Amps anybody use an attenuator?

Discussion in 'Gear Talk' started by snarf, Nov 30, 2019.

  1. snarf

    snarf audiences like their blues singers to be miserable

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2010
    Messages:
    898
    Likes Received:
    932
    Y'all talk to me about attenuators. I've been researching them a bit lately, and, as with everything on the world wide interwebs, depending on who's talking depends on what kind of contradictory information I'm seeing.

    Any of you actually use an attenuator in your home setup? I have been looking at the Dr Z Airbrake thinking that maybe it'd let me really drive the amp a bit without making the neighbors mad. But, from some of what I'm reading, an attenuator won't really cut the volume that much, and it will burn your tubes up so you're having to constantly replace them. Some are saying an attenuator will bring a 15w tube amp down to a neighbor-friendly level, while others are saying that it will only cut certain frequencies, so the neighbors will still hate you, and it will totally kill the tone. I thought that it would tame an amp a bit, give you that really good, driven sound, and let you do it without having to use earplugs.

    Anybody actually using one and, if so, (1)which one, (2)how are you using it, (3)is it doing what you want it to do, and (4)are they worth the money? I don't have delusions of grandeur like sticking it on a 100w amp and expecting it to make that usable at home, but I have in mind putting it on my 1w and 15w amps and being able to drive those a bit instead of just cracking them open.
     
  2. sdbrit68

    sdbrit68 Student Of The Blues

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2015
    Messages:
    3,040
    Likes Received:
    2,268
    I had never heard about burning tubes up, hmmmmm
     
    snarf likes this.
  3. snarf

    snarf audiences like their blues singers to be miserable

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2010
    Messages:
    898
    Likes Received:
    932
    That's kind of why I figured I'd ask the question. I don't know enough to be able to cull the misinformation, but I actually wondered about that statement. That one sounded kind of sketchy to me.
     
  4. mountain man

    mountain man Still got the Blues!

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2014
    Messages:
    4,637
    Likes Received:
    1,534
    Before I got my Nace Pro-18 Combo and also a Pro-18 Head with Carvin Vintage cab stack, I used the Jettenuator as recommended by the mfr with my Fender Blues Jr NOS. A 15 watt all tube amp. I really liked it as I was able to really drive the amp and get the tube sizzle without having to turn it all the way up and upset the neighbors and without deafen myself in that small practice room. I found I was able to skip an OD pedal in the process so I was using the amp OD tone. I had a couple amps set up so I had the Blues Jr set up with the looper and played the Carvin Vintage 16 to practice my leads and riffs over the top. Gosh, Why did I stop doing that? Anyway, it's a great way to play just tube amp sizzle without coloring the tone with a pedal. I never burned out a tube on the Blues Jr which are amps designed to run hot. :Beer:
     
    #4 mountain man, Nov 30, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2019
    snarf likes this.
  5. sloslunas

    sloslunas NM Blues

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2009
    Messages:
    2,137
    Likes Received:
    5,121
    Screw the neighbors. Forget the attenuator (whatever that is?). And Dime your amp...YMMV.

    Steve
     
    RussellC, arock, sdbrit68 and 2 others like this.
  6. ronico

    ronico rainyislandblues

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2012
    Messages:
    200
    Likes Received:
    117
    Bwahahaha! Good advice and thrifty as well! I have a Zbrake lite(?) that came mounted in my DrZ Galaxie 30/50 watts. They do make a stand alone pedal type Zbrake as well. Assume that's the one you're looking at .Mine is set on two I believe but don't recall how many Dbs that knocks off. Don't have to worry much about my neighbors. Nobody has complained yet. Ive never heard that about the tubes but don't think a guy like DrZ would put something in that would harm one of his designs? Been using it for about 6 years with no issues but do play with other amps. Anybody else heard that about attenuators with tubes?
     
    snarf likes this.
  7. PapaBear

    PapaBear Guit Fiddlier

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2011
    Messages:
    4,296
    Likes Received:
    5,059
    I use a Rivera Rock Crusher with my Marshall sometimes when I want that cranked tone and less the deafening volume, works good, I could see with regular use that it would shorten tube life some as you really pushing them and the attenuator absorbs some of the load, mine has 3db cut up to 20db cut, I think Capt Moto has a Rock Crusher as well
     
    #7 PapaBear, Nov 30, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
    snarf likes this.
  8. aleclee

    aleclee Tribe of One

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2014
    Messages:
    687
    Likes Received:
    583
    I used a THD Hotplate and a Weber MASS back when I played tube amps. IME, you could knock about 8dB off the signal before it started sounding strangled. While that's a fair bit of attenuation, if you're running your amp at 95dB (loud but not crushing), that'll take you down to 87, which is still fairly loud and likely to annoy anyone with whom you share walls.

    As for the bit about wearing out tubes more quickly, it's technically true but dramatically overstated. Running an attenuator doesn't wear tubes any more quickly than running into a speaker. It's just that you're running the amp at a higher level than you would without an attenuator and running an amp louder increases tube wear.
     
    dan5150 and snarf like this.
  9. CaptainMoto

    CaptainMoto Blues Voyager

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2012
    Messages:
    6,985
    Likes Received:
    4,959
    I've used several over time.

    I've previously owned:
    Swart Nightlight
    https://www.humbuckermusic.com/prod...MI7YPkh8WT5gIVGoeGCh0P6geFEAQYAiABEgJZK_D_BwE

    Jet City Jettnuator
    https://www.musiciansfriend.com/amp...nuator/j33292000000000?rNtt=atenuator&index=1

    SPL Reducer

    https://www.sweetwater.com/store/de...ive-power-soak-for-guitar-and-bass-amplifiers



    I only have one now, it's the Rivera RockCrusher Recording.
    https://www.sweetwater.com/store/de...r-attenuator-with-11-band-eq-speaker-emulator

    I did lots and lots of research and from what I can tell, the better ones have a reactive load (like the Rivera).
    I was happy with the level of attenuation and the tone I received from all of the above mentioned units even though they where not active load but, there was something missing on tone.

    I used them all with low wattage amps (5, 7, 17, 22 watts)
    Seemed to me I was burning up tubes with the lower priced units (non reactive load).
    I can't say that was the cause for sure but, I don't have that problem now.

    I know there a few folks here using the Jettenuator and are happy with it.


    The functions I want are good range of effective attenuation, no tone loss, line out for recording, extension speaker jack, and 8 or 16 ohms
    My Rivera RockCrusher Recording has all those features ,active load and an 11 band EQ that can be applied to the record out, (not the speaker tone).
    Consequently it's pricey.

    I think that's overkill for most people.

    If you get one, be sure to use SPEAKER Cables not instrument cables.
    Some ship with the cables, some don't.
    You may also need a Female/ Female 1/4" cable connector if it is not supplied.
    Looks like the Dr Z is hard wired with the proper cable.
     
    #9 CaptainMoto, Nov 30, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
    sdbrit68 and snarf like this.
  10. Iheartbacon

    Iheartbacon Blues Newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2016
    Messages:
    245
    Likes Received:
    238
    The more you turn down, the more they distort the original tone. In general, you lose highs faster than the rest of the signal, but most models have some way to (imperfectly) compensate for that. Figure you can knock 6-10 dB off before it gets overly offensive to most guitarists. That’s like taking a 100 watt amp to 10-25 watts...still very loud but more manageable. Obviously if you start with a 15 watt amp and take it down to 1.5 watt equivalent it will be much quieter.

    In other words, they work with limitations, don’t expect miracles.

    Attenuators do not burn up tubes any faster than running the amp just as hard into a speaker. If your tubes are biased properly you should be able to run cranked for many many hours without burning tubes.
     
  11. CaptainMoto

    CaptainMoto Blues Voyager

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2012
    Messages:
    6,985
    Likes Received:
    4,959
    Back to your initial questions:
    If you want to play your tube amp at bedroom volumes..........they are worth it because it lets you enjoy your gear.
    My experience has been, depending on which unit you get, they will definitely reduce the volume.

    Having said that, I thinks important to know what volume you are aiming for and then be able to measure it.
    I'd suggest picking up a dB meter or use a dB app to measure the volume.
    My experience has been that getting the level between 65 -70 dB is good enough to get decent volume in a small room and low enough to minimize sound transfer to adjacent rooms.
    Something else o consider.........
    You can significantly reduce the gain of your preamp tubes by swapping them out for lower output tubes.
    Check this out:
    https://humbuckersoup.com/tubes/12ax7-12at7-12au7-difference/




    Given that this topic comes up quite often on the forum.
    Here's a couple vids on the subject:

    https://www.thomann.de/blog/en/power-attenuators/

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-K9H-X8wd8

    Here's one of the previous discussions:
    http://bluesguitarunleashed.com/for...ont-be-confused-any-longer.21974/#post-301593
     
    #11 CaptainMoto, Dec 1, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
  12. Crossroads

    Crossroads Thump the Bottom

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2010
    Messages:
    1,384
    Likes Received:
    1,991
    I've never been a fan of attenuators because they squash the amplitude and dynamics of your output signal.
    So if your not getting the sound of the amp why bother?

    With software, an interface and a PC or Ipad you can replicate your amp sound and much for $500 or less.

    If for whatever reason, you really wanted to use a tube amp, you could use some type of reactive load box and impulse response. This would give the load the amp needs and emulate your cabinet.

    Advantages
    It doesn't crush the signal and destroy the harmonics
    If you want to use a different cabinet different speakers, or different mics, and/or mix two of any of the above you can just change a setting.


    The other option is a hybrid unit has some additional options.
    The Suhr is pretty cost effective around $500-$600

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JmVpYbKvnU

    But if money is not an issue this BOSS unit adds a lot of functionality, and after seeing it in action I a glad I rarely use high watt tube amps, cause I want one.

    https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/WazaTAE--boss-waza-tube-amp-expander
     
    #12 Crossroads, Dec 1, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
  13. Crossroads

    Crossroads Thump the Bottom

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2010
    Messages:
    1,384
    Likes Received:
    1,991
    Oh, and one other thing I used to do on high watt tube amps was to turn down the preamp gain to about 8 oclock and turn the power amp up to about 2 oclock.
    I really like the break up of power tubes like EL84 s

    So this stops your pre amp from creating a big signal. so the output from your power amp isn't as loud.

    If you want to add pre amp distorion, just add a dirt pedal, you can then dial in your gain and distortion separately on the pedal, where the amp dial gives you both together on the gain knob.
     
    sdbrit68 likes this.
  14. CaptainMoto

    CaptainMoto Blues Voyager

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2012
    Messages:
    6,985
    Likes Received:
    4,959
    I think we might be adding some complexity to the discussion by introducing RECORDING.
    If all you want to do is lower your volume, a decent attenuator will do the trick.

    If you want to capture the amp,speaker & cab sounds in a recording situation then all that IR, Cab Emulation stuff comes into play and the price goes up.
     
    sdbrit68 and mountain man like this.
  15. Crossroads

    Crossroads Thump the Bottom

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2010
    Messages:
    1,384
    Likes Received:
    1,991
    As you say a decent attenuators will reduce your amplitude, but if not a reactive load, it comes with the cost of losing the sound of the amplifier which always seemed counter productive to me.

    Any of the solutions I listed above can and are used live. If the OP wants to use an attenuator I would just recommenced a reactive load to help maintain the impedance curve.

    But as long as they are happy with the results that's all that matters.
     
    #15 Crossroads, Dec 1, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2019
  16. Cleotis

    Cleotis AKB48 Team-8 Wota

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2016
    Messages:
    354
    Likes Received:
    241
    I've got a RockCrusher for the 100W Marshall and a Weber Mini-Mass for the Mesa Mk. 5 35W amp. The first RockCrusher that Sweetwater shipped was truly a turd. It barely cut any volume and one leg was shorter than the other three. Luckily, it broke (no sound from the speaker cab when going through the RockCrusher) and was still under warranty. After a long while (they couldn't fix it), a new one was shipped. This new RockCrusher, although the exact same model, works well (but not past -12DB as it turns the sound into lackluster turd). -12DB and the Master Volume on the amp is a decent solution when working together.

    The Mini-Mass kicks ass. Very good product at higher volumes (don't turn the dial lower than 12 o'clock). You can get the cool Mesa high gain sound without pealing the paint off the walls or knocking them down altogether.

    So, for a 1W-15W attenuator, I'd recommend the Weber Mini-Mass. They are cheap enough to toss in the garbage if they don't work for your specific application. But, they do work great with the 35W Mesa Mark 5.

    If you're a huge fan of the Boss Katana, you could get a Boss Waza Tube Amp Expander which will turn any tube amp into a Boss Katana.
     
    Crossroads likes this.
  17. MikeS

    MikeS Moderator... Another Man In Black.
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2009
    Messages:
    3,517
    Likes Received:
    2,484
    I've used the Jettenuator for about a year and I've had no tube problems and you can drive the amp and bring it down to bedroom levels.
    Just remember that Griff suggests one type & the Jettenuator is the other.
    I don't have the greatest of ears, but as far as I can tell it's great.
    Right now, I've bypassed the amp completely and I'm using my Quilter Micro Block 45 into the Jettenuator & then into the speaker that's in my Nace Pro18, so I don't even turn on the Pro18.
     
    PapaBear likes this.
  18. PapaBear

    PapaBear Guit Fiddlier

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2011
    Messages:
    4,296
    Likes Received:
    5,059
    I was just thinking today I might run my micro block into the RockCrusher and out to either the Nace or the Marshall speakers
     
  19. CaptainMoto

    CaptainMoto Blues Voyager

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2012
    Messages:
    6,985
    Likes Received:
    4,959
    That's a disappointing experience!
    I love my RockCrusher, never an issue but, even more disappointing is your SweetWater experience.
    Any time I've had a problem with something from SW they've sent me a new replacement overnight with a prepaid return label to send the bad one back.
     
  20. dvs

    dvs Green Mountain Blues

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2011
    Messages:
    433
    Likes Received:
    601
    Why use an attenuator with a solid state amp like a Quilter Micro Block? Can't you just lower the master volume?
     
    Norfolk Bill likes this.