Attenuator Suggestions?

The Ballzz

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This is a great thread. It's nice to see the differentiation of attenuators and re-amping units! While I agree that many of the re-ampers are far and above the best way to handle volume issues from a purely "tonal" aspect, but they can be a little bit less convenient than a simpler, passive attenuator. I've tried almost every passive design since their introduction in the '70s and most absolutely and literally sucked! Of all the current passive attenuators out there, the JohnH design is the least tonally destrucrive that I've seen and used! The liberation of having my amp/rig cranked to to its best, sweet spot and then set it's volume appropriately, while still retaining all my sound is simply amazing!
Just Attenuatin'
Gene
 
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LPTDMSV

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At really modest volume levels, one limiting factor is the suspension/stiffness of the speaker cones. The motor and cone suspensions are not infinitely flexible, and need a certain amount of drive/power to get into their optimum operating zone. So I find that to get the sweet sound out of my e.g. 2x12 Celestions I have to turn the attenuator back up to the point where the volume is seriously pushing the limits of "bedroom". Quiet by stage/rehearsal standards yes, but still quite feisty.

There's no such thing (in the analogue domain anyway) as perfect replication of the overdriven sound at any volume level, the speakers are a big part of that sound. With the attenuator in line you can be driving the pre-amp and power-tubes as hard as you like, but you can't of course do the same to the speakers.
 

TheWelder

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At really modest volume levels, one limiting factor is the suspension/stiffness of the speaker cones. The motor and cone suspensions are not infinitely flexible, and need a certain amount of drive/power to get into their optimum operating zone. So I find that to get the sweet sound out of my e.g. 2x12 Celestions I have to turn the attenuator back up to the point where the volume is seriously pushing the limits of "bedroom". Quiet by stage/rehearsal standards yes, but still quite feisty.

There's no such thing (in the analogue domain anyway) as perfect replication of the overdriven sound at any volume level, the speakers are a big part of that sound. With the attenuator in line you can be driving the pre-amp and power-tubes as hard as you like, but you can't of course do the same to the speakers.
Thank you. I've learned quite a bit by posting this thread and appreciate all the contributions.

I'm mostly looking to attenuate for stage / band rehearsal purposes. I rarely plug in while at home, if I do, it's through my Yamaha THR10 or HX Stomp w/ headphones.
 

Dazza

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Thank you. I've learned quite a bit by posting this thread and appreciate all the contributions.

I'm mostly looking to attenuate for stage / band rehearsal purposes. I rarely plug in while at home, if I do, it's through my Yamaha THR10 or HX Stomp w/ headphones.
If all you require is knocking off a few db then you'll be fine using a 'simple' resistor load type like the Dr Z units. They've always been expensive for what they are but can readily be found used for a more reasonable price. People will have their favourites and opinions as some units offer more functions than others. Certain amps seem to work better with certain attenuators. Do some specific searches to see what people use with gear like yours.

Daz
 

ErictheRed

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Actually if you're thinking of using something with the band, I really think that a Bad Cat Unleash or Fryette Power Station would be far more versatile for all sizes of gigs. What amp are you using, anyway? Did I miss that?

Another thing to consider is a speaker change. There's a huge difference in volume between a 100 dB Celestion Vintage 30 and a 93 dB Jensen C12Q. You would literally get 7 dB of attenuation by just swapping one out for the other in that case.

Seriously, everyone seems to overlook speaker sensitivity but it's probably a better way of getting your amp into the sweet spot at band levels than passive attenuators are. Many different manufacturers make inefficient or low sensitivity speakers for just about any flavor these days, you can get some voiced in the vintage Fender combo ballpark, some in the Marshall Greenback ballpark, etc. You could have two different cabs with similar voicings, one louder and one quieter. Just something to think about.
 
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ErictheRed

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I just noticed that the amp is a Deluxe Reverb. What speaker is currently in it? The Jensen C12Q is only 93 dB and Fender used it on the Handwired Reissue version IIRC, so if you have a more sensitive speaker you might throw that one in there.
 

Eigen

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Actually if you're thinking of using something with the band, I really think that a Bad Cat Unleash or Fryette Power Station would be far more versatile for all sizes of gigs. What amp are you using, anyway? Did I miss that?

Another thing to consider is a speaker change. There's a huge difference in volume between a 100 dB Celestion Vintage 30 and a 93 dB Jensen C12Q. You would literally get 7 dB of attenuation by just swapping one out for the other in that case.

Seriously, everyone seems to overlook speaker sensitivity but it's probably a better way of getting your amp into the sweet spot at band levels than passive attenuators are. Many different manufacturers make inefficient or low sensitivity speakers for just about any flavor these days, you can get some voiced in the vintage Fender combo ballpark, some in the Marshall Greenback ballpark, etc. You could have two different cabs with similar voicings, one louder and one quieter. Just something to think about.
This is true and in general great advice when you want a lower watt American voiced speaker, I loved having a P12Q around for Fenders (94dB). Even a 3dB difference can enough to nudge you closer to the sweetspot on some amps, V30 vs. Creamback for instance.

But the issue and it is one that I am having myself at the moment, is that if you need a slightly higher power speaker for a 1X12 or a 2X12, suddenly the efficiency goes up and then add to the fact that Celestion speakers are just damn loud, suddenly the choices become pretty slim. The Eminence ratings are a bit funky, I take 3dB off their specs to compare to Celestion, but even with this the efficiencies are pretty high.

I would love to get my hands on a British voiced speaker somewhere between a greenback and a v30 (for cutting through mix) with at least 50W power handling and lower than 95 dB sensitivity. The Creambacks are decent and a bit quieter than the V30 at 97dB but that still doesn't cut it most of the time.

The FDM Maverick and Reignmaker are options I guess with built in attenuation (down to 93dB), but all demos of the Reignmaker I've heard it has this strange fizz that tries to mimic a greenback but just doesn't get there. The Maverick sounds better in demo's but again, its American voiced.

As far as the attenuation thread goes, I've tested out a TAD Silencer (150W Reactive) and was pleasantly surprised, the guy that owned it said it was about as good as the Rockcrusher, but smaller and cheaper. I think it is a very good option if you just need attenuation as the line out is very mediocre apparently and I am honestly considering it at this point and will just run it with a couple dB attenation, if I don't come up with a speaker solution.
 

TheWelder

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I just noticed that the amp is a Deluxe Reverb. What speaker is currently in it? The Jensen C12Q is only 93 dB and Fender used it on the Handwired Reissue version IIRC, so if you have a more sensitive speaker you might throw that one in there.
It's a '68 Custom Deluxe which comes stock with a 12” Celestion G12V-70 speaker. I'm not positive on the sensitivity rating of this speaker, but I believe it is designed to break up a bit earlier. I actually really like the speaker quite a bit.
 

ErictheRed

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It's a '68 Custom Deluxe which comes stock with a 12” Celestion G12V-70 speaker. I'm not positive on the sensitivity rating of this speaker, but I believe it is designed to break up a bit earlier. I actually really like the speaker quite a bit.
That's 98 dB, so you could get a significant volume drop by changing speakers. I guarantee that this will sound and feel better than knocking 3 to 6 dB off with a passive attenuator, because instead of trying (and failing) to mimic a speaker load, it IS a speaker load! I'd look into various low efficiency options if I were you, and you could swap speakers depending on volume needs for particular gigs. Or you could use an extension cabinet and not bother with swapping for when you want the lower efficiency speaker.

If you want more than 6 dB of attenuation I would just buy a Fryette Power Station, as it's far more versatile than an attenuator and in my experience, beyond 6 dB attenuators just don't sound or feel right.
 

LPTDMSV

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That's 98 dB, so you could get a significant volume drop by changing speakers. I guarantee that this will sound and feel better than knocking 3 to 6 dB off with a passive attenuator, because instead of trying (and failing) to mimic a speaker load, it IS a speaker load! I'd look into various low efficiency options if I were you, and you could swap speakers depending on volume needs for particular gigs. Or you could use an extension cabinet and not bother with swapping for when you want the lower efficiency speaker.

If you want more than 6 dB of attenuation I would just buy a Fryette Power Station, as it's far more versatile than an attenuator and in my experience, beyond 6 dB attenuators just don't sound or feel right.
Those Fryettes aren't cheap . . though it's all relative :)

My experience of dBs, please feel free to point out if my math(s) is wrong: I used to run my old Marshall top with only 2 output valves to bring in down to 50W, which is -3dB, and in practice that was barely audible as a reduction. -6dB is down to 25W (not feasible on the Marshall) but 25W is still seriously loud based on experience of using an AC30.

There's some gig situations where those extra watts/dBs might be useful, a room packed with a few hundred people perhaps, but I was never that successful! I doubt if I ever turned the Marshall up beyond 4 or 5 even with 2 valves out.

Now I am running 5W (-13dB relative to the Marshall) into the AC30 cab with its Celestion alnico 2x 12" and that's *nowhere near* bedroom/quiet!

BTW I just took my Weber attenuator apart because, prompted by this thread to try it out after months of not using it, something isn't right. But I can see that it does contain what looks like a loudspeaker voice coil and magnet.
 

ErictheRed

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Those Fryettes aren't cheap . . though it's all relative :)

My experience of dBs, please feel free to point out if my math(s) is wrong: I used to run my old Marshall top with only 2 output valves to bring in down to 50W, which is -3dB, and in practice that was barely audible as a reduction. -6dB is down to 25W (not feasible on the Marshall) but 25W is still seriously loud based on experience of using an AC30.

There's some gig situations where those extra watts/dBs might be useful, a room packed with a few hundred people perhaps, but I was never that successful! I doubt if I ever turned the Marshall up beyond 4 or 5 even with 2 valves out.

Now I am running 5W (-13dB relative to the Marshall) into the AC30 cab with its Celestion alnico 2x 12" and that's *nowhere near* bedroom/quiet!

BTW I just took my Weber attenuator apart because, prompted by this thread to try it out after months of not using it, something isn't right. But I can see that it does contain what looks like a loudspeaker voice coil and magnet.
OP has a 20W amp and wants to tame it for stage and rehearsal purposes with a band. I can't imagine taking more than 6 dB off, but different bands are different and all that.
 

LPTDMSV

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OP has a 20W amp and wants to tame it for stage and rehearsal purposes with a band. I can't imagine taking more than 6 dB off, but different bands are different and all that.
Yes, good point, -6dB takes you down to 5W equivalent from 20W and that might be right for the circumstances, as you say.

I'm still reeling from trying 5W into my 2x12" inside the house though, I stopped pretty quickly because (never mind the neighbours) I couldn't believe the vintage Vox/Celestion drive units would survive that onslaught! The re-issues are rated at 100dB sensitivity, I don't have a figure for the originals.
 

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I just pulled the trigger on a Carl's Speaker Soak. I'll let you know.....
 

Deftone

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This is a great thread. It's nice to see the differentiation of attenuators and re-amping units! While I agree that many of the re-ampers are far and above the best way to handle volume issues from a purely "tonal" aspect, but they can be a little bit less convenient than a simpler, passive attenuator. I've tried almost every passive design since their introduction in the '70s and most absolutely and literally sucked! Of all the current passive attenuators out there, the JohnH design is the least tonally destrucrive that I've seen and used! The liberation of having my amp/rig cranked to to its best, sweet spot and then set it's volume appropriately, while still retaining all my sound is simply amazing!
Just Attenuatin'
Gene
Have you tried the Scholz Power Soak?
 

The Ballzz

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Have you tried the Scholz Power Soak?
Yes, Power Soak, Altair, several Webers, Bugera PS1, Marshall Power Brake and a number of other forgotten brands of passive attenuators. The "roll your own" @johnh design that I linked in an earlier post (and below) blows them all out of the water, by a wide margin!

Without getting too deep into it, a quick overview: John's design addresses not only the impedance seen by the amplifier, but also the impedance seen by the speaker. It also addresses the "ratio" between series resistance and parallel resistance, when combined with the reactive/inductive choke coil. These details and issues are critical to retaining tone, frequency response and feel across the audio spectrum at various attenuation settings.

The main problems with most units that have a "knob" for continuously variable attenuation, are that:
#1> As the "knob" sweeps in its travel, that delicate balance/ratio of parallel and series impedances is disrupted, causing them to have only a couple or few "sweet spots" where the sound is OK, and then all the spots in between are a bit lackluster and less pleasing. The JohnH design makes each attenuation seting a "sweet spot!" On my Weber MiniMass, those "sweet spots" are at minimum attenuation, about 30% and about 75%, judged by knob position.​
#2> The impedance "seen" by the speaker is largely ignored, in favor of keeping the unit simple and within the targeted price point/profit margin range!​

Besides working towards having a dedicated JohnH design unit in every amp I own, I also own a Weber MiniMass and will keep it. I understand and factor in it's shortcomings when using it, but appreciate it's convenience for testing amps for purchase, etc. The JohnH units are quite easy and fairly cheap to build, between $75 & $125 USD, depending on materials parts sourcing. Well worth the time, effort and expense. I would also think that if a person doesn't posess the skills to build one, someone who does have those skils would likely want between $100 & $150 for the 8 to 12 hours of shop time required to build one!

https://www.marshallforum.com/threads/simple-attenuators-design-and-testing.98285/

These are the best passive atteuators I've ever used and they provide a whole new level of freedom and liberation from volume limitations!

Just My $.02,
Gene
 
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Deftone

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Yes, Power Soak, Altair, several Webers, Bugera PS1, Marshall Power Brake and a number of other forgotten brands of passive attenuators. The "roll your own" @johnh design that I linked in an earlier post (and below) blows them all out of the water, by a wide margin!

Without getting too deep into it, a quick overview: John's design addresses not only the impedance seen by the amplifier, but also the impedance seen by the speaker. It also addresses the "ratio" between series resistance and parallel resistance, when combined with the reactive/inductive choke coil. These details and issues are critical to retaining tone, frequency response and feel across the audio spectrum at various attenuation settings.

The main problems with most units that have a "knob" for continuously variable attenuation, are that:
#1> As the "knob" sweeps in its travel, that delicate balance/ratio of parallel and series impedances is disrupted, causing them to have only a couple or few "sweet spots" where the sound is OK, and then all the spots in between are a bit lackluster and less pleasing. The JohnH design makes each attenuation seting a "sweet spot!" On my Weber MiniMass, those "sweet spots" are at minimum attenuation, about 30% and about 75%, judged by knob position.​
#2> The impedance "seen" by the speaker is largely ignored, in favor of keeping the unit simple and within the targeted price point/profit margin range!​

Besides working towards having a dedicated JohnH design unit in every amp I own, I also own a Weber MiniMass and will keep it. I understand and factor in it's shortcomings when using it, but appreciate it's convenience for testing amps for purchase, etc. The JohnH units are quite easy and fairly cheap to build, between $75 & $125 USD, depending on materials parts sourcing. Well worth the time, effort and expense. I would also think that if a person doesn't posess the skills to build one, someone who does have those skils would likely want between $100 & $150 for the 8 to 12 hours of shop time required to build one!

https://www.marshallforum.com/threads/simple-attenuators-design-and-testing.98285/

These are the best passive atteuators I've ever used and they provide a whole new level of freedom and liberation from volume limitations!

Just My $.02,
Gene
I don't have the skills so unfortunately the JohnH is useless to me.
 

Dogbreath

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I just dumped a Weber Mass 100 and a Mini Mass for a Tone King Iron Man ll, and I won’t go back. I’m an Iron Man believer.
 

The Ballzz

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I just dumped a Weber Mass 100 and a Mini Mass for a Tone King Iron Man ll, and I won’t go back. I’m an Iron Man believer.

The ToneKing IronMan is a model I've not tried, but it gets very good reviews! Fairly high price and it requires the use of a wall wart! The JohnH does not require power, works flawlessly and is much more wallet friendly!
Just My $.02,
Gene
 


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