Thread: New excellent cheap Attenuator

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  1. #1
    Bounty Hunter's Kentucky Waterfall Dark and stormy night-ranger
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    Default New excellent cheap Attenuator

    For those of you have have non master volume guitar amps or just love the amp sound when cranked, I recommend the Alex Attenuator as an alternative to the Faustine Phantom (900USD).

    For 400 beans, the Alex Attenuator's quality and sound is right next the Faustine. It is for intents and purposes as good except for the FAustine having a variable load selector which is a pricy option, but cool.

    The Alex Attenuator just comes in whatever one ohm load you need. ANYTHING else I have tried doesn't come close besides the Faustine of course (which is the grand daddy of attenuators) to keeping the the amp's natural overall character, saturation etc.
    The Aracom, the Ultimate Attenuator, Airbrake, Hotplate are all not as good imo.... and they're about 600-750USD

    I am glad I bought it!
  2. #2
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    The problem with all attenuators, and it can't be avoided, is that they only really work to make very small adjustments. If you attenuate too much, it just sounds like shit. The speaker and the cabinet don't move enough to sound right. They also don't tend to load the output transformer right, so they sound wrong.


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  3. #3
    Bounty Hunter's Kentucky Waterfall Dark and stormy night-ranger
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    agreed.
  4. #4
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    The problem with all attenuators, and it can't be avoided, is that they only really work to make very small adjustments. If you attenuate too much, it just sounds like shit. The speaker and the cabinet don't move enough to sound right. They also don't tend to load the output transformer right, so they sound wrong.


    Gabriel

    Something I have been complaining about since the Carter White House.

    For many of the poorer kids, older "no pre/master" heads were all they could afford on the used market back then. If ya didn't fancy a "Stomp box" front end like an MXR Distortion+ you were basically fucked for small room rehearsal. Or most places you might expect to perform for that matter.

    Enter the Altaire PowerSoak, THD/HotPlate, Marshall PowerBrake, Sholtz and the like.

    None of them ever sounded right to my ears and some would melt heads, or fry themselves, or BOTH. Usually at the worst possible moments. Like when you finally DID use them on an actual paying gig.

    And even when you used them "as directed". Which was always a sketchy and vaguely voodoo combination of what the manufacturers "claimed" and local folk wisdoms of cats who'd "been there done that".

    Fucking nightmare.

    This is where I first started to get a handle on the concepts of speaker excursion and cabinet involvement that I bored the shit outta everybody with, in SDGFH.

    Not even from a recording standpoint... Just watching poor bastards in my various rock bands go through hell trying to get some kinda legit tone going without overpowering stage volume.

    SM.
    Kill me. No really. Just fucking kill me.
  5. #5
    Little River Band on The Run Internet Meme
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    I have zero problems with my Hot plate in the UniValve. Serves me well and doesn't change the tone out of the comfort zone.
  6. #6
    Bounty Hunter's Kentucky Waterfall Dark and stormy night-ranger
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    I have zero problems with my Hot plate in the UniValve. Serves me well and doesn't change the tone out of the comfort zone.

    Hotplate, .....not for me....

    to each their own...
  7. #7
    Garden variety weasel...has ripped flesh. Studied for urine test
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    One thing I never quite understood is - and please correct me, for the odds of being wrong are great - but, historically, the whole deal about full stacks was that sound reinforcement systems of that day couldn't cope very well with having every instrument amplified through them (intermodulation distortion? not a lot of headroom?), and so the guitar rig would have to be a self-contained system capable move enough air as to rock the venue all by itself, right? Or was it just Pete Townsend's responsibility?

    My question is, why didn't things evolve towards smaller amps whose speakers would be rated for less power (breaking up sooner) and poweramps that could be cranked for that sweet meaty tone, without decapitating the first rows of attendees?

    Rehearsal rooms, recording studios, small clubs or even bigger stages - wouldn't all these environments benefit from being able to produce good tone at lower volume?
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    [QUOTE=johnnywellas;299750]One thing I never quite understood is - and please correct me, for the odds of being wrong are great - but, historically, the whole deal about full stacks was that sound reinforcement systems of that day couldn't cope very well with having every instrument amplified through them (intermodulation distortion? not a lot of headroom?), and so the guitar rig would have to be a self-contained system capable move enough air as to rock the venue all by itself, right? Or was it just Pete Townsend's responsibility? [/url]

    As I understand it, it was more that no one thought to put guitars, bass, etc through the PA. They were smaller systems, and the guys running them tended to be electrical engineers, not musicians. Also, before cheap semi-conductors came along, there is a real limit to the number of channels you can sum with a vacuum tube. Combine that with a lack of understanding of the physics of speakers, at least by the people using them, and it just wasn't really practical. Even when people started thinking more creatively about it, it took awhile to arrive at what we now consider "normal." The Grateful Dead's "Wall of Sound" system had separate line arrays for each of the instruments, and a cluster for the vocals. They were still basically making the guitar amps bigger.

    At least, that is how one of my teachers at Berklee explained it, and he was there at the time so I assume he knows what he is talking about.



    My question is, why didn't things evolve towards smaller amps whose speakers would be rated for less power (breaking up sooner) and poweramps that could be cranked for that sweet meaty tone, without decapitating the first rows of attendees?

    Rehearsal rooms, recording studios, small clubs or even bigger stages - wouldn't all these environments benefit from being able to produce good tone at lower volume?
    There is, these days. Almost every boutique amp builder is making a really expensive (and really nice) small amp these days.

    But there is a trade off. Low frequencies take more power to reproduce, so when you start using smaller amps you will tend to either loose low end, or if you try to compensate for it in the design the low end will get kind of flabby sounding. They can still sound great, but they will not sound the same, so if you are trying to recreate the sound of such and such `70's Guitar God, you're going to struggle with less than 100 Watts.

    Add to this, in order to get half the volume of a 100 watt amp, you are using a 10 Watt amp (a drop of ≈10 dBSPL), which in most people's minds is equated with something like a Fender Champ - i.e., a student model amp - and most people don't feel they should be on stage playing through a student model amp. Plus, it is almost impossible to get good feedback from a 10-25 Watt amp. I love my 18 watt, but I have to have my guitar about 2" from the grill before it starts to howl!

    And then, of course, there is the whole Rock `N Roll cock size fight that most guitar players seem to be obsessed with.

    Steve Miller started using a 25 watt amp on stage back in the seventies, for just this reason.


    Gabriel
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  9. #9
    Bounty Hunter's Kentucky Waterfall Dark and stormy night-ranger
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    [QUOTE=G. Hoffman;299867]
    One thing I never quite understood is - and please correct me, for the odds of being wrong are great - but, historically, the whole deal about full stacks was that sound reinforcement systems of that day couldn't cope very well with having every instrument amplified through them (intermodulation distortion? not a lot of headroom?), and so the guitar rig would have to be a self-contained system capable move enough air as to rock the venue all by itself, right? Or was it just Pete Townsend's responsibility? [/url]

    As I understand it, it was more that no one thought to put guitars, bass, etc through the PA. They were smaller systems, and the guys running them tended to be electrical engineers, not musicians. Also, before cheap semi-conductors came along, there is a real limit to the number of channels you can sum with a vacuum tube. Combine that with a lack of understanding of the physics of speakers, at least by the people using them, and it just wasn't really practical. Even when people started thinking more creatively about it, it took awhile to arrive at what we now consider "normal." The Grateful Dead's "Wall of Sound" system had separate line arrays for each of the instruments, and a cluster for the vocals. They were still basically making the guitar amps bigger.

    At least, that is how one of my teachers at Berklee explained it, and he was there at the time so I assume he knows what he is talking about.





    There is, these days. Almost every boutique amp builder is making a really expensive (and really nice) small amp these days.

    But there is a trade off. Low frequencies take more power to reproduce, so when you start using smaller amps you will tend to either loose low end, or if you try to compensate for it in the design the low end will get kind of flabby sounding. They can still sound great, but they will not sound the same, so if you are trying to recreate the sound of such and such `70's Guitar God, you're going to struggle with less than 100 Watts.

    Add to this, in order to get half the volume of a 100 watt amp, you are using a 10 Watt amp (a drop of ≈10 dBSPL), which in most people's minds is equated with something like a Fender Champ - i.e., a student model amp - and most people don't feel they should be on stage playing through a student model amp. Plus, it is almost impossible to get good feedback from a 10-25 Watt amp. I love my 18 watt, but I have to have my guitar about 2" from the grill before it starts to howl!

    And then, of course, there is the whole Rock `N Roll cock size fight that most guitar players seem to be obsessed with.

    Steve Miller started using a 25 watt amp on stage back in the seventies, for just this reason.


    Gabriel
    I love my friends 60's Fender Champ. Simply. Tiny 6-8 inch speaker, throw a MAxon Tube Screamer in front (there is no discernible bass cut with that amp that typical with the design of the classic tube screamer circuit). Sounds on fire!
  10. #10
    Tainted Love Potion Number Nine Mallory's missing camera
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    I have the Weber thingy, whatever it's called, with the actual speaker coil inside a little metal box. Vibrates pretty badly as you increase the load. It's been a while since I used it but I recall liking it better than the Marshall thingy.

    I think it's sort of a debatable point whether you are losing more than just "power section tone" (or whatever you want to call it) by turning the volume down fairly low on an amp. It's possible you just need to drive the speakers harder, move more air, and pump more sound into the room to really get anything close to great electric guitar tone, regardless of how good your attenuator is.
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  11. #11
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    i use a Weber Mass Lite.

    2 attenuators in one: Low-Mids, and Mids-Highs.
    so instead of adding tone stacks to try to get back to the 'tone', you can choose how much low end to attenuate separately from the high end.

    uses a speaker motor as part of the load.

    it has worked flawlessly for me.

    compared it against a wreck, scholz original power soak, marshall power brake, Thd hotplate, air brake.


    the thing about this that trumps all the others:

    $160.
  12. #12
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    i use a Weber Mass Lite.


    compared it against a wreck, scholz original power soak, marshall power brake, Thd hotplate, air brake.


    the thing about this that trumps all the others:

    $160.

    I gotta check this thing out now.

    Might be time to get the Marshall Major outta mothballs.

    SM.
    Kill me. No really. Just fucking kill me.
  13. #13
    Bounty Hunter's Kentucky Waterfall Dark and stormy night-ranger
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    I gotta check this thing out now.

    Might be time to get the Marshall Major outta mothballs.

    SM.
    weber's ok, but the Alex and the FAustine are much better
  14. #14
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    no, not much better... (purely subjective)

    only, MUCH more expensive.
  15. #15
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    these things are the same theme, different variation...
    resistance, with eq.

    the weber mass lite, uses an actual speaker motor, to create an active load.

    much different response.

    you should read up on it.

    these things should not cost as much as an amplifier.
  16. #16
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    plus, the thing i like MOST about the mass lite..

    it's actually two attenuators in one.

    low end, needs a different attenuation than high end.

    takes a lot of watts to crank low end, almost none for high..

    so the 2 attenuators split freqs, between LOW_MIDS and MID_HIGH's.....

    a simple brilliant way to deal with it.

    makes the attenuation between low end and high end seperate of each other, and infinitely variable.
    works.
  17. #17
    Frustrated Chick Rock singer...now doing jazz standards poorly! Fletcher's prison bitch
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    My question is, why didn't things evolve towards smaller amps...
    For me, it's about tone. I never got a tone I liked from a speaker other than a 12". I have rarely liked the tone from anything other than a 4x12 cabinet, although I now have a 2x12 wedge with Eminence Governors (for big stages) that I really like. I have to admit that there is nothing cooler looking than a whole wall of cabinets, but it's about the sound above all, and I simply can't deal with the sound of small speakers.
  18. #18
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    Sure, I understand that. Thing is - 99% of times, the guitar sound that is heard out of wedge monitors and FOH comes from a close mic 1 inch away from one of the 4 12" speakers. Couldn't a 1x12" cabinet, with a speaker rated to say 25 or 30w, fed from a cranked low power amp serve the same purpose?

    I'm all for great tone, but at a lower volume. It works better for everyone.
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  19. #19
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    I first heard about this stuff when EVH was touting his "brown" sound. Well, he could make most anything sound good, but I think this method of attaining tone was misguided at best. Of course, many experimented with it because he endorsed it. I say swap the amp for one with a decent preamp gain and you get far better tone at low volume. [shrug]
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  20. #20
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    Default Re: New excellent cheap Attenuator

    I first heard about this stuff when EVH was touting his "brown" sound.
    Actually, I believe EVH used Variacs - a completely different thing.

    A Variac will allow you to alter the voltage going into the amp, causing the tubes to distort at lower levels.

    I say swap the amp for one with a decent preamp gain and you get far better tone at low volume.
    Once again, different can of wormies. Preamp distortion will not give you the same sound as bringing power tube saturation into the equation, which is what using dummy loads/power soaks/attenuators will do. Decent preamp distortion will still be important however, no matter which solution you go with.


    otek
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