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Hardware Speaker Sim/Attenuators compared to Mics

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Hardware Speaker Sim/Attenuators compared to Mics

Postby moo the magic cow » Sat Jan 30, 2010 1:35 am

I'm a bedroom recordist. I've found that to get a good tone out of my amp, it helps for it to be turned up past 1, which is pretty loud for the room I'm in.

On my quest for a good attenuator, I've found a sort of combination box an attenuator with a speaker sim and a line-level output. There are a couple of these, the ones I find most intriguing are the Groove Tubes Speaker Emulator and the Marshall SE100. I've read that they actually have the same basic layout, Marshall having bought the rights to the design from GT, but the knobs and fiddly bits differ (IMO the Marshall's layout looks more interesting).

I've also seen the Palmer PDI03, which infringed on the GT patent, and apparently doesn't send the attenuated signal to a connected speaker (which is a big minus).

Anyone have any experience with these devices?

What am I losing here? The idea of a nearly silent cranked tube amp is incredibly appealing to me, whether it be for recording or just wearing headphones. I don't think the loss of the speaker's excursion is of merit, because I've never had the right kind of space to capture it.

My choice is either get this, or I buy a THD Hotplate attenuator and an AT4050 or AKG 414. Thoughts?
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Re: Hardware Speaker Sim/Attenuators compared to Mics

Postby ef37a » Sat Jan 30, 2010 9:43 am

I would be very cautious about sinking serious money into this quest.

100W stacks in full mayhem at 75dBA is every bedroom guitarists dream but for many physical,engineering, and psychological reasons it is not really attainable.

I have heard the AxeTrak on the Tube and it does sound good but however good these simulations, the fact is that very loud sound scares one witless, even when you are not in harm and that adrenalin rush just don't happen.

Then how you hit the guitar will be a factor (I am no player but I have a son who is a very good one and know several others).

Experiment by all means, software is cheaper (free even!) than hardware as a rule. If you are into DIY you can play with pedal designs ad.inf. and power soaks are pretty simple things to build.

You will probably end up with a sound you like but be aware that you can't get "Wembley" in a matchbox.

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Re: Hardware Speaker Sim/Attenuators compared to Mics

Postby Jack Ruston » Sat Jan 30, 2010 2:06 pm

Yep +1

Speaker attenuators are very useful when you're rehearsing or gigging in a small venue and you need to control the level of a loud amp. Typically even 50w older marshalls are hugely loud.

In terms of recording, the problem is that as you come down to room volume the speaker just doesn't do what it should anymore. It's very much like trying to do a hill start in third gear. There's an optimum level for every cab and every speaker. They often sound shockingly bad at other levels. A great amp/cab combination is one where the sweet spot of both amp and cab align. The role of the cab in the final sound is a good 50%. It can't be underestimated.

The sound of speaker simulation varies. It depends what you're going for. Sometimes it's quite convincing. Sometimes it's just odd. It's never amazing. What I do find is that it's much better on bass than on guitar (probably because the bass benefits from the lack of 'air' in the same way that the guitar suffers) and very cool on things like vocals, drums and keys.

Because of this, I'd suggest that for silent recording, a software amp might be better, provided it's one of the best. I'm looking forward to trying amplitube3. Apparently the method they used to model the fender set, which sounded really cool, has been used on every amp in the new plug in. We'll see.

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Re: Hardware Speaker Sim/Attenuators compared to Mics

Postby dawalker17uk » Sun Jan 31, 2010 7:58 pm

one trick i employ here is that most amps have a drive section and a volume section, if you want a very distorted sound turn the drive right up and only have the main volume a fraction that way the signal is distorted by the main volume is relatively low.
However, that being said Jack Ruston is absolutely correct, speakers and cabs have particular levels that bring out the best so driving the signal is like revving an engine while holding the clutch, it may sound cool and you may move a little but you choke off the main features you are after.

A better idea would be to record all the parts for a song (including the week sounding guitar) at home, then once you are ready book some studio time at a practice place (fairly decent practice pad at that) bring your amp down and overdub the guitar tracks there. should cost at the most about £25 for 3 hours (at a decent rehearsal and recording space). having the benefits of allowing you to use your own amp, save a fortune by not having to invest into attenuators and sound much better as you are playing through a proper setup and not choking your amp. :)
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Re: Hardware Speaker Sim/Attenuators compared to Mics

Postby moo the magic cow » Sun Jan 31, 2010 8:15 pm

These are some pretty good platitudes but has anyone ever actually used one of these? thanks
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Re: Hardware Speaker Sim/Attenuators compared to Mics

Postby ef37a » Sun Jan 31, 2010 8:30 pm

A year or two ago I made up a "sacrificial" speaker for my son.

This was an handy Audax 3"20W unit* and I put it in a shoebox sized enclosure. Driven from his 15W Dominator "clone" this gave a fairly good o/d sound at tolerable levels but then he was just seeking a bit of "crunch" for jazz purposes but I don't see any difficulty in driving such a speaker harder for a more R&R sound.

The benefits of the techniquie are that such small hi fi woofers have a sensitivity 10-15dB below that of guitar drive units so you can get the amp cooking and keep the windows(a bit!). Used in conjuction with a power soak a better power/SPL regime might be met(it is almost universally said that high levels of PA attenuation fork the sound completely).

Do get a WOOFER, even then a 3-4" job will probably have as good or better an HF response than most git' 12's. You need to shed those post 6-10Khz P.D.Q.

Why sacrificial? Well driving the beans out of such a unit especially with a valve amp, most of which good ones will put 25%+ more electricity into a load than their rating suggest, is asking for trouble! It is likely to burn out. For an 8 Ohm unit I suggest a 22Ohm 10W resistor across the terminals, still tap the amp at 8R and at least you will have some sort of load left when it pops.

*Map's, don't do them any more of course!

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Re: Hardware Speaker Sim/Attenuators compared to Mics

Postby Shingles » Sun Jan 31, 2010 8:59 pm

moo the magic cow wrote:These are some pretty good platitudes but has anyone ever actually used one of these? thanks

I used to have an SE100 and used it both for attenuation and direct speaker-simulated output, and it was very good for both. But it couldn't bring a 100 watt Marshall down to conversational volume. And much as I like the sound of a fully cranked amp, I actually like the sound of a preamp through a decent line-level speaker simulator, so go figure. Take my opinion with a pinch of salt.

For cranked amp tone at bedroom/recording level I think you are better off with a digital modeller such as a Pod, Boss GT series or my favourite - a Vox Tonelab. One of these may well work out cjheaper than an SE100 as well. I got around £300 for mine a couple of years ago.
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Re: Hardware Speaker Sim/Attenuators compared to Mics

Postby Jack Ruston » Sun Jan 31, 2010 9:58 pm

In answer to whether anyone's used one: I've got an elemental, and I've used hotplates, palmers and motherloads. Some are very much better than others.

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Re: Hardware Speaker Sim/Attenuators compared to Mics

Postby moo the magic cow » Tue Feb 02, 2010 3:17 am

Well thanks for your help, everyone. I've sunk all of $200 into a groove tubes model off ebay. I'm only using a 40w Traynor YCV amp, so hopefully it will do the trick.
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Re: Hardware Speaker Sim/Attenuators compared to Mics

Postby m-i-s-t-e-r-g » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:56 am

owned and loved a marshall SE100 for years - used it with various things - marshall heads and a laney tube amp - with much success. always thought the direct out sounded great. also used it as an attenuator for miked amp recording, but note that it was still too loud for residential stuff.

also owned and regularly used an axetrak - it was OK. would definitely take the SE100 using the direct out speaker sim over the axetrak.

when recording a cranked amp blastingly loud into a carefully placed microphone isn't an option, the SE100 will get you a good sound that works. only sold mine because I now have a space where I can make as much noise as I like. even then I'd still plug it in once in a while and use it for a different sound ...
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Re: Hardware Speaker Sim/Attenuators compared to Mics

Postby DrBobK » Tue Jul 14, 2020 9:51 pm

Well I've owned an SE-100 which I got for £100 from ebay years ago. I use it with a Marshall JCM900 50W Combo for playing at home and it does the job. You can get nice levels of amp distortion by careful use of low master and high pre-amp volume on the JCM900 together with maximum attenuation on the SE-100. I think they still come up on ebay and on more music specific sites for reasonable money. Well worth it in my opinion - you spend a great deal on an amp (and guitar), an extra one or two hundred buck for added usability is well worth it. BTW the SE-100 manual is available on many places on the web.
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