Best Guitar Amp Attenuator - Cranked Tones at Lower Volumes

We all love the sound of a cranked amp, but we can’t play loud all the time. Thankfully, lowering the amp’s output power allows for cranked-up tones at lower volumes. And this is what the best guitar attenuator can do for you. Check out our recommendations below.

Best Value Amp Attenuator
Tone King Ironman II Mini

Tone King Ironman II Mini

A stompbox-style attenuator. Dial your preferred setting and tap the switch to engage or disengage.

Best Amp Attenuator (Overall)
Rivera RockCrusher Power Attenuator

Rivera RockCrusher Power Attenuator/Load Box

Capture that authentic cranked amp tone, even at low dB settings.

Best Compact Amp Attenuator
Two Notes Torpedo Captor X

Two Notes Torpedo Captor X

A Swiss Army knife attenuator. Volume reduction, re-amping, and studio-grade recording capability in one device.

Best Amp Attenuator (Affordability)
Bugera PS1 Power Soak

Bugera PS1 Power Soak

A straightforward plug-and-play attenuator. It gets the job done without making you go broke.

Best Amp Attenuator (Features)
Boss WAZA Tube Amp Expander

Boss WAZA Tube Amp Expander

Feature-packed attenuator. It has Boss' tank-tough build, effects, and overall premium quality.

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Amplifiers, especially tube amps, have a distinct tone when their volume is turned all the way up. This “tonal sweet spot” is achieved when the preamp or the power amp sections start cooking, resulting to a cranked amp tones that sound good to our ears.

But we don’t always have the freedom to play loud, because we don’t want to disturb the people around us. High volume levels can also cause ear fatigue, if you expose yourself to it for extended periods. 

You can always lower the master sound volume, but it also lowers the gain that’s driving the amp, which means you won’t get to the nice cranked sound of the amp.

So, in order to lower your amp’s volume to bedroom levels with minimal tone loss we use guitar amp attenuators. As the name implies, they attenuate the output of the amp without messing with the gain levels of the preamp and power amp.  

What attenuators do is convert excess wattage into heat, usually via coils. This way, less wattage goes to the speaker for lower volume, while retaining much of the details of the amp’s sound.

Attenuators are ideal for people living in small places like apartments, or condos. You want to keep your peace with your neighbors after all.

They can be useful recording tools as well, as they allow you to capture a more organic guitar sound even in a tight space

Caution: Using an attenuator does not prevent your amp’s tubes from wearing out faster if you over-crank the gain for extended periods. Therefore, it’s essential to find the right balance between the gain and attenuation level to ensure the longevity of your tubes.

In this guide, we cover different types of attenuators, starting with basic models and progressing to more complex ones with additional tone-shaping features.

Sweetwater

The Best Guitar Amp Attenuators

Tone King Ironman II Mini

Best Value Guitar Amp Attenuator

Tone King Ironman II Mini

Tone King Ironman II Mini

Guitarsite Expert Opinion

Need a quick solo boost? No problem. Iron Man II features a footswitch function. Using this function, you can set separate settings for your rhythm and lead. Tap the switch to unleash your lead tone, or dial it back without ever interrupting your playing.

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Manufacturer: Tone King

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Tone King’s reactive attenuator works by mimicking the interaction between your amp and speaker. This preserves the dynamics and feel of your sound. It’s a huge advantage over traditional attenuators, as some of them leave your amp’s tone sounding smooshed.

It has independent controls for high and low frequencies, allowing you to fine-tune your sound. Plus, a presence selector that helps you adjust for different playing environments, ensuring that you always cut through the mix.

Unlike bulky attenuators, the Ironman II is compact and has a pedal-like design. Just like your favorite stompboxes, you can place them right on the floor for easy access and control. And like an effects pedal, you can tap its footswitch to activate and deactivate it.

This versatile attenuator is perfect for amps up to 30 watts, but that’s as much as it can. It has a more powerful twin, the Iron Man II 100 watts, for your more powerful amps.

Pros:

Cons:

Specifications:
Attenuator Type: Reactive Load
Attenuation Levels: -3 to -36
Speaker Impedance: 8 Ohms
Power Handling: 30W R.M.S. Maximum
Solo Function: Selectable 3db/6db reduction
Power Source: Power supplied by either internal batteries (2 x AA cells) or external 9V source

Rivera RockCrusher

Best Guitar Amp Attenuator (Overall)

Rivera RockCrusher Power Attenuator

Rivera RockCrusher

Guitarsite Expert Opinion

Rivera has a stellar reputation for recreating an authentic cranked-up amp tone. For this reason, guys like Dave Grohl, Dave “Snake” Sabo (Skid Row), and Jim Root (Slipknot) have faith in this gear.

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Manufacturer: Rivera

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The RockCrusher faithfully captures that cranked-up amp tone nicely, even at low dB settings.

The RockCrusher features volume control, sound tuning switches, and an impedance selector for 8/16 ohm speakers. It has a sturdy build quality for long-lasting use.

If you want to unleash your tube amp’s tone without blowing the roof off, the RockCrusher is incredible. It sounds great, is versatile, and is built tough. A worthy investment for serious players.

Pros:

Cons:

Specifications:
Attenuator Type: Reactive Load
Attenuation Levels: 6 Presets
Speaker Impedance: 8/16 Ohms Selectable
Power Handling: 120W RMS Maximum

Two Notes Torpedo Captor X

Best Compact Amp Attenuator

Two Notes Torpedo Captor X

Two Notes Torpedo Captor X

Guitarsite Expert Opinion

The Two Notes Torpedo Reload is like a Swiss Army Knife for guitarists. It offers the usual volume reduction of an attenuator. But in addition to that, it also adds re-amping capabilities and studio-grade recording tools—all in one compact unit.

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Manufacturer: Two-Note

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If you’re a hobbyist, this higher price point might make you flinch. But it has a few more features that might change your mind.

This thing goes beyond volume control. Its Reactive-Active technology preserves your cranked amp tone, even at whisper-quiet levels. It’s ideal for late-night practice sessions or capturing those killer riffs without waking the neighbors.

In addition to that, The Torpedo Reload boasts a multi-impedance load box, DI box, reamping functionality, and access to downloadable virtual cabinets. The possibilities are vast.

Its small size reduces the extra gear you have to lug around. Plus, it saves valuable rack space—a win for any musician.

Given its size, it has limited impedance matching. The Captor X only supports 8 ohms which can only be paired with a 4–8 ohm amp. 

But other than that, the sheer versatility and quality of the Torpedo Reload make it a worthwhile investment. If you’re a serious guitarist with the budget to match, this is a nice tool for silent practice. 

This helps with your creative exploration and professional-grade recordings, all powered by the sound of your cranked-up amp.

Pros:

Cons:

Specifications:
Attenuator Type: Hybrid
Attenuation Levels: -38 dB, -20 dB, 0dB
Speaker Impedance: 8 Ohm
Power Handling: 100W RMS
Power Source: 12v

Bugera PS1 Power Soak

Best Amp Attenuator (Affordability)

Bugera PS1 Power Soak

Bugera PS1 Power Soak

Guitarsite Expert Opinion

Simply connect the Bugera PS1 Power Soak between your amp and speaker, and adjust the knob. You now got a nice cranked-amp tone, minus the damn loud volume. It’s ideal for late-night practice sessions without emptying your wallet.

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Manufacturer: Bugera

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The PS1 Power Soak is as easy to use as it is effective. No complex setups here; just plug your amp into the attenuator’s input, connect your speaker to it’s output, and you’re good to go.

It works flawlessly with most tube amps up to 100 watts. So, you have a wide range of amp compatibility. It’s also passive and doesn’t need to be plugged into a power source, which means fewer cables and more space.

It has a line-out jack that lets you work with an extra speaker or experiment with effects in the studio. There’s also a dedicated level control.

For an affordable price, this attenuator offers good value for its capabilities. And its small size and passive nature make convenient to use.

There aren’t that many controls to play with, but for most players, the core functionality of this attenuator is more than enough.

The PS1 Power Soak is a must-have attenuator if you want something small, affordable, and easy to use. 

Pros:

Cons:

Specifications:
Attenuator Type: Reactive Load
Attenuation Levels: -0 to -100
Speaker Impedance: 4, 8, 16 Ohms
Power Handling: 100W RMS
Power Source: Passive (no need for power source)

Boss WAZA Tube Amp Expander

Best Amp Attenuator (Features)

Boss WAZA Tube Amp Expander

Boss WAZA Tube Amp Expander

Guitarsite Expert Opinion

The Boss Waza Expander is intuitive enough that it does not need the basic knobs. Instead, it gives an array of adjustable knobs that you can adjust.

It lets you save your favorite amp settings with its loadable IR feature. Tweak effects and EQs to shape your sound, and even throw in some pedals for extra flavor, not to mention its built-in effects which are equally awesome.

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Manufacturer: Boss

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The Waza Expander has a reactive load. It captures the nuances and the way your amp interacts with the speaker. With resonance and presence control, you can adjust the way an amp behaves in a room.

Unlike other amp attenuators, this device has a power amp section. So, if you’re using a low-wattage amp like a 15W, you can give it extra juice. This way, your low-watt amp sound can compete even with loud drums for live use.

The expander has an effects loop to integrate your favorite pedals and speaker simulations. So, you can run the signal straight to the FOH or to a recording software.

Load up different speaker impulse responses to recreate some legendary cabinets. Plus, it doubles as an audio interface, with a headphone jack that is perfect for recording and direct monitoring.

The Boss Waza Tube Amp Expander has what you’d expect from an amp attenuator and so much more. However, it comes with a steep price. So, best make sure that you really need this one. But with its number of features and the build quality expected from Boss, this attenuator is surely worth the price.

Pros:

Cons:

Specifications:
Attenuator Type: Hybrid
Speaker Impedance: 4/8/16 ohms
Power Handling: 150 W
Power Source: IEC AC cable

Honorable Mentions:

The products I mentioned above are the prominent attenuators currently available in the market. However, there are other products that can also compete with them effectively.

Attenuators such as the Fryette Power Station, Weber Mass, and Universal Audio OX Box are some examples. These are high-quality attenuators that are also worth checking out.

 

Things to Consider When Buying an Amp Attenuator

Resistive, Hybrid, and Reactive Attenuator

Resistive/Fixed – Most attenuators are resistive attenuators. These devices behave like resistive resistors, they tame the loud volume coming from your amp before throwing it to the speakers. However, resistive or fixed attenuators can cut a lot of the high end dynamics or response from your amp’s sound.

Reactive – Unlike their resistive counterpart, reactive attenuators cut the loudness of your sound while maintaining its dynamic response. By emulating how a speaker reacts to an amp signal, a reactive attenuator is a game changer in that it produces a more organic sound. 

Hybrid – A lot of newer attenuators are now reactive. It only makes sense, as it’s the best way to attenuate an amp’s sound without degrading its tonal characteristic. In addition to that, some units have more features other than attenuating sound alone. Hybrids, as they’re called, can do the basic volume reduction function, along with a few more features: like IR, speaker emulation, effects, recording, and more. 

Power and Impedance Matching

Every guitar amp attenuator has a wide range of functionality, so it’s critical to know what you need. When investing in an attenuator, one thing to keep in mind is to always check the output power and output impedance of your amplifier. 

You run the danger of harming the attenuator; for example, if you purchase a 60-watt attenuator but have an 80-watt amp, the attenuator must equal or surpass the amp’s wattage.

When it comes to impedance, matching is equally significant. An example of this would be using a 16-ohm amp with an 8-ohm attenuator, which might potentially damage the amp. If you have several amps with differing impedance requirements, other attenuators offer multiple impedance options.

Additional Features

The primary function of these tools is to attenuate sound. While most have fixed attenuation settings, some can apply different levels of attenuation.

Others let you gain control over your tone, including EQ adjustments, re-amper function, amp simulation, and more. These have gained popularity lately and are appealing to guitarists who enjoy delving deeply into every detail of their sound.

Although an attenuator basically lowers your sound, you might want an even quieter option. In this case, the best option is to have an amp that has a headphone out.

Some amps have these features built-in and many more. But it all comes down to what you really need, and what can help you. 

If you have the budget, you can opt for having specialized amps for different uses. Go for the best battery powered guitar amp if you want an outdoor amp for busking.

The best guitar amp attenuator should reduce the piercing high volume of your amp, while retaining most, if not all, the characteristics of your cranked amp sound. 

Since attenuators are dealing with electrical signals and power, build quality plays a big role in operating properly. As such, this reason why expensive attenuators usually do a better job of reproducing a guitar’s sweet spot at lower volume levels.

Do you know of a good guitar attenuator that was not included in this list? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Alexander Briones

Lead Author

Jerome Arcon

Contributor: Research and Supplemental Writing

2 thoughts on “Best Guitar Amp Attenuator Roundup”

  1. Best Guitar Amp Attenuator Roundup
    Leon

    What about the new Two Notes Captor X box? It is reasonably priced and has pretty much all the features of the gear you mention in this article.

  2. Former Guitar Center employee. Worked professional in NashTN
    Mark Porter

    Currently I’ve worked with acts like Blake Shelton, Jack Whites project The Raconteurs and Taylor swift.

    While at Guitar Center in Nashville I bought a used Gibson Stealth Attenuator. I belive they were bought out by THD, or Somthing. The same exact atinuator is the THD Hot Plate. I had my original stolen and currently own the THD version 8ohm. I’m playing thru a 2001 Fender 60 watt Supersonic combo guitar amp.

    After MANY hours using all the above mentioned. This one was equal in sound and 1/4th the cost.

    Best O Luck on your ventures. Buy this one and you won’t look back.

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