The Best Guitar Amp Attenuators You Can Bank Upon
Guitarheads know the hotter you crank your amp, ie turn the volume and gain controls up, the richer your tone becomes. Jimi Hendrix favored high-wattage, juiced up amps to create his signature, massive sound. But massive sound may not always work for your family or your neighbors when you're plucking those strings at home. It may not even work for your fellow band members, who would prefer being able to hear themselves as opposed to being drowned in the sounds of an amped-up guitar. It's here that an attenuator can come to your rescue...
So without further ado, let's check out the best guitar amp attenuators the market has to offer.
This is a professional-sounding, passive-reactive guitar amp attenuator that can work with the most powerful of amps. Attenuators can be passive, reactive or active. Passive attenuators do not need additional power to work as they siphon off a portion of the output power of the amp and allow the rest to go to the speaker. They can be passive-reactive in they have a system of capacitors and resistors that enable them to interact with an amp the way that a speaker would (reactive).
As the RockCrusher is passive-reactive, it can help create more equalization range as well as better tone and feel. Constructed with steel, but not bulky, the RockCrusher channels tough vibes with massive knobs and switches that make it easy to work with. The materials used are high-quality, and it has been built to survive being used for gigs. In fact, this is the unique selling point of the RockCrusher and the origin of its name.
There are optional rack ears that are removable and can be used when you're on the road, but for home use, the attenuator has a set of tall rubber feet below that will help it sit in place as well as allow proper ventilation and heat removal. In front, the RockCrusher has an attenuate/bypass switch, an input Z switch and a pair of equalizer switches labeled Edge and Warm. This attenuate switch has six settings starting from -3 decibels (dB), -8, -12, -16 and -20dB all the way down to the studio. The studio setting has a separate knob that allows you to turn the volume from maximum to minimum to lower the noise further. Also, the Edge and Warm equalizer switches refer to high and low frequencies and flipping them allow you to control which frequency you want to be emphasized.
So right down to zero decibels, the RockCrusher gives you quality sound and does not appear to have any effect on loudspeaker damping. This is because of its reactive system, which allows it to work as a loudspeaker can. To sum it up, the RockCrusher has an open feel as it does not take away from the richness and complexity of the tone.
This attenuator works the opposite way from how the RockCrusher works because it is completely passive. It is also different from other attenuators because it is built in the form of a foot pedal. The Nano Signal Pad is great because it allows you to change to a different preset volume in an instant, making it essentially your guitar's very own volume knob.
Also, the Electro-Harmonix Nano Signal Pad works when you plug in your guitar to the input. The pedal features a volume knob that can be turned up or down to manage the volume coming from your amp. It can also be used as a booster pedal as it on/off switch works like a quiet/loud switch.
The Electro-Harmonix Nano Signal Pad is designed to be simple as it has only a volume control and an on/off switch. It is relatively cheap, so it is perfect for those who need to reduce their volume only sometimes and who want an uncomplicated attenuator.
This is an active guitar amp attenuator, which means it requires power as it has an amplifier built in. Hence the Torpedo Reload can cut and boost the signal that is sent to the speakers. It can be employed to lower the volume on high-power amps and increasing the sound of low-powered amps.
So the Torpedo Reload is a high-end guitar amp attenuator. It combines the devices you use in a studio to record electric guitars and basses. It works as an attenuator; a multi-impedance loadbox, which can dissipate various levels of power; a direct inject box, which takes care of the impedance mismatch between electric guitar pickups and the electronic devices in a studio; and a re-amping box, which allows you to record your track and afterward record over it with different amps and effects.
So if you're a guitarist serious about your home studio, pick up the Torpedo Reload. Its reactive-active system will give you a consistent speaker impedance for a transparent sound.
This guitar amp attenuator is a godsend for those who have low-wattage amps and are looking to enjoy their music at high volumes. It can switch between outputs of 4, 8 and 15 ohm. The MicroMass is, as its name states, small and easy to handle. It is of sturdy build and its cost is perfect for those who don't want to shell out a lot for an attenuator.
Unlike the other attenuators on this list, the MicroMass has no attenuation or level control and so you can only control the tone. Two knobs dictate the volume and treble levels and there is also a switch you can flick if you want to bypass the attenuator and enjoy your amp at full blast.
The manufacturers warn that the MicroMass is not compatible with high-powered amps and if you connect it to one, you could damage your equipment.
In keeping with the mini attenuator theme, the Iron Man II guitar amp attenuator may be small but it packs a punch. With its reactive load technology, the Iron Man reacts with your amp as a speaker would and thus allows you to lower your volume without compromising on tone.
The Iron Man is perfect for mid-powered tube amps and comes in a pedal format. This format means you have easy access to it during performances and it gives you access to the Iron Man's finest feature – the 3dB/6dB boost. This sets it apart from other guitar amp attenuators.
The Iron Man has six levels of attenuation on three ranges – low, high and solo – and can handle amps with up to 30 watts of power.
The Mosky Mini VOL guitar amp attenuator is as simple as they come. Set in a mini pedal format, the Mini VOL is a passive attenuator that allows you to switch to a different volume.
Its size makes it lightweight and ultra-portable, and it is sturdy because of its metal body.
The Mass III attenuator can handle amps of up to 80 watts and has three knobs for tone control. You can control the main volume using the Bass knob while mid and treble can be adjusted using the Middle and Treble knobs. This makes the Mass III unique as it has a tone stack for the signal from the speaker.
In addition, the Mass III has an active bypass setting you can access with your foot so you can play attenuated or uninhibited. it is a passive attenuator so it can attenuate without power. The power is used only for the footswitch machinery.
Another selling point for the Mass III is that it is built to order. So instead of a mass-produced attenuator, you get one that is constructed with a lot of attention to detail.
Carl's Custom Guitars advises its buyers to "simply insert [the Speaker Soak] between your amplifier's speaker output and the speaker itself, turn the Speaker Soak up all the way, dial in your favorite full volume sound and then roll back the volume on the Speaker Soak," to enjoy your guitar's tones in all its richness.
As its name indicates, the Speaker Soak soaks up some power of the amp, converting it into heat, which is dissipated. It is not meant to be used for amps running over 60 watts and is available in versions of 4, 8 and 16 ohms.
The Headload is a combination of a load box and an amp attenuator and is capable of handling heavy duty amps.
The Headload allows the guitarist to crank up his amp while reducing the sound level to dampen the tones of the guitar on stage or in the studio. This means softer but still vibrant tones.
The Headload is available in 4, 8 and 16-ohm versions and can attenuate down to 1% of power. Its technology enhances the equalization curve to make up for the shift in tone when the speaker level is lowered.
a) Recycled Sound Power Plug 6/12 Attenuator: This guitar amp attenuator can remove 6 or 12dB of power with the flick of a switch, hence its name. This is a passive-resistive attenuator that compensates for impedance and preserves the quality of the tone even at full attenuation. You can even use two to remove 24 dB of power. The 6/12 is plugged as a must-have for guitarists using tube amps and can handle amps using 50 watts and less.
b) Recycled Sound Power Plug Lite Attenuator: This attenuator from Recycled Sound offers attenuation of up to 10dB in 2dB increments. The sound dial has six settings from Bypass to -2dB, -4dB, -6dB -8dB and finally -10dB. Since the Power Plug Lite soaks up power and converts it to heat, it has been manufactured with extruded aluminum, which helps the heat to dissipate.
c) Recycled Sound Power Plug 100: The Power Plug 100 is the more powerful version of the Power Plug Lite and is capable of handling amps using up to 100 watts. It can attain attenuation levels down to -30dB or 'bedroom' level, which equates to about 1/10th a watt and shows how ingenious this device really is. The Power Plug 100 affords you a wide range of control over the volume of your amp without compromising on tone quality and vibrancy.
The Power Plug 100 has two stages of attenuation; the first stage has six settings – Bypass, -2dB, -4dB, -6dB -8dB and -10dB – while the second stage goes further down from -10dB to -30dB.
The Power Plug 100 has about two pounds of extruded aluminum in its casing to handle the heat produced when it soaks up power from the amp and yet is still half the price of similar attenuators.
About the Attenuator
For the uninitiated, an attenuator is the opposite of an amp. It is an electronic device that lowers the power of a signal without distorting the waveform too much. If you crank your amp up, an attenuator reduces the wattage that is sent to the speaker which then produces the sounds of a cranked-up amp at a lower volume. However, it's not enough to decide to buy an attenuator, you need to buy one that's good, and that meets your needs. That is why we have given you all the information about the amp attenuators.
So there! These are the best amp attenuators you can use to dampen the sounds of your guitar. No more having to listen to your family crib about being deafened every time you play at home. Plug in one of these attenuators and you can enjoy your cranked-up amp at neighbor-friendly volumes.