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#1
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!
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 Apr 20, 2011,
#2
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 Apr 18, 2011,
#3
Resoived.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Feel free to express yours so I can make an informed judgement about how stupid you are.
#4
'Zurrv'd.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Feel free to express yours so I can make an informed judgement about how stupid you are.
#5
You need a new amp.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Feel free to express yours so I can make an informed judgement about how stupid you are.
#6
I recommend a JCA20H with matching cab, a Schecter C1+ and Bareknuckle Nailbombs.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Feel free to express yours so I can make an informed judgement about how stupid you are.
#7
You'll be so original.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Feel free to express yours so I can make an informed judgement about how stupid you are.
#8
That's probably enough for now. Feel free to spam if you wish.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Feel free to express yours so I can make an informed judgement about how stupid you are.
#10
Quote by AcousticMirror
how does it compare to the aracom?

Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Feel free to express yours so I can make an informed judgement about how stupid you are.
#12
Quote by VillainousLatin
Well,is there a cheaper way to be a Bedroom Hero?

Turn down your volume.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Feel free to express yours so I can make an informed judgement about how stupid you are.
#18
First page!!!!
Guitars:
LTD Alexi-600 White & Black
LTD Alexi-200 Black(Death Adder pickup & Gold OFR)
Agile Interceptor Pro 727 7-string
Jackson JS30RR rhoads
Jackson DKMGT
Squire telecaster

amps:
Bugera 6262 212 loaded with WGS veteran 30's
#20
all bullshit.




not really.
Why don't they make mouse flavored cat food?
Last edited by gregs1020 at Apr 18, 2011,
#21
amps sound better louder, but not for brootz, but for hard rock, more volume, less pre-gain, more win.
on my jsx it sounds better that way. remember to add that turning amp volume to 1, cranking max attenuation, then cranking amp to 11 = not happy attenuator.
#22
Getting to that, though there shouldn't be any problems if you've properly sized the load.

I ran my JCM 800 flat out cranked through a Weber MASS most of the time with no problems.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Feel free to express yours so I can make an informed judgement about how stupid you are.
#24
...be a Bed-room-herooooo (with staaars in his eyes)...

Quote by EyeNon15
Thats too bad, I was under the impression I was arguing something profound


1 3 5 R
2 4 6
#25
Getting to the types...

^ haha I was totally thinking of that song when I wrote the title.
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 Apr 18, 2011,
#26
Quote by AcousticMirror
what about the dr z brakelite?


As you increase the attenuation to maximum its impedance goes to about 20 or so ohms. It was never meant to really be used to attenuate down all the way but some people do that. If used for long periods of time I'm willing to bet it may kill some tubes. But it isn't a matching attenuator. It works pretty well though, has the normal losses you get at low volumes due to the Fletcher-Munson curves.

The Ultimate Attenuator on the other hand... stay the **** away...
Last edited by XgamerGt04 at Apr 18, 2011,
#28
Quote by bubb_tubbs


I ran my JCM 800 flat out cranked through a Weber MASS most of the time with no problems.


I so want to do this with my Mig 50...
#31
Quote by CodeMonk
The best attenuator is to live in a house with no neighbors nearby.


Don't you have a stable to clean or something?

#32
Quote by irnmadn88
Don't you have a stable to clean or something?




I pay people for that
Although I do do some maintenance around here.
#33
what about hooking up this box of resistors to my speaker to load it down.
buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.
#36
My neighbors/family/sound guy can just deal with it.
Quote by blackflag49
Condoms, for all the copious amounts of pussy with which you will be inevitably bombarded from this moment onward.


#38
I still think he should discharge them across his balls.

I'd pay.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Feel free to express yours so I can make an informed judgement about how stupid you are.
#40
You mean I can't use an attenuator on a combo amp? Now how am I going to get a decent low volume tone out of my 6505+ 112? I'm only a bedroom player; I didn't buy this thing for loud-ass noises! Where is the headphone jack on this sumbitch?
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