Combo amp attenuator

Combo amp attenuator DEFAULT

Guitar Amp AttenuatorsBuying Guide

One of the reasons that players love tube amps is because of how inherently characterful they are, especially when driven and pushed in just the right way to just the right limits. But they can become problematic when you're after that tonal sweet spot in a place or under circumstances that can't accommodate the required volume.

This is where attenuators come in.

An attenuator is a piece of gear that goes between your tube amp's output and speaker to mitigate volume without sacrificing that sweet-spot character. Of course, connecting between the amp's output and speaker is easily done with an amp-and-cabinet rig, but if you have a combo amp, just check for a cable running from the back of your amp to its internal speaker. Often, you can easily unplug that cable and plug in an attenuator in between.

Attenuators come in a variety of styles, at different price points and with unique feature sets. In the video above and throughout the guide below, we highlight some of the best attenuators on the market to help you find what's right for you.

Important note: Look to get an attenuator that can handle double the wattage of your amp, so that you don't risk overpowering the attenuator and frying it, especially when using a reactive attenuator.

Attenuators Featured in the Video

    Attenuators have been around since the s, and the first models were purely resistive. Resistive attenuators work by using a network of resistors that takes in the amp's power, saves some for your speakers, and releases the extra energy as heat. Because of their simplicity, these attenuators are common and generally more affordable than more complex reactive types (more on those in a minute).

    Critics of the resistive load system say that the units' method of operation tends to impact and change the amp's tone—usually to something more compressed and dark-sounding—which makes them less-than-ideal if you're not looking to color your amp's tone at all. But for many players, resistive attenuators are perfect for their needs and just as capable as higher-priced and higher-hyped units. If you're new to attenuators and are just looking to see what kinds of tones are possible, any of these resistive attenuators are great options.

    Some units give players a little bit of each, like the popular THD Hot Plate attenuators, which are resistive but become reactive when players engage the Deep switch.

    Reactive attenuators are a bit more complex, containing a system of resistors and capacitors designed to actually imitate the impedance curve of a speaker. In this way, it maintains your amp's impedance curve while loading down the output, which results in a more faithful representation of your amp's tone.

    Because of their more complex design, these systems are usually more expensive than their resistive counterparts. But if it tonal accuracy is your top priority, you might find that the extra expense is justified.

    Attenuators with Power Amps

    Reactive vs. resistive systems aren't the only considerations to make when it comes to choosing the best attenuator for you. Some of the more complex systems feature their own built-in power amp, which works similarly to a reamp box in real-time.

    In the video above, Andy looks at the Bad Cat Unleash, which is one such device that not only attenuates, but can also make any amp louder with its onboard class D amplifier. Other devices, like the Fryette Power Station, work similarly but are even more advanced—in this case, featuring an actual tube power amp.

    Attenuators with Crossover Cab/Mic Simulation

    Beyond attenuators with built-in power amps, you can find even more feature-rich systems that offer features like cab and microphone simulation. The Universal Audio OX Amp Top Box is the example Andy demos in the video above, featuring a simple reactive attenuator along with built-in plugins and various cab and mic combinations. With the OX, you can even skip the cabinet and play direct or with some headphones plugged in.

    The Boss Waza Tube Expander is another robust example of this kind of load box, featuring a built-in power amp, onboard DSP effects, an effects loops, and various controls over the reactive load with resonance and presence controls. Players can dial in their desired settings and save any combinations they like into 10 available rigs.

    Attenuator s + Simulation

    Used Attenuators on Reverb Right Now

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    Amp Too Damn Loud? Here Are 10 Attenuators That'll Save Your Bacon

    Sure, you could simply roll down your amp’s volume when you receive the evil eye (or worse) from your bandmates, engineer, spouse, or neighbor, but then your tonal sweet spot disappears. We’ve rounded up 10 attenuation options, from $50 to $, that’ll let you hit your amp as hard as you like, while still maintaining your friendships.

    Torpedo Captor X

    Not just an attenuator, this little powerhouse also functions as an IR loader and cab simulator, and can be paired with your laptop or mobile device for expansive tone shaping.


    Little Black Amp Box

    This inexpensive and different device to attenuate allows you to tame your volume—while still pushing your amp’s front end—by placing it in your series effects loop.



    For any tube amp up to 45 watts, and for use with 4, 8, or 16 ohm loads, this attenuator mounts inside your favorite combo and out of the way while you enjoy bedroom-level audio volumes.

    DR. Z

    Ironman II Mini

    Ideal for tube amps up to 30 watts, and pedalboard friendly, this petite version of the company’s watt unit attenuates your amp’s volume with the very same reactive load and transformer-coupled tech.


    PS1 Power Soak

    Priced attractively, this watt unit’s multi-impedance input connectors will match virtually any amplifier for cranked-amp tone at manageable volumes.



    Developed in coordination with Tonehunter amps, this passive, point-to-point handwired attenuator features watt power soak and is suited for amps with 4, 8, and 16 ohms.



    Designed for watt amps and lower, this box features a 3-position treble compensation switch and an actual speaker motor for realistic interaction between the attenuator and the amp’s output circuit.


    Headload Prodigy

    This load box offers selectable output levels or complete attenuation, and features a built-in DI and EQ as well as an onboard headphone amp for those times you need to be completely silent.



    Rated for guitar amps up to watts, this attenuator features five levels of power reduction, a 3-position voicing switch (normal, bright, or warm), and a speaker/load switch for options galore.


    RockCrusher Gold Face

    Boasting balanced XLR and unbalanced 1/4" outs for easy interfacing, this attenuator/load box was designed to ensure the amp and speaker see each other in a proper relationship of impedance and inductive/capacitive reactance.


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    Amplifiers are generally designed to operate clean, and most manufacturers specify the output power as clean power. When you run the amp full blast, the output devices actually become more efficient because distortion is not considered. Under those conditions, the amp may be capable of putting out as much as 50% more power than its rated clean power. Be aware of that when choosing an attenuator, because the idea of using an attenuator is to run the amp full blast (and if not full blast, then still in the danger zone) into power tube distortion and then controlling the level going to the speaker.

    For instance, if you are going to crank a 50 watt amp, you should choose a watt attenuator. Similarly, if you are going to crank a w amp, you should choose a attenuator.

    If you have a high-gain amp or use heavy distortion, please read the important information at the bottom of the page. If this doesn&#;t describe you, please know that 2x your amp output is our recommendation.

    Using an Attenuator: Article and Video from Andy at

    WHY WEBER? Our MASS attenuators use an actual moving speaker motor for the load, and our Load Dumps are purely resistive like all of the other attenuators on the market.  All MASS products use an actual moving speaker motor for the load and are more interactive with the output circuit of the amp, thus providing a more realistic load to the amp. We believe our attenuators are the most transparent on the market.  We feel that any tone loss is minimal, and that it is more a function of how your ear perceives sounds at lower volumes, rather than the device actually eliminating frequencies.  That is why our attenuators have treble compensation controls.

    CABLES: for combo amps, most people like to set the unit on top of the amp. sometimes there is enough slack in the speaker wire to reach and sometimes there isn’t. these cables will make it work for you: GMC2P and GMC2E If the speaker is hardwired, then youu need the PV30MH.
    (click the links to view them, and add to your order if you need them.)

    COMBO AMP: When using an attenuator with a combo amp, place the unit between the amp&#;s speaker out and the speaker itself. Most combo amps have internal speakers that can be unplugged from the amp chassis using a 1/4&#; phone plug.  UNPLUG the speaker from the amp.  Run a short speaker cable from the output of the amp to the INPUT of the attenuator.  You may then plug the speaker directly into the SPEAKER OUTPUT (not &#;Line Out&#;) of the attenuator, or use a male-to-female extension cable if the speaker&#;s wire won&#;t reach. You should use speaker cable only, and short cables work best to prevent signal loss.

    HEAD/CABINET: When using an attenuator with a &#;piggyback&#; arrangement, place the unit in line between the amp head&#;s speaker out and the cabinet. Run a cable from the amp head&#;s speaker jack to the INPUT of the attenuator.  Then run a cable from the OUTPUT (not &#;Line Out&#;) to the cabinet. You should use speaker cable only, and short cables work best to prevent signal loss.

    WHERE DO I PLUG MY GUITAR IN? You should plug your guitar into the input of your amp, or through pedals, or however you normally have it. Using an attenuator does not change where you plug in your guitar.

    BYPASS: This switch bypasses the attenuator entirely, as if it is not connected between the amp and speakers. It is the same as a true bypass on an effects pedal.

    RANGE SWITCH: This is a fixed amount of attenuation in addition to the setting of the main speaker volume (attenuation) control. It has the effect of extending the range of the main speaker control. The fixed amount of attenuation depends on the impedance of the amp and speaker, but is typically 6db.  The Range Switch is really the difference between coarse-tuning and fine-tuning.  In other words, if you are only attenuating a little bit, you might find you have better control in the High range setting.  If you are attenuating down to much quieter volumes, you might find you have better control on the Low range retting.

    WHY ARE THERE TWO SPEAKER OUTPUT JACKS? The two speaker output jacks are in parallel. With all Weber attenuators, once you have selected the proper impedance to match the output impedance of the amp, the actual speaker impedance isn&#;t critical. That&#;s because the actual load to the attenuator becomes the speaker impedance plus the output section of the attenuator, while the amp continues to see the correct nominal impedance from the input section of the attenuator. That&#;s why, on the MASS, we provide two speaker output jacks. Feel free to experiment with different impedance speakers, cabinets, etc. (this only means that the impedance will be matched when you have the attenuator engaged.  if the unit is on bypass, it will not do any impedance correction.)

    WHAT IS THE LINE OUT FOR? the LINE OUT jack is there to run a direct signal to a PA mixer or recording device, etc. you don’t have to use this, but it’s there in case you want to do that. the LINE OUT is always active, and is not affected by attenuation. it is completely separate.

    WILL THE UNIT GET HOT? There will be some heating because we use a combination of power resistors, wirewound rheostats, and a speaker motor in the attenuators. Our attenuators use rheostats to control the attenuation and distribute the power to the speaker motor or other load and the speaker. Rheostats are made of vitreous ceramic, nichrome wire (like your toaster), and are coated with a hard coat epoxy paint. Therefore, when new, rheostats can emit a slight smell and even a little smoke until the rheostats are aged. This is normal and not an issue. The smell and smoke will subside after two or three hours of use. Adhesives are also employed to mount certain heat dissipating devices in the enclosure. They too will emit a slight smell when new.

    WHAT KIND OF CABLES SHOULD I USE? You need to use speaker cable only. I prefer at least 16ga wire with very good quality 1/4&#; phone plugs on the ends. I would not go over 4ft for the cable length. If you get feedback or squealing from the speakers, you may need to relocate the attenuator and use shorter cables.  For the Line Out, you will want to use instrument cable.

    WHAT LEVEL IS THE LINE OUT SIGNAL? The line out signal is typically 1/10 (db) the level of the amp&#;s speaker output signal level.  On attenuators that don&#;t have a line out volume control, the level is controlled directly by the volume of your amp.

    WHY IS THE MAIN ATTENUATOR CONTROL HARD TO TURN? To explain why the volume control doesn&#;t have the same &#;feel&#; as you may be used to, it is useful to know that the knob is not a normal potentiometer like you&#;d find on an amp or guitar.  the knob is actually a ceramic wire-wound rheostat, which by the nature of its operation feels somewhat gritty and has a physical sound to it.  using a rheostat is actually the only way the attenuator design will work.  most pots have about a 2 watt power handling before they melt.  since the design of the attenuator requires the power of the amplifier to go through the control knob, a much more stout component must be used.  the rheostat has a power handling rating of 50 watts (or more depending on the attenuator chosen).  on the upside, the rheostat offers some consistency for you, in that once you find the volume setting that works for you, you can leave it and feel reasonably comfortable that the knob won&#;t drift on its own because of the high friction of the rheostat.

    I WANT TO RACKMOUNT MY ATTENUATOR. WHERE SHOULD I PUT IT IN THE RACK? Since heat rises, I would either locate the attenuator in the top position of the rack, or in a lower position that has an empty space above it.

    WHY DO SOME UNITS HAVE IMPEDANCE-SELECTORS, BUT OTHERS DO NOT? On our attenuators that have two (or three) knobs for adjusting the highs and lows, it would be very difficult and impractical to implement an impedance switch.  Because impedance varies with frequency, and we are splitting the frequencies into two components (high and low) a global impedance switch would actually interfere with the tone-shaping function.  The unit is designed around an 8 ohm speaker motor, but with all the components of the unit working together, it is safe to use on 4 8 or 16 ohm amps.

    * POWER LEVEL: You should select an attenuator that can handle at least as much power as your amp puts out.  When choosing an attenuator for multiple amps, you should pick one that can easily handle the highest power level of amp that you have.  Our attenuators do not have sonic differences that come along with higher power ratings, so it is fine to use a w attenuator on a 30w amp, for instance.  In other words, a 50w attenuator will sound the same as a w attenuator on smaller amps.

    DUMMY LOAD USE / HEADPHONE TAP OPTION: All Weber attenuators may be turned to maximum attenuation and then the speaker may be disconnected so the attenuator may be used as a dummy load for DI or Headphone use (if Headphone Tap option is selected) When the attenuator is turned all the way down, you may still hear some signal out of your speaker.  Well, the design of the attenuator is such that it would be harmful to your amp if the signal were to completely short to ground the way a normal volume control is at 0.  This means even with the volume set at 0, you may still hear a tiny bit of signal. The solution is that when you have it turned all the way down to 0, you can unplug the speaker.  the attenuator is giving the full load to the amp, so it is safe to use this way.  (just be sure you don&#;t flip the bypass switch and present your amp with no load!)

    We have found that cleaner tones tend to sound better through headphones. When you think about what a speaker does – it moves air which your brain then interprets as sound. The speaker in the amp is far bigger than the speakers in the headphones, so there is an ingredient of air movement that is necessarily missing. The headphone output gives you exactly what the amp is producing, and the simple fact is distortion/overdrive is not that pleasant to listen to at all. It gets softened and colored by the amp’s speaker and as it travels through the air, your brain picks it up as a better sounding tone than it actually is. You can witness this by playing as your normally would, and then position your ear so it’s directly in front of the speaker (like a boombox carried on your shoulder). It doesn’t sound as good as it does when you back away and allow sound to move in the air before it gets to your ear. With headphones, you don’t get this phenomenon, so you hear exactly all the little gritty artifacts in the overdriven tone, which your brain perceives as unpleasant. So cleaner tones sound better.

    FOOTSWITCH OPTION: The footswitch is for turning the attenuator on and off.  Take this scenario for instance:  You play both rhythm and lead parts, and say you want to have it louder for lead parts.  You set your amp to the lead volume, and then use the attenuator to set your rhythm volume.  Then you can use the footswitch to change between them. (we install a relay to handle the switching so there is no momentary lapse of load to your amp, and this requires external power.  an AC plug is included).

    That Pedal Show – Introduction To Guitar Amp Attenuators

    10 best attenuators to buy in

    When choosing your attenuator, you must consider power handling and impedance. Also decide whether a stepped attenuator control with preset increments will be OK for you, or if you&#;d prefer the finer range of a continually adjustable control. Other potentially useful features may include equalisation controls and impedance switching. Dummy load switching will safely silence your amp and the direct output can be routed to a power amp for re-amping. With that in mind, here&#;s our breakdown of the ten best attenuators on the market today.

    Eminence Reignmaker

    Eminence Reignmaker

    US manufacturer Eminence offers two speakers with flux density modulation. The Reignmaker is the British-voiced model and the Maverick is voiced for American tones. Available in 8- or ohm impedance with watt power handling, you can adjust the attenuation level by turning the rotary control at the back of the speaker itself.

    Dr. Z Brake-Lite

    Dr. Z Brake-Lite

    Specially designed to mount inside a combo amp, the unit is attached to an inside wall of the cabinet using two fixing screws. There are fixed wires and a jack to plug into the speaker out of the amp and a jack socket where you can plug in your speakers. It works with valve amps up to 45 watts and can be used with 4-, 8-, or ohm loads. A standalone version is also available.

    Weber Mass

    Weber Mass

    Loaded with a &#;silent speaker&#;, Weber&#;s most robust attenuator has a main volume knob and three-position treble compensation switch. The line out has a bypassable three-band tone stack and separate volume control. Impedance options are 2, 4, 8 and 16 ohms, and the attenuation is continuously adjustable from -3dB to over db. It can also be used as a dummy load and there&#;s an attenuation bypass switch.

    Bad Cat Unleash V2

    Bad Cat Unleash

    This is one of those new-fangled active attenuators with a built-in watt Class D solid state amp. It&#;s small and light enough to throw in a pedal bag, two switchable level presets, direct out and an effects loop. This little beauty will make loud amps quieter and low-powered amps much louder.

    Two Notes Torpedo Captor

    Two Notes Torpedo Captor

    The Torpedo Captor is a multi-function tool for direct recording, cabinet simulation and attenuation that eschews digital modelling and LCD screens for a simpler analogue approach to getting your amp’s signal into a mixer or DAW without using microphones. While the Captor restricts you to just one speaker simulation, this may not be an issue because it sounds very, very good. Available in 4-, or ohm versions, this loadbox is small, light and easy to power with very usable tones. Add in the free downloadable plug-in, Torpedo Wall Of Sound, and you have an overall that’s very similar to that of UA’s OX.

    Universal Audio Ox Amp Top Box

    Universal Audio Ox Amp Top Box

    With the OX, Universal Audio has used its expertise to create a reactive attenuator combined with highly sophisticated speaker, cabinet, microphone and classic effect simulations. You’ll find mono/stereo line level outputs, an impedance selector offering four, eight and 16 ohms and sockets to connect an amplifier to the OX and the OX to a speaker. There are also RCA and optical SPDIF outputs and three USB ports that are intended for firmware updates as they become available. For attenuation, sending the best possible sound to a PA desk, home practising with an inspiring tone and easy recording, the OX offers a one stop solution that’s hard to fault, with outstanding audio quality and robust build that’s simple to use.

    JHS Little Black Amp Box

    JHS Little Black Amp Box

    Bucking the trend set by the rest of the attenuators on this list, the JHS Little Black Amp Box is compact, simple and as streamlined as they come. Featuring just a single knob, this passive attenuator sits neatly in your effects loop to easily allow you to get cranked tube amp tones whithout making your significant other consider their options. Note that this pedal is not to be used between your amp and cabinet, but in the amp’s effects loop.

    Two Notes Torpedo Studio

    Two Notes Torpedo Studio

    The Torpedo Studio from Two Notes is more complex version of the Captor listed above. It’s an ultra-powerful, if pricey, way to record your valve amps in silence, and also allows for the simultaneous recording of two different set-ups.

    AmpRX BrownBox Brownie Gig Master

    AmpRX BrownBox Brownie Gig Master

    From bedroom players to touring professionals, the Brownie from AmpRX is for those who only need basic voltage control in a small and lightweight enclosure. Designed for smaller tube amps, the Brownie provides watts of continuous power at vac. The Brownie’s internal circuit includes in-rush current protection, industrial grade switches, a powder coated neutral enclosure and a backlit voltage display.

    Boss Waza Tube Amp Expander

    Boss Waza Tube Amp Expander

    Boss’s ever popular Waza Craft series has captured the guitar world in recent years with it’s reimagined versions of Boss classics of yesteryear. It’s now entered the attenuator world with the Waza Tube Amp Expander, which is designed to give you all the tools you need to get the best out of your valve amp. Combining a variable reactive load, an active analogue power stage and a mic cabinet simulator plus an IR loader and even a USB recording interface, it also includes on-board effects such as reverb and delay.

    For more buyers guides, click here.


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