If you have a tube amp that you want to put into natural overdrive and it has a master and channel, could you turn your channel down and master up to serve as a attenuator kind of?
All the classic overdrive sounds come from power amp distortion - i.e. with the master turned up. Think Jimi Page, Tony Iommi, Hendrix etc. It's a good way to go.
Unfortunately, the master volume is just that- a master volume. With the pre volume turned way down, the power tubes will be getting very little juice from the preamp and won't crunch as nicely. You can try it, but I think the result will be less distortion rather than more.
Yeah... On my amp, I get a nice natural overdrive by cranking the channel volume. Obviously it sounds better with the master up. In short, either can produce overdrive (obviously depending on the amp), but the combination will give you the fat sound you're looking for. If I crank the channel volume and get the master over 7 on my valve amp (Very loud), it souunds incredible, and really articulate. It's better to get a lower wattage tube amp to achieve this, as it may save your ears. My drummer has a heavy workout at jam sessions, as the other guitarist has a 50 watt jcm 800 single channel, which is abominably loud lol.

Good luck

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You'll really need a proper attenuator if you want power amp distortion at low levels. Or a low-wattage tube amp.