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Will an attenuator make me happy?

Discussion in 'The Stomp Box' started by David Meiland, Nov 21, 2020.

  1. David Meiland

    David Meiland Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    I am normally playing at low volume on a tube amp, either a Deluxe Reverb or an AC15. With a Tele straight into the DR I max out at about 2 or 2-1/2 on the volume knob. Of course when I turn it up significantly louder the amp sounds a lot better... but my brain can't tolerate that for too long. I assume part of the improvement is running the amp hotter and maybe part of it is hitting the speaker harder. If I spring for an attenuator, can I get a worthwhile improvement in tone? More harmonics and a little more grit? I've tried various boost and drive pedals and never found one that doesn't sound kinda canned to me... not a substitute for just turning the amp up. And, any suggestions on which attenuator? The expensive ones are out of the question.
     
  2. bgmacaw

    bgmacaw Poster Extraordinaire

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    I recently bought a Bugera Power Soak ($114) that I'm enjoying so far. I'm using it with my Monoprice 5w and I'll be using it with my SFPR when its overhaul is completed.

    I am using a bit different configuration though. Instead of using the built in speaker I'm sending the line out signal to a Hotone Binary IR Cab. There I'm using OwnHammer IR's, mostly the ones based around Electro Voice speakers. From the IR box, I'm sending it into a mixer where I can send the signal out for recording and to studio monitors.
     
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  3. cravenmonket

    cravenmonket Tele-Holic

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    Never used an attenuator personally, but I love playing my PRRI at home around the 3-4 level and I am in the minority in saying that I don't hear a huge "improvement" in "tone" when the volume is cranked up. It's fun to belt it out, I agree, but I actually hear a lot of subtlety and nuance at the lower volumes with my amp. But I'm mostly playing fingerstyle and soft, warm, tubey folk-rock stuff. I actually don't like the sound of my PRRI up at 10 - it feels too raw and gritty. But it shines in the lower register*. If you move away from the amp a few feet it makes a big difference to how it mashes your head, too!

    *I get plenty of harmonics and "tubey" elements at lower volumes. I have never fully understood the mandate that a louder amp sounds better. It sounds noisier, definitely. I don't love the extra noise you get when you crank an amp - buzz and hum and hiss and air. At 3-4 I get beautiful warm, clear, well-rounded tone and no unwanted noise.

    Not very helpful, I know - sorry!
     
  4. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Silver Supporter

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    Age old dilemma. The Princeton is the correct answer.
     
  5. wabashslim

    wabashslim Friend of Leo's

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    I built my Plexi 6V6 with both a preamp MV and a post-phase inverter MV. While they get some use nothing beats cranking them both and running through my Weber Mini-Mass for sheer balls in the bedroom.
     
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  6. Alex_C

    Alex_C Tele-Meister

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    Attenuators make the amp sound a bit different. Not saying they sound bad, just different. I've never used the super high end ones, but the affordable units (sub $500) change the sound a bit.
     
  7. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Poster Extraordinaire

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    I used an attenuator back in the '90s when I had a Marshall half stack. It was a Marshall Power Brake, which was a good attenuator - BUT, I noticed the same thing with it that I noticed without it: the amp just sounded better louder. I eventually quit using it and started using the master volume with a dimed preamp for my low volume playing. Sounded fine. The JCM900 head was my "gigging amp" and my "bedroom level amp.". I sold the attenuator because I didn't see the point.

    These days I use a Marshall 100 watt digital modeling head. Again, serves both my "gigging amp" and "bedroom level amp" needs perfectly.
     
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  8. Wayne Alexander

    Wayne Alexander Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    A cranked up AC15 or Deluxe Reverb sounds and behaves very differently from the same amps on 2. Will you like an attenuator? Depends what you want it for. To knock down a few dBs at a gig, nearly any decent attenuator will do that and sound fine. To knock down the cranked amp to bedroom volume, most attenuators will alter the tone a lot. Re-ampers like the Fryette Power Station work well for that. But they're expensive, good ones are north of $500 used and more than that new.
     
  9. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's

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    I have a 50w Bassman head that is loud as hell. I did get a low cost attenuator for it and it serves its purpose fine. Turning it up to the point it really breaks up doesn’t sound very good though.

    Instead, I put it right in the sweet spot where it’s starting to compress and barely break up, which is between 4 and 6, depending on the guitar. Then a pedal can push it the rest of the way.

    As long as you don’t clamp down too hard, it should be ok.
     
  10. wabashslim

    wabashslim Friend of Leo's

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    No matter how you tease the amp, the speaker still wants to crank too; often the higher power ones just won't get that a$$ kicking they need to sing.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2020
  11. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's

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    This is the one I have. May be tough to find. I originally wanted a Jet City, but they discontinued it.

    KLD/PAN AMPS NEW PB-1 100 WATT ATTENUATOR SAVE YOUR CRANKED TUBE TONE NEW!! BLUE CASE COLOR https://www.amazon.com/dp/B009DUH4E8/?tag=tdpri-20
     
  12. wabashslim

    wabashslim Friend of Leo's

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    I just finished building an attenuator with a Radio Shack 50-watt L-pad I've probably had in my junk box since high school. Had to run huge non-polarized caps (47 & 100 mFd) across the L-pad to restore the treble to a normal level. I'm thinking of trying Rob's 10% fixed-resistor atten' in the amp instead of the PPIMV which is kind of raunchy.
     
  13. Shango66

    Shango66 Friend of Leo's

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    The Captor from Two notes works for me
    0E3FA4CE-881E-4917-9D9D-DAAA3B698568.jpeg
     
  14. srblue5

    srblue5 Tele-Meister

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    I have a Dr. Z Airbrake that I use with a PRRI. I live in a condo so the loudest I can get with attenuation is at the loudest point of the "Bedroom" setting (I have briefly tried it at the 3 and 4 settings but at that point I can hear things rattling and the walls around here are thin). I find that when I crank the amp to overdrive, it doesn't sound very good attenuated -- thin and fizzy. It gets thinner and fizzier the more you attenuate it (i.e. the quieter you set it). Pretty unlistenable, to be honest. This is where I think the speaker getting enough juice comes into play.

    However, I can get very good attenuated clean sounds with the Airbrake so, for your purposes, it may work. You might not get the same warmth as running it without attenuation at 3-4, per se, but as long as you're not trying to get amp-derived overdrive, it should make you happy.
     
  15. Bryan A

    Bryan A Tele-Meister

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    In my opinion, the answer is no. I used to have a Fender Blues reissue or something. It was 30 watts, and WAY too loud. I got an attenuator and it did nothing. Sure, it allowed more tolerable volumes, but it still didn’t get the true tube breakup. So I realized 30 watts is way overkill.

    Now I have a 5w Fender Champ 57 and have literally never been happier. People say it’s price is outrageous for such a no frills amp, but it’s the best $1000 I’ve ever spent. The person who said “the Princeton is the correct answer” is 100% correct. If you want true tube growl at tolerable volumes, the Princeton and Champ are the solutions.
     
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  16. Axegrinder77

    Axegrinder77 Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

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    I use a dr z brake lite with my Princeton at home and it works great. I can get it up to 3 instead of 2, which makes a nice difference in tone. Just don't expect miracles.

    You're right, the speaker is part of the equation. That's where a 10 inch comes in handy. But with a 12, I'd at least want a lower watt and inefficient one in there.
     
  17. El Tele Lobo

    El Tele Lobo Poster Extraordinaire

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    For me, a tweed Champ is an even better answer for home play.
     
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  18. David Meiland

    David Meiland Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    I guess I'll tell my wife you guys said I need another amp. She wants me to procure some large boulders for the landscape so maybe it'll work out.
     
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  19. Uncle Daddy

    Uncle Daddy Tele-Afflicted

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    I did the 10% power mod on a 5e3; it works well, but remember that due to the logarithmic relationship between power and volume, a 90% reduction gives half the volume.
     
  20. Roman4405

    Roman4405 Tele-Meister

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    While I can’t tell you what will make you happy I can say that I had on for those Power Soak things they have on eBay for like $50 that I used to use with my Deluxe Reverb and I liked it a lot. I’d keep the DR at about 4 and control my volume with the power soak, sounded great to me.
     
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