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What's with Attenuators

Jimmy MAck

Member
Messages
828
I found an attenuator in my closet, A Tom Schulz Power Soak. I never read anything about them, but I think I have a need for it now.
I would like to control my amp output as others play through it at our weekly Jam sessions.
I would want to do this from the front of the stage, requiring long speaker cables - one from amp, one to speaker.
Would this be bad for the amp transformer, or tubes. I wouldn't do this if it wasn't sometimes necessary, but you know guitar players! They can't even turn down when someone else is soloing!
And I am tired of bitching at them.
We can't mic the band, it is a small venue, just stage volume and that's it.

The Power Soak makes my Princeton Reverb sound fabulously Marshall-like at home.

Thoughts? Advice?
 

rollyfoster

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
17,316
What’s the problem here? People are using your amp but when you’re playing it’s ok and when they’re playing it’s too loud?
 

sickboy79

Member
Messages
13,588
I don't know much about the Tom Scholz attenuator other than what I've read. But, todays modern attenuators are very safe. No different than just cranking your amp. I've been using them for years with great luck.
 

JustABluesGuy

Member
Messages
1,205
I’ve never tried an attenuator myself, but I haven’t found a need yet either. The closest I’ve come is an Eminence Maverick MFD adjustable efficency speaker (recommended!).

I use a combination of various wattage amps, and extension cabs with speakers of varying efficiency, size, and power handling along with the occasional dirt pedal if necessary. I’ve been able to cover everything from TV level practice, to outdoor gigs with a loud drummer without a problem.

If I only had one very high wattage combo amp that I couldn’t tame, it would make sense. I actually might add one to my tool kit some day, as yet another way to tweak my volume, but not the first.

Using one as the first, and only way to tame an amp just doesn’t make sense to me. Selecting the right wattage and speaker efficency comes first, and then (only if needed) some slight attenuation might get it “just right”.

Again, I have never an attenuator myself, but from my research none of them will allow one to run their marshall full stack with EV’s wide open, and then attenuate it to bedroom levels while keeping the same tone at all.

Right amp + right speakers works most of the time. I would save attenuation for minor “tweaks” if needed.

Tweaks I have not yet felt a need for. I’m not recommend against them by any means, but for me they would be a last resort.
 

davidespinosa

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,866
Would this be bad for the amp transformer, or tubes.

An attenuator is essentially a silent speaker.
The problem is that it encourages people to crank the amp.
Cranking the amp can overheat the tubes and transformer (if it's under-specified).

What amp are you going to use it with ?
 
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guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
23,680
I found an attenuator in my closet, A Tom Schulz Power Soak. I never read anything about them, but I think I have a need for it now.
I would like to control my amp output as others play through it at our weekly Jam sessions.
I would want to do this from the front of the stage, requiring long speaker cables - one from amp, one to speaker.
Would this be bad for the amp transformer, or tubes. I wouldn't do this if it wasn't sometimes necessary, but you know guitar players! They can't even turn down when someone else is soloing!
And I am tired of bitching at them.
We can't mic the band, it is a small venue, just stage volume and that's it.

The Power Soak makes my Princeton Reverb sound fabulously Marshall-like at home.

Thoughts? Advice?
Shades of Altair, that is an old attenuator! Modern ones are so much better sounding.
Attenuating a Princeton seems putting air brakes on a tricycle.
Weber makes a variety of attenuators for different applications but with a Princeton I think exploring some OD/Distortion pedals might be as effective.
 

FbIsNotE

Member
Messages
3,815
I would want to do this from the front of the stage, requiring long speaker cables - one from amp, one to speaker.
Would this be bad for the amp transformer, or tubes.

As far as long speaker wire goes it should be no problem. What gauge depends on length, power and impedance. 16 gauge should be fine but if going really long you might as well go 14 gauge or more. I run a 25 ft 12 gauge cable with my 50 watt Mesa with a 4 Ohm 2x12 with no issues. I only went that heavy because I happened to have it laying around.
 

ripoffriffs

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,143
When Tom Scholz (look him up, he was in a great Band, had great classic songs) created this thing in the 70's, it was way ahead of its time. But according to a long-time amp tech in my town, there were problems with his attenuators. They tended to overheat which liquefied the solder connections, and then fail. When it failed, the tube amp (most likely a 50 or 100W Marshall non-master) didn't have a load to hang onto, thereby ruining the output transformers.
 

De Batz

Member
Messages
2,929
When Tom Scholz (look him up, he was in a great Band, had great classic songs) created this thing in the 70's, it was way ahead of its time. But according to a long-time amp tech in my town, there were problems with his attenuators. They tended to overheat which liquefied the solder connections, and then fail. When it failed, the tube amp (most likely a 50 or 100W Marshall non-master) didn't have a load to hang onto, thereby ruining the output transformers.

I've got the Scholz, and to be honest, I've never actually noticed it getting hot at all. Having said that, I'll be keeping a closer eye on it than previously now that I've read this comment.

The Scholz is just a bunch of big resistors, and the rotary switch controls how much signal you dump. I wouldn't say it sounded bad, particularly below about 12 or 9dB attenuation.
 

camilok

Member
Messages
130
Aracom has an option that allows for 2 volume settings with their attenuator, selected by footswitch. You could run the footswitch cable through a snake and back to the board if you want to "turn them down"
 

dansworld

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
4,315
I had one way back when they came out and, although it did what it was supposed to do, it was pretty unsophisticated. Just a large resistor network. Eventually my amp failed in a spectacular show of blue sparks however I don't know if it was the Power Soak's fault or just me playing my amp wide open for too long. Attenuators let you do that, so be careful.

Today's attenuators do more to preserve the tone of your amp while having features like direct and headphone outputs.
 

gtrbarbarian

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,037
I've used a few different attenuators, including a power soak back in the day (not great sounding), a weber mass (better sounding), thd (great sounding) , and a two notes captor (great sounding but doesn't attenuate all the way to silent).... THD was the best sounding out of the bunch. But they can't hold a candle to reamping via a Fryette power station...this thing is a loadbox (silent recording) and a very transparent 50w power amp (re-amp to a speaker), with a direct out...and has the added benefit of a post amp effects loop.
 

Jimmy MAck

Member
Messages
828
Yes Rollyfoster. I play with discretion. When someone else solos, I turn way down. On my solos, I turn up, or what's the point?

To any of you who didn't read my OP, I have a need to control the output of the amp. When others don't do it, I have to turn them down. Plain and simple. Or I have to stand at the stage and babysit them. And that's not my idea of fun.

Thanks to those of you who provided real info. Thanks
 




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