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Old 04-18-2011, 06:56 PM   #1
bubb_tubbs
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Bubb Tubbs' Guide to Attenuation, Or How to Be a Bedroom Hero for a **** Ton 'o Cash

I created this thread for selfish reasons: mainly, I'm just plain tired of the misinformation regarding attenuators on this forum and having to individually correct people, so with the creation of this thread I now have the opportunity to simply berate people for not using the searchbar or reading stickies.



Ain't life grand?

Let's start by formalizing the terminology, since there seems to be a lot of confusion as to what an attenuator actually is.

What is an Attenuator?

An attenuator is properly defined as: an electronic device that reduces the amplitude or power of a signal without appreciably distorting its waveform.

In plain English, this means that the attenuator reduces the volume (amplitude) without affecting the pitch frequency (waveform) of the sound or introducing additional clipping.

A major cause of confusion is that this definition can apply to other devices such as the infamous eBay attenuators:



These are nothing more than a volume pot in a box and function no differently than your standard volume pedal. If you attempt to use one of these between your tube amp and cab, fireworks will result. However, they still fit the definition of an attenuator, which is how they are able to be listed as such. The difference is that these are intended to attenuate the line level preamp signal going into the power amp (in the effects loop) or the guitar signal going to the preamp (in front) whereas a power attenuator is placed between the power amp output and the speakers and provides a variable load to control the current driving the cone movement.

Hereafter, “attenuator” will refer to the power attenuators, because I'm lazy and only nubcakes buy the other ones to blow up their amps.

The second issue that needs to be addressed is a pretty easy one:

Do I Need an Attenuator?

Generally, attenuators are used by people (such as myself) who desire the huge and harmonically rich sound that power tube saturation provides, usually for blues, classic rock, hard rock, and some early genres of metal. You can get this sound by using a small, low wattage amplifier cranked up, but it isn't quite the same – there's no substitute for the huge low end of a 100W or the fisty mid leads of a 50W in the small amps, though they're great amplifiers in their own right.

Since these amps are loud enough to shake your fillings loose, an attenuator is one of the few available options for cranking the volume to 11 and playing that “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” riff. (I'll deal with a few other methods later)

If you're playing br00tz through a modern amp, the answer is a very clear NO. This style of music relies heavily on a tight, gainy preamp distortion and the last thing you want is power tube sag.



Post-rock and modern rock rely pretty heavily on pedal or preamp distortion as well, so it's unlikely you need an attenuator, though using one and upping the Master on your JCM 900 definitely helps to make it less fizzy.

If your sole desire is to quiet your 5150, I suggest you either turn the volume right down and live with it, or buy a modeler that allows you to get a reasonable facsimile of that sound through headphones, like a Pod. (why the heck are you buying a 5150 to only play in your room at night and piss off your family anyways?)

With that messiness out of the way, let's assume you've decided you either need or really want an attenuator. How do we use these damn things?



How Do I Use an Attenuator?

Attenuators are placed between the power amp output and the speakers.



This can be a bit difficult for owners of combo amps as the speakers are usually hardwired, so modifying them with a speaker jack inside the combo cab is generally the quickest fix.



The best and most typical way to utilize your attenuator is for small volume drops. That is to say, taking the edge off a cranked up amplifier so you don't deafen (or kill) the audience or drown out your bandmates. Sound guys in clubs or at gigs are generally dicks about mixing, so make your life and theirs easier by reducing your sonic pwnage to a more manageable level.

The reasoning behind keeping your output as high as possible (within reason, of course, or you wouldn't need the attenuator) is that the frequency response of the human ear is variable at different volumes. Fletcher-Munson, or FM, curves illustrate this property. In the graph below, you see that the intensity of the low and high frequencies must be greater than those of the mids in order for the human ear to perceive them equally.



FM response is largely attributed to bedroom-level guitar volume “sucking” tone, when in actuality it is because the speakers just aren't pushing enough air for you to hear the frequencies in the same manner you would if you turned up the volume a bit.

This emphasizes the importance of cab selection when attenuating heavily, in that you don't want to be trying to push 50mW through two 60W speakers, because their performance will generally be quite poor. I typically use a 1x12 with a single 15W Alnico Blue type speaker for high attenuation and save my oversized 2x12 with Scumbacks for the louder stuff and it seems to work pretty well.



Now for the fun (or not so fun) part: picking an attenuator!
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Last edited by bubb_tubbs : 04-20-2011 at 02:59 PM.
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Old 04-18-2011, 06:56 PM   #2
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Old 04-18-2011, 06:57 PM   #3
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Resoived.
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Old 04-18-2011, 06:58 PM   #4
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'Zurrv'd.
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Old 04-18-2011, 06:59 PM   #5
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You need a new amp.
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:00 PM   #6
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I recommend a JCA20H with matching cab, a Schecter C1+ and Bareknuckle Nailbombs.
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:01 PM   #7
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You'll be so original.
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:01 PM   #8
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That's probably enough for now. Feel free to spam if you wish.
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:07 PM   #9
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how does it compare to the aracom?
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:08 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AcousticMirror
how does it compare to the aracom?

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Old 04-18-2011, 07:09 PM   #11
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Well,is there a cheaper way to be a Bedroom Hero?
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:12 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VillainousLatin
Well,is there a cheaper way to be a Bedroom Hero?

Turn down your volume.
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:12 PM   #13
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:24 PM   #14
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^ What he said.

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Old 04-18-2011, 07:26 PM   #15
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:27 PM   #16
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:28 PM   #17
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what about the koch loadbox II?
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Old 04-18-2011, 09:06 PM   #18
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First page!!!!
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Old 04-18-2011, 09:17 PM   #19
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very interesting.....
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Old 04-18-2011, 09:20 PM   #20
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all bullshit.




not really.
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