea?

    I play each amp perhaps 2-3x/week for 1-2 hours per session. I'm not planning on diming any of the amps with the attenuator but plan on turning them up to 1/2 to 2/3rd volume. How often do you suggest I change tubes to prevent "catastrophic tube failure" and destruction of my amp?

    I have a small solid state amp and have modelers/effects I can use with headphones...but they just don't satisfy.

    Cheers,
    NM
     
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  2. bilbarstow

    bilbarstow Premium Member

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    It has been my experience that if you run an amp with an attenuator, it is no harder on the amp than running it at that same level without the attenuator. If your amp wasn't meant to be dimed, they wouldn't have designed it for that output level.

    Tubes won't last as long as if you only ran it at whisper levels all the time, but they won't go out overnight either. Expect "normal" lifespan. And as long as you never run it with no load attached, there should be nothing to worry about for your amp.

    full disclosure : I have a 50 W Weber Mini-Mass, and have run it behind all of my amps (except the Greta - no need), from 5 W - 30 W. Most of the time I don't use it now, as I get good results with M Vols. on my amps.
     
  3. Fiftywattmafia

    Fiftywattmafia Senior Member

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    Nah....good idea. Make it work and follow nobody's rules but your own. I'm sure plenty will try and tell you to get this and that but I always prefer my tube amps....even at ultra low levels.
     
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  4. Gridlock

    Gridlock Senior Member

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    I've tried this with a Dr.Z Airbrake attenuator with some of my lower powered amps with poor results. Save yourself some money and just use a good OD pedal (Fullton OCD), lower the gain, and use the level or volume control to attenuate. Sounds better to my ears than the attenuator.
     
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  5. LPV

    LPV Senior Member

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  6. ac/dcfan87

    ac/dcfan87 Senior Member

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    I wouldn't bother with the attenuator. I think it sounds better turned down than attenuated.
     
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  7. hbucker

    hbucker Senior Member

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    I've got a 50 watt Weber Mini Mass that I'm using with my Jet City 22H and 2212C. They sound best when their masters are set at around 12:00 or 1:00 and I use the Weber as an over all volume control.

    I see nothing stopping you from doing this. I think it sounds better, but arguably, it is just a different kind of tone than turning it down. On the Jet City amps, it takes out some of high end harshness that exists at lower volumes.

    Attenuators don't work with all amps. But when they do, they can be a useful tool.
     
  8. tenchijin2

    tenchijin2 Senior Member

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    Provided your attenuator supplies the right load then you won't have any trouble. It's basically the same as running the amp flat out, but without the distortion of the speaker itself. I've had excellent results using my own homemade Lpad attenuators.
     
  9. onioner

    onioner Senior Member

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    This sums up the vast majority of my experiences. They have their time and place, but as far as trying to make a tube amp quiet enough to not disturb someone a couple rooms away, I think that they detract more than they add.

    I do own and use an Unleash, and I like it very much, but most of the time, if I'm looking to play really quietly (which thankfully doesn't happen very often), I'd rather just plug straight in and fiddle with various volume knobs. Great tool, and if you're lookin' for amp overdrive at whatever volume, then worth looking at, but the simpler solution of turning down volume knobs, or using pedals for gain if you need it, is probably best.

    Oh, and you change tubes when they need it. When do they need it? When they get dull. How do you know they've gotten dull (which is trickier then it seems, since it happens gradually)? Swap them for fresh ones and see if things sound better. You do, of course, have backup tubes.

    Finally, don't worry about catastrophic tube failure. When tubes die they just stop working.
     
  10. hirasawa

    hirasawa Senior Member

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    Haven't you tried the Hughes & kettner tubemeister? I think It has the switchable wattage knob
     
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  11. JCM900MkIII

    JCM900MkIII Senior Member

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    I have a H&k TM18H.
    Can't play the damned thing in the 1W mode at full tilt without annoying the neighbours.

    I also have a Marshall Class 5 with a master volume.
    The MV cleans up the sound, so turning up the volume and using the MV cancel each other out. I still wonder why I had the MV installed.

    Low wattage doesn't mean low volume.
    For a good sound/setting, you still need to push the speakers = volume
    If you want low volume (with good sound) you are better off with an emulator then a tube amp.
     
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  12. Riffraff12571

    Riffraff12571 Senior Member

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    I bought a Weber Minimass 50 to use with my smaller amps. Their starting price is no more than your average OD pedal and it works perfectly. They have a line out too which is useful for setting the unit to full attenuation and then running the line out to another amp. That let's you crank your attenuated amp up to it's sweet spot and then reamp the signal at any volume level.

    [​IMG]

    I even use it for non attenuation purposes like running the line out through reverb Y delay pedals and reamping with a SS power amp for a mini wet/dry/wet rig. No tone suck here:

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYIqtnMru1g]Silvertone 1482 - Reamped through MiniMass.wmv - YouTube[/ame]
     
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  13. David Corrales

    David Corrales Senior Member

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    Anyone of my amps sounds good through the Rivera Rockcrusher. I really like the added control it gives you over the volume.
     
  14. ac/dcfan87

    ac/dcfan87 Senior Member

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    My Weber minimass sucks tone even plugged in! With nothing even attenuated. Even bypassed it sucks tone. I have tested this in four amps, different speaker cables, etc. it just sucks tone out of your amp.

    I have no bias here. I own one of them and wished it worked well. It does what it says but it just doesn't work in real life.
     
  15. acstorfer

    acstorfer Senior Member

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    An isolation cabinet may be a route worth considering.
     
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  16. Big John

    Big John bigger is better V.I.P. Member

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    Which is exactly why I'm building a couple right now. :thumb:
    The sound of a Cele crapping the bed without the volume.
     
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  17. roeg

    roeg Senior Member

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    Try this: Ho attenuator | Ho's Electronics and Sound

    He is the man and has done a great job coming up with apartment-friendly attenuation.

    Ho's device is solid...satisfies tonally(key word) not perfect,but i'm happy with how they(have 2) behave with my Hiwatts and JCM 2203/2204.His device is also very well made.Quality.Never a problem so far(13 years and counting)

    I have a big space at home and can play reasonably loud,but not gig/jam loud(but i would get kicked out of an apartment for sure!).I don't like wisper volume attenation.

    I don't use the Ho boxes for giging/jams...no need,i drag a Hotplate along but seldom need more -4 db on the plate.Its enough.fwiw
     
  18. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi V.I.P. Member

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    Why not just get high Wattage wire wound resistors of the appropriate value resistance, and make a T or H pad?
     

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