A guitar amp attenuator can have a significant impact for several reasons. First, it allows you to get to your amp’s sweet spot, which typically happens at a high volume, and brings that down considerably.
This in turn lets you practice and play at smaller venues without upsetting neighbors, bandmates, and/or an audience. Second, it lets you send your ideal tone to a speaker, recording interface, or FOH without losing quality.
Amp attenuators are positioned between the output of the amp and its destination, be it the speaker, console, interface, etc. These tools are of great help for tube amps, particularly vintage models. Attenuators can be used with combo amps as well as separate amp heads.
Today we’re listing seven of the best amp attenuator models in the market. And there is something for each situation, budget, and guitarist’s need here. Keep reading.
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
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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
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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
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- Top 3 Best Guitar Amp Attenuators in 2022
- Best Guitar Amp Attenuators: Individual Reviews
- How To Choose The Best Guitar Amp Attenuator
- Final Thoughts on the Best Guitar Amp Attenuators
Top 3 Best Guitar Amp Attenuators in 2022
The Dr. Z Brake-Lite is our Top Pick, as it features stellar quality with a simple yet effective design that ensures you get great tone at lower volumes and at a fair price.
The JHS Little Black Amp Box is our Best Budget option. This amp attenuator comes in a one-knob design and is ultra compact so you can get the job done conveniently and affordably.
Finally, the Boss WAZA Tube Amp Expander is the Editor’s Choice. This is a reactive load box and amp attenuator that is built with quality as its top priority. It is for discerning players that want versatility and superior tone control with additional options like cab simulations.
Best Guitar Amp Attenuators: Individual Reviews
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 and can be used with loads of 4, 8, or 16, ohm. The Brake Lite features two speaker outs that are wired in parallel and allow 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. In case you wish 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 but 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.
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 amp 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 only weighs 0.26 lbs.
This amp attenuator features a single knob in its design, which makes it as simple to operate as possible. In our tests, we played with the said 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. We turned it down a bit to also get the beautiful clean traits of our amp, but still 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. In other words, 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 amp 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.
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 guitar amp 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, but with the ability to lower the volume while keeping the tone. In short, a fantastic amp attenuator and load box for players that 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 that need the best.
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 the 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 not only give it stability but 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 may seem a bit too large for those that are 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.
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 entire’s design is based on the fact that tube amps are engineered to run at an optimal voltage but 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 as well.
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 this out is as simple as looking at the owner’s manual or doing an online search.
The result of bringing that current down to an optimal level is a particularly improved amp performance. Additionally, your tubes will last longer if you run your amp at the optimal current it was designed for.
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 but keep 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 amp 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 that 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 amp attenuator may be a bit too technical for some folks that 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 amp attenuator offers five levels of attenuation and true bypass as well.
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 amp 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 is labeled “Soak” and controls the overall volume of the unit, ranging from 0 to 100. On the other hand, the small knob is labeled “Line” and gives you 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, as it allowed 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 amp 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.
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 also 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 as it is 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 that increase exponentially once you use its Wall of Sound III plug-in to edit your sound.
How To Choose The Best Guitar Amp Attenuator
To state it simply, an amp 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, amp 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 amp attenuator.
There are a few things to consider when purchasing an amp attenuator. Below we give you the most important ones.
Impedance and wattage
The features that 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 amp 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.
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 or want 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 in the recent past and appeal to guitarists that like to get into the nuts and bolts of all aspects of their sound.
Other features like direct monitoring and headphone outputs are also to be considered and will depend on what your needs are. Other characteristics like I/O configuration (balanced and 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. In short, not all amp attenuators are created equal. Take the time to decide what you truly need or want, and use your current amps specs as a starting point.
Final Thoughts on the Best Guitar Amp Attenuators
Amp attenuators can be the difference between a fantastic tone or a mediocre one. Just as important, they can help extend the life of your prized tube amp (particularly vintage models) by making sure it operates at its best.
These tools can also be the deciding factor between practicing and recording at home with great tone at a low volume or getting evicted.
Although amp attenuators are usually not a hot topic among guitarists, they can be of extreme importance. This is true not only because of tone and protection but also convenience. A good amp attenuator will allow you to conveniently send the best version of your tone to wherever it needs to go, whether that is 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 amp attenuator that gives you ultimate quality and versatility.