Homebrew quiet cranked amp rig

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by 1Way, Sep 20, 2006.

  1. 1Way

    1Way Member

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    I'm hoping to hear from a few who know about this sort of thing, getting cranked amp tone at lower volume without noticeably hurting the tone and the amp's natural sonic qualities. I was really interested in Kevin OConner's power scaling, but it's tricky and not portable/swappable.

    Wrecked (see below)

    hogy (great blues/rock TV competing detailed reamping description) CLICK HERE FOR POST

    John Phillips (amp jack#1=8 ohm dummy load, jack#2=2 16ohm speakers in series for 32ohm, set amp to 8ohms which will see about 6.4ohms which is within range)

    loverocker (hey partner!)

    and others
    Please comment.

    After reading the Ultimate Attenuator thread, and especially after reading the post by Wrecked, I want to do the reamping (slaving/cascading thing) home brew.
    I like blues and rock but don't play out although I hope to do that someday. I also live in an apartment so I need to be able to reduce the cranked amp sound to fairly low levels, although at times I can get away with a bit louder when the neighbors are gone.
    My equipment list
    • 50watt Marshall JCM800 1-12 combo
    • 2 Scumback 25watt 16ohm greenback clones (guitar and bass frequencies)
    • 20watt Crate Vintage Club 20 1-10 combo
    • Crown XLS 402 Power Amp 400watt/channel 4ohm Stereo/800watts 8ohm Bridge-Mono (1kHz w/0.5% THD)
    • pair of 150watt PA monitor speakers
    • No line outs, but my little club 20 has a headphone out.
    • No send and return effects loops either.
    • I have no power attenuators/dummy loads with line out option (yet)
    I really like the sound of my Marshall JCM800 which is good for dirty rhythm and lead work, but not great for cleans. I'm brand new to the Crate Vintage Club 20 which I've only played for about 5 minuets at the pawn shop (it's still in the car), and I haven't used my Crown XLS 800 watt mono 8ohm power amp.

    How do I best go about doing this?

    Comments and suggestions are most welcome.
    :BEER
     
  2. wsaraceni

    wsaraceni Supporting Member

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    i think a load resistor/line out would be pretty easy to build with a project box, large wattage resistor, a pot, and a few other resistors and some input/output jacks. problem is, i dont know what the schematic would look like. hopefully hogy or john philips will chime in and answer as i would like to know as well.
     
  3. 1Way

    1Way Member

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    If I go with a line out from a dummy load to a slaved amp, then my concern would be that it would not suck tone. Consider the (well regarded) speaker motor "reactive load" MASS attenuator with line out which has a full TMB tone section(!!!)(cause it's "needed"), so obviously a line out situation entails the concern of tone squashing.

    I consistantly hear people say that even high quality power attenuators like the Hot Plate tend to make the speakers sound like there's a blanket over them when used toward max attenuation settings...

    So I am quite willing to go another route. Consider this thread, and remember, I have a 50watt Marshall too. CLICK HERE for the "Hogy (or others) - attenuator question" from Lavely
    I might also try a set of yellow jackets to get the power down to lower levels, but so far I like how the EL34's sound.

    What would be the best way to attenuate if you had two power attenuators?

    Could I get by with a pair of 50watt attenuators?

    I plan on using moderation with the master volume as my JCM800 starts opening up quite nicely as early as 4. The loudest I've gone with the gain around 6 which is where it usually stays (6-7), is about 5, and that is down right LOUD, too loud for when me and my drummer get together. I suspect that I would be happy with the MV set somewhere between 5-7 for power attenuation use.

    If I had two attenuators involved like Lavey was indicating he would try, what would be the best setup for that??? I would not have 2-4x12 cabs like Lavey, instead I'd be sitting in between 2-1x12 cabs, or facing 1-2x12 cab so as to maximize the guitar to speaker sonic interconnect.
     
  4. aman74

    aman74 Supporting Member

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    I'm not positive, but can't you use the lineout feature on a Hotplate or Mass without using the attenuator section, ie: just using it as a load? I thought that was the idea Hogy and others were speaking of, a re-amp or tri-amp setup, not sure which was the proper name.

    If that's the way you go, I would think that it would be cheaper to find or build a load box since you wouldn't need the attenuator section.

    I have been on the hunt for low volume cranked tones as well, but haven't gotten the chance to put into practice all I have learned. However, this method seems to be the most effective for people who are really serious, as you seem to be, about doing a nice low volume setup.

    It would also allow you alot of flexibility to do other things as well. You could easily add effects and/or a mixer and do a wet/dry setup, mess with stereo, have effects after power tube saturation, etc...

    It can be complex and expensive, but I also think you could do it pretty cheap as well. Get or make a load box and run it into a used SS power amp, could probably try it out for less than 200 bones.

    Whatever you try, let us know how it works out.
     
  5. daddyo

    daddyo Guest

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    There's no easy answer. All attenuators colour the sound. Static load resistors are worse. Even the least expensive attenuator, Weber MASS, will set you back $200. The THD are close to double that. I recommend buying a quality small cheap SS amp like a Roland Cube 15 or 30 and accepting that apartment sound and stage sound are different and separate.
     
  6. aman74

    aman74 Supporting Member

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    I wonder how so many people are having success with using a load on the amp then?

    It's really bothersome when people just say to throw in the towel on using tube amps at home. Especially when there are people out there who have medical reasons for needing the cranked tone at a low volume and they don't have the chance to enjoy cranked amps at all. Not to mention the guys who don't play out or live in apartments and still want great tone.
     
  7. exodus

    exodus Member

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    I was working on a setup sorta like the one mentioned above, with a Germino Masonette into a hot plate lined out to some effects, then a tube power amp, then a cab. I was going to goof around with getting an isolation cab, different load boxes and different speakers.

    In the end, it was getting really complicated and very expensive. Then I happened to get a v-stack tweedy and all that other high priced gear went away. Into almost any clean amp, that little tweedy sounds better than any complicated power scaling style rig I put together. Even into solid state amps (with a good speaker cab) that tweedy reacts and sounds more like a tube amp than any real tube amp at apt. volume levels.

    I guess what I'm saying is that its not really a matter of throwing in the towel. If your low volume rig starts looking like a Rube Goldberg, it may be time to consider alternative means that are designed for the specific task.
     
  8. 1Way

    1Way Member

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    People have done it, there's no reason to give up on great low volume cranked tube amp sound, and we don't need to become defensive to get there! I like a great sounding electric guitar amp rig, that's the only reason I need to justify this search.

    Like I said, using an attenuator of any sort, including a dummy load, squashes the tone, if you are going to go thru a line out into another amp, the quality of the line out needs to be very good, otherwise your sound starts out dull.

    If you look at the quotes and links, there's a 7db drop by also changing the configuration of the speakers and the attenuator/dummy load!!! Plus you can put one on the remaining jack to further reduce the volume to taste.

    I realize the search for great tone can be both expensive and personally subjective. So what, now we know the issues involved, lets work on what works. I'd like to go the two output jack and maybe two attenuators route. It's been done before.

    SAY LAVELY!!!! HOW DID IT WORK OUT?????? (My second post, my third quote)
    ?????????????????
     
  9. aman74

    aman74 Supporting Member

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    Not sure who you are referring to here, sorry if I seemed defensive. I agree that you don't need to justify it. I was just offering some less than obvious reasons for the people who always seem to say this endeavor is a waste of time.

    Again, not sure if you are talking to me or not? I did read the info here and have been through all this research before, not sure if you are trying to educate me or what exactly is your goal for this thread?

    In your original post you said "After reading the Ultimate Attenuator thread, and especially after reading the post by Wrecked, I want to do the reamping (slaving/cascading thing) home brew"

    I don't know about others, but I'm a bit confused as to what you want to know? You mentioned too much of a compromise with attenuators and wanting to re-amp, then you said the load was too much of a compromise.

    Anyways, I hope whatever you try works out and that you let us know how you did it, since I am always looking for different takes on how to best achieve good tone at low volumes.
     
  10. billdurham

    billdurham Member

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    www.ax84.com.. the home of homebrew, low level, good sounding amps. I just built one of the projects from that site and the amp rocks. Mine is probably a little more output than you are looking for but there are lower output projects there. check it out

    BD
     
  11. 1Way

    1Way Member

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    Cool.
    Ok, I have to share/tell in order to learn,,, right? And I can share what I have learned if others seem to be missing something. So I did. I'm not sure why you are concerned about who is educating who. If you want clarification, I suggest to simply ask for it, who cares who is learing what from whom?
    aman74, sorry about the confussion. Thanks for pointing out my conflicting remarks, you clearly helped me see the different directions I was going in. I really meant the thread about the Ultimate attenuator generally got me more interesting in doing that sort of thing, especially compared to something like power scaling, especially since I may like to go nearly as low as bedroom levels. Not that there's anything wrong with power scaling, especially if you can afford it or have the time to tinker and install it. I hear it's a great way to get cranked amp sound at many sound levels.

    If I am wrong about the tone squashing bit, then I'd love to hear how you can do it!!! I've heard that you want a really good line it which may not be easy to get if you simply produce a static dummy load. It may be hard to do even if you produce a dynamic load as well...

    Then after getting my general focus refined/energized, I read about a different way of using a power attenuator by using both output jacks, but since I have never done that, especially not with two attenuators, I'm quite interested in that approach as well.

    As to being against using a dummy load into a line out, that is a bit misleading. I was mostly responding against the idea if someone thinks it's as simple as creating a simple flat dummy load to line out if they are expecting the sonic character to not to be squashed. That's all. If there's no tone or sonic quality squashing, then fine, correct my mistake and lead me to the path of enlightenment! If not, then my concern/observation stands well placed.

    What way is best, double attenuator and double jack or amp slaving/reamping/cascading? Seems up in the air at this point. That is partly why I would really like to hear from Lavey since he was going to try out the double attenuator with the double output jack setup.

    I'd also like to hear how people relate to sound squashing when running a dummy load and a line out.

    Elswhere someone suggested an isolation cab, which is ok, but I'd prefer an isolation booth so that guitar would have a better acoustic connection with the sound for controled feedback interaction.

    Thanks for seeking clarification, or should I say, thanks for explaining your confusion.
     
  12. 1Way

    1Way Member

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    Lavely!!!

    Are You Out There???
     
  13. aman74

    aman74 Supporting Member

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    I'm not sure about the different types of loads. I thought the reactive part of the Mass was just for the attenuator, I'll have to look into this aspect some more. I haven't heard that the loading method chosen would be a factor in the success of a slave setup, but it may very well be.

    There was a really long thread, I believe on HC, where some people did comparisons of a reactive attenuator (Mass) to a Hotplate and others. It was very interesting, but I'm not sure how long they archive there threads for, this was a couple of years ago. There certainly wasn't a definitive answer as to which is better, but there was alot of evidence that the reactive attenuators weren't necessarily superior.

    I haven't seen much on the dual attenuator approach, sounds cool and I would love to hear more.
     
  14. 1Way

    1Way Member

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    billdurham
    I agree that ax84 is a great place to approach this sort of thing. They are a great bunch over there. I am quite encouraged by their dedication to lower wattage amps for those of us who would like great tube amp sound at home or in quieter settings.

    One thing seems certain. When you start out with something like a 5watt amp, it's much easier to get the power section saturated into cranked amp tone and then quiet that down to acceptable levels than it is your typical 50 or 100watt amps. I really like Lavely's description of his quiet cranked amp setup. Sitting in between two 4-12 cabs so the guitar is inundated with acoustic coupling and the sound sounds pretty big. Only I'd prefer sitting in between two 1-12's or 2-12 cabs so the speakers could be pushed that much harder. Plus, I'd put that rig into a room that could be sound deadened so as to allow for a bit more volume while not disturbing the neighbors so much. Lastly, a little reverb overdrive or treble boost of some type might help create more of the allusion of a big cranked sound.

    Thanks for the tip, I've seen the HighOctain in action with the low power and the octal set power options installed. It was a cool little screamer, but each power tube option gave a different compromise. The octal set had warmer fatter tone but was too loud, the low power tube was quieter but lacked depth in bass and musical dynamics... Then again, I was only exposed to it for a short period of time.

    Which one did you build???
     
  15. 1Way

    1Way Member

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    aman74
    It's a small world sometimes. I read those posts too. If it's the same one, the one guy was all fired up about the one attenuator, I can't remember for sure which one it was, and I think he offered some sort of software program sonic analysis to (supposedly) back up his claims. It sounded pretty convincing on paper, but like you said, others chime in and speak strongly for another attenuator and in the end it seems that no one really knows for sure which is "better". Especially for different amps and for different styles of music and different personal expectations and different personal hearing capabilities, and so on.

    I could be wrong about the dummy load line out situation being like the worst case scenario of a power attenuator in terms of squashing the sonic character of the amp, but I'm pretty sure that is accurate or analogous. I am not a technician in this field, but from what I gather, it's like if you power attenuated down to line level volume, and if that is the case, then pulling a "line out" of a simple dummy load is like getting just about the worst case scenario of the problems associated with power attenuators squashing the tone when set toward max attenuation.

    I have my doubts about the double jack method, or even that the double jack and double attenuator method would work better than the traditional approach. Because, attenuation is still happening after the last transformer, so the amp still sees so much load and I don't think it matters if it comes from one or two jacks, a load is a load is a load is a load... However, there may be something to it since the speakers do not connect directly to the load device, instead they connect to the amp which is loaded mostly on the other part of it's output signal. So I am undecided about that being a better setup or not, I sorta doubt that's an improvement. However, I bet that rigging up your speakers into 32 ohms and matching them against a lower ohm setting power attenuator allows the attenuator load to be more effective and may improve matters, but I really don't know for sure.

    To me, the coolest part about master-slaving/cascading/reamping, is that you can control the cranked amp tone literally down to whisper levels, and by doing so, you do NOT squash the amps native raunchy overdriven sound like you typically do with power attenuators. I'm fairly certain that it's squashed (or not) at the start of the line out source. I believe this approach is the most like listening to a great concert CD on a great home stereo and you can simply turn the volume down to very quiet levels or even put the head phones on yet that amp still sounds hot and overdriven just like the live recording. (!!!)

    I believe you can also get a similar line-out effect by mic'ing an isolation speaker cab, then run that signal into a clean solid state amp, then run that into a pair of studio monitors and aim them at your guitar to help preserve the speaker to guitar acoustic coupling. I might end up putting a speaker on my guitar so as to greatly increase the sonic coupling effect, sorta like the Pignose guitars or similar rigs... Lively controllable feedback at low volumes is just plain kewl!
    :AOK
     
  16. aman74

    aman74 Supporting Member

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    In which setup have you found it easier? Normal attenuators? Since the 50 watter is only twice as loud, I haven't found the two animals much different to tame. A 50 watt head with a nice master seems a good place to start, if only because they are much more common and often cheaper than alot of low wattage amps.

    I like the idea of the High Octane, but all the ultra low watters I've played still need to be attenuated. I guess they would need less clicks on the attenuator though and for that reason may be a bit better than a big amp? Any thoughts on this?

    Do you mean Hogy?

    How will you be pushing the speakers at ultra low volumes? You wouldn't be anywhere near the volumes needed for speaker distortion and compression.

    Since speakers need some movement to get the bass going I looked into what would be the best speaker at a lower volume for this application. High wattage, low wattage, high or low sensitivity, etc...

    It doesn't seem that much research has been done in that area and I didn't find any good info. Most people have the misconception that you wouldn't want to use a high wattage speaker with a low wattage amp.

    I did find Detuned cabs though. Which sound great and are supposed to be better at getting the tone at low volumes than are other styles. Not sure how dramatic the difference in that aspect is, but they do sound great regardless.
     
  17. aman74

    aman74 Supporting Member

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    Ok, here's where you lost me again. First you say reamping is the worst and then you seem to think it's great.

    It's "squashed or not" before the line out, at the load.

    I'm not sure how much speaker to guitar coupling actually happens at low volumes...might want to look into it and experiment before going out of your way to achieve what might not be possible.

    Thanks for this thread, I've picked up a couple of new ideas!
     
  18. 1Way

    1Way Member

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  19. 1Way

    1Way Member

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    No problem. I am learning too. I hope to keep learning all my years!!!
    :JAM
     
  20. 6ringing

    6ringing Member

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    Here's my solution, sitting on top of my Ampeg Gemini:
    [​IMG]

    I used the Herzog idea. Take a small wattage tube amp (5watts w/6V6 in my case) but wire it up so that instead of going to a speaker, it goes to an output jack that you can plug into your main amp! You can vary the amount of drive and volume coming out of the unit. A resistor of the wattage and impedence your output transformer needs in wired across your OT instead of a speaker. It works incredibly well. You're just plugging an actual complete raving amp into your main amp. It sounds just like a cranked amp at any volume because it is! You get not only the sound of the tubes, but you get the interaction of the complete power section, the OT, the PT the whole deal. As you can see in the pic, I still have one hole in the front panel to figure out what to do with (the chassis and cab used to be an Allen Class Act).

    IMO, this is the way to go. I heven't tried power scaling though. If you want to try something like this the layout's in Kevin O'Connor's TUT vol. 3 (well the layout for a Herzog is, you may have to adapt it to your situation). Pretty simple and true bypass as well!
     

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