Tube Amp Attenuators – Lower That Volume Keep The Tone

We don’t sell these units yet, but we get asked about various ways to reduce the volume of a tube amp, yet still get that cranked/cooking sound tube amps are famed for. So why not consider an attenuator?

Of course, then it gets interesting as there’s a pretty big range out there, as always they come with different features, quality, and tone. There’s almost never a perfect solution so it’s about making the right compromises.

For one of the products mentioned below we’ve got a DISCOUNT CODE for you, so if you like it, take advantage of the code. We get no commissions for this, it’s a genuine arrangement with Audiostorm, and I personally really like their attenuators. See the text below and the bottom of the page for the code.

So at the lower end we have a range of brandless models (which we’d be very careful about) but also the well-known Harley Benton PA100. This is available at the low price of around £60. This is a purely resistive style attenuator which usually give a fairly bright tone.

But bear in mind all attenuators do seem to affect the tone in some way. Sometimes in a way you don’t like, sometimes in a way you will. And don’t forget a decent EQ pedal in the loop can do wonders for your tone chasing. In fact, this is one of the biggest things you can do to control your tone, don’t overlook it! Check out the Source Audio EQ2 for the ultimate in pedal EQ.

Some of this tone change is simply the speaker not being moved in the same way and how we perceive tone at differing volumes, but some is just down to the circuit design.

Up from The PA100 you get a bit more choice with models from Bugera (the PS1, £100) and other. Some are simply rebrands of the same circuit.

Both the units get some good reviews and some poor reviews. Maybe the worst sounding reviews are those that mention heat build-up issues with more powerful amps. So check out those reviews…

Low to Mid-Range

A growing area and a lot of different features here, so decide what you need and go from there.

Harley Benton up the game at about £130 with the PA250. Again, mixed reviews around the build quality, but this is quite feature rich and has a line out feature. They had some issues on launch, but these seem to have been resolved. One possible downside is this unit must be plugged in with a power supply if you want the lights to work and the fan also depends on the power supply.

One of my favourites in the mid-tier is from a UK manufacturer called Audiostorm. I love the HotBox125i and use one myself. Completely passive (no power supply needed) this unit sport three modes of attenuation with one resistive mode and two of the more elegant reactive/inductive mode. I like the build and quality of this unit and the flexibility. Check them out at and use the DISCOUNT CODE:   BLUESBOX10 for a 10% discount. It doesn’t have a line out, but Audiostorm have you covered here too. I feel they are a good cost/feature/quality balance.

In the more mid-tier ranges you often have to choose the impedance you need for your rig. So check that out and make sure you’re not changing amps soon or that may cause issues. You MUST match amp/cabinet impedance. Most models offer 4, 8, or 16 ohm. Having said that the cheaper models do sometimes offer three impedance inputs.

At the higher end of the mid-tier you get models from the great Two Notes company. These tend to be more aimed at the recording side (with some great cab simulations too) but they have some attenuation control also (Captor X and Captor). However, these are often just fixed reductions so it’s a little harder to get the amp where you want it at the volume you want it.

Also look out for Tone King and Suhr at this price point (£400+) and the popular Rivera Rockcrusher. We’ve not got our hands on these models yet so check out the reviews out there or go get your hands on one in a shop to demo. But this is becoming serious money. Talking of serious money…

Top End

Then you get into the to tier and you have luminaries such as Universal Audio with their stunning if pretty expensive OX AMP TOP BOX that also packs in high quality cabinet modelling and more. We’re into £1000+ territory here and if audio quality is all you care about the UA OX is a great option, they’re not famous for their studio equipment for nothing. This unit has options for footswitching and switchable ohm setting.

Do You Need An Attenuator?

So, we’ve covered a pretty wide range of prices, so in some ways you get what you pay for, but there are a few curveballs out there too. It’s a growing market and new builders are bring prices down with better features. Therefore, it’s do a bit of digging and find what’s right for you.

Do you need one? Personally, a definite yes. The attenuator I use has transformed my amplifier. I get that great on-the-edge of breakup tone, and that awesome power amp compression that I just can’t get without an attenuator—or a pair of bleeding ears and very angry neighbours. It could reveal your amps true glory, try one out! DISCOUNT CODE: BLUESBOX10 for a 10% discount.

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