Power Attenuators Common Myths Dispelled

How power attenuators work and where they should be used.

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Power attenuators are an essential tool for many guitarists, both professional and amateur, who need to tame their valve (tube) amp and save their hearing! What is a Power Attenuator? Power attenuators are a useful tool which are placed between the power amp and the speaker section of a guitar amp. There is no need for me to go into technical specifics, but if you're interested in finding out exactly how an attenuator works, there's plenty of information on the UG.com forums, however, in essence, a power attenuator converts some of the sound energy created by the amp into heat energy before it reaches the speaker. Why should I bother with a Power Attenuator on a Master Volume amp? As we all know, valve amps are extremely loud. Although many people don't know it, every day when they power up that 100w half stack, they are playing at volume levels well over the 'safe' 90db limit. So what is the problem? Can't they just turn down? On many amps (a classic example being the Marshall JCM800). The bright cap in this amp only kicks in when you raise the volume, meaning it will sound very thin without keeping the master volume above 4-5. If this component is removed from the circuit, it ruins the amps tone. With a power attenuator you can easily regulate your volume without having to drop your master volume to a level where you stop enjoying your tone, and yet retain your hearing! How should I use my Power Attenuator? Disconnect the speaker in your amp or unplug the cab from your head. Take a speaker cable and connect it from the speaker out (usually on your amps rear panel) to the corresponding input jack on your attenuator (read the manual if you are unsure which this is). Then, run another speaker cable from the speaker out jack on the attenuator (again, check your manual) to the cab/speaker in. Power up your amp (make sure you only do this after everything is correctly connected or you will blow out your amps Output Transformer), crank the master volume to an appropriately loud level, and then use your attenuators volume control to regulate the sound to an appropriate level. After a while, you should be able to find the 'sweet spot' where the amp is sounding its best, and then you can pretty much leave the attenuator alone. Common Myths Dispelled 1. Power Attenuators Suck Tone: This isn't strictly a myth, but it comes from to many people who expect a power attenuator to magically turn their 100w non master volume amps into bedroom amps! Attenuators aren't designed to be run at maximum levels of attenuation, and at this point ANY attenuator will suck tone. Also, some people buy the cheapest attenuator they can - attenuators are just like any other piece of gear! The more you pay, the better you get. Higher end attenuators will suck little or no tone from your amp as long as they are used correctly 2. Power Attenuators can Damage your Amp: If you connect the fan (or just make sure that your attenuator isn't getting too hot) and connect your power attenuator correctly, there is no reason a correctly functioning power attenuator would harm your amp. They can, however, cause your power tubes to rise to higher temperatures, meaning that they might wear out more quickly.

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    OtisBDriftwood
    An L-pad is a VERY affordable option, seldom discussed; probably because it's an inexpensive option to big-dollar attenuators. You can get a 100 watt L-pad for less than $20.00. I use a 50 watt, 16 ohm L-pad for my 7 watt (class A, single 12ax7 to EL84 amp) and it doesn't even get warm. Sounds **really** good too!!
    shredbanez
    Thank you...nice article. Could you put up an article that lists a few good attenuators? I have recently purchased a Bugera 6260 Infinium 2X12 120 watt tube amp.. while I love the tones I can get out of it, this being my first tube amp,I know what I'm using is preamp distortion. Its so loud that I rarely cross 1.5 on the lead channel vol knob, and just use the gain knob for distortion. therefore its safe to say I've never "cranked" up a tube amp to the point of saturated power tube distortion, and have no idea how that would sound and feel. I want to crank up my new amp, for power tube distortion, and use an attenuator for volume control. I don't want to dial it up fully..I want to go about 3/4ths of the way, which I believe should be sufficient for my needs. Which attenuator should I get? Would a 200 watt one be enough/appropriate? thanks in advance!!!
    joselutier
    Another solution is to use one simple speaker from Hifi home those with biamp input (four wires) then we have to use only it sub woofer input. So our guitar amp will "see" 6 ohms of load but all frecuencies upper 40hz result strong attenued.
    rockkiller23
    rockkiller23 wrote: rockkiller23 wrote: "Higher end attenuators will suck little or no tone from your amp as long as they are used correctly " my friend, you use other Myths mislead us also. haha. In fact we know, It is hearing curve not attenaution effect our feeling. Each expensive attenuator always told us that the sound attenuated by them were same as orignal sound. it is kidding, Do you agree that one 100w amp could have same feeling of 1w amp? Why don't people only buy samller one not bigger amp.The important things of attenuator is appreaciat attenuation rat, not too bigger, not too smaller. Too bigger means the volume to lower ,hearing curve told us that lower and high freq are sensitive than middle freq sound, so people would hearing them lost more when the volume lower. I buy one cheaper attenuator, only two toggle -6db, -12 db, named by power pluge . very good , I only attenuator it more in 12 db,and adjust my EQ. It is o.k
    rockkiller23
    "Higher end attenuators will suck little or no tone from your amp as long as they are used correctly " my friend, you use other Myths Dispelled us also. haha. In fact we know, It is hearing curve not attenautor effect our feeling. Each expensive attenuator always told us that the sound attenuated by their attenuator were same as prime sound. it is kidding, Do you agree with one 100w amp have same feeling of 1w amp? Why people make so larger watt amp not samller one.The important things of attenuator is appreaciat rat, not too bigger, not too smaller. Too bigger will let your sound thinner and soft, too smaller let your neighbor still angrous. I buy one cheaper attenuator, only two toggle -6db, -12 db, power pluge name. very good .
    rockkiller23
    rockkiller23 wrote: "Higher end attenuators will suck little or no tone from your amp as long as they are used correctly " my friend, you use other Myths mislead us also. haha. In fact we know, It is hearing curve not attenaution effect our feeling. Each expensive attenuator always told us that the sound attenuated by them were same as orignal sound. it is kidding, Do you agree that one 100w amp could have same feeling of 1w amp? Why don't people only buy samller one not bigger amp.The important things of attenuator is appreaciat attenuation rat, not too bigger, not too smaller. Too bigger means the volume to lower ,hearing curve told us that lower and high freq are sensitive than middle freq sound, so people would hearing them lost more when the volume lower. I buy one cheaper attenuator, only two toggle -6db, -12 db, power pluge name. very good , I only attenuator it more in 12 db,and adjust my EQ. It is o.k