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Attenuator choise help.


twiggy

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Ok guys, I know it's repeat topic and I know that loads of you have THIS prety valve junior half stack and using attenuators to fill your bedrooms with that smooth vj overdrive. So please share your experience with me as I'm luving me vj stack, but it's getting too loud to enjoy crunch as I could.

So which one you're using, your opinion on 'tone sucking' and your alternative choice if only you found that another one before...

 

Thanks in advance

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I bought a Marshall Powerbrake I guess maybe 15 years ago and took it back within a week. It sucked all the tone and dynamics right out of the amp by the time you got a 40watter down to a comfortable living room level. I recently added a cooling fan switch to a BadCat Leash, and it'd be a good choice for a working musician, but again, like the Marshall PowerBrake, the more you attenuate, the more dynamics and tone is lost. Just not as horribly so as the Marshall. They're probably fairly similar in construction with the use of very large rheostats.

 

I haven't heard the THD, which is apparently just another different twist on petty much the same thing. I've heard good reviews on 'em, so they'd be worth checking out. Nor have I heard the Weber Mass motors, which are supposed to suck even less tone due to the reactance of the dummy speaker coil that's missing in resistors and rheostats. It's the reactance that makes the tubes respond to your picking and sound the way they do. Definitely check out the Mini Mass if you can. The THD and Weber Mass motors seem to be at the top of the heap in the reviews.

 

There is an internal mod called the VVR (Variable Voltage Regulator) which is an elegant and simple version of power scaling that reduces the voltage to the tubes, thereby reducing the output power. I haven't tried this, either, but I've got the parts and I'm still deciding which amp I want to mod for it. This is reportedly one of the better methods of attenuation. But it also reportedly works best when applied to the power tube only, which requires the use of a master volume, which, as everyone knows by now, sucks the high end on the VJr's el84 and makes the tone too dark. I'm considering trying it on a Crate VC508 I'm rebuilding from scratch with a 6AQ5, which is a 4.5w 7pin version of the 6V6. I'm hoping the MV won't sound too bad with that power tube.

 

Here's some food for thought for all the "bigger is better" folks out there. The smaller the amp, and the less efficient the speaker, the less attenuation will be required for the bedroom, and the less your tone gets sucked trying to get there. If you need bedroom volume AND good tone, why try to get it from a 100watt amp? Even the VJr is too loud for that, but it's definitely the better choice of amp if you have to attenuate to that level.

 

Gil...

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They all alter tone to some degree, not only because they cause a "saturation effect," especially at higher attenuation levels, but because you're moving less air with the speakers, and that changes things as well. Even if there were such thing as an entirely, completely, 100% transparent attenuator, you'd still have the air movement issue changing the sound a bit.

 

I've used both a MASS and a hotplate, and found the hotplate to be much less tone-altering than the MASS. Both worked fine, and neither was "awful," but the MASS tends to compress, as one would expect a speaker to do under heavy load. Some people like that "squishiness," but I prefer a more open feel.

 

That said, any attenuator that you use beyond about -6 to -8 db will do the same thing, regardless of the design. If you're looking for bedroom levels with a 5 watt amp, you're going to have to live with this effect to some degree.

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Yeah, looks like Dana's getting that thing down pretty well. He's been working on it a while. But you know 2 watts still gonna be pretty darn loud as these things go. With speakers that'll push 100db's per watt at 1 meter, what can you do? I mean, even for the 1/2w Zvex Nano it seems like there's always someone on that forum asking about attenuation. I guess some bedrooms just have thinner walls. I'm just lucky to live in a garage where I can crank 3 Jr's to 11 and nobody says squat. =D>

 

To be honest, to truly savor the flavor of electrons in outer space, a tube definitely needs un-restricted access to its favorite respirator (speaker) to breath with, and that's all there is to it. Speaker attenuators are really designed for getting the right tone at the right levels at gigs. The exceptions are Champs and Junior, and Firefly's, Ant's, MiniWrecks, and Nano's of the world. With those you can get pretty far attenuating the output before it all turns to intolerable crud from underdriving the speaker at TV levels and below.

 

But when it comes down getting truly enjoyable tone at bedroom levels, I hate to admit it but I think that's more of a job where a modeler pedal with headphone output would come in really handy. Some of 'em actually have scary good tone. Throw in a pair of open ear headphones like the good old Sennheiser 414's, and you can carry on lengthy conversations with a sleeptalking baby and not miss a lick. Or, plug it into the home stereo or boom box and use it from TV volume on down to a whisper with fairly decent tone.

 

Hey! Maybe we've just been going at this all wrong? I got a 5" Jensen MOD in a Pignose cab. It's very inefficient and really low on output volume, but it also sounds like total crap. Has anybody out there simply tried running their VJr through a TV speaker yet? [-(

 

Gil...

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Has anybody out there simply tried running their VJr through a TV speaker yet?

 

I think anybody with a Champ/VibroChamp with original speaker could relate! I initially compared mine to a speaker from the rear deck of a '74 Buick, but comparing it to a TV speaker is close!

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