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Why are so many people down on attenuators, but want master volumes?

Discussion in 'Amp Tech Center' started by itsGiusto, Apr 10, 2021.

  1. burntfrijoles

    burntfrijoles Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yeah, that's not the right kind of harmony!:D

    I may someday need silent recording but maybe by then some of the digital stuff will be good enough to go direct.
     
  2. Cloodie

    Cloodie Tele-Meister

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    I was going to buy a Gremlin as the built in attenuator was a big selling point for me. Ended up going for the Falcon Grande instead. Can't comment on the sound unfortunately as my long wait for delivery continues.
     
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  3. burntfrijoles

    burntfrijoles Poster Extraordinaire

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    I did just the opposite. I was going to buy the Falcon Grande because it was footswitchable and had the on-board reverb but I changed to the Gremlin. I reasoned that I didn't really need the extra wattage or the extra voicing and reverb pedals are cheap. I think both are great amps. I would love to splurge and get the Imperial but it would be overkill.
     
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  4. itsGiusto

    itsGiusto Tele-Holic

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    I totally get that the attenuator may not work for some people, cause they just don't like the sound for some reason. But on a theoretical level, I don't really understand why it wouldn't work. It seems that the attenuator would be more capable of letting you crank your amp than an MV, almost definitionally. I personally kinda don't really consider an amp to be cranked, if you're only cranking preamp gain, but I guess other people may define it differently. But maybe you just don't like the sound of power tube distortion?

    Hah, so true. I've been down the path of like "I need to build an iso box to get the REAL cranked tone", but eventually gave up. I have no woodworking skills, it would have taken up too much room, and I'm not 100% sure I would have been able to either get good tone in such a small box, or else not sure it would have actually achieved as much attenuation I desired (in other words, the neighbors might still have gotten mad). I eventually gave up and decided that attenuators sound good enough, and are about as good as I can hope to do!

    Hah, that makes sense. I think I got my Weber for a little less, maybe $300? But consider that many people get MVs installed on their amps, which could easily cost a few hundred bucks if you don't know how to do it yourself and have to hire a tech.

    That's hilarious, you should make a video showing that! My cats usually stay pretty far from my amps when they're on, I think it's a bit loud for their sensitive ears, so I don't ever have to worry about unwanted pet noises!

    Yeah, definitely damned if you do damned if you don't. But I guess, the key point of my original post is that both theoretically and in my opinion after listening to the sounds, you're a lot less damned if you use an attenuator. And yet for some reason, most people seem to fear them and be in more favor of an MV.
     
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  5. SomeGuyNamedRob

    SomeGuyNamedRob Tele-Meister

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    I know from people I've spoken/jammed with personally hate them because they fall into one of two main categories:

    1. They've never mic'd up their amps when using an attenuator to find...the amp sounds pretty much exactly the same to the point where they would fail and A/B test to identify which is which**.

    I've done the tests and it's actually a lot of fun to watch people go on at length why amp B sounds so much <insert strings of negative cork sniffer adjectives> where amp A sounds more full and rounded like a proper amp should. Then reveal amp A was using the attenuator and watch them squirm while they try walking back all the negative stuff they said about their own amp and tone.



    2. People who gain stage their amps so all of the OD/Distortion comes exclusively from the preamp, or pedals driving the preamp. Most players I know in this camp have never actually used power amp distortion because they've never been able to turn up their amps loud enough to reach power amp saturation.

    Unsurprisingly, these tend to be the people who would benefit the most from attenuators when they show up at painfully small club/bar gigs with 100 watt half stacks and never get the master volume above 2.


    **This of course is provided you're using a decent attenuator and not some eBay piece of junk that cost 50 bucks
     
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  6. mrriggs

    mrriggs Tele-Meister

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    You just need the right pre-amp distortion. A tube-diode "hard" clipper will clamp down on the signal like the grids of overdriven power tubes. So sweet, dynamic and easy to control.

    [​IMG]

    Your power tubes will thank you. Although, you may not get a Christmas card from the electric company any more.
     
  7. SRHmusic

    SRHmusic Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    We bought a good attenuator for the other guitar player in our band. He uses an 18W Dr Z amp that sounds amazing but is too loud on stage. But we cannot get the same result at all with the attenuator. I'd have to measure some waveforms to see what's going on. The main problem here is that the load of the attenuator is not reacting like the speaker.

    To the OP, a master volume does not operate like an attenuator at all. I don't agree that one should expect the same result, especially if power tube distortion is occurring. The expectation should be that it sounds the same (without touching the amp controls) but at a lower volume. (A master volume is before or at the power stage, while the attenuator replaces the speaker, and is after the output transformer.)

    For now we are getting by with angling the amp and will try some other isolation methods.
     
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  8. MatsEriksson

    MatsEriksson Tele-Afflicted

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    While I agree totally with OP, I think it's a thing just for those who carries big wattage amps. You are still wasting a lot of energy, and you'd be better off with a smaller wattage amp, because attenuating power amps is not all there is to it. It's the same with these "speakers" which you could alter the cone length to accomodate for smaller and larger wattage amp.

    I e the power amp combines and interacts with reactance, and whatnot and feedback witht the power amp back and forth. So a underpowered or attenuated power amp connected to a speaker system that can take 100w or more isn't going to produce anything that's worthwhile to me. It's a tad luxory waste, to waste energy and electricity bill on something so niched, futile, and not that worthwhile.

    The thing is that I've forgot that speaker manufacturers name, which you can adjust the cone in and out with a control and a motor. So the speaker has to be adjusted to whatever wattage the power amp is leaving. Don't remember their name....S...something...Supraspeaker? Sonic..? Anyone?

    BTW I don't like those either, it's not just about that.
     
  9. MatsEriksson

    MatsEriksson Tele-Afflicted

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    FLUXTONE was it called.

    https://www.fluxtonespeakers.com/

    Another/reverse way of it. Sort of. Like if you have a too low wattage amp and connect it to too high wattage speakers, they don't move back and forth at all. So you have to accomodate the speaker to it. Now if you combone this speaker with the attenuators out there, it would maybe be better, but maybe so subtle that it is neglible. You have to be careful because if you turn anything of them (attenuator, fluxtone speaker) the wrong way you may fry the speaker.




    That's my experience too with some, or most of them. Was it WEBER that had a huge box of thing where something really moved inside it mechanically to give a "speaker impression"?
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2021
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  10. Asmith

    Asmith Friend of Leo's

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    I'm an advocate of attenuators as well, even if you you get/build is a basic L-pad. At the end of the day I prefer the sound of my amp cranked into an L-pad than and amp with the master volume turned down and getting all the distortion from the preamp.
     
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  11. itsGiusto

    itsGiusto Tele-Holic

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    I understand that a higher power amp that is attenuated is "wasting" some energy. Though, I don't consider it a waste since it's in service of getting a sound that I don't think you can get any other way. Realistically, If you crank a 50 watt amp, it's gonna have roughly the same consumption as a lightbulb. I leave lightbulbs on in my house very often, and I don't worry too much about the cost, and I don't think adding one more for just 1 or 2 hours per day is gonna break the bank. I think 1 kilowatt hour of energy is like 20 cents, so it'd take at least 10 hours of a cranked 50watt amp (assuming the amp actually runs at double wattage, 100 watts, when saturated) to spend 20 cents. Doesn't seem like too much of a waste.

    As for power tubes degrading, IDK, mine seem to last quite a while despite my approach. Sure, they need to be replaced every now and again, but that's what they're meant for. If it's in-service of achieving something closer to the true great tone, I think it's worth it.

    IDK, maybe you don't understand my original post. I'm not saying people should expect the same, I know the difference. I'm just saying that people do seem to expect that MV will produce better sounding results than attenuators for some reason, and I don't know why. For me (and I think most people who buy vintage amps) the power tube distortion is desirable, not undesirable.

    I understand that there can and will be some differences when adding in an attenuator, with reaction of the load and the source, but those differences have never been too apparent to me. Like I said, I get amazing results from attenuators.

    And believe me, I know that you can never achieve speaker distortion when using an attenuator.. but I guess I'm okay with that. I think most of the sound I like is from the power amp, not the speaker distorting.

    There are two aspects to how speakers work - a linear one, and a non-linear one when you push it out of its range. I think the most important part of a guitar speaker is the linear aspect, the transfer function you get of applying the speaker's frequency response to the guitar signal. That transfer function is really important because it cuts out a lot of the power-amp distorted overtones, and accentuates certain portions of the guitar sound which are important. Ever try taking a line out from a guitar amp or attenuator, and just listen to that? Not pretty at all, and that's what the speaker helps to prevent. That is like 99% of the speaker's characteristic to me, and seems to be mostly the same throughout the speaker's operating range (as you would expect of a linear component). When you push the speaker to its limits you get some manner of distortion, but does it really sound good? I find it often can sound harsh, weird, and flubby. It's possible I just prefer power tube distortion to speaker distortion.

    That's a pretty cool invention for sure! It would just bother me though that if I used that specific speaker, I couldn't get the aforementioned speaker response of other speakers that I like, the classics, alnico blues, jensons, greenbacks, etc.


    Yeah, that's the one I use, though, I'm not 100% convinced that the reactive speaker coil load REALLY does much to make it sound better. I've used L-pads with good results, too.

    Same, what first convinced me that attenuators would be worth a further look was that I built my own cheap L-pad attenuator and was so impressed by it, that I figured maybe investing in a really good attenuator was a good idea.
     
  12. SRHmusic

    SRHmusic Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    Yes, actually I've been thinking of a different situation. On rereading I agree - low MV will not give output stage distortion or even 'on the edge' dynamics, non-linearity. You're saying you prefer to crank the master volume and use the attenuator, and asking why people don't like it, apparently the 'bedroom player' that wants low volume and comparing two low volume situations (low master vs. high master + attenuator). I guess I don't know anyone that would prefer the sound with the master volume low, and shouldn't comment on that. o_O:lol:

    My thoughts are on attempting to get the same tone/sound/dynamics as the fully cranked, high master volume condition at a lower volume. The scenario I'm familiar with is using a high end, reactive load attenuator with this higher-end amp and it sounds significantly worse than the un-attenuated sound. Without measurements I surmise this is because the reaction of the output stage and transformer to the load is different than to the true speaker (plus cabinet plus air) load. We actually did get a slightly better sound with it unattenuated and backing the master off a little. Apparently a lot of what he (and we) like about his tone is from the output stage being pushed hard.

    These Weber MASS attenuators look very interesting. We may have to try one of these.
    https://tedweber.com/gadgets/attenuators/
     
  13. nobis17

    nobis17 Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    I didn't actually know attenuators had a bad rep. I have a Tone King Ironman II, and a Laney L20-T. With the clean channel set to between 7-8 I control the volume with the Ironman. Not only is the tone amazing, I can actually hear my wife when she tells me it's time for dinner...

    I'm a total advocate of them. I'm sure some are better or worse than others, but I'm happy with it. Being able to run a tube amp at a level in which it sounds best, without making my ears bleed, actually makes me want to practice/play more. So thst is a win in my book.
     
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  14. bottlenecker

    bottlenecker Friend of Leo's

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    I've never really liked any master volume amp I've tried at any setting or volume. They're ok for totally sterile clean, but any dirt from the master is constant and undynamic like an overdrive pedal. A nice, high voltage tube overdrive pedal, but still not my thing.
    I've never tried an attenuator, but I'm willing to give one a shot.
     
  15. loopfinding

    loopfinding Friend of Leo's

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    in my experience, MVs work great in amps where you have a marshall-ish setup in the preamp with a puny bypass cap. but they sound absolutely dreadful in Fender style where there's a lot of low end in the early stages. a fender only really sings to me when the power section is involved. and the cleans on a marshall sound lifeless to me when you cut that much bass. in general though, i like some sag in the distortion, and i'm not totally into preamp-only distortion.
     
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  16. loopfinding

    loopfinding Friend of Leo's

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    i think also too when i get my full amp setup back, i'm more into the idea of using a load box and using IRs, and running the stuff through studio monitors. attenuators are awesome for dialing back about halfway or a little more than halfway, but once they get to monitoring levels they just start making the amp sound like an overdrive pedal. i don't think this is a problem of attenuators but rather just not getting the speaker to cook enough.
     
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  17. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    MVs are usually included in the amp, they are not a $200 box that requires an extra speaker wire - this is one factor. Plus with a combo amp it might require soldering a 1/4" connection and so on.
    I want the whole amp to fit in my right hand.
    I have a Weber and it doesn't sound any better than my MVs. (They all sound fine, I am done with NMV amps).
     
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  18. irie

    irie Tele-Holic

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    I think this entire debate is pointless. The real solution is to crank you amp to 11 and just roll back your guitar volume to desired levels.
     
  19. cyclopean

    cyclopean Poster Extraordinaire

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  20. cyclopean

    cyclopean Poster Extraordinaire

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    I alwa
    ys get mud when i do that.
     
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