Hello everyone. I am moving from a house to an apartment with my Marshall 6100LM and DSL100H soon, and am wondering if you all have any advice on a power attenuator so I can play these 100w beasts at a bedroom level. I may also sell one of my 412 cabs to downgrade to a 112 or 212 Harley Benton loaded with V30's cabs to keep things manageable. Thoughts? Advice?
- Lord Bosch
You'll get a lot of advice on attenuators here, but I thought I'd drop an unusual one on you.

First, *all* attenuators drop in between the output transformer and the voice coil of the speaker. That circuit is one of the most important to a tube amp, and one that really has an impact on tone. In every case, a good attenuator will have at least some controls to attempt to compensate for what it lost.

Take a look at a Fluxtone speaker. It's expensive, but it won't drop into that OT <-> Voice coil circuit. Instead, it uses a variable electromagnet on the back of the speaker. You can get this in EV-L, V30, etc. configurations so that the moving parts that actually produce the distinct speaker sound are still in place. The variable electromagnet allows you to reduce the efficiency of the speaker, which enables a volume drop of up to 25 dB. That's like turning your 100W amp into a 1/2 W. Here's the thing, though. If you bought your Marshall for its tone, and you want to hear that tone, but at a lower output, this is the way to go.


Last edited by dspellman at Aug 2, 2017,
If sound quality doesn't matter that much and you're on a budget, just about any attenuator will do. The THD Hot Plate is popular. It is a resistive attenuator, which means it will suck your high and low end dry, but it has switches on it to compensate somewhat. These are completely passive.

If sound quality does matter, then a reactive attenuator is what you want, but they are expensive. The three I landed on when shopping for one are from Suhr, Rivera, and Two Notes. I ended up getting the Two Notes Torpedo Reload, which is also a re-amper, but it is upwards of $850. I haven't noticed much of a difference in sound when using the Two Notes vs straight into the speaker (other than the change that not driving the speaker that hard makes).

There are also resistive and reactive load boxes which would require an external amp. These usually have speaker simulation built-in.

Here's a video Pete Thorn posted showing the difference between resistive and reactive loads (I don't think he engaged the bass and treble switches on the THD). The comparison is at 16:04-ish:

"Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect." -some dude
Last edited by Prime2515102 at Aug 2, 2017,
I have a simple 12bD L-pad attenuator, and it is a tone killer, so I would dismiss those as having any potential for what you want. They are apparently suitable for low levels of attenuation, up to maybe 6dB, but that isn't what you will want, around 25dB. Getting 100w down the about 0.5w (bedroom level) via attenuation seems like a big ask to me. If there is anything out there suitable, I would expect it to be expensive. Maybe the fluxtone speakers suggested by dspellman  are the answer. I personally would go clean plus pedals, or maybe use the master volume and just have some preamp OD.
Power Attenuator won't do enough without compressing the sound for what your trying to do , I would start with 1x12 with a " not very sensitive" speaker and Master Volume tweak 
I should note that I've been through several attenuators (we used to keep coffee cups on the THD Hot Plate -- it's aptly named), and there are at least three major varieties that have floated through.

One is a simple load box full of resistors, like the Hot Plate. They're just seriously large box-shaped resistors that dissipate the power of the amp as heat. Generally the least expensive. The Marshall Power Brake was an excellent example of how NOT to build these, by the way. Don't buy one.

There are also the reactive load boxes, some of which actually have what amounts to a speaker motor without a cone. The Weber MASS attenuators fall into this category, and they claim to present a load to the output transformer that's more dynamic and gives a better "feel" to the amp. It comes with a lot of tone stack controls to make up for the fact that it's definitely not transparent.

Still others use what's almost a "reverse amplifier" to electronically reduce overall output to the speaker. I can't think of one of these that's still in business at the moment.

Some of the load boxes (resistor based) out there are pretty sophisticated (Palmer, Two Notes Studio stuff) and reduce the signal to a point where it can be fed directly into a mixer (and some have pretty sophisticated, even including IR, setups to simulate speaker cabinets and the like before passing the signal on). Normally used by arena acts running direct to serious PA systems. They rarely run out to a speaker. Expensive stuff.
I have an Altair power attenuator available for $80.  PM me if you want it.  I gigged with it for a while and found it useful at minus 8 through minus 12db.  This kept me from getting kicked out of clubs in Hollywood with my old 100w Plexi.    If you need to go minus 30 db, forgetaboutit.  Way too much tone suck at high attn levels.

The best apartment solution is always to leave your amp in the rehearsal studio and practice at home with a DMFX and headphones. 
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
For more transparent dropping of high levels down to TV level I'd use a re-amper (Unleash, Power Station, or Ultimate). To me, standard passive attenuators kill the tone when set for more than a few dB of attenuation.
Some amount of loss of tone is to be expected. I'd like a solution that works in the $300 range at most. I feel like the Two Notes Torpedo Live would be the ultimate solution, but alas the $1000 price tag is a bit much. A reactive load box would be better, but I am not sure of any within my price point.
- Lord Bosch
Would looping the Preamps of my Marshall into one of these new minihead's power section be a decent way to keep the sound of the 6100LM? I've been thinking about grabbing a used HK Tube Meister 18 or 6505MH in a swap for the DSL100H.
- Lord Bosch
Would that be any different from turning the gain up and the master volume down? - You're still losing whatever benefit there might be in pushing the DSL100 power amp. From what I have read, modern OD derives from the preamp, not the power amp anyway, maybe someone can comment on this.
Tony Done the master volumes on 100w tube amps often go from zero to too loud with the lightest touch, nothing in between.
- Lord Bosch
Quote by Tony Done
Would that be any different from turning the gain up and the master volume down? - You're still losing whatever benefit there might be in pushing the DSL100 power amp. From what I have read, modern OD derives from the preamp, not the power amp anyway, maybe someone can comment on this.

it does. pushing the preamp is where distortion sounds take place in the vast majority of amps with a master volume. power tube distortion takes way to much volume to achieve. 

as for the master volume well yeah it can be a bit tricky on many amps in terms of finding the sweet spot for low volume playing. you also have to eq it for that volume otherwise it often sounds like ass. 
I've heard that the super heavy rhythm tone on early Weezer albums came from a P90 les paul into what might have been a mesa "pre-mk1" amp played at low volume.

Or.....you could keep the 4x12 and drive it with a tiny amp.

You can't fake the bass of a 4x12 with a tiny speaker/cab but you can always find a way to turn down the bass if needed.

Funny guy on youtube seems to have tried every permutation of amp/cab/guitar combos.

He's likely already posted a video of almost any gear combination question you could ever think of.