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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. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    H&K seems to have a good power scaling or whatever mystery circuit,I've heard them and they seem good.

    The cost of most power scaling circuits that (for example) use big resistors to drop power section voltages, is low for production, more R&D cost to dial it in.

    The front panel "1w/ 5w" thing does not sound like a speaker load device, which is more dbs of attenuation.
    But products for superstitious guitar players are seldom very realistically or honestly labeled...
     
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  2. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I can avoid accidentally hitting the vol knob but I can't stop myself from turning it up higher and higher on purpose!

    Resulting in band mates asking me to turn it doooowwwwnnnn!
     
  3. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    So much arguing ensues due to the stupid simple fact that an incredible number of people wrongly assume that their fave equals GOOD.

    I've owned IDK maybe 20 BF Fender amps from Princeton to Twin, and very very few sound good TO ME distorted.
    The Super Reverb is the only one I could love the distorted sound of, and that required a second amp in stereo, always a Marrshall to fill in the stuff BF Fender fails to deliver.

    It's none of my business, but reading guitar forum endless discussion of speakers, circuit mods, and dirt pedals for BF Fender amps; leads me to believe a huge number of players that just plain don't like the BF Fender thing: use them anyhow, and fight to make them sound right.
    Or players like the clean BF sound but don't like the dirty BF sound, which makes perfect sense since those amps were painstakingly designed for clean Country music players.

    Sad in a way that so many stay with "the BF Fender" often referred to "you can't beat Fender cleans", when Marshall clean sounds are SO MUCH BETTER than most BF Fender clean sounds; plus Marshalls have that magic dirt that makes BF Fender amps jealous.

    Or maybe I'm wrong and SRV is why so many use BF amps for dirt?

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!
    I was so relieved when I finally stopped fighting BF amps and went 100% Marshall.
    Only took me 30 years!
     
  4. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Whatever keeps you wife happy, is, of course, the right answer!
     
  5. itsGiusto

    itsGiusto Tele-Holic

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    That's an interesting perspective, and I agree so far. It's interesting, I see so many posts where they're talking up the overdrive on a SF Princeton, and I'm thinking, like, I've owned an SF Princeton Reverb for some time, and the overdrive is kinda weird, and not great. Buzzy, grindy, not smooth, it almost sounds like you're doing something wrong if you use the amp like that. And I know people who will turn their volume up into an old BF amp just cause they think that you're supposed to do that, but I really think the sweet spot for BF amps is way lower, in the clean-area. I think maybe it's partly that everyone has this idea that in order to use an amp right, you need to be overdriving it, but I don't think that BF Fenders really sound good like that.

    My exception is that I think old recordings of BB King and Mike Bloomfield playing really loud into old BF Twin Reverbs sound completely incredible. I don't know where the difference lies. Perhaps they're just playing really really loud, but not quite overdriven.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2021
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  6. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    This is an over generalization, but what I don't like about power amp dirt is the mushy crunchy bass.

    That is however one of the classic Rock rhythm guitar sounds we've heard on records for decades.
    In particular, distorted four hole Marshalls into low wattage greenback speakers, where the OT is saturated and the power tubes are maxed out, so the bottom end is that familiar crunch sound.

    Amps often even have a "crunch" channel to reproduce that loose saturated bottom end crunch with top end sizzle.
    Often leads played with that kind of amp sound stay away from low strings low on the neck.
    We even see old guitars where fingerboard wear clearly shows a player was either using the first five frets for rhythm, or the 10th to 20th fret for leads.

    To get tighter quicker less sludgy more articulate response from the low end, I find the power section needs to be running well below headroom.

    That's because treble takes 1/4 the wattage to amplify, as bass, which takes a lot more power to push to the same volume.
    That's why powered PA speakers typically have something like 300w for the woofer and 100w for the tweeter.

    Run a guitar amp at full or near full volume, past clipping, and it loses bass clarity and articulation before the treble range even start to clip at all.
    That's the nature of power amp dirt, once the power amp is distorting, the bass has less clarity and articulation than the treble.
    If you want fat saturated searing lead tones up the neck, you give up crisp clear bass.

    BUT, some good preamp and pedal dirt adds thickness and sear to the upper end, while preserving low end clarity, AND while running into a power section that still has the headroom to amplify the clearer low end dirt provided by earlier gain stages.

    There are certain vintage circuits that do a little better with the balance between high end dirty sizzle and low end clarity, but those circuits invariably have one or more trade offs, where lost headroom at clipping includes side effects that are accepted as oldtime classic guitar sound, but needn't be idealized in the 21st C now that amps can do a lot more than the peak around 1967 or so, which is my favorite four input Super Lead circuit.
    Even that amp though I preferred through tighter speakers than greenbacks, to preserve some low end clarity.
     
  7. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Some old recordings are indeed really hard to know what was happening.
    Old recording gear and techniques are often key components, but not always.

    A major component for me is basic feedback.
    I consider the complete electric guitar experience requires feedback volume, where the speaker couples with the strings, and affords sustain without compression.

    To some degree, any sustain increase at below feedback volume, comes at a loss of something else.
    Low volume sustain is by definition a type of compression, and feedback based sustain requires less compression.

    But compression may be exactly what we want, and I certainly need some, as in just the right amount, "according to taste".
     
  8. Fuelish

    Fuelish Tele-Holic

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    Not ALWAYS, but.....it helps... gotta keep the dogs and parrot happy too :) I'm satisfied with it, only thing I miss is the "moving of air," but at least I can grab a pretty good tone (to my ears) at lower volume. She loves having my play whatever, just doesn't like it loud ... it's a happy compromise, I guess. Although, she does still go to work every day...never know what I might get up to ;)
     
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  9. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I agree with this in general. I do like a breaking up BF/SF. Maybe 7 on the volume dial with vintage pickups? But it is missing those mids. I just can't use it live. But in studio ...

    Are you a Pixies fan? Joey Santiago uses a 50w JCM800 head (volume on about 11 o'clock and Gain on about 3 o'clock) plus a BF Vibrolux Reverb (on 7) together for his sound, which is exceptional IMO. Jump to about 6m in for his discussion https://www.premierguitar.com/gear/rig-rundown-pixies

    I'm a huge Pixies fan but that's not why I recorded the way I did in studio. The engineer had seen us live and knew our sound so he suggested recording all the tracks with his SF DR on 7-8 and then recording them all again on his 50w JCM800 combo with the volume opened up a bit but not cranked and the Gain way up. Hmmmm. I didn't connect it in my head but when he used both tracks in the final mix, seems an awful lot like what Joey always does.

    Here's the result (the riffy stuff/leads, not the straight rhythm; it's the guitar that tends to be mixed a little higher). https://floormodel.bandcamp.com/album/slightly-damaged
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2021
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  10. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I've listened to some Pixies but not dove deep.

    Years ago a drummer i played with a lot, in a sort of battle of aggression, always wanted me to play some Pixies stuff, his favorite band which made one wonder why he played with me.
    Anyhow, I was using a BFSR and a Plexi 100 together, oddly similar to the Santiago rig.

    Not the sound your clip has but raw and violent was the goal...
     
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  11. Lizzard

    Lizzard TDPRI Member

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    I would venture a guess that a lot of people think they know what they want or re “supposed” to want but don’t.

    Power tube distortion is a different sound from preamp gain, PI overdrive or box distortion/overdrive.

    different tools in a box.
     
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  12. Telenator

    Telenator Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    None of this simply boils down to "right or wrong." It's preference.

    Personally, I just can't get my head around the constant need for, (what I consider), excessive gain in a guitar sound.

    Taking a great amp that does something really well and neutering it with an attenuator is an indication that I may need a different amp. But that's me. Not right, or wrong.

    I use a King of Tone pedal like an attenuator. I first get a great, foundation sound from my amp that covers the majority of what I'll be playing that night. Then I set my King of Tone pedal so I can get everything from Stone Temple Pilots to full-on hair metal at a very usable volume without having to push the hell out of the amp.

    Using an attenuator is great for that ONE SOUND of over-drive through a given amp. It is indeed a sound of it's own. But you can't switch freely between the attenuated sound, and the non-attenuated sound, the way you would need to on a gig or live jam.

    To me, attenuators sound cool, but they're very limited in my practical applications. There are other very effective ways to accomplish the same thing in a much more versatile set-up.
     
  13. Fiesta Red

    Fiesta Red Poster Extraordinaire

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    I would prefer a master volume, but I love the Dr. Z’s Brake Lite I installed in my ‘63-reissue Vibroverb...and I’m very impressed by the built-in attenuators in the Tone King amps.
     
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  14. Arfage

    Arfage Tele-Meister

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    I'm not down on attenuators, I just think people running around saying they're the holy grail answer to the problem, or even superior to a Master Volume as a general rule is crap. You are not going to get the sound of your fully cranked amp unless your amp is fully cranked, period. It doesn't exist.
    First there are a bunch of master volume circuits to chose from and some do and don't suck. the master I've installed a hundred times (a variation on Trainwreck V1) actually works and sounds great. As good as the most expensive attenuator I've had. I only use my Weber because I don't have the heart to drill a hole in my Dr. Z. It's big, ugly, expensive and doesn't exactly fit on top and removes something unique in the amp's tone. After two of Weber's best, a THD hotplate and a Carl's Custom Amps and a couple others I can say that they are grossly over rated.
    The best way to do it - if you have a master volume - is use them both together. and don't be too dependent on either. The more moderately you use either one the better your tone will be.
     
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  15. MarkSieber

    MarkSieber TDPRI Member Silver Supporter

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    I have both: One of my amps has master volume and I have an attenuator.

    I like them for different things. The amp's master volume works with the volume to create a range of distortion and sustain. (This is also affected by the tone controls.)

    There are some sounds that are loud even with the master volume reduced; then I would use the attenuator at home.

    The master volume works well for reducing volume at the clean end of the spectrum.

    I use the attenuator most on a non master volume amp which has a sweet spot too loud at home.

    The discussions I remember about master volumes were people hating it because it wasn’t allowing their amp to be all it could be... lol. The master volume on the app I have bypasses all that when it’s full on. At that point attenuator becomes a essential.

    Both of these change the tone of a cranked amp, for me that's more options. I can find a tone I like even if it’s not the imaginary one in my head.

    All of this is for when I am using no dirt petals and seeing what I can get out of my amplifiers alone.
    When using pedals I run pretty clean and let the pedals do the work. With the master volume amp that means keeping the volume pot low and using the master volume as a...master volume.

    These are tools. I like them all and find it hard to get wound up about one thing being better than another. YMMV.
     
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  16. oooogie

    oooogie TDPRI Member

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    I recently purchased a Fryette power station 2 mainly to run my Kemper stage which is basically a preamp. But this Fryette is meant to be used as an attenuator and it can make an amp that is too loud, quieter with all the tone you'd get from your when cranked. However, with a 50 watt tube amp onboard it can also make it possible to make your old Champ much much louder. So it's a very versatile piece of gear. And I love it.
     
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  17. Dik Ellis

    Dik Ellis Tele-Meister

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    I have no need for an attenuator, but I don't dis them. I use a Bitmo modded Valve Jr. with a Weber speaker for bedroom practice and a small pedal board. Works for me. IMG_0842 (2).JPG
     
  18. Jared Purdy

    Jared Purdy Friend of Leo's

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    I'm so glad I don't have to contend with this. I'm not a hard driving picker. My wife is fairly tolerant, especially when the amps are in the family room downstairs and she's in the living room, or vice versa.

    I don't crank my amps when she's home. I never crank my PR anyways, as it's not that kind of amp. My 57' Deluxe gets the treatment when she's not home. Otherwise, I'm very content with them at roughy the same volume, using the PR volume setting at 3 as a bench mark, and the LP usually at 7 or 8 in the middle position. Plenty good tone there for most of my noodling. Love cranking the 57' though!
     
  19. brashboy

    brashboy Tele-Meister

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    Sounds like we just need a low wattage tube amp that can drive a small speaker hard.
     
  20. warchol

    warchol TDPRI Member

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    As with anything music related, different people have different
    perceptions of how something sounds. Here is a good article in
    Wikipedia discussing it:

    Psychoacoustics


    That said, different folks will prefer MV or attenuation.

    Other methods I like are low efficiency speakers, baffling the speaker
    cabinet and Power Scaling as in the London Power amps.


    Low efficiency speakers are inexpensive and moderately effective.
    A lot of "HiFi" speakers sound great and are low efficiency.


    Baffling by using a closed back cabinet and aiming it away from
    the listeners (or even towards a blanket on the floor) can be very effective.
    I saw Joe Bonnamassa with his big Marshalls in a small theatre here.
    He had plexiglass baffles in front of the amps that made the volume only moderately
    painful....;)


    Power scaling works great, but is expensive and must be built into the amp.
    I had a Reinhardt Storm with power scaling that sounded pretty much the same
    at lower settings.

    YMMV
     
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