7 Best Guitar Amp Attenuators (2024) – Tone at Bedroom Volumes

Tube amps are revered for their incredible organic tones, but to get the best out of the majority of them, you’ll need to play them with the volume cranked – depending on the situation, playing a tube amp at full tilt just might not be an option for you, and that’s where the best amp attenuators come in – our favorite, the Dr. Z Brake Lite Stand Alone 45 Watt Attenuator does an incredible job of ramping down the power of your amp, allowing for all of its tonal benefits, without the window shattering volume. This attenuator is super easy to use, with five attenuation settings providing a huge range of volume control on tube amps up to 45 watts. It’s simple to install, and comes in a turn key package, which makes it a great choice for the vast majority of players looking for an attenuator. For all these reasons and more, we named the Dr. Z Brake Lite Stand Alone 45 Watt Attenuator as our best amp attenuators Top Pick.

If you’re looking for something beyond the basic features of an attenuator, then the Boss Waza Tube Amp Expander is something you really need to check out. It works as a reactive load box, attenuator, speaker IR loader, cab simulator, and more, making it a truly multifunctional unit. Despite its litany of additional features, it’s still a top performer when it comes to attenuation, with excellent tonal preservation and variable volume control for tube amps up to a massive 100 watts. If you’re trying to explore the full potential of your tube amp, the Boss Waza Tube Amp Expander will definitely help you in doing so, which is why we’ve given it our best amp attenuators Editor’s Choice award.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for something simple and affordable, then the JHS Little Black Amp Box Passive Amp Attenuator is the way to go. Featuring  a single control knob, it delivers precise volume control, which will allow you to get your amp past the point of breakup without being excessively loud, or without relying on effects pedals. Being a passive unit, you don’t need additional power sources to run it, which further adds to its convenience and versatility. Whether practicing at home, recording, or performing in a small venue, the JHS Little Black Amp Box Passive Amp Attenuator helps in maintaining the amp’s tonal integrity without breaking the bank, and that’s why it’s our best amp attenuators Best Budget winner.

ImageProductFeaturesPrice
Editor's Choice
Boss WAZA Tube Amp Expander Amplifier Attenuator

Boss WAZA Tube Amp Expander Amplifier Attenuator

Features: Built in cab/mic sims, USB Interface functionality, 100w of A/B power

Benefits: Maintains cleans at higher volumes, Expands your tonal capabilities, Easy line in recording 

10
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Best Value
Dr. Z Brake-Lite Stand Alone 45-watt Attenuator

Dr. Z Brake-Lite Stand Alone 45-watt Attenuator

Features: 5 Attenuation levels, Parallel speaker outputs, Accepts 4, 8, or 16-ohm loads

Benefits: Tone control at any volume, Ideal for bedroom practice, Simple operation

8.5
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Best Budget
JHS Little Black Amp Box Passive Amp Attenuator

JHS Little Black Amp Box Passive Amp Attenuator

Features: Solid metal construction, Passive operation, Single knob design

Benefits: Easy operation, No power required, Preserves sound quality

7
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Individual Reviews

Top Pick

A fine option that delivers your amp's sweet at bedroom audio levels.

This amp attenuator comes with the superior level of quality that Dr. Z is known for. Well built and durable, the Brake Lite allows you to get fantastic amp tones at very low volumes.

The Dr. Z Brake Lite SA is a good choice for any tube amp up to 45 watts. This is a quality guitar amp attenuator that can be used with loads of 4, 8, or 16 ohm. The Brake Lite features two speaker outs that are wired in parallel, allowing you to run several cabs with ease.

This guitar amplifier attenuator also comes in a compact form factor, measuring just 6″ x 5″ x 3 ¼” and weighing only 1 ½ lb. Four ½” rubber feet provide plenty of clearance for resting on top of your amp.

Connecting the Brake Lite is a breeze. Simply use the speaker cable to connect it from the amp to the speaker. If you want to connect a second cab, a parallel load ensues. For instance, you can connect a pair of 8-ohm cabs using the 4-ohm speaker-out on your amp.

Operating the Brake Lite is easy, thanks to its straightforward design. In our tests, we dialed the Brake Lite to the Zero setting whenever we wanted to have it fully bypassed. Moving up clockwise, we then set it at the 1 position for 2 dB of attenuation.

Next, we tried the 2 settings for 5 dB of attenuation. Our Marshall JCM 800 was still loud, so we wanted to try an even quieter setting. We then moved the knob to the 3rd and 4th settings for 8 dB, and 11 dB of attenuation, respectively, and got that killer tone at a neighborhood-friendly level. 

We liked how we were able to turn the volume of the amp down, but still keep all the qualities that shine best when the JCM 800 is cranked up to about 8 (which is insanely loud if you have roommates or a significant other nearby). In short, a fantastic choice for getting your amp’s sweet spot, without anyone calling the cops on you.

Verdict: The Dr. Z Brake Lite SA is a great choice for tube amps up to 45 watts. This quality guitar amp attenuator is a great option for folks wanting quality tone at a lower volume, from one of the top names in boutique amp design.


Best Budget

A great solution for any amp with an effects loop.

A good option for anyone looking to get bedroom levels that sound as good as a loud amp. All you need is an effects loop to take advantage of this ultra-compact and well-built amp attenuator.

HS Little Black Amp Box is a very small attenuator that works its magic via the effects loop of any tube amplifier. Hand-built and tested by the JHS team in their Kansas City, Missouri headquarters, this unit is functional, convenient, and affordable. It also only weighs 0.26 lb.

This attenuator features a single knob, which makes it as simple to operate as possible. In our tests, we played with the knob to attain the desired level of attenuation. 

We turned it down to be able to play at a very low volume, but still get the beloved breakup characteristics of our amp. It delivered the beautiful, clean traits of our amp, at a low volume provided by this attenuator. 

Besides being very small and convenient, the JHS Little Black Amp Box does not require power and features one input and one output. This unit is as simple as it can possibly be.

In short, the JHS Little Black Amp Box is a great option for beginners or students looking for a way to play with quality sound at neighborhood-friendly levels. This attenuator lets you get the best of your amp so you can practice any time, and comes in a very compact form factor that is also simple and affordable.

Verdict: The JHS Little Black Amp Box is an extremely compact attenuator that functions via the effects loop of any tube amplifier. It is a good option for beginners and students and offers functionality and convenience while being truly affordable.


Editor's Choice

A versatile and complete solution for discerning players.

Boss has been a top name for guitarists for decades. This guitar amp attenuator does much more than that and gives you several options to control your tone and make sure it is always at that sweet spot, whether you're sending it to FOH or recording into an interface.

The Boss Waza Tube Amp Expander is a reactive load box that comes with stereo balanced outs so you can send your ideal amp tone straight into a PA or recording interface.

However, this is no ordinary attenuator. The Waza Tube Amp Expander features seven speaker cabinet simulations that come with five virtual microphones so you can manipulate your tone at will. 

Additionally, this unit also gives you 10 onboard effects. In our tests, we got the original Boss effect quality with their signature stereo, compression, reverb, and delay effects.  

One of the best features of this unit is that you can store as many as four custom speaker impulse responses (IRs) onboard, making it truly versatile and usable in a variety of situations. 

The Waza Tube Amp Expander also features 10 presets to interface with various amps. This unit also comes with a USB connection for preset management to be handled in the editor app. You can even use MIDI effects and compatible footswitches (for instance, the Boss GA-FC and FS series switches) thanks to its MIDI in and out.

We loved how this unit paired up with our Marshall JCM 800, allowing us to dial our beloved sounds at their best and lower the volume while keeping the tone. In short, a fantastic attenuator and load box for players who are willing to pay for quality and versatility.

Verdict: The Boss Waza Tube Amp Expander is a reactive load box that comes with a vast amount of options to truly manipulate and control your tone when sending it to its final destination. This unit is compatible with tube amps up to 150 watts and is a great choice for professionals who need the best.


Also Consider

A versatile and well built choice with renowned quality.

This Reactive amp load box and attenuator give you flexibility in a durable and well-built enclose. It features a simple design that is intuitive to operate and delivers on the promise of great tone at lower volumes.

The Mesa/Boogie Powerhouse Reactive Amp Load Attenuator is a reactive load box and attenuator that keeps your amp’s tone and feel regardless of volume. You can even bypass your cabinet and send your ideal tone directly to FOH or a recording interface. 

This unit features five levels of power reduction. You can choose among -0 dB, -4 dB, -8 dB, -12 dB, and -16 dB. Beyond that, you get infinite reduction via a Level knob for ultra-quiet tone that retains normal volume traits, ideal for practicing. 

Additionally, Mesa Boogie included a 3-position voicing switch that gives you normal, bright, or warm characteristics. This unit also features a Speaker/Load switch so you can choose between playing via your speaker cabinet or using this unit’s internal reactive load. 

In our tests, one of the features we enjoyed most was the dry line output. We were able to feed our unprocessed signal to our impulse response loader and then record it for re-amping. This gave us yet another option to further manipulate our ideal tone. 

The Powerhouse Reactive Amp Load Attenuator is built tough, with the quality that made Mesa/Boogie a legendary name among guitarists. Housed in a rugged and durable enclosure, this unit comes with rubber feet that give it stability and allow you to place it on top of your amplifier without the amp’s handle getting in the way.

This attenuator is a fantastic option for guitarists of any style and level, but it may seem a bit too large for those looking for ultimate convenience. 

Verdict: The Mesa/Boogie Powerhouse Reactive Amp Load Attenuator is a great option for those looking for a good amp reactive load box and attenuator. It offers versatility thanks to its five levels of attenuation and tonal shaping 3-way switch.


Also Consider

A great option to make the most out of our vintage tube amp.

Here we have a great option for our beloved but fragile vintage amps. Although the BrownBox can also work nicely with modern tube amps, it is the vintage models that have the most to gain from this cleverly designed amp attenuator.

The AmpRX BrownBox‘s entire design is based on the fact that tube amps are engineered to run at an optimal voltage, and the standard 120 V/AC outlet current is generally too high. This is especially true for vintage tube amps, which are also far more fragile. 

The BrownBox tackles this issue head-on via its proprietary 5-amp transformer. It offers 120, 122, 124, and 126 VAC input settings so you can pick the one that fits your vintage amp. Finding which setting to use is as simple as looking at the owner’s manual or doing a quick online search.

Bringing that current down to an optimal level results in a particularly improved amp performance. Additionally, running your amp at the optimal current it was designed for will make your tubes last longer.

Besides choosing the right voltage for your amp, the BrownBox also gives you four attenuation modes to choose from. Your options are 3%, 4%, 6%, and 10%, so you can reduce as much as you want while keeping that killer tone intact. 

This unit features a screen that lets you know exactly at what voltage you are operating thanks to its LCD voltmeter. Built like a tank, this guitar attenuator is durable and will last, while helping ensure that your prized vintage tube amp does so as well. 

In short, a fantastic option for folks who love their vintage tube amps. The BrownBox will get the most out of these delicate amplifiers while preserving their power tubes. As good as it is, this attenuator may be a bit too technical for some folks who value simplicity.

Verdict: The AmpRX BrownBox is a great solution for folks with large tube amps, especially vintage models. This unit regulates the voltage coming from your outlet, which is generally too high for tube amps to operate at their best. Built to last, this attenuator offers five levels of attenuation and true bypass as well.


Also Consider

A durable and well-built attenuator that is easy to use.

This attenuator offers a no-nonsense approach to the common problem of getting a good tone at low volumes. Besides featuring a simple design, it also gives you options so you can send the tone you want anywhere you need.

The Bugera PS1 is a passive attenuator that can handle up to 100 watts of tube power and features inputs for 4 ohms, 8 ohms, and 16 ohms. By simply placing this unit between your tube amplifier’s speaker output and your speaker, you get the best our amp has to offer but at lower volumes. 

Like a good attenuator, you can also send quality tone directly to the FOH or console at home. This is thanks to the Emulated Mic Output that simulates the overall feel and tone of a fantastic speaker cabinet and allows you to send your carefully-crafted sound wherever you need via an XLR cable.

The PS1 features a simple and very easy to use 2-knob design. The bigger knob (Soak) controls the overall volume of the unit, ranging from 0 to 100. The small knob (Line) offers 10 levels to choose from. 

Naturally, the Line knob works in tandem with the Line output on the back of the PS1. The Line output is right next to the speaker input, so you can conveniently connect it to send it either to your speaker or to your interface, console, FOH, etc. 

In our tests, we really liked how the PS1 performed, allowing us to get a killer tone at minimal levels. However, this unit got quite hot, to the point that it was hard to grab. So there is that to consider as well. 

Verdict: The Bugera PS1 is a good passive attenuator with a simple and intuitive design. It can be used with amps of up to 100 watts and is also very well built. Besides giving you a great tone, the PSE1 also allows you to use speaker impulse responses in your DAW.


Also Consider

Plenty of options to control the tone from your amp.

This unit is a great choice for those that like to truly have control over their sound. It offers you attenuation and load box capabilities, as well as the option to digitally alter your tone in a variety of ways.

The Two Notes Torpedo Captor X is a Reactive Loadbox DI and Attenuator that can handle up to 100 watts on an amp. It features three different levels of attenuation including -38 dB, -20 dB, and 0 dB, as well as three output routing options: Stereo, Dual mono, Wet/Dry.

This unit offers speaker simulations and a collection of onboard processors. These include aural enhancer, stereo doubler, semi-parametric EQ, stereo reverb, and noise gate.  

The Torpedo Captor X delivers a variety of ways to control its many parameters. You can choose to further shape your sound using this unit’s powerful editor in combination with your laptop or mobile device (it’s compatible with iOS and Android). 

You get plenty of options including 128 presets and 32 modeled virtual cabinets, which come with eight microphone setups per cabinet, as well as eight room simulations. All these options make the Captor X a versatile and customizable unit that goes beyond being an attenuator or load box. 

The Captor X comes with the Wall of Sound III plug-in for additional cab sims. This software allows you to fine-tune the speaker simulation and customize it with virtual microphone types, placement, and more.

This is a good attenuator and load box that offers a variety of ways to shape your tone. It is well-built and features many options to truly take control of your tone and shape it in many ways. However, it is a bit limiting as it can only serve 8-ohms amps.

Verdict: The Two Notes Torpedo Captor X is a good choice for those looking for a Reactive Loadbox DI and Attenuator for an 8-ohm amp. It gives you plenty of control options over your tone, which increase exponentially if you use its Wall of Sound III plug-in for editing.


How to Choose the Right Attenuator For You

To state it simply, an attenuator disperses a part of the amplifier’s power to allow for the amp’s desirable high-volume characteristics to be present at a lower volume.

Even small-tube amps tend to produce their best tones at volumes that are often too high for many applications. These include practicing, recording at home, and even some gigs or jam sessions at smaller venues.

In other words, their sweet spot is often quite inconvenient for a variety of situations. Additionally, attenuators allow you to send the best version of your tone to FOH. This practice is becoming increasingly popular and further enhances the need for an attenuator.

There are a few things to consider when purchasing an attenuator. Below we break down the most important factors. 

Impedance and Wattage

The features of each guitar amp attenuator can vary greatly, so it’s important to understand what you need. Two of the most important factors that you must consider when purchasing an attenuator are your amp’s output power and its output impedance.

For instance, if you have an 80-watt amp, but you bought a 60-watt attenuator, you run the risk of damaging the attenuator. It is imperative that the attenuator match or exceed the wattage of the amp.

Matching is just as important when it comes to impedance. For instance, if you buy an 8-ohm attenuator to use with a 16-ohm amp, you run the risk of damaging the amp. Some attenuators offer several impedance choices, in case you have different amps with different impedance requirements. 

Tone Shaping

Besides these two critical factors, there are other features to consider when buying an attenuator. These are highly-personal and depend on what you need your attenuator to do.

These tools have to do mostly with tone shaping. Do you want to be able to further shape your tone once the volume is reduced? Then you may want to look into attenuators that offer effects, cab simulations, etc.

Further options to have greater control over your tone include amp emulation, EQ tweaking, re-amping, and more. These have become popular recently and appeal to guitarists who like to get into the nuts and bolts of all aspects of their sound.

Other features like direct monitoring and headphone outputs should also be considered and will depend on your needs. Additional characteristics like I/O configuration (balanced/unbalanced outputs and DI out for recording) may also interest you.

On the other hand, if all you want is to have your amp’s sweet spot reproduced at a lower volume, then a simpler attenuator should do. Not all attenuators are created equal. Take the time to determine what you truly need or want, and use your current amp’s specs as a starting point.


Final Thoughts

Attenuators can be the difference between a fantastic tone or a mediocre one. Just as importantly, they can help extend the life of your prized tube amp (particularly vintage models) by making sure it operates at its best.

These tools allow you to practice and record at home with great tone at a low volume while not getting evicted

Although attenuators are usually not a hot topic among guitarists, they can be extremely important. This is true not only because of tone and protection, but also convenience. A good attenuator will allow you to conveniently send the best version of your tone wherever it needs to go, whether a console, FOH, interface, etc.  

To recap, our top options for this list start with the Dr. Z Brake Lite as our Top Pick, because of its superior quality, ease of use, and overall functionality.

The JHS Little Black Amp Box is our Best Budget option that comes in a very compact form factor that gets the job done.

For those looking for the best, the Boss WAZA Tube Amp Expander is the Editor’s Choice and is a reactive load box and attenuator that gives you ultimate quality and versatility.  

Author

  • Rodrigo Sanchez

    Rodrigo is an award-winning songwriter (Best Popular Song Of 2018 for Ibermúsicas), and has worked with the prestigious EMI Music Publishing Latin America. He has production credits on artists such as Descemer Bueno, and has also composed alongside Grammy and ASCAP award-winners such as Sebastián De Peyrecave and José Luis Morín.