Video: How to Choose a Guitar Amp Attenuator

One of the enduring difficulties of using tube amps is playing them at appropriate volumes.

Of course, the reason players love tube amps is the rich tone one can get while pushing an amp's volume. But if you're playing in a bedroom, this can easily lead to noise complaints, even if you have a low-wattage amp. And if you're playing on stage, you may be battling bandmates and sound engineers if you turn to crank your half-stack.

Attenuators are one of the most useful tools you can buy to give you the tone of your dreams without the overwhelming volume. Most models are small boxes that you place on top of your amp, connecting them between your amp's output and speaker. (This is easily done with an amp-and-cabinet rig, but if you have a combo amp, just check for a cable running from the back of your amp to its internal speaker. Often, you can easily unplug that cable and plug in an attenuator in between.)

Once in place, just turn up your amp to get your desired tone and use the attenuator's controls to find the right overall volume.

From this simple idea, there are many varieties of attenuators available. They'll range in price and sound-quality, and some can include complex additional features you may find useful.

In our video above, Andy Martin plays a few popular attenuators to demonstrate their differences and give tips for what you should look for. For more information and recommendations for every kind of attenuator—from resistive to reactive to power amp–equipped attenuators—check out our brand-new attenuators buying guide.

Important note: Look to get an attenuator that can handle double the wattage of your amp, so that you don't risk overpowering the attenuator and frying it.

Buying Guide: Guitar Amp Attenuators
Learn everything you need to know to choose the right attenuator.
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