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The Misperception on attenuators and power scaling

wrxplayer

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
7,479
I've read a few posts lately from people looking for amps with built in attenuators or power scaling so they can get the amps best tone at lower volume levels. My experience says for the most part this doesn't work.

My best example was a Mojave Coyote 112 combo I had, a 12 watt amp with power scaling. As is the case with many amps, it sounds best turned up, which I expected. And pushed it sounded fantastic. I figured with power scaling that can get the wattage down to 2 watts it would sound good a low volumes. Bottom line was it did sound good with the volume turned up and the scaling turned down, but it was not at that point producing "apartment safe" volume but instead was still pushing some air. Perhaps an amp that had power scaling down to 1/2 watt might work better in to do the low volume/great sound thing.

I now have a Alessandro working dog. 40 watts w/ a built in attenuator to get down to 20 watts Only way to make this amp get a decent overdrive sound at low levels is with a pedal (or two).

The best setup I've seen for getting great low volume sound with the power to gig with an amp that has a separate gain control to complement the volume control. I'm sure there are many amps with this setup. Mine was an Industrial Amps combo.
 

sqadan

Member
Messages
943
Try a Carr Mercury with power scaling down to 1/10th of a watt... sounds awesome at whisper level volumes.
 

JB Eckl

Member
Messages
2,153
My experience with turning the Mesa Lonestar Special down to 5 watts has been totally addictive. Just awesome, and pretty quiet, though maybe a bit more than 'bedroom' level.
 

jchan

Member
Messages
1,687
I have a Suhr Badger 30 with power scaling and sounds very great at high power or with power scaling turned down.
 

Jahn

Listens to Johnny Marr, plays like John Denver
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
28,931
dunno bout you but i'm banned from playing my D28 or J45 at lights out - the best is a semihollow played acoustically, now that's responsive and at mouse squeak levels! the electric alternative is plugging it into an amp, to an attenuator with a line out to my macbook and listening with headphones *cry*
 

somedude

Member
Messages
7,603
My experience with turning the Mesa Lonestar Special down to 5 watts has been totally addictive. Just awesome, and pretty quiet, though maybe a bit more than 'bedroom' level.
+1.

I had one dialed down to 'conversation levels' and the tone was outstanding. I'm sure the reverb helps since it makes the amp sound bigger without needed more volume to do it.
 

908SSP

Member
Messages
5,800
No guitar speaker sounds good at 1/2 watt doesn't matter the amp unless it can introduce compensation for eq drift natural to guitar speakers. They need at least a 1 watt and most 2 to sound anywhere near their normal sound.

Power scaling gets you some power tube distortion but not output transformer saturation or compression you need an attenuator for that.

For less than one watt playing digital is the answer as it can just about fake anything. And not with a guitar speaker.
 

Baminated

Senior Member
Messages
6,491
One problem...what's in the Mojave isn't Power Scaling.
Yup, not even close - A tech I know of who worked on one told me it was just a pot w/a variable resistor hooked up to the PI tube ! It's "power dampening™" LOL ! Dampens your tone ! ™™™™
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
33,296
I can generate pretty good OD tones from pedals into a clean guitar amp, many can.
Turn down the amp and the tone quality disappears, too.
Try through headphones, good tone still requires more DB's.
 

farlowhigh

Member
Messages
1,186
I have been really impressed with the power scaling on the Badger and on the Reinhardt 18, and also on the Kingsley Deluxe 32C...to my ears, it works better than any master volume I have used (although the Top Hat master volumes seem particularly good).

As others have said, the Mojave has some attenuation but that is not power scaling (as in London Power Scaling where the voltage is lowered and the tubes clip at lower volumes) and I am guessing you would find the power scaling on a Suhr Badger, for instance, to work better than a typical attenuator. I have heard that the Ultimate Attenuator and the Ho attenuator work really well and they have variable dials just like the power scaling on the Badger or Reinhardt 18 (or the Reeves amps or Fargen Miniplex II, etc).

Tone King has some sort of new power management on its Metropolitan and I would love to hear that but I have been really impressed with power scaling...it is obviously partly about expectations...I don't expect the amp to sound exactly the same at whisper-quiet levels...I use the scaling to bring the volume down to a manageable level and that can still be reasonably loud (live in a fairly big house with tolerant and kind of distant neighbors). The Badger can really bring the volume down to about half a watt and it still sounds good...the ear does hear things differently at different volumes and you do lose that visceral appeal and sound of speakers moving air but power scaling is pretty great for those wanting great overdriven tube tone at sane levels. I don't generally bring it down all the way to half a watt but usually stay somewhere in the 5-10 watt range. The clips on suhrguitars.com are representative and impressive...

I wonder if that method Tone King is using in its new Metropolitan will catch on...does it really work differently than the London Power Scaling?
 

fierce_carrot

Member
Messages
1,879
Speakers are a HUGE part of an amps tone and when you are playing at "bedroom levels" your speakers are just barely working. If I need to play at very quiet levels, I much prefer using my POD where I can get pretty close to the sounds I want and do it thru headphones.
 

Samsun19

Member
Messages
1,196
I'm one of those guy's who recently posted questions about Power Scaling....

FWIW, years ago I tried attenuators, and I didn't like the way they squared/compressed the signal. But thanks to the very knowledgeable members here at TGP, I learned that the bench mark tech for attenuators today have been designed by a very cool cat named YuKong Ho, from Canada, his design is sold by Ultimate Attenuators. And he sells them direct as well.... Ho Attenuator, much better value and customizable.

But here's the thing, the UA/HO att are NOT attenuators ..... There "Re-Amping" devices, and they work Much better than the old tech. They do color the sound..... slightly, but even at bedroom levels the vibe and the highs are still there. You're not pushing air, but the tone in essence is preserved.

The Power Scaling by London, Badger work very well.

So, IMHO.... if you haven't tried these latest designs, you may be in for a very happy surprise.

If you get a chance, try to play a badger for a great example of PS..... And use a Ho attenuator for an example of how good att's can be.

I should mention that there is a beta att called the phantom, that promises to have no discernible color. That has been supported by a few of the most respected TGP members. But, at a price! And no cool options like dual channels, wet/dry loop, 100 varic, etc. Also, not going to be available for months.

I have a Carr Merc, and while I do agree that the sound at 1/2, 1/8, 2 watts is fun/cool..... It does square out the signal.

Best,

Sam
 

somedude

Member
Messages
7,603
I'm one of those guy's who recently posted questions about Power Scaling....

FWIW, years ago I tried attenuators, and I didn't like the way they squared/compressed the signal. But thanks to the very knowledgeable members here at TGP, I learned that the bench mark tech for attenuators today have been designed by a very cool cat named YuKong Ho, from Canada, his design is sold by Ultimate Attenuators. And he sells them direct as well.... Ho Attenuator, much better value and customizable.

But here's the thing, the UA/HO att are NOT attenuators ..... There "Re-Amping" devices, and they work Much better than the old tech. They do color the sound..... slightly, but even at bedroom levels the vibe and the highs are still there. You're not pushing air, but the tone in essence is preserved.
I've done the same thing with a Hotplate set on load and sending the line out to the FX return of a second amp. It works really well... much better than the attenuator on it's own.
 

Gasp100

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
22,504
I've done the same thing with a Hotplate set on load and sending the line out to the FX return of a second amp. It works really well... much better than the attenuator on it's own.
Hmmm... that's a pretty nifty idea, I've never thought about using it in that way. I have used the line out in my Hot Plate direct into an audio interface and then cab sims and I have gotten some pretty good results. The weird thing is that this works well with some amps (my Ceriatone and Valvetech VAC) but sounds horrendous with others (Valvetech Hayseed). I guess the Hayseed just needs the Celestion Blues?
Anyway, I'm trying the Badger (again). I thought that the power scaling on that amp sounded pretty damn good and I like the idea that it sort of has a MV as well. I think I can get very good results with:
Great amp with a very good MV -> Fulltone Fulldrive 2 (for od only).
I would have to venture that this rig will sound awesome for latenight:
Badger PS engaged -> Fulltone, or maybe just a Timmy
In either case I should probably pick up something for a dummy load / line out as well.
 

daddyo

Guest
Messages
11,797
I've have a Weber MASS 50 attenuator which works well with some amps down to low levels (Velocette) but merely OK with other (DRRI). I have a Reeves Custom 12 with Power Scaling which works well also. By low I mean basement level which is a loud TV. But none sounds good at a whisper volume - like wife and baby are sleeping in next room. For that I'd say a Roland Cube and maybe even headphones. The human ear can't hear well at low volumes - it's not sensitive to frequencies at low volumes. So no amp will please that low.
 

somedude

Member
Messages
7,603
Hmmm... that's a pretty nifty idea, I've never thought about using it in that way. I have used the line out in my Hot Plate direct into an audio interface and then cab sims and I have gotten some pretty good results. The weird thing is that this works well with some amps (my Ceriatone and Valvetech VAC) but sounds horrendous with others (Valvetech Hayseed). I guess the Hayseed just needs the Celestion Blues?
Oddly enough, this was done with an amp that HATES attenuators. I've successfully used Hotplates with a number of amps, but this one (Electric Amp 120w MV) just sounds like sh*t through one... yet it likes being re-amped.
 
Messages
2,043
I've have a Weber MASS 50 attenuator which works well with some amps down to low levels (Velocette) but merely OK with other (DRRI). I have a Reeves Custom 12 with Power Scaling which works well also. By low I mean basement level which is a loud TV. But none sounds good at a whisper volume - like wife and baby are sleeping in next room. For that I'd say a Roland Cube and maybe even headphones. The human ear can't hear well at low volumes - it's not sensitive to frequencies at low volumes. So no amp will please that low.

My Naylor sounds very good all the way down to 'off' on the master. With a couple clicks from a hotplate (since the MV by itself was a little too touchy) I could get great whisper volumes from Buddas too. OD-100, whisper. Badger, whisper. And I can get perfectly workable dirt tones with any number of pedals into a clean amp at any volume. Any of the above I would take over a Cube or a POD or the like. So I can definitely get pretty much any amp to please me at any volume. And I'm not talking TV or loud TV volume, I'm talking about having trouble hearing the amp over the strings volume. Are they are their best this low? No. But to me the magic of higher volumes is just as much about the interaction as it is about the tonal change. And don't forget to compensate with dialing eq as necessary as the volume goes down. Some amps need that more than others.
 




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