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PROS: Great tool, easy way make a loud amp more usable at lower volumes.
A tube guitar amp sounds best when breathing; loud volumes allow the ability to feel the full range of tones, but in smaller clubs, practice spaces, and at home, it can be too much for neighbors, audience members and bandmates. JHS has a neat little tool to help get those large-volume tones, at a level that’s not ear-piercing.
With an input, an output and a control knob, it’s quite simple. Get the amp sounding the way you want it and plug it in an amp’s fx loop; it doesn’t matter which side is input or output, it’s a passive circuit so there’s no issue of overloading anything. Then use the knob to lower the volume to taste. It acts like a “master, master, master volume control.”
We tested it out with a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe 1×12 combo, which at 40-watts can be plenty for a medium stage or club, but can be too much volume for a normal-sized practice room. It brings the big tone down to a reasonable level without a lot of fuss. Players using pedals will find that they don’t have to lower the output on overdrive pedals to achieve lower volumes, especially ones that really sound great at fuller output levels. Some players may think it cuts off some tone, but adjusting the EQ can easily fix that problem.
There’s not much to it, and in fact for about $20 in parts, the diagram to build a similar unit can be found online. But for those who don’t want to tinker, the $45 street price isn’t hard to swallow. Hey, it’s far cheaper than replacing a high-wattage amp with a lower-wattage one. Even better, it’s not permanent – just disconnect it to run the amp at full volume. It’s a small investment for something that can make a big difference in an amp’s usability.