What's the "best" amp attenuator these days?

Discussion in 'Live Performance & Stage Sound' started by jonsick, Dec 10, 2019.

  1. jonsick

    jonsick SS.org Regular

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    I'm not interested in IR's or simulation, more a modern equivalent of the old Marshall Powerbreak or the THD Hot Plate. Anything that will allow the cranking of a power section and scale down the volume into a run-o-the-mill 4x12 (or two).

    Cheers
     
  2. Nicki

    Nicki SS.org Regular

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    Rivera RockCrusher or Fryette Power Station
     
  3. tedtan

    tedtan SS.org Regular

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    I like my Fryette Power Station quite a bit, but I hear there are a few newer attenuators worth checking out, too.
     
  4. Paincakes

    Paincakes SS.org Regular

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    The newly announced Two Notes Captor X does attenuation, and IRs.
     
  5. puolimatkankrouvi

    puolimatkankrouvi SS.org Regular

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    The new Torpedo Captor X is propably the best bet if you need cabinet modeling, but unfortunately the attenuation is fixed to -20db.

    Fryette Power station has tube section, which can be used reamp the attenuated sound with tubes (to make small wattage amp to sound like 50w well).
    Tubes sound great but are prone to breaking. It does have effects loop and line in as well.
     
  6. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    Tube amp expander?
     
  7. ikarus

    ikarus SS.org Regular

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    Isn't the ox box the way to go nowadays?
     
  8. USMarine75

    USMarine75 Plays Authentic ® Contributor

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    Anything with a reactive load is going to be good. Bonus points for DI out, IRs, power amp, etc.

    The PS2 is great. I use it mostly for a pedal platform power amp these days. But it is great for recording.

    I have a Weber Mass III that I use for my Budda SD80 and that is amazing. No frills, but it has the ability to attenuate separately your highs, mids, and lows. So you can leave a little extra dB in there on the low end to still crush even at lower volumes.

    The other really great one is the Ironman II attenuator from Tone King. Unfortunately they are super expensive. I only have it because the Sky King amps comes with one one each channel.
     
  9. sakeido

    sakeido Contributor

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    The old Captor could only do -20. The new one does -20 and -38.

    The Captor reactive load doesn't mimic a real speaker load all that closely unless they improved that in the new version. With some amps it doesn't matter, with others (Dual Rec) it matters a lot. As far as I know though, if you are using it as an attenuator and your speaker cab is in the signal path, the dummy load doesn't matter and won't affect your sound.

    It does offer the most features for the price, though... $550 (iirc) vs. $700 for a power station or $1,300 for an ox box. The old version without IRs and -20dB attenuation is only $350.
     
  10. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    I have a Suhr RL/IR, a couple of Hot Plates, a Weber Mass 200, and a I've played around with an OX and Captor (non-X).

    Definitely look into Weber if you don't need anything other than an analog attenuator. They're probably the best bang for buck and you can grab them pretty cheap used. Not to mention they make a handful of variants for different uses. Next up would be the 2 Notes Captor, which has quickly become something of an industry standard alongside the OX. Solid little unit from what I've messed around with.

    If you want the "best", I'd say the Boss Expander is the most musical, feature packed attenuator I've ever used. It's also more expensive than most amps I own.
     
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  11. soundbase

    soundbase SS.org Regular

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    What about the JHS Little Black Box attenuator pedal? You plug this into your FX loop so it goes between your preamp and power amp and can attenuate the signal
     
  12. Nicki

    Nicki SS.org Regular

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    I'm curious as to where you got this information.
     
  13. bracky

    bracky Contributor

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    The two notes reload is also a nice unit worth considering.
     
  14. narad

    narad Progressive metal and politics

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    I have the expander now and it's really incredible -- I can really get a noticeably improved tone out of virtually any amp by dialing in the presence/resonance controls. For those who haven't used it, those are the rotary controls that (as far as I understand) are changing the reactive loads. The effect though, honestly seems like loading different IRs (although those are separate things -- I haven't used the bulit in IR loader yet).

    This is also a bit of a negative to me in the sense that if I want to just record the "vanilla" tone of the amp, I don't know what that is? If you use the Tone King attenuator or something like that, it's not coloring supposed to be coloring the tone -- you put that in between your amp and a V30 cab, you get that. You put your amp between that and an alnico blue cab, you get that sound, etc. It's just supposed to be about the volume. Whereas with the Expander those knobs need to be set somewhere, and there's no obvious default setting.

    So I don't fully understand what's going on there, and thought about making a thread about it, but need to do some more research. I'd be astounded if the type of load really colors the sound as much as those controls do. I'll reiterate -- some setting of those knobs usually sounds better than what I get without the attenuator even at the same volume, but that's not always what people want in an attenuator. I have the reload too -- I'd like to sell it to recoup some of the expander cost, but it does offer that more uncolored recording out.

    And the post-pwr-amp loop is worth the price of admission for me.
     
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  15. The Thing Upstairs

    The Thing Upstairs SS.org Regular

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    I’ll write about what I’ve used when playing at home:

    Torpedo Reload - does way more than just attenuate, as an attenuators works well and has the option to adjust the tone of the out using the contour knob. Sold it

    Torpedo Captor - only. A fixed 20db cut, fixed impedance so inflexible if you have multiple cabs, bit disappointed, returned it

    Fryette PS2 - great attenuator, ability to shape the output. Downside, fan noise when you stop playing or if volume ridiculously low. Returned it.

    Boss Waza TAE - excellent attenuator, ability to shape output (output compensates for fletcher Munson), reactive load is tuneable for feel, has built in effects (that I do not need).
    This is my recommendation. I use a modeller in 4cm with a number of amps, putting the modeller in 4 cm in the effects loop of the TAE has pretty much eliminated noise (with a gate obviously as 4cm generally introduces some hiss).
    Fan noise on the TAE is the best of what I have tried. Generally speaking at low volume it is very quiet (no louder than my AxeFx), after loading an amp the fan may have spun up But it does reduce quickly and isn’t annoying in your studio/guitar room/bedroom

    the TAE, PS2 and Reload all take the signal and load it to zero and amplify using a flat power section. The PS2 is tube but that doesn’t count for much these days and not against the TAE

    heard good things about the iron man but you’d have to eq every change in attenuation I think. With the TAE it’s just like having the most awesome MV ever invented

    all my amps sound great at low volume but with the TAE they sound even better.

    TLDR. Buy the Boss TAE. My amp collection will be expanding.
     
  16. Mike_R

    Mike_R SS.org Regular

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    My understanding is if you are using the attenuated output (not thru) you set the head to match your Captor impedance and then the impedance of the cab is flexible. If you are using the thru you just set the head to whatever the cab load is and whether your Captor is - 4, 8, or 16 ohm version doesn't matter.

    From the user manual:
    "The speaker cabinet plugged in the ATT output can have a different impedance than the amp. However, this will lead to changing the attenuation ratio, which may vary from the designed -20dB. Using a speaker cabinet with a higher impedance (for example a 16 ohms cabinet on a 8 ohms Captor) will lead to less attenuation (approximately -15dB). Using a speaker cabinet with a lower impedance (for example a 4 ohms cabinet on a 8 ohms Captor) will lead to more attenuation (approximately -25dB)."

    I've used my Captor (8 ohms, amp set to 8 ohms) using the attenuated out to combined 4, 8, or 16 ohm speaker loads without any problem. It lets me get some of my amps that don't sound great dialed to a neighbor friendly volume (5150, Dual Rec both sound kind of terrible at the beginning of the volume pot sweep) past that initial change to a great sound in a condo with neighbors above me and on 2 sides.

    I don't think it is the best attenuator by the way, I just thought I would try to clarify. I think it does a great job for my use case at the price point. It doesn't allow you to crank a 100w amp with a low attenuated output volume in my experience, although I've turned it up for speakerless recording and never hit the thermal shutdown. I've only heard recordings of most of the other reactive loads here, and I think the Suhr does a better job as a load box. For the OP's use case something with more attenuation flexibility is probably better- I am nowhere near cranking my amps, so if you were looking for power amp distortion the fixed 20dbs probably won't get you there on a big amp.

    On some other amps, like the 5153s I can just use an EQ in the loop to knock down the volume and they sound great. I've thought about using a volume control in the loop for those, and ditching the Captor for a Suhr to use as a load box only, but I have't been able to see if I can get the Dual Rec to sound good in this fashion (due to the unmodded parallel effects loop). I've also thought about using the Suhr or a Captor strictly as a load, and then passing the signal through to a small SS power amp as kind of a poor man's TAE/Power Station, but haven't got around to it yet as I am satisfied with the Captor and my amps at the moment. You can routinely find Captors for under $200.
     
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  17. sakeido

    sakeido Contributor

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    http://www.masterplant.com/electronics/Z.pdf

    lifted from @mnemonic's great post on it here

    however I found other information that contradicts this rather objectively and says the Suhr and Torpedo are basically the same so ... :shrug:

    I keep meaning to do an A-B with my Captor, recording direct, with the dummy load vs. a cab load but haven't gotten around to it.
     
  18. The Thing Upstairs

    The Thing Upstairs SS.org Regular

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    Thanks for clarifying @Mike_R

    I also thought about getting a fractal xload or Suhr and using something like a PowerStage 170 as a cheaper alternative to the TAE.

    I’m sure as a reactive load there’s not much in it across any of them but from an attenuation perspective, I really like the TAE
     

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