Price paid: $ 56
Purchased from: www.bitmomodkits.com
Ease of Use: To start with, there is a box and a plate version of the 10-uator the box version is a separate box between your head and cab, and the plate version is actually attached to the back of your amp head. This review is concerning the box version. The 10 watt version of the 10-uator box is basically for any tube amp at 10 watts or lower (there is also a 30 watt version available, box or plate, on the site). The specific amps listed as compatible with the 10 watt version of the 10-uator Box are the Epiphone Valve Jr, Blackheart Little Giant, Fender Camp, Champion 600, Vox AC4, etc. The 10-uator is passive, and doesn't require any source of power.
The 10-uator Box comes as an unassembled kit, and has to be put together. Putting together the 10-uator Box requires access to the correct tools and some rudimentary soldering skills. The tools needed are a Phillips head screwdriver, soldering iron, solder, wire stripper, needle nose pliers, and a drill with a 3/8 bit. It takes about 2 hours to assemble the 10-uator Box and it comes with detailed instructions including illustrations and diagrams. When I rate ease of use it will be for the actual use of the Bitmo Mods 10-uator Box, not for the construction. Basically, if you don't know how to solder well, chances are you know someone who does have them do it if you aren't comfortable doing it yourself.
I used the Bitmo Mods 10-uator Box with a Blackheart Little Giant BH5H head and the Blackheart 12 cab. Running the amp through the 10-uator to the cab, the only control is the actual 10-uator knob, which controls the speaker volume allowing you to crank the volume on your amp to achieve the desired level of tube distortion and then lowering the volume going to the speaker to achieve bedroom volume levels. The 10-uator Box should be connected to the amp via the 8 ohm speaker output, but from the 10-uator Box you can go to 4, 8 or 16 ohm speakers.
You can also use the Bitmo Mods 10-uator Box to go through the Line Out to go to another amplifier, using the Original amp as a tube preamp, to a mixer or to a computer sound card. If you do this then there is a separate Line Out volume you should use and according to the instructions that came along, only attenuate about half-way and use the Line Out volume for the rest, so the load is shared between the L-Pad (component under the attenuation knob) and the power resistor (the component below the Line Out volume). I have used the 10-uator Box only very briefly for this purpose, but mainly because my other amps are small crappy solid states and it sounds better to me just going straight to the cab.
If you have used attenuators before, you know that heat is generated by the attenuation, and to this end the 10-uator Box does not have a bottom, but is open and has 4 rubber feet. The open bottom is to allow the heat to dissipate. I have played my amp a few times where I've had the attenuation set at around 75% for an hour or so each time and there is some heat generated, but not too bad. Of course, I didn't reach in and touch the L-Pad because I'm pretty sure it is enough heat to be fairly painful.
Basically, the Bitmo Mods 10-uator Box is super easy to use. You run a line from the 8 ohm line out on your amp to the From Amp input on the 10-uator, then run a line from the To Speaker output to your 4, 8 or 16 ohm speaker. You turn your volume up on the amp to your desired amount of tube distortion, and then turn the 10-uator knob till you get the volume you want coming from the speaker. Again, I'm rating the actual ease of use of the 10-uator Box and not the construction of the box. // 9
Sound: Once the Bitmo Mods 10-uator Box was constructed, I put it though some serious testing. I ran it between the head and cab of my Blackheart Little Giant 5 watt tube amp. I used a G&L Tribute Series S500, a Xaviere XV-899, an Ibanez ArtCore AXD83P, an Ibanez RG370 and a generic LP double cut with a Seymour Duncan SH-8 Invader in the bridge. At extremely attenuated levels the tone IS affected, but not tremendously. To me, when the amp is extremely attenuated the signal sounds just a little compressed. There is absolutely no extraneous noise created by the 10-uator Box. The Bitmo Mods 10-uator Box does exactly what it says it does, which allows you to get your golden tube distorted tones at bedroom level volume.
I ran through playing in a range between several Pink Floyd songs, to AC/DC, to several early Metallica and Megadeth songs just running straight into the amp, then through the 10-uator Box. I was able to get all of those distortions with my wife in the next room, who I asked to let me know if she could hear the amp, and she never did. The tone really was exceptional, even severely attenuated. I am rating sound based off of a certain line of logic if my tube distorted tone of my amp un-attenuated is a 10, then being severely attenuated to achieve that distortion at a super low volume, I would rate the tone in comparison as a high 8. // 8
Reliability & Durability: The Bitmo Mods 10-uator Box is not a stomp box, and isn't built to sit on your pedal board or on the floor. The bottom is open to allow heat to dissipate, which means all the innards are exposed from the bottom. The casing is plastic and is sufficiently thick to sit on your head or cab, but wouldn't necessarily survive drops, falls, etc., but I haven't tested this out, heh. I think that the 10-uator Box would survive indefinitely if used correctly and taken care of, but I do not think it would survive even moderately rough treatment for very long. I am forced to give a low rating for reliability & durability because of this, but again, as long as the 10-uator Box is taken care of and used correctly, I feel like it would last forever. // 6
Overall Impression: This is a simple tool, but it accomplishes a very important task for those who want that tube distortion tone without disturbing their family or neighbors. A 5 watt tube amp is a lot louder than you think it is, as I've discovered with the Blackheart Little Giant. Running through the 12 Blackheart speaker, I can easily disturb my entire family and my neighbors. The 10-uator Box has been great as far as allowing me to record without having to soundproof my music room, and still avoid bothering everyone else. I love this device, and I use it anytime I'm playing guitar by myself, now. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone in a situation where they love tube distortion, but have times when they are limited in how loud they can be.
In an ideal world, I would like to see the casing being metal, with some type of heat insulation inside and the bottom being closed with vents on the box instead. I would like for it to be a little heavier because it is pretty light. From a completely aesthetic standpoint, I think it could use more interesting graphics on the box. The actual components, however, seem to be high quality and I know for a fact it is well constructed. Even with my complaints, I like the 10-uator Box, and to get my wish list of features it would Drive the price of the attenuator up. For the price and what I got out of it, I am completely happy. // 9
- Brandon East (c) 2011