Attenuator advice needed

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daveyhdaveyh Frets: 560
Getting confused by attenuators so looking to the collected wisdom.

I'm after something that allows me to run my amp at full, but use the attenuator to bring the volume down to home levels for practice. I know I could get a smaller amp or a modeller but looking into this as a first option.

To use headphones would be handy but not essential.

A direct out for recording, preferably with onboard cab sims (because basically Im an idiot with DAWs so simplicity is good) but can live without if necessary.

Any suggestions?
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  • mrn1989mrn1989 Frets: 223
    edited July 7
    Sounds like the Torpedo Captor X, only has 2 attenuation settings though -38dB, -20dB or full volume, the OxBox is another option if you have a bigger budget that does all the things you want


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  • CleckoClecko Frets: 137
    I think you might want to try a few options if you want to run an amp at full volume. I only have experience of a Marshall power Brake with a 30w Marshall Bluesbreaker.

    There are quite a few notches between min and max attenuation on the Power Brake. The first 3 or 4 are great and don't alter the sound too much, but beyond that it starts to lose both lower and higher frequencies and generally sounds a bit crap. 

    Basically, I found that turning the amp up to 11 and then using a high attenuation setting didn't sound too good - it was more about finding the sweet spot of the volume I needed without compromising the sound of the amp too much. YMMV with other units of course. 
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 56948
    Clecko said:
    I think you might want to try a few options if you want to run an amp at full volume. I only have experience of a Marshall power Brake with a 30w Marshall Bluesbreaker.

    There are quite a few notches between min and max attenuation on the Power Brake. The first 3 or 4 are great and don't alter the sound too much, but beyond that it starts to lose both lower and higher frequencies and generally sounds a bit crap. 

    Basically, I found that turning the amp up to 11 and then using a high attenuation setting didn't sound too good - it was more about finding the sweet spot of the volume I needed without compromising the sound of the amp too much. YMMV with other units of course. 
    This is true. You need to set the amp for the rough amount of attenuation you're using - more bass and treble, less mid, possibly less gain than you expect, and not necessarily full volume - and not think that you can just crank the amp up full and then turn down the attenuator and get the same sound but quieter... it doesn't work like that.

    The OP will want something more modern with a line output though - I'm not too familiar with most of those unfortunately.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • CleckoClecko Frets: 137
    ICBM said:

    You need to set the amp for the rough amount of attenuation you're using - more bass and treble, less mid, possibly less gain than you expect, and not necessarily full volume - and not think that you can just crank the amp up full and then turn down the attenuator and get the same sound but quieter... it doesn't work like that.
    100% this. I found that - inevitably! - the point at which the amp started sounding really good was the point at which it was too loud for use in the house by any reasonable measure. An attenuator then let me push that a bit further still and dial back the decibels to a point that was OK - with a bit more bass, presence and treble and less mid as you say. 

    To play devil's advocate though, I can turn the amp down to just over 1, add a drive pedal and it sounds more or less as good without faffing with any attenuation, and way better than several 'low' wattage 'bedroom' valve amps I've owned or tried. 
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  • Slash'N'burnSlash'N'burn Frets: 139
    Clecko said:
    I think you might want to try a few options if you want to run an amp at full volume. I only have experience of a Marshall power Brake with a 30w Marshall Bluesbreaker.

    There are quite a few notches between min and max attenuation on the Power Brake. The first 3 or 4 are great and don't alter the sound too much, but beyond that it starts to lose both lower and higher frequencies and generally sounds a bit crap. 

    Basically, I found that turning the amp up to 11 and then using a high attenuation setting didn't sound too good - it was more about finding the sweet spot of the volume I needed without compromising the sound of the amp too much. YMMV with other units of course. 
    Must depend on the amp used as I don’t find that downside with the Marshall amps I’ve tried with a powerbrake - even on the quietest setting it retains full bass, maybe it loses a tiny bit of high treble (but sometimes you need that on a bright Marshall) overall I find the sound far far better than running without it and having the master volume low.
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  • daveyhdaveyh Frets: 560
    Seems a bit more complicated than I expected! At least I’ve learnt that turning up the amp full and using the attenuator as a kind of master volume isn’t how it works, saving me a fair bit of grief in the future! 
    Anyone had any experiences of the Weber Mass attenuators? They have EQ on them and can include a line out it seems which may be the best solution. I don’t know. 
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  • SassafrasSassafras Frets: 23873
    It would help to know which amp.
    I've usually found attenuating a maxed amp down to talking volume sounds pants.
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  • DodgeDodge Frets: 848
    daveyh said:

    Anyone had any experiences of the Weber Mass attenuators? They have EQ on them and can include a line out it seems which may be the best solution. I don’t know. 
    I've had one - it sounded ok, but very questionable build quality.  I wouldn't have another,

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  • daveyhdaveyh Frets: 560
    Sassafras said:
    It would help to know which amp.
    I've usually found attenuating a maxed amp down to talking volume sounds pants.
    At the moment I’m using a Marshall Origin 20H but I’m looking to upgrade to a SV20, hence the thinking about an attenuator
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  • CleckoClecko Frets: 137
    Slash'N'burn said:

    Must depend on the amp used as I don’t find that downside with the Marshall amps I’ve tried with a powerbrake - even on the quietest setting it retains full bass, maybe it loses a tiny bit of high treble (but sometimes you need that on a bright Marshall) overall I find the sound far far better than running without it and having the master volume low.
    That's so interesting - wonder if it was an issue with the Power Brake I had. 
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  • Dave_McDave_Mc Frets: 1109
    daveyh said:
    Sassafras said:
    It would help to know which amp.
    I've usually found attenuating a maxed amp down to talking volume sounds pants.
    At the moment I’m using a Marshall Origin 20H but I’m looking to upgrade to a SV20, hence the thinking about an attenuator
    Don't want to derail your thread, but would you regard the SV20 as an upgrade to the Origin? I haven't tried either- plus from what I've heard online, even though it has a master volume, the Origin has to be turned up to sound good. Or maybe you're using the inbuilt powerscaling? If so, how good is it?

    Regarding attenuators, I've only tried the Harley Benton one but it took away all the treble when trying to get down to home volumes...
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  • andy_kandy_k Frets: 550
    I was going to post this on a thread I started recently, but it seems very relevant here.
    I have been pulling out my seldom used, 32 year old JCM900 mk3 master volume amp, which I had previously used only at home, with a fairly clean setting, through a Weber Mass150, which I picked up because at the time, it was regarded as one of the best non tone sucking attenuators. It has dials for lows / mids and mids / highs, and a switch for low / high range? and a bypass. Connections at the back are for input, line out and 2 speakers, no impedance selection.
    I have the manual somewhere, and it says impedance can be ignored with this device, it uses resistance as a load, plus a speaker motor for a more natural response.
    Anyhow, that is how i used it last, but recently I wanted to just fire up the JCM to see how (if ) it works, and what condition it is in internally. Been bingeing on amp repair vids, so I thought I knew what I should be looking at.
    Everything looked fine, so I cleaned pots, inputs etc, and visually inspected caps-good to go.
    At this point I was not using the Weber, as it had developed a fault where one of the large pots would not rotate, seemed to be stuck in a position, so I hooked up the Marshall to a Powerbrake which was not getting much use, and went into a single Class5 cab, which is a 10 inch speaker rated at 15 watts, 16 ohm.
    The Powerbrake has a switch for 8-16 ohm, and so has the JCM, so all looked good, all knobs on the Marshall were set to 12 o clock, which is 50%, and I fired it up, watching the valves very closely for anything looking hot.
    BTW, this is a 50 watt amp, which has always been used at half power to reduce volume, and this time I was using the amp at full power, and had the Powerbrake at position 1, which is one above silent.
    In short, the sound was excellent, but still a touch too loud, and had just a little too much gain, but it was the first time I have really used this amp for any type of driven sound, always tending towards something digital at home.
    That was a couple of weeks ago, and today I have just spent an hour looking at what is going on, and I think I may have had a bit of a revelation here.
    The 'gain' sensitivity knob on a JCM900 mk 3, is basically the mod done to a JCM800 to get more gain from that amp, which in turn was basically a JMP in a new shell, early amps had the same circuit, so basically a direct descendant of JTM45, / Bassman circuit. That is how I can understand the lineage anyway, the Marshall has the tone stack in a different stage, and is using different components, but is basically the same, simple circuit.
    Less components = cleaner signal, more dependant on component variables.
    My revelation came when I turned the gain comp to 0, so essentially JCM800, with all other knobs set to 50%, and the sound was perfect to my ears, just a little too loud. Powerbrake will not go any quieter ( off is position 1), so my hypothesis is that the amp was designed to be neutral, or optimum, however you describe it, with everything at 12 o clock, allowing equal adjustment at either end.
    The pre amp and master sections are both set mid way, which allows either more, or less gain and volume, and the actual DB vol is determined by speaker selection and load.
    I realise this might be just a weird coincidence, and all settings are obviously adjustable to taste, but it makes sense that the sweet spot for all pots would be factory designed to be 50%, and these things are designed to be a certain loudness, for a very specific use-the stage and a live drummer.
    I don't think I will be trying out my hypothesis any time soon, but now I at least know to just set all knobs to 12, use Powerbrake at 1, and run into a 15 watt, 10 inch speaker.
    This is giving me the loud, clear tone that I like, and allows me to use various pedals to shape the drive tone, ie Klone into Guvner, and of course depends on the guitar used, I used my Frankenstein, with an EVH franky bridge pickup, and a stacked Seymour Duncan in the neck.
    Sorry for the long winded explanation, but as far as the attenuation goes, the Weber's fault eventually turned out to be one of the resistors inside, which are just hanging around, wired in series ( or parallel-not sure which ) was fouling on the heavy duty resistor pot, I used a few tie wraps to tidy things up, but it is a very crudely built device, and I would sell it if I thought it would survive the journey--no chance really, I don't know how it could have made it to me from the USA via the BBC ( E-bay ) and actually worked in the first place.
    I had been using the Powerbrake to tame a  5 watt Marshall class5 head into a 4 x 12, for my loud clean platform, and I shall now be trying to use the Weber for that set up instead, the Powerbrake is the perfect partner for the JCM900, and is something I will be playing about with again.
    My only concerns at this stage, is finding somebody local who I can actually trust to get this valve stuff serviced, and is another reason why I wouldn't want an amp to be running at anything  other than it's optimum, ticking over.
    Running stuff flat out is not really necessary in this day and age, but if you are happy to put extra strain on the equipment, it's all part of the fun.
    I think Marshall designed their stuff to be optimum at settings of 50%, is my theory.
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  • daveyhdaveyh Frets: 560
    Dave_Mc said:
    daveyh said:
    Sassafras said:
    It would help to know which amp.
    I've usually found attenuating a maxed amp down to talking volume sounds pants.
    At the moment I’m using a Marshall Origin 20H but I’m looking to upgrade to a SV20, hence the thinking about an attenuator
    Don't want to derail your thread, but would you regard the SV20 as an upgrade to the Origin? I haven't tried either- plus from what I've heard online, even though it has a master volume, the Origin has to be turned up to sound good. Or maybe you're using the inbuilt powerscaling? If so, how good is it?

    Regarding attenuators, I've only tried the Harley Benton one but it took away all the treble when trying to get down to home volumes...
    It’s not derailing at all, it’s a very valid question. 

    The Origin is a perfectly decent amp in my opinion, does what I want, gets me in the preferred plexi style ballpark. Powerscaling is fine for what it is, but it is better turned up.

    So  really the SV20 seems to me to be a modern plexi, with Origin a plexi style, and would just be more accurate. Of course being plexi it needs attenuation to use at home.
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  • Dave_McDave_Mc Frets: 1109
    ^ Brilliant, thanks. I guess... is the power scaling on the Origin 20 good enough to be used instead of attenuation? I've only tried powerscaling (actually VVR, but a similar idea) on one amp, my Valvepower Marshall 18 watt clone, and it works pretty well to my ears for bedroom volumes- better than my HB attenuator I mentioned.
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 56948
    edited July 8
    Dodge said:
    daveyh said:

    Anyone had any experiences of the Weber Mass attenuators? They have EQ on them and can include a line out it seems which may be the best solution. I don’t know. 
    I've had one - it sounded ok, but very questionable build quality.  I wouldn't have another,
    Likewise - and I didn't think it sounded very good either. It was only the Mini though - possibly the big ones are better.

    Clecko said:

    That's so interesting - wonder if it was an issue with the Power Brake I had. 
    Probably not. Some people seem to hear it differently. Personally, I don't mind attenuation at all - in fact I find I can often get *better* sounds with it than without - but some people hate it (even the same combinations of amps and attenuators) and say it kills the tone.

    For me it sounds better than power scaling as well. I don't like scaling at all - which I know is also contrary to popular wisdom. In fact I prefer a traditional master volume to scaling...

    Dave_Mc said:

    Don't want to derail your thread, but would you regard the SV20 as an upgrade to the Origin?
    Yes, hugely. I found the Origin mediocre-sounding and entirely uninspiring. The SV20 was really great for guitar-straight-in or with mild boost/overdrives, and sounded very much like a small Plexi - although it did compress too much and develop a 'one tone' sound at high volume with heavy fuzz and distortion.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • Dave_McDave_Mc Frets: 1109
    ICBM said:
    (a) Probably not. Some people seem to hear it differently. Personally, I don't mind attenuation at all - in fact I find I can often get *better* sounds with it than without - but some people hate it (even the same combinations of amps and attenuators) and say it kills the tone.

    For me it sounds better than power scaling as well. I don't like scaling at all - which I know is also contrary to popular wisdom. In fact I prefer a traditional master volume to scaling...

    Dave_Mc said:

    Don't want to derail your thread, but would you regard the SV20 as an upgrade to the Origin?
    (b) Yes, hugely. I found the Origin mediocre-sounding and entirely uninspiring. The SV20 was really great for guitar-straight-in or with mild boost/overdrives, and sounded very much like a small Plexi - although it did compress too much and develop a 'one tone' sound at high volume with heavy fuzz and distortion.
    (a) FWIW I don't mind master volumes, either- I'm definitely not in the camp which thinks gain controls are evil or anything like that! My feeling (which could well be wrong!) is that master volumes work great for higher gain tones (where you're not necessarily trying to mimic the sound of a vintage non-master amp turned up), and power scaling works better for when you are trying to mimic power tube distortion. But that's based on limited data points... :D (Plus I should probably have tried fiddling more with the amp controls when I was messing with the attenuator...)

    (b) Brilliant, thanks. What do you mean by "one tone"? I think I sort of know what you mean, but just in case I've got the wrong end of the stick... :D 


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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 56948
    Dave_Mc said:

    What do you mean by "one tone"? I think I sort of know what you mean, but just in case I've got the wrong end of the stick...
    It became so heavily compressed into the midrange that it started to sound like there was one note sitting on top of anything that was being played. It was right in the middle of the singer’s vocal range - she mentioned it first and said it was making it hard to hear herself.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • Dave_McDave_Mc Frets: 1109
    Oh ok, that's not what I thought you meant at all! That's not so great, thanks for the great info (as usual) :)
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  • russpmrusspm Frets: 345
    I’ve been using a De Lisle Drop Box for a while and it sounds great.
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  • garfygarfy Frets: 126
    Aracom…not cheap but they retain dynamics and harmonics even down to home levels. 
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