Have a few tube amps you can’t get to optimum performance due to quarantine volume restrictions at home? Don’t have the Universal Audio Ox budget but want to save your hearing and still have an excellent guitar amp tone? Check out some of my other attenuator recommendations below:
An oldie but a goodie, the Dr. Z Power Brake-Lite was explicitly designed to mount inside combo amps like lower wattage Fender or Mesa Boogie combos under 45watts. Dr. Z has two wires coming from the Brake-lite, one goes to your guitar’s amplifier, and the other connects directly to your amplifier’s speaker. If you’re a guitarist who enjoys playing the 22 watt Fender Deluxe Reverb, this might be the attenuator for you. The Brake-Lite comes with five preset attenuated volume stages and works with 4, 8, and 16-ohm speaker cabinets. The Dr. Z attenuator has a neutral tone and works well to keep your combo amplifier’s original sound. Priced at $299, it’s an excellent budget-friendly alternative to guitarists looking to use attenuators without all the extra features on the Universal Audio Ox.
Weber has been a relative newcomer to the attenuator scene, but their attenuators come highly respected for their tonal transparency, fidelity, and simple functionally at a great price. Each Weber Mass attenuator is handmade to the customers’ order to ensure higher quality control between units. The Mass is also a larger 100-watt attenuator that should handle any amplifier in your collection. Weber loaded the Mass with a simple volume knob and treble bleed adjustment control to add some lost high frequencies at higher attenuation settings. Built with an actual speaker motor in the output section, the Mass allows players amp loads to match precisely as a real speaker would. Attenuation is adjustable from -3db to -70db. Competitively priced at $284, the Weber Mass is a bargain of an attenuator for guitarists looking for a high-quality attenuator at an affordable price!
If you like to play vintage amplifiers and want a dedicated attenuator proven safe for your small wattage vintage baby, check out the AmpRx Brownie Gig Master. AmpRx provides a 240watt attenuator at 120vac. The Gig Master is a lightweight, durable attenuator that suits small Fender combos like Deluxe Reverbs, Princetons, Champs, etc. with pedalboard use. With eight selectable voltage levels, The Hi/Lo switch provides an instant 5 volt rescale from the currently selected voltage feature. The Gig Master allows optimizes the voltage going into your vintage amplifier, which can help keep components lasting longer! At $249, it’s a bargain considering how well it protects your vintage amp!
The THD Hot Plate is the original attenuator standby everyone used in the early 2000s. It’s an OG. You can find these things sporadically on craigslist for cheap. I think the last one I saw went for $150. THD Hot Plates use a “hot plate” inside the attenuator to boost the voltage going to your preamp tubes inside your amplifier while keeping the master volume pushed down to small room listenable levels. Hot Plates are a cheaper way to boost tube voltage, and they sound excellent; hot plates do, however, force you to go through tubes at a decent clip. So keep in mind you may be using more tubes than you usually would. THD included several bass and treble boosting features to adjust your tone at lower volumes, much like the loudness control on a hifi. A cooling fan kicks on automatically during high wattage amplifier usage.
Have a bit of an expanded budget but can’t fit both the U.A. Apollo and Ox Box in it? Check out the all in one Boss Waza Tube Amp Expander. The Boss Waza combines the variable reactive load and cabinet simulation software of the U.A. Ox and combines it with an active analog power amplifier stage USB audio interface and built-in studio effects like reverb and delay. The reactive load section allows you to get realistic cranked amp tones at any volume. While much more expensive than anything on this list at $1200, there is the added benefit of having a USB interface built-in, which would save about half the U.A. Apollo Ox combo bill.