For an awesome explanation about how attenuators work and which one is the best (hint UA) CLICK HERE. It may not be a print ad in the pure sense but it really does explain the differences between the units currently available on the market and why the UA is better from a man who knows amps, attenuation, and engineering better than most.
You’ll notice a gold Ultimate attenuator sitting atop one of Doyle’s Marshall heads… Peter Stroud first introduced us to one of Mark Gregg’s early Ultimate attenuators, and in less than a year they have caught on quickly with many experienced and exceptionally accomplished players. We contacted Mark and asked him a few basic questions about attenuators in general and the Ultimate specifically:
TQR: What are the inherent shortcomings of attenuators?
Attenuators are often a compromise tonally and dynamically. They generally add sonic artifacts that can go from undetectable to dramatic depending on the amplifier and attenuator. These artifacts can include compression, distortion, loss of high end and low end, fizziness and lack of dynamics and depth. I find under most conditions that I prefer the Ultimate Attenuator to front end or “canned” distortion such as master volumes, distortion and modeling devices.
TQR: Can attenuators damage an amp?
A properly working, well-designed attenuator will not damage your amp any more than a speaker load. I believe that the well designed load is actually less stressful to your output tranny than a speaker load. I own a ‘67 Marshall JTM 45 Plexi that had a failing output transformer. When we had it hooked up to the UA or a Hotplate, the amp worked perfectly. It didn’t start crapping out until we cranked it straight through the speaker cabinet!
TQR: How and why does the Ultimate Attenuator sound and perform better?
The active design is what sets the UA apart from the other attenuators. The load is designed to sound excellent straight in, thus requiring less (or no) circuitry to make up for tonal loss and unwanted distorting artifacts. Also, the actual speaker load and the unit sound identical at any volume, from a whisper to full up. Other designs sound progressively worse the lower you set the attenuation. Another big difference is the ability to set your volume to a specific place with a smooth, continuous volume control without having to settle for -3db or -4 db steps. In the world’s best selling attenuator, their most subtle attenuation is -4db. -3db is half volume! That’s not precise enough for many applications. The UA puts you in complete control of your volume. And the UA is not only an attenuator — it can be used as a cabinet driver with the wattage doubling switch, which gives you your exact amp tone into another cabinet with complete volume control — great for smaller wattage amps that can’t cut it onstage volume-wise. Finally, everything is hand made and chassis mounted and often customized at no extra charge. We pride ourselves on 110% customer satisfaction and will continue to develop our products to reflect our customers’ needs. I would like to thank Peter Stroud for all his help in dialing in the final version and for immediately recognizing the UA’s potential. Peter, you are the coolest guy I know! Current users include: Peter Stroud, Peter Buck of REM, George Lynch and of course, Doyle Bramhall II.
Review – Ultimate Attenuator
You know the drill… powerful amps sound really big, and most small amps don’t, while the definition of “too loud” has steadily trended downward, even on big stages. So, how to get your groove on and still feel the notes without the skull-cracking volume? Attenuators have been around for awhile, but the Ultimate sets a new standard for transparency, flexibility and tone. Now, you don’t need multiple units for different amps and speaker loads… You don’t need tone controls, because the tone doesn’t change, and the perceptible changes in compression, dynamics and feel that we’ve heard with even the best attenuators are absent in the Ultimate. Your amp sounds cranked and plays like it’s cranked — the volume is simply lower. We verified all of this first with our ‘69 Marshall 50W and 4x12 cabinet, which is usually kept at a volume setting of about ‘4.’ There is a big difference between ‘4’ and ‘7’ on the Marshall, and our amp sounded as if it was actually on ‘7’ with the Ultimate throughout its range of volume. This is good. Real good.
We achieved the same results with our very un-Marshall-like 40W blackface Pro Reverb. All the subtle beauty of this amp remained intact, from classic Fender clean tones to bluesy breakup, and we were able to maintain the incredibly detailed overdriven character of our old Pro as we slowly brought the volume down to a mere whisper. The standard Ultimate can handle 4 to 16 ohm loads — if you are interested in using it with a 2 ohm Super Reverb or Bassman, you’ll need to order a 2 ohm unit. For combo amps, using an attenuator will also require you to lengthen the speaker cable attached to your speakers or build another harness. No big deal. In the meantime, dust off that 100W Hiwatt or old Twin and let it rip. Big amps are back thanks to the Ultimate.
Excerpt from the New Product Preview at Legendary Tones, an E-Zine.
New Product Preview! "The Ultimate Attenuator" by David Szabados The maker of "The Ultimate Attenuator," Mark Gregg, came to me with a strong claim that his unit would be the most transparent attenuator that I've ever tried. Quite a bold statement to make, especially since he knew that I was very familiar with the various attenuator options out there! ...how did the prototype of "The Ultimate Attenuator sound"? Quite well, I'm happy to report - In fact, I was very impressed. The hardest test sonically for an attenuator is to listen to it at lower "bedroom" levels. My previous favorite in this environment was the THD Hot Plate - at the Hot Plate's -16 dB setting, the bass notes can get a little bit fizzy or lose a bit of clarity - remember the Hot Plate (or any device for that matter!) is absorbing a tremendous amount of energy from the amplifier and so -16 dB is not a setting I would typically use - I've always felt that it's better to use a bedroom amp for a bedroom application after all. But in the case of "The Ultimate Attenuator", the tone and clarity of the guitar was very apparent at even the lowest of settings. Low notes rang without any "fizz" and as I turned up the volume control louder on the test unit, it continued to work consistently with excellent transparency. Was this indeed the most transparent tone I've yet heard? Yes, I would agree with that.