Guitar Amp Attenuator Roundup
We all love the sound of a cranked tube amp, but it can be too loud in many situations. This is what power attenuators are for - reducing the loudness of your amp while retaining the cranked tube tone.
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By utilizing attenuators, you can get the gritty sound of driven tubes at any volume level - without having to modify the circuit of your beloved tube amps. With a good amp attenuator, you can finally use your big and loud amplifiers even in smaller venues, without having to compromise tone . Attenuators also come handy when recording in small studios where cranking up your regular tube amp can be too loud.
Note that even when using an attenuator, over-cranking your amp for prolonged periods will still cause faster wear and tear to the tubes - much like when the attenuator is not in use. So finding the right balance for the gain and attenuation level is important if you want to save your tubes.
Rivera RockCrusher Power Attenuator
The RockCrusher continues to be the most recommended power attenuator, thanks to its quality, tone and reliability. The unit's transparent tone and attenuation capabilities are truly impressive and easily justifies its seemingly premium price tag. The RockCrusher is simply an invaluable tool that allow powerful tube amps to get more use, instead of merely collecting dust. Instead of the usual resistive load network design used on other power attenuators, Rivera used a hybrid "reactive" load network, giving it its great response and improved speaker-to-amplifier interaction.
This unit employs inductive and capacitive resistance to deliver the biting tone of a full-on tube amp as transparently as possible, whatever the volume maybe. Build and sonic quality is assured by Rivera, a company with a long list of artist users and endorsers from diverse musical styles, from Earth Wind & Fire, to Dave Grohl to Jeff Skunk Baxer and many more. Even Slash's tech Ace Bergman found the RockCrusher to be convincingly very good.
On top of providing transparent tone, RockCrusher also comes with Edge and Warm switches for further sonic tweaking. To protect your tube amp, Rivera also ensured impedance matching by providing an 8/16 ohm selector for matching multiple cabinets. Finally all these features are grafted inside a solid bullet-proof exterior, a thick wielded steel chassis that assures reliable performance for years to come. Retail Price: $499. Get the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com.
Two Notes Torpedo Reload Reactive-Active Attenuator
The Two Notes Torpedo Reload is designed to be the be-all and end-all for quiet or silent playing, reamping and recording. It can literally do everything and juggle between multiple duties without fail, being a power attenuator, multi-impedance loadbox, DI box and a re-amping box, all rolled into a premium looking rack mount package. While the cost may not be practical for hobbyists, the features and versatility add up to more than your money's worth, so both professionals and weekend warriors will truly benefit - be it for recording, practicing or for taming loud amps for live performances at smaller venues.
And it's not just about flexibility and feature count, the Two Notes Torpedo Reload produces consistent and transparent tones, thanks to the company's Reactive-Active technology. Regardless of how much you attenuate the volume, you will still get the cranked tube tone, making it ideal for quiet practice, brain storming song ideas and silent recording. The quality of its power attenuation alone makes this a truly valuable tool for guitarists to consider, even with its premium price tag.
Consider all the added high-end features that include automatic level adjustment for re-amping, and virtual cabinet (IR) simulations via the Wall of Sound III cabinet model plug-in - and you have yourself a powerful and versatile tool that will let you better utilize your amplifiers, including the big ones. And since it is multifunction, you also save rack and gear space while getting more music projects completed. If you have a generous budget, don't hesitate to invest on this impressive guitar attenuator. Retail Price: $849. Get the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com
Radial Headload V8 Loadbox Attenuator
With Radial's experience and reputation, it is only expected that they come up with a professional grade power attenuator, and so they did, rather they overdid! The Radial Headload showcases the company's expertise packed in a single box - able to act as a power attenuator while having built-in JDX Direct box features and a six-position voicing switch for direct amp and cabinet simulation. And the best thing about it is that all of the features work really well, without any hint of compromise in terms of control, tone shaping and sound. Although pricey, this is currently the best mass produced guitar amp attenuator that you can buy.
By plugging your guitar amplifier to the Radial Headload, you'll be able to vary the wattage incrementally from full-on down to zero. And more importantly, you get the cranked tone at any of the volume settings, even at lower bedroom friendly ones. This consistent attenuation makes the Headload useful for both quiet/silent practice and recording, or for simply reducing stage volume levels. And since it comes with Radial's popular JDX DI Box circuitry, you get high-quality direct signal straight to the PA while keeping stage volume at manageable levels.
On top of all the above mentioned features, Radial Headload also comes with the Phazer, a tool that will let you align the JDX direct output signal with other signals. This allows for interesting combinations of amped, direct and mic'ed signals. Start saving up now if you're looking for a reliable guitar amp attenuator, you can thank us later after you put it to good use. Retail Price: $899.99. Get the latest price & reviews at Sweetwater.com
Suhr Jim Kelley Power Attenuator
The Suhr Jim Kelley Power Attenuator has proven to be a strong contender in this market, enjoying the recommendation of professionals and artists. All thanks to its transparent sound and straightforward operation.
It is designed to work with different types of amps, working up to 100 watts, and can work with 4 and 8 ohm loads. It is also very easy to operate featuring a single knob interface that lets you adjust the power attenuation. On top of being flexible and intuitive, the Jim Kelley Power Attenuator comes with a treble Boost Switch, which better preserves the high-end dynamics of your tone.
Another nifty feature of this unit is its footswitch control compatibility, allowing for hands-free operation. All of these features combine to form a practical and easy to use load box that does not get in the way of the original tone of your amp. As expected the exterior of the unit is well built, ensuring reliable operation for musicians that are always on the move.
Having been made by Suhr, a brand supported by virtuosos like Scott Henderson and Michael Landau, you can be assured of build quality and sonic transparency, much like their great sounding guitar and amp offerings. Although not as widely available as the other guitar amp attenuators in this list, those that are wise and thrifty enough to invest on the Jim Kelley Power Attenuator will be rewarded handsomely. Retail Price: $599. You can visit Suhr to order.
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