Let’s Talk Attenuators

Shai`tan

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Years ago I had bought a Ceriatone TrainWreck. Got it totally redone internally. Sozos, proper Caps and the proper
transformers etc. It sounded fantastic. But volumewise it went from 0 to HOLY SH*T loud fairly quickly. And that thing sounded best that way. That was where it lived. The PPIMV did not help.... cause it too changed the amp tone when at lower volume. So that`s when I started considering an attenuator.
I had heard about Aracom right around that time. Bought into the vid reviews. Ultimately, it too changed the Amp tone when dialing it down to managable listening levels. Tbh, the onboard PPIMV did a better job in that respect. Actually, I have a buddy with an old Tom Scholz Power Soak..... which we tried on his early 70s 100 watt Super Lead. And it was pretty transparent. .... surprisingly. Long story short, the Aracom and I just didn`t happen. ;p

I am using Fractal now, and thankfully no longer need to worry. ;p
 
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cybermgk

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WHEN I ran tube amps, I used a Badcat Unleash. I had tried a bunch of others. I chose Unleash because:

1, Added an FX loop for amps that didn't have one.
2. Most reactive, amp-like load I had found.
3. Can male low watt amps roar like a big amp
4. Could make cranked amp at lowest volumes
5. Basically set amp to tone, feel, etc you want, then let Unleash set the volume you want, from whisper to gig levels.
6. Wasn't just an Attenuator. It was a reactive load and reamp.
7. At the time, only thing like it on market. There are others now.
 
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lespauled

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I have tried a couple, including the Bugera PS-1, and the Fryette Power Station 2. When I got the Fryette, I immediately sold the Bugera. The difference in retaining the high end was noticeable immediately, and that was with the flat setting. You also have options to add more low end and/or high end to the signal. Along with a Presence and Density knob to tweak it even more.

The Fryette PS2 is a definitely keeper, plus it's also a power amp.
 

dwagar

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I have a THD Hotplate, but for my SV20C I built a JohnH M2 (from the Marshall forum). I think it works great, and I had JohnH give me a design to add a -3.5dB stage through a footswitch, so I can cut the volume for rhythm at gigs, without affecting the tone.
 

VictorB

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The Bad Cat Unleash V2 looks great, however it’s sold out everywhere.
 

DBDM

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I have a little room at work that I use as a little practice room (I call it a "studio"). I acquired a Gibson Super Goldtone RV 30 amp that is ENTIRELY too much for the little room. It sounds very flat and dull at very low volumes. I got a cheap attenuator and put it in the effects loop to turn down the volume while leaving the controls cranked. It sounds fantastic (and plenty good for my needs). Others may vary in opinion, but I think it is a perfect solution for my little "problem". Now it sounds like I have it "cranked" even though it is not very loud at the lowest attenuator volume. The attenuator I bought was about $40 on Amazon and is called a JHS Little Black Box attenuator. Again about $40.

As @cybermgk says above "4. Could make cranked amp at lowest volumes". I have no idea how it would work to make a little amp sound "big" but I would encourage anyone interested to try it to make a big amp sound "small" for bedroom or similar use.
 

efstop

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I have a little room at work that I use as a little practice room (I call it a "studio"). I acquired a Gibson Super Goldtone RV 30 amp that is ENTIRELY too much for the little room. It sounds very flat and dull at very low volumes. I got a cheap attenuator and put it in the effects loop to turn down the volume while leaving the controls cranked. It sounds fantastic (and plenty good for my needs). Others may vary in opinion, but I think it is a perfect solution for my little "problem". Now it sounds like I have it "cranked" even though it is not very loud at the lowest attenuator volume. The attenuator I bought was about $40 on Amazon and is called a JHS Little Black Box attenuator. Again about $40.

As @cybermgk says above "4. Could make cranked amp at lowest volumes". I have no idea how it would work to make a little amp sound "big" but I would encourage anyone interested to try it to make a big amp sound "small" for bedroom or similar use.
The Little Black Amp Box is a volume control, not an attenuator. It can only be used in the effects loop. I have one, too. Cool little toy and it works.
 

DBDM

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I have been calling it an "attenuator". Thank you for the correction. I guess it does not matter what it is called--it works really well for my needs. I consider it a fairly remarkable little find (for me). I really did not expect it to work and planned on sending it back if it did not. I even bought it from the "used" section of Amazon because I did not want to buy new with the intent on simply returning it. Boy was I wrong. Very few days have gone by in the 6 months I have owned it that i have not used it. It has really increased my enjoyment of my (bigger) amp. I see posts all the time about amps "for bedroom use" or to play in an apartment at night--in my mind most of these guys probably already own one--they just need to spend $40 to achieve exactly what they really want. Downside--My amp turns off the effects loop every time I turn it off, and if I forget to push the "loop" button on my pedal after firing everything up, I am quickly reminded of what "cranked" really means!

Edit--I really have no idea what happens when guys want MORE volume from it. I have never needed to play louder than my amp's highest setting when turned up. In the case of the Gibson Super Goldtone, I am guessing that would require a very large venue (or stadium)?

Edit 2--the other "fun" thing that I do with it is I plug into a Mooer Red Truck combined effects pedal with stereo output. I run one line into my laptop to use for software (games, recording) and another into the amp, with the black box in the effects loop. I turn the guitar input volume down on the software which allows me to only hear my guitar throught the amp, but still hear the backing tracks from the game (like Yousician) or to record into software on the computer (computer still recognizes the input, just does not play my guitar--only the software). Really allows me to have more fun than hearing the clean flat tones from the computer speakers when horsing around learning new songs online. (hope that makes sense).
 
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mdubya

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I have one of those cheap Jet City Attenuators ($99 closeout). I tried it with my 2204. No bueno. Do NOT recommend. It might work better with something else.

My sometimes amp guy has an Ultimate Attenuator. It has sounded good with all of the non-master volume amps of his I have played through. Never tried bedroom levels, but it does a good job of bringing deafening volume down to just loud.
 

JohnnyN

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I have a Palmer Power Pad PDI06 MKII 8 ohm, that I bought years ago. I also bought the Palmer PDI 09 DI Box for Guitars.
Both are passive and I bought them for silent recording. 6 steps from 70% of volume to silent.

I don't do much recording anymore, but use the attenuator a lot with my JTM45 which can be rather loud at home.
I'm very pleased with it.
 

Wrench66

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I’m using the Weber minimass with my 18 watt Marshall clone. I don’t really notice any tone suck at the volumes I play, but there are some affects if I turn it way down. I usually run the amp dimed on the normal channel. Sounds amazing to my ears.

I’ve tried the same attenuator on three different Fender circuits and it sounds very dark on all three. I have no idea why, but it sounds bad enough that I won’t use it with them. Instead I’ll use drive/distortion pedals into the amp clean to get some dirt.

I went with the Weber because it was affordable. I have no experience with the others, but the Weber does the job for me. Think I paid around $130 maybe for it. Bought it years ago.
 
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Rumy

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All attenuators have tone suck to varying degree. The bottom line is that the more the original signal is attenuated, the more tone suck.

Mesa Boogie's Powerhouse is a fantastic unit and is a readtive load as well. No external power needed.

I note some guys are calling the jhs little black amp box an attenuator, that is not accurate. The jhs is only a volume pedal. All that it does is lessen the preamp signal reaching the power tubes, which means you are not getting power tube break up. On some amps that might not matter.

The badcat unleash is amazing, but it is a solid state amp. That may matter.

The fryette ps is amazing and the cost is too.
 
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bum

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I have a Weber Mass but do not use it now, since I moved on from the Bluebreaker :laugh2:
It did the job, but nothing you can't get without a good overdrive pedal, imo.
 

Dazza

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I also have used a HO Attenuator for many years. I got it 2nd hand but having lived in Vancouver through the 90's knew Ho's shop very well. It's an earlier build by him and initially sold through Magus. It looks very diy inside but I've never had an issue. I see his website is down but the Google search for Ho's Electronics still shows the address and phone number.

Being a re-amping device it does a better job of attenuating to lower volume levels with less tonal influence than simpler resistor based units like the Dr Z boxes. I have both Z's too, used with Marshall 20 - 50 watt non master amps. I use the Brake Lite with my 1973X to shave off a few db on stage. I adjusted the dial connection points along the length of the resistor to fine tune where I prefer the balance of output drop and noticeable tonal change. For 1 or 2 clicks these are decent units when pushing an amp into overdrive. Run cleaner I suspect they fair better at higher attenuation as I recall the Z forum lot typically liking the 'Bedroom' option, which is not so enjoyable in my experience. For heavier attenuation I use the Ho and run the amp at 16ohm.

Obviously there's a lot more options available now compared to back when THD, Z and Ho units were most popular. Still they work as described today and suit my needs. I've no interest in digital modelling or drive pedals. I like playing my amps.

Daz
 
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cybermgk

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As @cybermgk says above "4. Could make cranked amp at lowest volumes". I have no idea how it would work to make a little amp sound "big" but I would encourage anyone interested to try it to make a big amp sound "small" for bedroom or similar use.
The Unleash, and similar units are, in simple terms, a reactive load attenuator AND a power amp. The reactive load attenuates the incoming amp signal, then reamps it via the power amp part. So, for a low watt amp., you can then crank the Unleash Power amp and get much louder than that 1 watt, ot 5 watt amp can do. Fryette, and some others do this too, they just all accomplish it in different ways internally. Thuis, on these types, you set your amp to tone you want, then let unleash, or whatever, drive the CAB at whatever volume you need, from whisper to full power of the unleash's, or whatever power amp.
 

DBDM

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I note some guys are calling the jhs little black amp box an attenuator, that is not accurate.
I called it that but was corrected. For the record I was calling it that because Sweetwater calls it an attenuator. Again though, I was corrected. I now call it (since yesterday) a "volume pedal". That little volume pedal has changed EVERYTHING for me! I would encourage everyone who wants to play a larger tube amp in a small space to try one (needs an effects loop). I really had very low expectations (due to the cost) and was blown away! Again, I see guys posting every day about neighbors complaining and wanting a smaller amp. For $40 you can use your real amp and play at conversational levels!
 

Rumy

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I called it that but was corrected. For the record I was calling it that because Sweetwater calls it an attenuator. Again though, I was corrected. I now call it (since yesterday) a "volume pedal". That little volume pedal has changed EVERYTHING for me! I would encourage everyone who wants to play a larger tube amp in a small space to try one (needs an effects loop). I really had very low expectations (due to the cost) and was blown away! Again, I see guys posting every day about neighbors complaining and wanting a smaller amp. For $40 you can use your real amp and play at conversational levels!

You said it quite well. The device is very practical and useful. $40 is a steal. And no argument is meant on my behalf.
 

Splattle101

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I use a THD Hotplate on my Fender Super Reverb, which is a 2 Ohm output transformer.

I also have a Weber Mass, which has 2, 4, 8 & 16 Ohm loads.

If I use them to carve a few dB off an amp that's cooking nicely, they're very good. However, both are pretty crappy if used to drop an amp more than a smidge. These days I'd rather use a good pedal or a decently implemented master vol.

I understand there are MUCH better sounding options out there today. Smart reactive jobbies with power reamplification and IRs if you want to run straight to the front-of-house.
 

1neeto

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I used a DR. Z Brake-Lite for a while, and I like it. Pretty cool to push my power tubes with it.
 

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