Attenuators - your opinions welcome...

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by gitpicker, Dec 21, 2005.

  1. gitpicker

    gitpicker Silver Supporting Member

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    I used a couple of Tom Scholz Power Soaks for many years (1981 until a couple of years ago). Now I play through a 4 ohm Hot Plate. The point is, I really can't tell the difference. My first PS was stolen in the 90's and I bought another one (used) for $40. I paid around $300 for the HP (which I purchased when my second PS went south). I have never had the chance to A/B them, but there was no huge difference from what I can recall.

    What are your opinions concerning attenuators? Can you really hear a difference, and if there is a difference, what is it?

    I pen this thread because I am considering a Weber Mini-Mass - this is a matter of functionality, not because I am expecting it to sound better than the HP. The HP has 5 positions, only 2-3 are realistic for live applications. I find myself needing more choices (For example. I am playing at the -8 setting , but it is too quiet and I can't hear myself very well, but the -4 setting is too loud) The Weber has a continuously variable volume knob - all the in between settings are available. I own my own house and my wife and 4 children are well trained - I can play at any volume I want (as long as I stick to the basement!). My concern is for live applications (where the other guitar player looks across the stage and laser beams shoot out of his pissed-off face and cut my legs off when he thinks I am drowning him out). The Weber looks like the ticket to solve this problem, but I don't want to sacrifice tone just to appease his lack of patience.

    Any and all observations concerning attenuators (Tom Scholz - Hot Plates - Weber - others) would be welcome.

    Peace,
    The Gitpicker (still old, bald, and fat)
     
  2. StompBoxBlues

    StompBoxBlues Member

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    Sounds like you have a good handle on this already, and have thought it out pretty well.

    Unfortunately, I have less experience than you, I only have a 4 ohm HotPlate myself and never tried any of the others. But I was curious about one thing...when you mention the "granularity" of the settings (i.e. that the jump is too big...you need a setting that would be between -4 and -8) being a problem, it made me wonder. I mean, is the "sweet spot" on your amp...pushing the tubes, so narrow that you cannot make a small adjustment on the volume to bridge the gap so one of the settings is correct? I mean, set it on -4db and turn down the amp a little, or set it on -8 and turn up the amp to make up (or bring down) the overall volume to exactly where you want it? Use the attenuator to get in the ballpark, instead of right to your seat?

    Couple of other ideas, what kind of amp are you running? Does it have an effects loop? If so you have the extra options (again, with the attenuator you already have getting you in the ballpark) of using a volume pedal in the effects loop, OR set up an EQ pedal in there, tweak it to bring out even more and better tone but also so that it adjusts either up or down to get that volume you need and leave it on all the time...at some of the better "tone" sites, I keep reading that people ought to really have at least two EQ pedals in their rig...one on input, one on effects loop.

    Anyway, that is a couple of ideas, another is....this was from a fender site, but ought to work for any series-effects-loop amp, you make a little black box that simply has a potentiometer in it, and use it to dial down the loop into the power amp. The users at fenders' sites are all using these it seems. Again, this is not to do any major adjustments, just get you from ballpark to seat.

    Also, any other pedal that is good, and has a volume control...can get you the last little bit.

    Last thought, back to the EQ pedal, could it be that EQ (even the amps) could get you that last little bit of volume or cut? If you currently have EQ on your amp flat, could you cut there and use the -4 setting, enough that you still had your tone, but just a tad quieter?

    My guess is, you WANT to be just a hair under that threshold where the other-guitarists-laser-eyes don't start firing up, but JUST a hair. Seems like any number of ways could get you that, EQ pedals could even get you tones you couldn't with just the amp/guitar tone controls.


    Just some thoughts.
     
  3. Patch

    Patch Gold Supporting Member

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    Do a search on this forum. There was plenty of threads about this particular subject.
    BTW, I'm very pleased with my Weber MASS.
     
  4. gulliver

    gulliver Member

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    With the Hotplate, you can turn your amp up and down within each setting for a desired volume; really no major tone difference. I've heard of people complaining about pot crackling with the units that have the fine tuning control.
     
  5. brent

    brent Member

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    The potentiometer on the Hotplate will only work on the -16db setting to take it from -16 to -infinity, it does nothing when -4 -8 or -12 are selected.
     
  6. CocoTone

    CocoTone Senior Member

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    I use an older 100 watt Mass, and couldn`t do without it. Very versatile, and sounds great on slight attenuation, which is the only way I`ll use one anyways. When you choose the right amp for the room, an attenuator is just like fine tuning, and keeps your ears fresher, longer, during the gig. I say this, because before I used one, I suffered from ear fatigue as the night wore on from the constant volume. After a while, the highs got dull, and eveything started to sound muddy, never mind the ringing the next day,,,or two. Now, the only thing that annoys my hearing on smaller stages, is the friggin` cymbals!!!:mad:
    I`ve been playing the better part of thirty years, and don`t know how I got along so long without one. Every gigging guitarist should have one. You`ll be happy with your tone more often than not.

    CT.
     
  7. gitpicker

    gitpicker Silver Supporting Member

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    Thnks for the input guys

    To Gulliver - when you refer to "pot crackling" do you mean only when the attenuator is adjusted? I have several pedals (ie - COT, FAB 50) that crackle when adjusted - not an issue as long as it doesn't crackle at will.

    To StompboxBlues - As indicated in the original post I play through a 1965 Super Reverb - no MV, no effects loop. All of your ideas concerning tweaking the amp's volume and tone controls or playing with output settings on pedals do work - I have tried all of them, but in the end you compromise tone for volume - which is precisely the problem attenuators are designed to address. And of course you are correct, I DO want to be just a "hair" below the laser-beam threashold - if it ain't loud, it aint rock-n-roll!
     
  8. Slick51

    Slick51 Colonel Curmudgeon Silver Supporting Member

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    I owned a Scholtz back in the day, own a Hot Plate now, and looked into the MASS at the same time as I researched the HP. The HP became available used, and the MASS didn't, so I have the HP.

    All attenuators are tone robbers IMO past 6-8 db down, so that's what determines where I set my amp. Past the minimum for the required tone/sustain/etc., then to match the attenuator.

    The Scholtz was a resistive load I believe, not an inductive one. To look like a speaker as much as possible to the amp, the attenuator load has to be inductive. What that means in the short reply? Simplifying, the load resistance changes with the frequency being produced by the speaker. You'll notice the ratings are for a 'nominal impedance'? That's a pseudo-average determined by the manufacturer to give the buyer a point of reference. The resistance for an 8 ohm speaker across the freq band produced runs from a few ohms to 30 or more at the resonant frequency and top end, and to a lesser extent on the bottom. For a lark, put an ohm meter across an 8 ohm speaker the next time you have both close; you'll read about 6 ohms, and about 12 for a 16 ohm.

    Why should you care? Resistive loads are harder on the amp's OT. Some mfgs state that use of an attenuator voids the warranty (Roccaforte I believe, in readings on this site is one of several). Plus, attenuators let you run the amp harder, and spare you the extra volume, so it's harder on the amp in general, and at lower volumes you might not be aware of how hard the tubes, etc. are being slammed, so getting the inductive load right at least is something you should do to save your amps components as well as your cash in the long run.

    The HP (and the Gibson-branded version of the HP...price shop, as they are the same one) is inductive. And the MASS uses an actual voice coil in its' design, so it is too. The MASS is more flexible with loads (4-16 ohm in the same unit, tone controls as an option), but you have to match power ratings with it (as you would a speaker too; i.e. buy a 50 watt MASS for a 50 watt amp).

    I always pick and choose and buy used, and the MASS is a little harder to come by, so I ended up with the HP, and am very happy. Andy and Ed at THD are kings of good service. Ted Weber has always been a gentleman with me, taken the time to talk via phone until all my questions were answered, but other opinions differ.

    I'd pass on the Scholtz, and decide what's right from the other two. Other alternatives are the Marshall Power Brake, the Dr Z Airbrake, Allessandro Muzzle and others, all good. Google the subject.

    As always, my scenic rambling opinion only...

    Merry Christmas
    slick51
     
  9. flicker180

    flicker180 Member

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    i get a ton of noise to the board when using my Mini-mass 50w, so i'm going to be shopping for another attentuator soon too...however, great little unit.

    dave
     
  10. gulliver

    gulliver Member

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    Brent ... I was referring to the to the non-Hotplate units with the continuous adjustments on all settings. I have a Hotplate and know what you mean, though.


    I read a couple of reviews where people complained about noise after the adjustment. It was one of the reasons I decided to go with the Hotplate. Like I said, you can just use your amp's volume to adjust between the setting jumps, no relative change in tone.
     
  11. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    I've found that different amps sound better through different attenuators...unfortunately. So I own two Weber MASS (50W and 100W) and one Hotplate. I've also found it a little difficult to predict which will sound best with any particular amp. If I was you, I'd consider buying a couple of other attenuators and experimenting. Buy 'em used and you won't take much of a hit (if any) if you don't like them anymore than your current Hotplate.
     
  12. waxnsteel

    waxnsteel Member

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    I'd love it if you could elaborate. I've heard people say the same, that some attenuators sound best with certain style amps. Only specifics I remember were that a Marshall Powerbrake sounds like ass with anything other than a Marshall, and Hotplates excel with Plexi style amps. Can you or anyone share experience?

    I've been liioking at the Z Airbrake and hotplate. One to tame a cab in a cab switching scenario, another to tame the dirty side of an amp which also switches cabs, but it's more of a channel volume issue than it is speaker efficiency in that case. So I guess I'm also asking is there an attenuator that's better for cleaner sounds, and dirtier sounds as welll? Is it tube types? what is it?
     
  13. µ¿ z3®ø™

    µ¿ z3®ø™ Member

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    i really like the hotplate but my big caveat is the too large jumps between the clicks. andy marshall, are U listening?
    i'm curious about the airbrake. i've heard that the settings are adjustable. anyone care to pipe up???
     
  14. gearitis

    gearitis Gold Supporting Member

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    Leon, What happens if you use a Weber MASS 100W with amps that are 50 watts or less? Can you not just buy the one that handles your amp with the highest wattage?
     
  15. waxnsteel

    waxnsteel Member

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    Now, I've only read, not put my hands on the piece, but I read it's only in jumps till you get to the most attenuated setting, and then you can use the knob to dial it down to mush if you want.
     
  16. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    Gearitis - yes you can do that. Honestly I can't tell the diff. I have the older style MASS made back when you could only get 2 resistance levels per MASS; so one of mine did 4/8 and the other did 8/16--that's the only reason I still have two. I've played lower powered amps through the 100W MASS and really they seemed okay. So I guess it's an okay way to go. I think Weber might argue that your amp/speakers will respond best if you match the output level to that of your amp...but...take that for what it's worth.

    Waxnsteel - I guess I can elaborate to say that I like the way my Divided by 13 amp sounds a bit more through the MASS than through the Hotplate. My Ampegs sound like total ass through the Hotplate too. But my more Marshall-ish amps (mostly, that I owned in the past) sound better through the Hotplate than through the MASS.

    I haven't played the Z attenuator but as I understand, it's quite similar to the Komet Airbrake that I had. That was nice but I liked the Alessandro muzzle a wee bit more at the time.

    So...like I said, I think you have to experiment a bit to find what works best for your amp(s).
     
  17. waxnsteel

    waxnsteel Member

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    Which /13 amp? what amps were you using the Muzzle with? Sorry to be a pain, but when stuff ain't available locally, I love tappin this board for user experience before buying online.
     
  18. mailman

    mailman Member

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    Agree with your entire post SBB, but this quote sums it up. Gotta tweak a little depending on the venue. I, too, have only experienced the benefits of an 8-Ohm THD Hotplate, but am EXTREMELY satisfied with the results. Sometimes you have to work (tweak) a little to get the right balance. But, I guess in this day and age of "instant gratification," some folks aren't willing to work for their unique sound. I stand by my Hotplate.:AOK
     
  19. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    I used the Muzzle with my Alessandro English and Bloodhound and tried it with my Bogners (shiva, ecstasy) and later my Divided by 13 FTR37. It really didn't work for the '37 and that's what got me lookin in other directions. FWIW, I know of one or two guys with ERT33s who also preferred the MASS. The hotplate is pretty good with these amps too, though...
     
  20. Leonc

    Leonc Wild Gear Hearder Gold Supporting Member

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    Oh yeah, has anyone said this yet? Pretty much all attenuators don't work that well when you're getting down to nano volume levels. If you just need to get an amp down to where you can do a 'typical' stage gig with it, I've found attenuators to sound entirely useful.
     

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