#1
whats the difference between the more expensive attenuators like Ultimate attenuator and cheaper ones like THD Hotplate or webber mass? do the cheaper ones suck your tone ? I'm thinking about ordering an attenuator for my tube amp but i want to be sure im not buying something that will compromise my tone quality significantly.

advice would be great,
thanks
#2
An attenuator converts power into heat, so your signal to the cabinet is reduced. That is undoubtedly an oversimplification of the process, but that's basically it. The good ones all do exactly the same thing, so the differences in price aren't going to reflect features or performance. I don't know about the Weber, but the THD Hot Plate isn't cheap. It usually sells for about US$350.00 new. It has become pretty much the industry standard. It comes in different ohms ratings, so make sure you get the one that is best suited for your amplifier and cabinet arrangement.
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#3
The more expensive ones tend to be more transparent when knocking off a lot of volume. The THD, Weber, etc. all tend to be good at knocking off a few dB to make a very loud amp a loud amp. Some like the Faustine Phantom are claimed to be completely transparent down to bedroom levels, although I've never tried them since they are rare and expensive. If you want to crank an amp and attenuate it to bedroom levels, you're just going to kill your tone. A master volume is more effective IMO and much cheaper if you're amp already has one and still cheaper if you have to install one.
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#5
Quote by mmolteratx
The more expensive ones tend to be more transparent when knocking off a lot of volume. The THD, Weber, etc. all tend to be good at knocking off a few dB to make a very loud amp a loud amp. Some like the Faustine Phantom are claimed to be completely transparent down to bedroom levels, although I've never tried them since they are rare and expensive. If you want to crank an amp and attenuate it to bedroom levels, you're just going to kill your tone. A master volume is more effective IMO and much cheaper if you're amp already has one and still cheaper if you have to install one.


You've brought up a very important and often overlooked point regarding amplifier sound and tone. I hate all of the reviews and comments that say such-and-such amplifier sounds terrible; blah, blah, blah; and the reviewer never turned the amplifier up past 1 or 2 on the volume. Amplifiers not only sound better at higher volume (up to a point); they most certainly do sound different. You could take the finest sounding amplifier on the market and if you drive the gain and then drop it to bedroom levels or crank a non-master volume amp through a power attenuator down to the same levels, the sound isn't going to be much to write home about.
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#6
The UA is pretty damn transparent all the way down to bedroom levels. It's a slaving system in a box. It is far superior to the Weber and THD Hotplate in performance.

You can do this for much cheaper than the cost of a UA. Using something like a Weber with a line-out into a cheap power amp like a Crate Power Block or any old amp that you may have lying around and control the volume via the amp, not the attentuator. A high wattage load with a line out will do this as well.
Last edited by al112987 at Jul 5, 2010,
#7
The load is like 32ohms though. Some say they've had problems with transformer arcing, some say they've never had a problem. Those that don't have a problem tend to really like it though.
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#8
yeah i've heard that as well, i've always heard that it generally takes a pretty big mismatch for the ot to arc, but who knows. maybe some are more robust than others.
#9
Most of the people having problems play hot rodded Marshall type amps where the output circuit isn't particularly well designed from what I've heard. There was a thread over on the Metro Amp forum where Jim from Southbay Ampworks/Scumback said his UA choked and killed the tone but then got another one and loved it almost as much as the Faustine.
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#10
if anything the consensus right now is that the ultimate attentuator is a cheap piece of crap.

basically it shoots your output into a solid state load resistor then uses that solid state load resistor to reamp the sound. it's basically a line level load into a solid state amp.

I havent heard anyone I trust give it good reviews.

The cream of the attentuator crop right now is the faustline phantom and the aracom.
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#11
Alex's Attenuator made by 908ssp on the Gear Page is also ranked up there with the Aracom and Faustine.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Feel free to express yours so I can make an informed judgement about how stupid you are.
#12
If you search "best attenuator" in Google the results, unfortunately, state nothing in the way of materiality. There are too many conditions to differentiate what is the "best" and what is not.

Really, if you can, try them all out with your specific rig, because they are often dependant on your amp, guitar and speakers; everything is a determining factor.

Also, the Ultimate Attenuator is not the 'ultimate attenuator' for a lot of people since it's so expensive and isn't as transparent for some as it is to others. Which poses the question, do I even need one in the first place?

Certain models suit certain amps and are not designed for extreme “suck”, such as the THD Hotplates. And there is also the way in which certain amplifiers don't need power-tube break-up to sound good. Diezel, Fryette, Soldano, Cornford - they all fit that criteria. Stick an attenuator in between a Diezel amp and a 4x12 and it turns buzzy and weird. However, pair it with a Soldano and it roars. Granted, specific frequencies are cut, but that's the price you pay.

I think the Dr. Z Airbrake sounds like it could be one of the best since it's received predominantly favourable reviews and doesn't require specific impedance like the THD Hotplates do.
#13
^ The ones Min and I listed are far better than those others, save perhaps the UA.

I'm picking up either a Phantom or an Alex sometime before Christmas.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Feel free to express yours so I can make an informed judgement about how stupid you are.
#14
Quote by bubb_tubbs
^ The ones Min and I listed are far better than those others, save perhaps the UA.

I'm picking up either a Phantom or an Alex sometime before Christmas.
wait... wat
#15
^ I'll be replacing the MASS with either a Faustine Phantom or an Alex's Attenuator (Faustine copy done by a Gear Page member with amazing reviews on TGP and MetroAmp) before December 25, 2010.

They're basically the same except the Phantom is about half the size, has impedance switching and 2dB per click instead of 3dB per click.

Other than that they're identical and completely transparent down to bedroom levels if you wanted.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

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#16
I don't know why you were talking to me since I didn't mention any attenuators other than what you and others had already said - and I didn't say they were good or bad. That's what confused me. I'm still kinda confused.
#17
An attenuator is just a tool for certain applications. At about 50 watts, 3db to 6db does wonders. Trainwreck circuits like bubbs 45 work great and sound great with them.

They won't get a 100 watt non mv amp to reasonable bedroom levels without ruining the amp. Most of the time if ur needing that u bought the wrong amp.

You don't need an attenuator for a high gain 100 watt head ever. That would be defeating the purpose of all that headroom. My slo is whisper quite when I want it to be. Sure it doesn't sound the same as it does when it's cranked. But, those cranked qualities like extnded bass response and crunchier lower mids are exactly what u lose through attentuation.
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#18
Quote by AngryGoldfish
I don't know why you were talking to me since I didn't mention any attenuators other than what you and others had already said - and I didn't say they were good or bad. That's what confused me. I'm still kinda confused.


Quote by AngryGoldfish
I think the Dr. Z Airbrake sounds like it could be one of the best since it's received predominantly favourable reviews and doesn't require specific impedance like the THD Hotplates do.

Don't remember posting that? I was disagreeing.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Feel free to express yours so I can make an informed judgement about how stupid you are.
Last edited by bubb_tubbs at Jul 5, 2010,
#19
Quote by bubb_tubbs
Don't remember posting that? I was disagreeing.
Ahh, bloody hell, how could I miss that?! That's my mistake. Soz.

Regarding the actual discussion, I haven't played the Airbrake, only read the many positive reviews. Have you tried it?

I haven't heard of those others. I'll have to check them up. I want one for my Soldano.

Quote by AcousticMirror
An attenuator is just a tool for certain applications. At about 50 watts, 3db to 6db does wonders. Trainwreck circuits like bubbs 45 work great and sound great with them.

They won't get a 100 watt non mv amp to reasonable bedroom levels without ruining the amp. Most of the time if ur needing that u bought the wrong amp.

You don't need an attenuator for a high gain 100 watt head ever. That would be defeating the purpose of all that headroom. My slo is whisper quite when I want it to be. Sure it doesn't sound the same as it does when it's cranked. But, those cranked qualities like extnded bass response and crunchier lower mids are exactly what u lose through attentuation.
+1

I dunno about the SLO... I found an attenuator to work quite well with it. And I also found it lacked a really precise master volume. After 10 o'clock I didn't perceive a hugely noticeable difference. But that could of just been the one I tried or my ears playing tricks on me.

I think attenuation still allows for a strong segment of bass and dynamics if the amp is still played relatively loudly. I mean, I never practise at quiet volumes. It's always well-above normal television levels, simply because it's more fun! And that's where the Fletcher Munson effect comes in.
#20
I own a 100w weber mass and it is fabulous. I can get the splawn master to like noon if i want.

EDIT: Holy heck did i just read that the phaustine fantom is 800 bucks

The weber was like 200 bones I think.
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Last edited by Matt15f at Jul 5, 2010,
#21
Quote by AngryGoldfish
Ahh, bloody hell, how could I miss that?! That's my mistake. Soz.

Regarding the actual discussion, I haven't played the Airbrake, only read the many positive reviews. Have you tried it?

I haven't heard of those others. I'll have to check them up. I want one for my Soldano.

+1

I dunno about the SLO... I found an attenuator to work quite well with it. And I also found it lacked a really precise master volume. After 10 o'clock I didn't perceive a hugely noticeable difference. But that could of just been the one I tried or my ears playing tricks on me.

I think attenuation still allows for a strong segment of bass and dynamics if the amp is still played relatively loudly. I mean, I never practise at quiet volumes. It's always well-above normal television levels, simply because it's more fun! And that's where the Fletcher Munson effect comes in.


oh I don't doubt that it works. I just wouldn't go out of my way to grab an attenuator for my slo as opposed to some other amps.

The faustline phantom costs so much because it's a friggin machine. It's not just a load box. You could grab one and use it in the studio forever.
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#24
Quote by jpnyc
No. That’s just a volume box with a stupid name.

I'll venture a second noob question then. Why wouldn't you just stick a volume box/pedal in an effects loop, bring your tube amp up to good sounding volume, and then bring it back down using the volume box/pedal?
#25
Quote by Dimeborg
I'll venture a second noob question then. Why wouldn't you just stick a volume box/pedal in an effects loop, bring your tube amp up to good sounding volume, and then bring it back down using the volume box/pedal?

You'd basically be doing the same thing as if you were just leaving your amp at that lower volume in the first place. It's just a master volume control in pedal form.
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#26
Quote by AcousticMirror
oh I don't doubt that it works. I just wouldn't go out of my way to grab an attenuator for my slo as opposed to some other amps.

The faustline phantom costs so much because it's a friggin machine. It's not just a load box. You could grab one and use it in the studio forever.

what i am having trouble grasping is what the difference is between this phaustine thing and an 'average' priced attenuator like a weber? 800$ is a high price for an attenuator.
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#27
Quote by justinb904
You'd basically be doing the same thing as if you were just leaving your amp at that lower volume in the first place. It's just a master volume control in pedal form.


Only if the amp has a master volume to begin with. On an amp without a master volume a volume box is a nice way to get some extra gain out of the preamp without blasting the volume.

what i am having trouble grasping is what the difference is between this phaustine thing and an 'average' priced attenuator like a weber? 800$ is a high price for an attenuator.

What’s the difference between a Toyota and a Lexus? Both are going to work. In theory the expensive one might preserve a tiny bit more of your precious tube tone so that you can imagine you sound just like your guitar idol while playing in tiny venues where the crap acoustics probably make it irrelevant anyway.
#28
Well the faustline unless I'm thinking about the Aracom has adjustable loads, emulation for a bunch of things, bunch of different speaker put options, a variety of different attenuation options

also, what production amps without a master volume have an effects loop?
Prs se Holcomb is the answer
Last edited by AcousticMirror at Jul 5, 2010,
#29
Goldfish, the Air Brake is like the THD. It sounds nice to knock the volume down a few dBs but it just kills the dynamics and tone at higher settings.

Min, the Phantom is pretty bare boned. Just the -2dB click knob, the variable knob, impedance setting and a line out. The Aracom is the one with a ton of features.

The Phantom is expensive because it uses expensive parts and it takes a lot of work to shove the circuit into the little THD sized box. If you've seen the inside of one, they're packed tight. They're completely hand built and the like. Whether or not they're worth it, I can't say since they're rare as hell but from what many people I trust say, it's the best unit around.
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#30
So, if i'm only using small to moderate amounts of attenuation cheap attenuators like webber mass or THD won't affect my tone am i correct?
#31
If you only want to take off 3-6dB or so, yea, they work great. Anything more and they start to compress the sound and destroy anything you'd gain from cranking the amp up.
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#32
Quote by mmolteratx
If you only want to take off 3-6dB or so, yea, they work great. Anything more and they start to compress the sound and destroy anything you'd gain from cranking the amp up.


Ok. i'm playing a Mesa triple rectifier and the sweet spot is just a tad above comfortable volume level.
#33
That's what most attenuators are good at. So one could definitely be useful in your case.
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