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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am considering grabbing a Fuchs BlackJack 21 Mk. 1. These are loud amps and stay clean well up the dial. I want to enjoy the amp's natural distortion and was thinking about adding a master volume. I contacted an amp tech who said it could be done, but that some other minor mods might be necessary and that adding a master volume might alter the tone of the amp. That got me to wondering whether using an attenuator might be a better idea? Or perhaps some sort of power scaling (like the stuff sold by London Power) might work better?

Since I have no experience with any of these options (well I am obviously used to master volumes, but they were stock and not mods that were added later) I wanted to ask everyone here what they think is the best way to achieve natural amp breakup - master volume, attenuator, or power scaling? I'd be interested in hearing about your own experiences and welcome any advice.
 

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I've owned almost every attenuator out there, had my vintage amp modded for a MV, and chased lower volume dirt in numerous way. I've never used power scaling.

How much volume reduction are you looking for? Stage volume, bedroom volume (tv level)? Are you primarily playing/using this alone or in a band context?

TG
 

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IME and in this order:

- reamper (or loadbox and external amp)
- power attenuator
- power scaling
- master volume

Sadly, those are also the costs from highest to lowest. The advantage of the first two is they can be used with any amp, the last two are dedicated to the amp you install them in. The first two give you real, authentic power tube distortion. The 3rd, kind of. The forth not at all.

I guess it depends on what you want and how much you want to spend.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I've owned almost every attenuator out there, had my vintage amp modded for a MV, and chased lower volume dirt in numerous way. I've never used power scaling.

How much volume reduction are you looking for? Stage volume, bedroom volume (tv level)? Are you primarily playing/using this alone or in a band context?

TG

I only play at home so am looking for home volumes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
IME and in this order:

- reamper (or loadbox and external amp)
- power attenuator
- power scaling
- master volume

Sadly, those are also the costs from highest to lowest. The advantage of the first two is they can be used with any amp, the last two are dedicated to the amp you install them in. The first two give you real, authentic power tube distortion. The 3rd, kind of. The forth not at all.

I guess it depends on what you want and how much you want to spend.

Can you explain 'reamper' please?
 

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Can you explain 'reamper' please?
Sure. Two main contenders right now, the Fryette PowerStation and the BadCat Unleash. Check their details on line.

A reamper takes the full output of your amp into a reactive load (so more like an actual speaker cabinet than just a resistive load, and the amp acts like it's seeing speakers). Then a line level signal is taken off of that load and reamplified to whatever level you want (a 60 watt tube amp in the PS case, a solid state amp in the UL situation).

So the big benefit is you can take a small amp, like 5 watts, and play it quietly for a clean sound or fully cranked for a distorted sound, and re-amplify that sound accurately (like a PA would) through your existing guitar speakers at whatever level you want, from quiet to loud. You can also do the same with a 100 watt amp, crank the sucker full out into the load side of the reamper and adjust the reamper's output to whatever level (probably quieter) that you want.

A good load box used for home recording, like those from Suhr or Radial, will do the first half of that and if you including a good power amp (bought really cheap these days), you can do the second half.
 

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Totally agree with @High/Deaf . In addition to changing the true tone of the amp, the power scaling & master volume solutions (usually) permanently alter the amp which is going to devalue it as well (unless it's a "keeper for life" and you don't really care about resale). I've heard some mixed feedback about the Unleash not really keeping the tone quite the same though too. If playing out of the home, it's one more thing to lug around.

Another option if used for recording would be something like the Suhr reactive load mentioned above, then into an Impulse Response host of some kind (software or pedal like Two Notes CAB or Line 6 Helix) to simulate the speaker cab & mic.

None of these is a convenient "plug in and play" solution though, except for power scaling and master volume. But those probably won't replicate the tone you are looking for.
 

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I only play at home so am looking for home volumes.
I agree with everything @troyhead said. With your requirements in mind, I think a reamper would be overkill. A great solution for both at home and gig playing but you don't need the big built in power amp for at home playing.

I would research good quality reactive load boxes, like the ones suggested. Not cheap, but they will work great if you are into, or want to get into, home recording. And putting the output signal of one of those through a cheapish home stereo will give you great tone at lower levels (although some load boxes may need IR's). I bet that signal into a computer, with some IR's, would be a reasonable solution as well. Except that computer speaker usually suck bad, so you'd still want to take that output to some hi-fi gear, IMO.
 
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The one thing I haven't seen discussed is what speakers are good/great for low volume. We know that at higher volume their response to high pressure is part of the goodness, and they respond (mostly) quite differently at low volume. Anyone?
 

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The one thing I haven't seen discussed is what speakers are good/great for low volume
I think this is where Impulse Responses can be a great thing for home use. Guitar cabs at low volume just don't sound the same. Also, your ear doesn't interpret volume changes for bass & treble with a 1-to-1 relationship. That's why a lot of times a quieter rig doesn't sound "right" and why some stereos have a "loudness" button (which generally is an EQ that bumps certain frequencies, particularly low ones).

With an IR, you can "bottle" the sound of a great speaker and a great mic, and then play that through your hi-fi speakers at whatever volume you want. It also helps if the tone you might be chasing is not the sound of a particular live guitar amp, but it's the sound of a recorded guitar amp. A great IR can get you closer to that tone, if that's what you are after.
 

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Again, I'm in full agreement with @troyhead .

If you absolutely have to have your cranked speaker sound, the only way to accomplish that in a quiet environment is a mic'd isolation box (or isolation room, if you're a studio). But iso-boxes have their own problems, like needing a mic preamp and reproduction system, plus the cost and size of the iso cab.

Fletcher-Munson is the other reality (the way we perceive different levels). There is no getting around the fact that quiet guitar just doesn't sound the same as loud guitar. EQ is a partial fix, but nothing is a real solution. Physics is a cruel mistress, but must be obeyed.
 

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I've been using the Bad Cat Unleash with my 50 watt Plexi.
Is it perfect... maybe on a forensic level its not but to most ears and in a band mix it will be absolutely difficult to tell. Linear load Attenuators can do fun funky things and can start sounding brittle at higher attenuation settings but at lower attenuation settings, they can also work well especially in a mix. Power scaling is cool and obviously so are Master volumes but that means modding my 69 Marshall and that's not an option.
For my money a reactive load ( transformer ) is the best solution and at the end of the day I can get stellar tones and it never comes in my mind that I'm attenuating/re-amping.
 

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I have the 50 watt version of these with no options:

Ho attenuator | Ho's Electronics and Sound

I have used it with a Mesa TA-30, Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, Peavey Classic 50, and even a 1 watt Blackstar HT1RH. You'd be surprised how loud a 1 watt amp can be. It sounds really good dimed through a 1x12 cab but that is way too loud for home use. It is a re-amper. It works great with little tone loss no matter how low you go. For bedroom levels there is little tone loss but a lot of dynamic feeling loss because you are just not moving a lot of air. For gig levels it is sublime. I've tried other systems and this is easily the best I've used. Give Yukong a phone call. He is a great guy to talk to and very helpful at explaining exactly how his attenuator works and what it can do.
 

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I only play at home so am looking for home volumes.
We are in the same boat. When I have the house to myself I can be pretty loud (jamming volume) but most of my playing is below that level.

For me, at the end of the day, the best solution for really low volume stuff is a good pedal. When at jam levels, a good master volume (PPIMV) is at least as good as the best attenuators. If you just use the MV to shave off some of the excessive volume it sounds great; if you really crank it down it sounds kind of crappy, but so do most attenuators after the first few steps. I had my vintage amp modded but the jack was put in the (now useless) ground switch so I didn't have to drill the chassis.

I tried the Fryette Power Station and it is good, but if you are really dialing things back your speaker is barely getting touched and it sounds "off." Here is my full review:

A Fryette Power Station review for those with healthy skepticism.

Using a load and IR's is interesting but it doesn't sound like having a live cab in the room (the IR sounds like a mic'd amp). At that point, I think you may as well just go full on modelling but I will need to explore that more. I really want a live cab in the room.

TG
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I am starting to reconsider and am thinking of grabbing a Traynor YBA1 Mod1 which has a built in attenuator that can take it from 40 watts all the way down to 0.1 watts. I was considering the Fuchs because it is a good amp at a good price, but why pay that for an amp that is too loud for my playing situation, especially if something like the Traynor is more easily controlled? I know of at least one YBA that is available for $400ish and could probably find one even cheaper.

The thing is, I don't actually need another amp (do we ever actually need half of the gear we purchase?) because I recently picked up a JCM2000. I am a college prof and hadn't expected to be teaching this summer so had been saving half of every paycheque this term. With those savings I could have easily cruised through the summer without worrying about money. But I was recently asked to teach two courses this summer so now the cash that I have saved is crying to be spent, most likely in an irresponsible manner. I am pretty much set for guitars - I have my Tele and my SG for slide and am searching out another 2013 SG Standard (they had my preferred specs that year) for standard playing - so that leaves a second amp as my preferred destination for that money.

Since I am spending the money on something gear related I suppose I could just be happy with my JCM and buy a few pedals to compliment that.

I am sure I really didn't have to explain the 'I have extra money so am going to buy gear' situation to anyone here since you all probably suffer from the same GAS affliction.

But even if I am reconsidering, this remains a topic that might be of interest to others who find themselves in a similar situation.
 

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I love the master volume on my Rivera Venus 3. Master volume all the way. To me, an attenuator sounds pretty much like an overdrive pedal. Not natural tube distortion like a MV will give.
 

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With a master volume you can achieve great preamp tube saturation but not power tube saturation. If you are looking for power tube saturation you have to crank the master volume and use preamp volume to control the sound level. Depending on the amp this may work better than using the master volume to control sound level. The only solution that will give you both preamp and power tube saturation is some kind of attenuator.re-amper.
 

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Power scaling is often deployed poorly.

I have power scaling on my Stephenson Stage Hog AND my Stephenson Standard. This is a one-watt amp driving a thirty-watt amp. Both deliver preamp and poweramp distortion when pushed (especially the Stage Hog, which is essentially the ultimate distortion device).

Even with TWO power scalers in the chain the sound is NOT altered in anyway. Mark Stephenson knows what he is doing. I can play in the spare room while my wife watches TV.

Having said this, I find it unlikely that you will find somebody who can do this properly to your amp. My advice can only be look for an reputable guy who is passionate about power scaling.

Otherwise, you are probably better off with other suggestions made here.
 

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I am starting to reconsider and am thinking of grabbing a Traynor YBA1 Mod1 which has a built in attenuator that can take it from 40 watts all the way down to 0.1 watts. I was considering the Fuchs because it is a good amp at a good price, but why pay that for an amp that is too loud for my playing situation, especially if something like the Traynor is more easily controlled? I know of at least one YBA that is available for $400ish and could probably find one even cheaper.
Well, I can tell you that I went from a '74 Traynor YBA1 with a Bad Cat Unleash to the MOD1, and could not be happier. If you have any questions about either set up just let me know.
 
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