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Attenuators

Discussion in 'Glowing Bottle Tube Amp Forum' started by Paul Jenkin, Aug 18, 2017.

  1. Paul Jenkin

    Paul Jenkin Tele-Meister

    200
    Aug 17, 2017
    Essex, UK
    Hi there.

    I'm a relative newbie to learning guitar. I've got a few and I'm having lessons, however, I found a really amp (Dr Z Maz18 Jr combo) but I've found I can't get the distortion sound I want unless I really crank it up. Not really an option in a semi-detached house with a wife that has the hearing of a bat.

    Anyway, I've seen the Dr Z YouTube videos for a thing they call a "Brake-Lite" (their branded attenuator for my amp). It's not cheap but I might have to get one. However, I have no idea how it performs against other brands or, indeed, if other brands are an option. My amp is valve and 18w and I'm really after something that will allow me to practice in our spare room without having to get a fuzz pedal or taking out the windows...

    Any suggestions would be welcome.
     

  2. VintageSG

    VintageSG Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Mar 31, 2016
    Huddersfield, UK
    I feel your pain. The sound of power valves driven hard is glorious, yet not always appreciated by others. Odd that. I've got the Harley Benton attenuator, which in turn is a direct clone of the Jet City Jettenuator. It appears Behringer have introduced their version of it too.
    It's rather good. The 'cabsim' output is grim and the line level output is best forgotten about, but the noise from the speakers is wholly acceptable, and that's what matters.
    You'll miss the sheer physical awesomeness of moving air and some of the interaction between the speaker and the amp, but it is a small price to pay for continued domestic harmony.
    YouTube reviews may help your decision.


    and

     

  3. Milspec

    Milspec Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 15, 2016
    Nebraska
    That is always the problem with a lot of great valve amps...the volume needed to hit that sweet spot.

    I looked at attenuators last year, but the more that I read the more I didn't like the sound of using one. There is something missing (lack of air pushing might be it) in the tone and the accelerated wear on the tubes just didn't seem worth it to me.

    My conclusion was that I needed something that I could practice with that fit my volume needs and played the premiere amps on the weekends when I could push them while the neighbors were out mowing the lawns.

    A little THR or Roland Cube make for great practice amps that you can get good tones out of at a very low volume. I would look for one of those instead.
     
    mnutz likes this.

  4. kaludjerko

    kaludjerko TDPRI Member

    23
    Apr 1, 2010
    Hamburg, Germany

  5. rze99

    rze99 Friend of Leo's

    Feb 26, 2014
    South London UK
    I've used attenuators for decades since a studio engineer introduced me to them (no doubt to save his hearing!!). It was a joyful revelation to get my Marshall stack output valves cranked: that, my friends, IS the sound you always wanted and have spent s*** loads of money on pedals trying to emulate.

    I've only used THD Hotplate attenuators since that was what the studio guy showed me and recommended. They are superb, built like a brick house, but do not variable Ohmage, so inflexible. Also very expensive, so I've always hunted them down used. They don't come up often. I use them everywhere on all amps as required. For very low volumes they have little switches to replace some bottom and top end. They are at their best when you can still turn it up a bit audibly, but cutting all the excess. That way you can use the guitar controls and use simple boost pedals to go from clean-ish jangle to complete mayhem, old style.

    Yes, it is true that you cannot replicate physical volume. Of course. That's a lot of real physics missing. But valve amps do sound at their best when they are turned right up and, with a good attenuator, you can get the sweet, rich, present output valve break-up at the audible level you want. It is unmistakable and unfakeable.

    You could try to get a store to loan you one to see if it was you are looking for. If not, then pedals are the way for you.
     
    mnutz and Chicago Matt like this.

  6. Paul Jenkin

    Paul Jenkin Tele-Meister

    200
    Aug 17, 2017
    Essex, UK
    Thanks guys.
    I've known the chap where I buy most of my gear for a while now and I think I might see if he's prepared to let me have a play with the Dr Z option and a cheaper unit. Maybe I'm naïve but I work on the basis that stuff from the same maker that's meant to work together is probably the best option.
    I do have a "Colorsound" Fuzz pedal which is really nice but, having heard the sound that the Dr Z can make without pedals, that's what I'm aiming for - just at several decibels lower....
    Fingers crossed ;)
     

  7. Chicago Matt

    Chicago Matt Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 23, 2014
    Woodstock
    I'm a proponent. The Bad Cat Unleash has been my best friend for a couple of years now. Before that I had an Ultimate Attenuator for 6 years. Like the UA, the Unleash is a combination Attenuator/Re-Amp. It's expensive but well worth it to me. I can play any of my amps, cranked to their sweet spots, at virtually any volume I need, quieter or louder as the situation calls for. The Unleash also has an effects loop that puts the effect(s) in the signal, post power section of the amp - great for time-based effects like delay.

    For example, I love the sound of my 5e3, but the magic happens at a particular amp volume that is too loud for my trio in a small club, but too quiet for most larger groups and venues. No problem. I get the same great dialed-in 5e3 sound now in either one, using the Unleash to attenuate in the first situation, and amplify in the second. It's been a real problem solver for me.
     
    rze99 likes this.

  8. Ira7

    Ira7 Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    60
    Jan 8, 2008
    Coral Springs, FL
    I have a friend with a Hot Rod, a fairly new player who thinks he's going to play out soon. (I laugh inside.)

    I told him he didn't need or want 40W now, but what are you gonna do? He bought it, and of course, he can't play it at home past 1 1/2.

    I don't know crap about attentuators, so I'm gonna send him the tutorial link above.

    Me--I'm more than happy with my teensy, weensy 15w valve. No problem driving THAT to its sweet spot.
     

  9. King Creole

    King Creole Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Jan 24, 2011
    Colorado
    I've had best results using attenuators in performance to knock a few decibels off the volume but still playing pretty loud. Attenuators work great for that. Cranking a loud amp all the way down to practice volumes hasn't sounded that great. I think an overdrive pedal into a quiet amp sounds better than a loud amp attenuated down quiet.
     

  10. I've been using a Recycled Sound Power Plug Lite for a few years and really like it. Had a Weber at one time but this works and sounds just as nice. It will work with any ohms and handles up to 50 watts. It has an adjustable setting attenuation in -2 increments going down to -10. Cost is only $119, even less if you can find a used one. They have a 100 watt options as well, but you don't need that one.

    I find no reason to spend any more and this has all the options I want/need.
     

  11. Tone Chase

    Tone Chase Tele-Meister

    257
    Aug 20, 2014
    Windsor ON Canada
    Paul, you have an amazing amp with lots of potential. That amp can move serious air when you drive it hard.

    You should be able to get awesome natural drive with that amp at lower volumes if you have your amp settings correct. It is easier to learn your settings with a decent humbucker in the bridge setting first.

    Does your amp have the tonestack bypass that can be turned on with a foot switch? That can put you in Marshall territory in no time. If not, try diming all your tonestack knobs, and your gain knob on full. Once you find it, you can start dialing back knobs, one at a time to experience the results.

    I have a Dr. Z Brake Lite installed in my combo, and it greatly helps to control unwanted volume. The Dr. Z amps are addictive when you get them figured out.

    If you are not achieving awesome gain that blows items off of shelves in your room with this little 18 watt amp, you may need new tubes. Old, worn tubes will humble this awesome amp. If you play this amp a lot, you may need a new set of power tubes every year. It does not hurt to have an extra set of fresh tubes sitting around for this amp. Rolling a few tubes can answer those nagging questions that are rolling around in your head.

    I have over a dozen amps, and the Maz18 is a keeper.
     

  12. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Age:
    65
    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    You're mixing up your perception of sounds.

    "Fuzz" is not the sound of a distorted amp - it's a totally different sound that has to be artificially created.

    Some "distortion" pedals provide the sound of a distorting amp - and some are more like lower-gain fuzz pedals.

    Many "overdrive" pedals do a decent job of emulating the sound of a distorting amp, and THAT is likely the sound you're looking for. FI you look in the Effect Forum you'll find dozens of threads covering overdrive pedals. That being sid, true "overdrive" is pushing an amp over the edge from the very top of headroom into its own distortion, which is what good overdrives really shine at. They do it without altering the character of the amp.

    So an overdrive may sere you far better...and for less money...than an attenuator. With an attenuator you can get the amp's overdriven sound, but very critically *without* the speaker distorting. This is a critical part of the sound of an amp driving hard, and something the better pedal makers take into account. It will be completely lacking with an attenuator.

    Attenuators also cause you to dive your amp hard, creating more stress on all components - especially the tubes. And ALL distorted tones, no matter how they are created, heat the speaker voice coil more than clean tones - at any volume level.

    A question - how old is the Maz 18? If it's new, great. But if it's used it should be checked by a tech before use to ensure everything is in good shape. If it's over 12 years old and never been serviced it should have the electrolytic filter caps replaced. They would be right near the end of service life, and when they get old they can fail without any warning taking out a very expensive power transformer (and you can't tell if they're bad visually).

    This is true of every tube amp - it's like changing tire on a car and *has* to be done every 12-15 years. And in that amp - if it's used regularly - you may need new power tubes every 2-5 years or so (preamp tubes less often). It's a good idea to have an amp checked out when tubes are replaced as well.

    Wanted to give you some options sound and budget wise and makes sure you're aware of the service needs of any tube amp.
     

  13. Phrygian77

    Phrygian77 Tele-Holic

    589
    Apr 30, 2016
    Crawfordville, FL
    What speaker is in your amp? Is it a G12H? You could shave off a few dB with a G12M, and then another few DB with an attenuator. The more you take off with the attenuator, the less power the speaker has to handle, so you may be able to get away with the lower power rating. How much do the Heritage G12Ms cost over there? That's a 96 dB speaker. I'd hate to risk blowing one of those, but if you're only dimming it for short periods, it will probably be okay. You could also try one of the Eminence speakers that has adjustable efficiency, the Maverick or Reignmaker.
     

  14. alnicopu

    alnicopu Friend of Leo's

    Oct 3, 2009
    georgia
    You should try out my Muchxs Princeton Reverb clone. Twin tone stack and an added mid control. Turn down the mid and its a clean, loud, mini twin reverb all the way up the dial. Dial in the mids and it goes from twin to princeton reverb to tweed deluxe and everything in between. The entire amp IS a sweet spot!!
     
    King Creole likes this.

  15. fender_freak

    fender_freak TDPRI Member

    Age:
    21
    91
    Jul 13, 2017
    La Crosse, WI
    I have a custom made Weber attenuator and it worked great with my Blues Jr. Actually I came to prefer the tone with it on! Sold the Blues Jr since then though.
     

  16. MrGibbly

    MrGibbly Tele-Meister

    409
    Apr 19, 2014
    SATX
    I am very pleased with my Weber mini Mass. I use it with a Mesa Boogie Mark V:25 and a Marshall Class 5 for exactly the purpose you describe. The sound is excellent...doesn't do that "wet blanket over the amplifier" thing. However, these things may not attenuate as much as you hope. This particular model can soak enough power to get me where I want to be without tearing my own head off in a small home office/study (12'x12' or so) for either the Class 5 or the Boogie in 10 watt mode. The Boogie in 25 watt mode can simply over power it. Not all amps get to that sweet spot at the same point so while the Boogie out-muscles it in 25w mode my old Peavey Bravo can get to the magical land of a hard workin' power section just fine.
     

  17. uriah1

    uriah1 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Feb 12, 2011
    Around
    Just picked up dr z lite. Jury out. Going try in some amps next week.
     
    daveyboy likes this.

  18. daveyboy

    daveyboy Tele-Meister

    224
    Aug 30, 2012
    Victoria BC Canada
    I use my brake lite to help control the head room. It's probably still loud in a house but it helps.
     

  19. Richie-string

    Richie-string Tele-Meister

    18 watts really is a gigging level amplifier. I'm not saying you can't get nice sounds out of it at lower levels but maybe a small single ended valve/tube combo might suit best for home practice. There's lot of them on the market nowadays and some of them have beautiful sounds. Here's just a few potential suggestions.

    Vox AC4c1 - 1x10" and 1x12" combos
    Vox AC4tv - 1x10" and 1x8" combos, has a built in attenuator that takes the level down to a quarter of a watt or thereabouts
    Marshall DSL5c - 1x10" combo
    Fender Bassbreaker 007 - 1x10" combo
    Blackstar HT5R Combo
    Blackstar HT1R combo - 1x8" one watt all valve/tube combo, this may be well worth a look if volume is very restricted.

    These are just a few of the options that spring to mind, there's plenty of others on the market and there's always a good selection of second hand ones on well known auction sites. The Blackstar HT1R can be had in good condition second hand for very competitive prices, i've been looking at getting one of these myself but i just can't make up my mind if i want one of them or the Vox AC4tv. I'm in the same position of needing something lower powered but also not wanting to sacrifice having an all valve/tube sound.
     
    RLee77 likes this.

  20. old wrench

    old wrench Tele-Meister

    I don't want to pee in the whiskey, but attenuators are kind of limited in what they can do. The quality of the sound or tone or whatever you want to call it is just not going to be the same as when your amp is running normally and cranked up into the sweet spot.

    I've still got a Weber Mass and a Swart Night Light that both work pretty well at bringing the volume down to a civilized level, but I've found the real answer to the high-decibel problem, at least for myself, is simply going to a smaller amp and running less efficient (but still very good sounding) speakers.

    I've got a little 1 watt or so amp (Curt Emery Micro-Baby) that runs power tubes used in the old car radios and it does the trick for me - nice natural tube distortion at a relatively low volume.

    Mike Z. makes some great amps (not too far down the road from me, in fact), but I've never heard one run through his Z-Brake or Brake-Lite (or whatever it's called). Maybe you could check one out or at least listen to some recordings to make sure it's the sound you're after. As some of the other members pointed out, an overdrive or dirtbox might give you a sound close to what you're looking for low bucks.

    Best Regards,
    Geo.
     

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