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inxs996

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well, i went to the Sam Ash in NYC today, to pick up my new Zakk Wylde chorus pedal, the ZW38, while i was there, and knowing that i was in the market for a attenuator, and not sure which i wanted to buy, either the THD Hotplate or a used Marshall Powerbrake, i asked if they would be able to recommend either of my two choices, i was told to speak to Mike Rock about attenuators, he supposedly had all i needed to know about.

i am presently using a Marshall Zakk Wylde 2203ZW amp, so i explain to Mike which amp i was using, he tells me that i don't need a attenuator, as my amp has a Master Volume, now i am really confused, as i thought that a attenuator could and should be used with a Master Volume amp, as it will allow the amp to be driven hard..

was i provided with BAD information, is anyone else using a Master Volume amp with a attenuator, i think that Mike Rock was wrong..

any input would be greatly appreciated...
 

BMS

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Most people use attenuators on non preamp model amps that sound better when cranked to get that natural break up but want it at a lower volume. You don't really need it. Just crank you pre and bring up the master to a suitable level. But with JCM800 you can still get a break up by keeping the pre vol. low and cranking the master. In which case, if this is what you intend to do, then yes you will need one.
 

lp_junkie

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on Master Volume amps, I crank the channel volumes and gain, set my eq and use the master volume to control overall sound levels. Never needed an attenuator.

On non master volume amps unless you are running a good distortion pedal then an attenuator is necessary to get good distortion sounds at less than ear bleeding volume.
 

st.bede

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I could be wrong but isn't the reason for an attenuator is to be able to push your power tubes? isn't per-amp tubes a little fizzy by themselves but when you add in some pushed power tubes you start to get that fizziness to be a creamier? I don't really now because the vast majority of amps I have used do not have the pre and post volume knob thing and the one I do still sound a lot better when I crank up the master...
 

BMS

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You're right, it is to push the power tubes. For bedroom volumes a pre vol. will do. Can't see why you would want to push your power tubes in an apartment if you don't have to. And most stage volumes, even small venues, you can get the mains up enough to get that sweet spot.
 

Deguello

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I could be wrong but isn't the reason for an attenuator is to be able to push your power tubes? isn't per-amp tubes a little fizzy by themselves but when you add in some pushed power tubes you start to get that fizziness to be a creamier? I don't really now because the vast majority of amps I have used do not have the pre and post volume knob thing and the one I do still sound a lot better when I crank up the master...

Thank you, I was wondering when someone would say this...

The entire point of a attenuator is to get the POWER amp tubes to break up at lower volume...Otherwise, you are just getting your sound from your preamp...without the power-amp tubes getting involved all you have is a sizzle , fizzy, crappy sound
 

Quill

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My understanding is that in most amps, the preamp volume sits before the preamp driver tube(s), and controls the amount of signal going through the preamp. The master volume, usually, sits just after the preamp and controls the amount of signal coming out of the preamp, as it heads into the power amp. So, low master volume settings starve the power amp of signal and take away from the amp's potential.

An attenuator is, of course, between the final output of the amplifier and the speaker, and they give you a very different kind of control over an amp than a master volume does. Driving the preamp gives one kind of sound, driving the power amp gives another - and a lot of players find the power amp is where all the body and depth of tone is. But some attenuators take something away from the sound, too, and they aren't cheap so it's important to not be in a rush with that purchase and learn as much as you can before you take the plunge.

I've read about a few new amp builders that are exploring power scaling controls, which are a whole other thing that I don't know much about; my guess is that they let the full signal from the preamp pass through into the power amp, and then adjust the whole power amp section, somehow; in terms of the sound of the amp, they might be better than an older master volume, and an attenuator would be wasted on an amp like that - but I doubt that's what's in your amp.
 

Deguello

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My understanding is that in most amps, the preamp volume sits before the preamp driver tube(s), and controls the amount of signal going through the preamp. The master volume, usually, sits just after the preamp and controls the amount of signal coming out of the preamp, as it heads into the power amp. So, low master volume settings starve the power amp of signal and take away from the amp's potential.

An attenuator is, of course, between the final output of the amplifier and the speaker, and they give you a very different kind of control over an amp than a master volume does. Driving the preamp gives one kind of sound, driving the power amp gives another - and a lot of players find the power amp is where all the body and depth of tone is. But some attenuators take something away from the sound, too, and they aren't cheap so it's important to not be in a rush with that purchase and learn as much as you can before you take the plunge.

I've read about a few new amp builders that are exploring power scaling controls, which are a whole other thing that I don't know much about; my guess is that they let the full signal from the preamp pass through into the power amp, and then adjust the whole power amp section, somehow; in terms of the sound of the amp, they might be better than an older master volume, and an attenuator would be wasted on an amp like that - but I doubt that's what's in your amp.
.....Very good explanation...
personally I hate my attenuator but I hate to only drive the pre-amp even more...Maybe a good EQ in the effects loop is a option...that way at low volumes you can shape your sound to have more "body" even though you are not using your power-amp tubes to potential...

Its just a option.. it will give you a decent compromise, because not all attenuators will sound they way you want them to...Mine compresses the tone really bad when its turned up past 25%
 

lp_junkie

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You are all right about the power tube breakup, but in the house/apartment some people just can't utilize the power section, so for them the choice is attenuator or use the master volume and max out the channel volumes.

I don't have to worry about it, I have no neighbors and can crank my amps if I want (the kids are the only ones that complain about it being too loud).
 

vortexx

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If you want access to your amps complete tonal palette you need to use an attenuator. Power tubes affect the tone as well.
 

hipofutura

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An attenuator doesn't necessarily have to destroy tone. Listen to this clip and then tell me the tone sucks. It depends upon the attenuator and how it's used.

[ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juTBJ4ATtfw&feature=PlayList&p=648F5E3731BEDAFF&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=30[/ame]
 

>Photi G<

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Attenuator is the way to go for any tube amp over 4 watts. They just get too loud! And just to clear things up, this is how it works. Your GAIN control limits the amount of signal being fed into the V1 tube of the preamp, which is where the distortion comes from. Crank this with the MASTER at 0.1, and all you get is preamp fizz, which is the dry sound of V1 breaking up, and the Phase Inverter driving the speakers. The MASTER controls the overall output of the preamp into the power amp. So when the master is turned below 1, the only thing driving your speakers is the preamp (in theory. Really, the power amp just trickles signal into the speakers). Turn it up, and the power tubes take over. Not only do they add their own "overdrive," but they color the tone. The only volume control between the power amp and your speakers at this point is the PRESENCE control, which adds high end, and boosts the output on the power stage. An attenuator will take this massive, brain-crushing amount of output, and absorb unwanted volume.

As far as the attenuators you saw at the store, go for the Hot Plate. There are too many people that had their amps catch on fire, or something while using the PowerBrake. Or, if you can wait a few weeks, order a MASS from Weber, which is cheaper, and just as good as the Hot Plate.
 

Liam

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I've used a Powerbrake with my JMP 2203 for years now (at least 12 I reckon). Definitely sounds better with some attenuation as you can get the rich combination of a crunchy preamp driving a saturated power amp. Makes a great sounding amp sound even better, but you do still need to be playing a gig volumes to get the best out of it.

Liam

(But the PB100 is probably not the best of the available attenuators as Photi G says)
 

AngryHatter

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If you want access to your amps complete tonal palette you need to use an attenuator. Power tubes affect the tone as well.

By cranking the channel volume and lowering the master volume I AM causing the power tube to percolate.
 

Deguello

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st.bede

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I love my rebel 20 but the attenuator is not too much to my liking...although it is useful, I do feel it takes a bit of the tone away....however, my thd hot plate works much better..still I do not like to use it at the extreme setting.....however like all things it is about when, where and, what you need...and what compromises are acceptable...sometimes I just put my guitar through some pedal and plug start into my a to d coveter and listen through my monitors...sounds awful but, I just do it for playing "live" over the internet...
 

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