An amplifier is used to increase the electrical power of the sound so that it can move the magnets in the speakers and everyone can hear it. However, you don’t always need 50 or 100-watt amplifiers to power big speakers. Even if you are playing for a big crowd. Speaker system technology is improving and as such the need for high power amps is decreasing. This is one area where an amp attenuator comes into play.
The attenuator helps divert the excess energy created by the amp. This lets you reduce the overall volume created by the amp without negatively impacting the quality of the sound or the fullness of the amplification.
It is also beneficial for those who still use tube guitar amplifiers. The high output voltage creates a desirable distortion, but the resulting volume is too much. The attenuator cuts down on the volume without reducing the power output of the amplifier. Instead, some of the power that would go to the speaker is dissipated in the attenuator, but the desired distortion still exists.
There are many different types of amp attenuators in use today. Choosing the right attenuator for your guitar, amps, and speakers could be a bit confusing at first. Here are the qualities and features to look for when searching for the best amp attenuators.
Best Guitar Amp Attenuators Comparison Table:
Top 5 Best Guitar Amp Attenuators Reviews:
Here, we review the five best amp attenuators to save you time, money, and headaches. Read each short review to get an idea of the features of each.
#1 Panama Guitars Conqueror 5W Tube Amplifier Head Review
In the number one spot is Panama Guitar’s own Conqueror. It is a 5W tube amplifier with a built-in passive attenuator much-loved for its low weight at 17.2 pounds and its crystal clear sound it is hand-wired that comes equipped with both volume and tone controls.
It has a 12AX7 pre-amp tube and a 6V6 power tube along with a 7-pin 6z4 rectifier. Together, the Panama Guitar attenuator is a nod to the classic tweed tones that are from a bygone era. It is hand-wired to assure the quality you want from your electronics. From the passive attenuator to a low 5W it is easy to imagine why this all-tube attenuator is the top of the list.
#2 THD Electronics HP8 Hot Plate Power Attenuator Review
THD Electronics comes in at the second spot with its power attenuator — the HP8 Hot Plate. It mixes two great qualities in one — as one of the top amp attenuators it has a noise reducer also built into the unit. It runs at 8 Ohms to give a full sound for performance and practice, without hurting the neighbors’ ears.
The Hot Plates are all made to fulfill specific characteristics. In general, this one rounds out the sound while deftly pulling it back and easing up on the frizz, hisses, and hums for cleaner playing. Look at some of the other Hot Plates, as one other made the list.
#3 THD Electronics HP8 Hot Plate Power Attenuator, 16 Ohm Review
The name sounds similar, but the 16 ohm THD Electronics doubles up. The Hot Plate Power Attenuator in 16 ohms is the gold standard for the industry, and may be the most popular and widely used attenuator on the market. It always can take a 16 ohm load, and is also hand built for a reliable quality and function that guitarists expect from the Hot Plate 16 ohm. It gives full output as well.
Use one of these to get the most out of expensive recording studio sessions. All attenuators help differentiate the instruments, particularly when an electric guitar would drown out the other instruments. If it were unplugged it would lose the quality of an electric guitar.
#4 Panama Guitars Conqueror 5 Watt “Tribute Series” Tube Amplifier Head Review
Next up is another in the Panama Guitars Conqueror series. It is also a 5 Watt amplifier head built-in attenuator, but called the Tribute Series. Use it for blues and rock for clear sound when you cannot crank up the amp. Use pedals or play it alone, but know that the Tribute Series knocks it out of the park with this high-quality amp-attenuator combo.
A word of note: you may want to replace both the 12AX7 and the 6V6 with a higher quality one for better sound. It is easy to use and easy to harmonize, and a joy to use.
#5 Rivera RockCrusher Recording Power Attenuator Review
The fifth of the top amp attenuators is the Rivera RockCrusher. If you have worked hard to create your sound and want to keep it exactly the way it is then the RockCrusher comes highly recommended by its owners. The load box and recording power attenuator has an 11 band equalizer that actually works as intended and as stated.
Use the recording EQ to play the speaker tones unchanged from the way that they are. It can go either way really, whether you are at home and trying to keep it down, or playing at the club. Honestly, the attenuators are all supposed to simply mute the sound that is coming from the speaker. This one sounds true as customers have remarked about it again and again.
Best Amp Attenuators Product User Guide:
In short the purpose for an attenuator runs along a few lines. First, it reduces the sound of an amp, by coming between the amp and the cabinet. The attenuator changes the sound to heat and lets the rest of the sound pass through.
Attenuators are appropriate for practicing with the band, for recording sessions, and also when in tight quarters. In other words, when you do not want to disturb the neighbors. The attenuator can work effectively to harmonize with the other instruments instead of bulldozing over them.
For instance, while a bass has a deep sound, its job is to marry the sounds in a band. The whole group needs to be in line with one another soundwise, or else it will be a guitar solo with just some hints of someone singing in the background, in just one bad sound scenario.
The problem is that recording time is precious and expensive, and getting the balance among the instruments is important because you are the gatekeeper to your sound.
It should not be left fully up to the producer. Some of the models featured here are loved for their simplicity, their harmonizing capabilities, and their power. They Tribute is great for rock and blues to achieve a more classic sound.
That rounds out the selections for the best attenuators for amps. This is a great starting point, though it helps to check in with other musicians whose sound is the one you want to achieve. See what they use, and study their style.
It can be highly illuminating and effective way to power up your own sound by muting it down some. Depending upon the sound quality, and features that you need, consider any of these models first to suit your toned-down performance needs whether at home or in the studio.
The Important Features And Qualities of Guitar Amp Attenuators
The Panama Guitars Conqueror 5W Tube Guitar Amplifier with attenuator is a great example to go by when you need to know what is important and what is unnecessary. Albeit, this particular model is a combination amp and attenuator, they still manage to cling to what is important without adding on all of the bells and whistles. The end-result is a useful, efficient, compact, and affordable amp/attenuator.
This model is often praised for its high-quality tube rectifier. Many modern tube amps replace their rectifiers with solid-state rectifiers. However, the amp attenuators and amp combos still rely on quality tube rectifiers.
The rectifier converts the AC current to a more useful DC current for the tubes. For the most part, solid-state and tube rectifiers perform the same. There is a small difference in the time it takes for them to perform. Tube rectifiers perform slightly slower, but this actually creates a more desirable sound. A sound that is very difficult to replicate with a solid state rectifier.
Of course, style and appearance are important to a lot of people as well. This particular Panama amp and attenuator combo pays homage to the classical 5F1 tweed champ design. If you love the classical guitar amp look and feel, then you will love this amp from Panama.
Is it the best amp attenuator on the market? That is hard to say. It is meant more for personal play and practice. It boasts only 5 watts and will have trouble powering some heavy equipment. Still, it sounds amazing and works excellently for what it’s meant to do.
It’s a great piece of equipment for newcomers or for playing at home, but you might want to upgrade to something bigger before you are in front of a crowd.