Attenuators should be limited to -6db

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by MikeyG, Jun 12, 2006.


  1. MikeyG

    MikeyG Supporting Member

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    Anything beyond that sucks tone in the worst way. Man, they can rob all the magic in an amp....

    An amp I am very proud of sounded like total a$$ this weekend, at a local jam/tone party. We had to keep it very low, for the wives and kids upstairs. I might as well have left it home... sounded horrible.

    I haven't used attenuation for a long time for this reason.

    Discuss.
     
  2. tmac

    tmac Goldmember Gold Supporting Member

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    I haven't tried one at a gig yet. I just haven't felt comfortable because of less than acceptable results at home. A good master volume or pedal has always been the best solution for me. It would be nice to just a great non-master volume amp blast away at the level that it needs to sing but it's rare that I get to play a place like that. I did use my Germino Masonette single 12 combo at a gig a few weeks ago at a bigger club - just plugged straight in and turned up but it was still a bit too loud. I did have it up off the floor on a stand that angled up. I probably should've just set it on the floor and the level would've been fine.
     
  3. AD

    AD Supporting Member

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    I use a Hotplate with my Marshall 2061x - I'm able to get decent tones at the -8db and -12db settings. The amp is LOUD to begin with so the hotplate is a must, however, i don't lose much with attenuation.
     
  4. hal9000

    hal9000 Member

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    Along with -12 dB on my Hot Plate and judicious use of my amp's master volume, I've gotten really good results. Of course, I'm not going for power tube distortion, I just like how my amp sounds when it's opened-up a bit. IMO, attenuators are really good at taking a screaming amp down to gig-friendly levels. For bedroom volume, I'd rather put the Hot Plate on load and reamp (with FX added of course, mmm...).
     
  5. MikeyG

    MikeyG Supporting Member

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    Yeah certain amps attenuate better than others ... but in general, enough magic is lost beyond -6db that I won't use them.

    Makes you wonder ... I don't gig, but one of the most common statements out here is that someone's amp is too much for the clubs they're playing.

    I'd like to see an actual waveform of a full and -9db attenuated signal. I bet the differences would be notable.

    You're seeing alot more entries in the sub 10 watt category lately, and I think you'll see alot more. Bedroom/home players that want tube tone and NMV amps. Bumbox, Lovepedal, Little Lanilei, etc... the 6 watt Cornford I owned was WAY WAY too loud to crank up full blast.

    Is it the availability of super low watt tubes that is the obstacle?? I notice the Bumbox uses a tube I've never heard of to pull 1 watt output.

    I've tried a couple of the super low wattage amps, and have always come away unimpressed. From a technical standpoint, I'm not sure if it's the design of the amp, or limitations of physics....
     
  6. hal9000

    hal9000 Member

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    To me, the problem with very low power <5 W is a question of bandwidth and dynamics. I prefer to attenuate a 50 W with a good master, rather than use a 5 W amp even though they both might put out the same amount of power.

    My Doberman Hi-Octane 5W SE EL-84 sounds great for a little amp, but in going to my other high-watters, even at the same volume, there is a big difference in feel and dynamics (which I would expect).
     
  7. mmorse

    mmorse Member

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    I use an attenuator at home on my NMV 18 watt. And I agree, it sucks the life out of the amp. It was no better than the master volumes on my 50 watt Marshalls. Then I got the right combo of tubes in my Marshalls and now they blow away my attenuated 18 watt at low volumes as far as tone goes. So much so, that now my "bedroom" amp just sits and is seldom used at home. The attenuator takes an otherwise very nice sounding plexi clone and transforms it into a thin, lifeless, might as well be using ss, type of tone. :puh
     
  8. MikeyG

    MikeyG Supporting Member

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    I was being facetious Jerrod. I wasn't mandating that attenuator manufacturers change their designs ...:messedup just trying to spur a little discussion.

    Also, what one person deems tolerable, another might deem unacceptable.

    Alex may like his tone at -12db, but I'm pretty sure I would not.
     
  9. hal9000

    hal9000 Member

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    One needs only to look at the logo voting threads for proof of this. ;)
     
  10. MikeyG

    MikeyG Supporting Member

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    Let me state things another way.

    If you buy a 100 watt amp, and then knock it down 12db, I'd say you bought the wrong amp....
     
  11. electronpirate

    electronpirate Member

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    I have given up on attenuation. It changes the character on my amp too much (compressed, loss of dynamics.) It is passable, but no MAGIC.

    I have a good MV, and use my hotplate as a load box (plus pulling 2 tubes.)

    Maybe there is attenuation out there that will allow me the magic, but I'm not too interested in spending a grand or so trying out all the options out there.
     
  12. electronpirate

    electronpirate Member

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    That's not right. I think the point behind attenuation is that you:
    -Play the amp you want regardless of wattage
    -Play gigs in places where you CANT turn up to your preferred volume/tone level.
     
  13. willhutch

    willhutch Member

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    IMHO, the right wattage is one of the most basic and crucial factors in buying an amp. If you need 9-12 dB of attenuation, you probably have the wrong amp for the application.

    Granted, we don't all have a bunch of amps at our disposal to fit any given situation, so we usually have to make due with what we've got.

    I use a 15 watt master volume amp for gigging. I usually open the master volume up pretty high and put 3-5 dB of attenuation with a Dr Z Airbrake. I put a home made baffle in front of the speakers to reduce the sound bleeding out into the mics on stage. My goal is to get the creaminess happening without hurting anybody's ears or making it hard for the soundman to get the band mixed well. (BTW - soundmen LOVE the use of the baffle!!!This was the best 45 minutes of construction time I've ever spent)

    Every amp I've ever bought was lower wattage that the one before. 100 to 50 to 50 to 35 to 15........interesting. This trend is a response to my having to do all kinds of things to make the amp quiet. I use to have a closed-back cab that I turned backwards.

    My gigging setup is still too loud for any apartment. I'd prefer to use a pedal for distortion if I need to get that quiet.
     
  14. MikeyG

    MikeyG Supporting Member

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    Agreed. What I was saying is that, if your amp is attenuated no more than -6db, and you can get the stage volume you need, then you're golden.

    -6db is my cutoff, other people's may vary.

    I had a discussion with Roy Blankenship about his Variplex. I came away very surprised at how well his amp worked with attenuation (he was using a Variac). He said he had to tweak certain things beyond a certain voltage level reduction, to compensate for certain 'losses'. Not sure what he did technically, but it was the best job I've seen/heard in attenuating a 100 watt amp. We were in a hotel room, and it was loud, but tolerable, and still sounded reasonably well. Granted, a Variac and an attenuator are not the same thing ...
     
  15. cvansickle

    cvansickle Member

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    You can make a loud amp quieter, but you can't make a quiet amp louder.

    I use a 100 watt amp at home, and there is no way I could without my HotPlate, running it at the -16db (and lower, actually) setting. The trick is to make radical EQ adjustments so that you can maintain a decent tone at such a low volume. When I leave the house, I can move the sliders to a more normal position.
     
  16. 908SSP

    908SSP Member

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    You haven't tried a Richter attenuator so lumping them all in as one just doesn't cut it. The Richter is virtually transparent it isn't the Richter that changes the tone at low levels but the speakers and at those levels no amp not a 1 watt amp is going to sound any better.
     
  17. MikeyG

    MikeyG Supporting Member

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    Again, as I stated, I was not suggesting that attenuator manufacturers change their designs.

    As a well known (here anyway) non-gigging, hobbyist type player, I feel there's very little risk of THD doing so (right Ed?) :)

    I'm just saying, and many here seem to be backing me up, that attenuators kill enough tone that I/Me/IMO, I won't use them.

    If I magically gained enough musical chops to play in a band, and was forced to use attenuation, I'd choose an amp that only needed minor attenuation ....

    Others feel -12db works for them, great!

    It's all just opinions ....
     
  18. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    Some attenuators work better with some amps than others (both amps and attenuators). I have found some amps to sound excellent with some attenuators...and other amps that just don't really sound good w/any attenuators beyond some nominal level of attenuation.

    Overall...I'd rather play the amp cleaner and quieter and use pedals for distortion....or use a good MV amp (and there are PLENTY of them out there).
     
  19. MikeyG

    MikeyG Supporting Member

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    Yeah, I have to admit, I've never tried using an attenuator on a master volume amp. I've never had the need really, the master volumes work well enough, in most cases, that I don't need to.

    There are a couple amps where that might've been something I'd consider. The VOS and my Straub are both MV amps. But both are a bit too loud when they 'open up'. They might've benefited from an attenuator to bring them down a hair.... I've said many times, the best bedroom amp I've owned was my 100 watt Wizard Custom! That thing sounded KILLER at low volumes. The taper on the volume pot was very very gradual.

    I'm lucky that I don't have to worry anymore. I just have to wait until the family is gone, and I blast away at whatever volume I choose.

    When I want to play, and my son is sleeping, I bring out the pedalboard.
     
  20. bluessyndicate

    bluessyndicate Supporting Member

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    I have an interesting amp...A custom 50 watt Aiken Invader that has the Intruder MV added to it..so I get the benefit of being able to compare the two on the same amp, and to decide when to use one, the other or combinations of both. And indeed it seems to me that depending on the situation I decide to use one, the other or both.

    My experimentation is not conclusive/complete as of yet...but in general I am finding:

    when playing at lower bedroom volumes I prefer the MV over extreme attenuation, if distortion/gain is desired at full guitar volume settings (i.e. I still can roll back for clean and get good gain at full guitar volume. If I intended on only playing clean, I would simply use attenuation and roll the guitar volume back and end up with a maximized open clean sound)

    when desiring an open and uncompressed sound, swoosh/phaseoid swirlitude or power tube distortion I prefer pure attenuation

    the MV adds very slight coloration, very slight compression, and tends to cut down on swoosh/phaseoid swirlitude (due to reduced input to the power section)...which is at times good or bad depending on your needs. I need both at different times.

    I prefer to limit my attenuation to -9db, and then bring into play MV as well to reduce volume to needed levels.

    So in summary;
    I prefer attenuation over MV when I want the most open sound, or power tube distortion
    I am happy down to -9db attenuation
    I would rather bring MV into play as needed, over using more extreme attenuation
    I find MV better for low volume gain playing
    MV compliments attenuation by giving you variable control in between attenuation steps
     

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