An Aracom Attenuator and a Few Vintage Marshalls (Complete)

26 Nov An Aracom Attenuator and a Few Vintage Marshalls (Complete)

So… been meaning to shoot something like this for some time, here you have it.

It’s a long journey into what an attenuator can do for you, with powerful, loud tube amps (ONLY tube amps can be attenuated with an attenuator such as the Aracom).

Total of 6 videos, all being processed right now, here’s the one.

Thanks for viewing, yours,

Fil :)

1967 Gibson SG Standard on 1976 Marshall Super Lead through Aracom PRX150-DAG

1959 Lentz Conversion Les Paul on 1976 Marshall Super Lead through Aracomย PRX150-DAG

1969 Gibson SG Custom, non original pickups (old Di Marzio) on 1976 Marshall Super Lead AND 1977 2204, through Aracom. Then, 1970 Gibson SG Standard on 1977 Marshall 2204 through Aracom.

1959 Lentz Conversion on 1977 Marshall 2204 through Aracom

What this Aracom PRX150-DAG looks like up close (it’s the one on the RIGHT ๐Ÿ˜› ):

[singlepic id=417 w=1024 h=768 float=]

Technical notes:

While discussing with Jeff, Aracom Owner, Jeff told me

BTW:ย  With the PRX150 in the “F” (Variable) position, the output of an amp putting out 100 watts is between 0.07 to 1.5 watt entering the speaker cabinet, therefore only 25% of that per speaker, based on a 4×12 cab.


0.1 of a watt (entering the cab) can be considered above conversation level, have to talk loud above it.ย ย  It is amazing how “loud” less than a watt is.

Those buying low wattage amps to crank up and play in their homes without disturbing someone would still have to rely on the Master Volume control or an attenuator.

I see that someone asked about the price.ย  Our dealer sells the PRX150-DAG for $785

avatar
Fil "SoloDallas" Olivieri
sd@solodallas.com

We Are Rock 'N Roll People.

176 Comments
  • avatar
    sledrevy
    Posted at 05:45h, 29 June

    thanks Fil the aracom and the secret-1 are on my wish list!!!
    I realy want to know your opinion on the scumbacks speakers….
    Becacause finding the the real deal greenback pre-rolas that dont have issues or re-cone and all the heart aces finding the holy grail one …Are the Scumbacks a good route for that tone?
    and again thank you for you input it matter to me alot

  • avatar
    sledrevy
    Posted at 03:23h, 29 June

    hey Fil how does arocom compare to the alex attuator?
    better or same?
    and do you have any opinion on the scumback speakers
    tha scumico ones?

    • avatar
      SoloDallas
      Posted at 05:22h, 29 June

      I think it is better than the Alex. But please keep in mind that I had no whatsoever way to test it or even hear it in person. Only clips of it :)

  • avatar
    Andrea Sg
    Posted at 04:02h, 16 April

    grande fil queste lezioncine non fanno mai male!!

  • avatar
    jakesg61
    Posted at 00:10h, 08 March

    If anyone is thinking of getting an atenuator, be sure to check that its rated higher than your amp in terms of power, i think many people can over look this an do serious damage to their amps transformer. Like the old attenuators were quite dangerous and used to blow the transformers, now they are much safer an are built not to harm your amp, but if the attenuator cant handle the amps power then it will damage it, I once read that a 100w 1959 can actually put out 170w! even though rated at 100w, so if your gettin an attenuator for a 100w, get one at least rated to 150w, I believe the THD Hotplate is rated to something like 350w not sure the exact firgure, the marshall power break is rated at exactly 100w so i wouldnt get that one, i also heard it dosnt sound that good either, which is a shame really
    hope this was helpful, just wanted to share this so no one goes and damages a nice amp :)

  • avatar
    Robin Jansson
    Posted at 21:55h, 20 February

    Hello Fil!
    What’s the difference between Marshall jmp 2204 and Marshall jmp 2204 MK2?

    What does MK2 mean?

    Please help me!

    BTW: you are a fantastic guitarist

    //Robin

  • avatar
    headwhop26
    Posted at 20:01h, 26 January

    So I was browsing around on Guitar Center dot com and saw this here:

    http://www.guitarcenter.com/Electro-Harmonix-Nano-Signal-Pad-Attenuator-Guitar-Effects-Pedal-105292874-i1438606.gc

    its an EHX attenuator in pedal form. Ive always loved EHX products, but i was wondering if you guys knew if there would be any sort of difference between an attenuator that is an actual unit like the Aracom one, or one that is a pedal?

    • avatar
      AngusWW
      Posted at 08:31h, 27 January

      Hi ! Be careful, if you want the “same sound but at a lower volume” (the aim of an attenuator), this kind of pedal won’t do it !!! It makes the *input* signal lower, so your amp will less (and maybe not) overdrive the sound. This kind of pedal will do the same thing than if you use your guitare volume knob. Try to make your amp overdrive at the level 1 of your guitar volume. If you have the same amount of overdrive, please tell us your OD brand !!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      This link tells the same thing than me : http://accessories.musiciansfriend.com/product/Electro-Harmonix-Nano-Signal-Pad-Attenuator-Guitar-Effects-Pedal?sku=501647

      That’s why there are attenuators and volume pedals… ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • avatar
        headwhop26
        Posted at 20:34h, 27 January

        Aha! That makes total sense, I dont know why I didnt see that before. Thanks AngWW.

  • avatar
    cwildes
    Posted at 03:05h, 12 January

    This may seem like a dumb question, but does this attenuator and others like it maintain a constant volume level no matter what? I mean, could I switch to the “solo” channel of my amp (basically just a volume boost) and still have the increase in volume for my solo while using the Aracom?

    • avatar
      svh366
      Posted at 16:13h, 24 February

      i think that’s what “variable mode” means… =)

  • avatar
    Kinglance
    Posted at 18:14h, 11 January

    Re-listened to the 4th video (I mostly listen to the SG-parts, because I associate them more with AC/DC-music). I have to say, amazing rhythm parts. How u play with the A-D-G-D-E chords. That feel. I feel it! First time I feel it! That’s the reason I love guitarplaying and guitarmusic! It’s like an angel singing in my ears! Really amazing!!
    P.S. I intend to write an article about guitarpractising. But not know (I have exams in january), but after that we have a one week-holiday. Then I want to write an article!! Greets, J-L

  • avatar
    Kinglance
    Posted at 17:52h, 11 January

    I re-listen a lot of videos! All your videos are so great! I must say, the solo in that second video (with the Les Paul)… high class, really amazing, could be in a famous song, as great as the Free ‘Allright now’-solo. Really really amazing performance there, and great tone!! The guitar is so sensitive!! Love it!!

  • avatar
    RickRosePHX
    Posted at 01:59h, 07 January

    Hey Fil,
    That’s a mighty fine tee shirt. I didn’t see a merchandise page. Do you have any plans to sell tee shirts?

  • avatar
    Rockerdartdude
    Posted at 09:16h, 05 January

    Cant beat the great sound of a cranked Vintage Marshall Amplifier. I had a quick question though, I have a Blackheart BH5H amp head which is a lot like a plexi head but only 5 watts of power. (better for my neighbors to not call the cops when I crank it, and only $200) What do you think about the tone It can achieve?

  • avatar
    Angusrocks
    Posted at 21:42h, 28 December

    Hi everyone,
    a good page for all of us who like Marshall.
    http://www.drtube.com/marshall.htm

  • avatar
    Kinglance
    Posted at 21:29h, 27 December

    Does someone knows how Fil recorded this sessions? With a mic? And how recorded he his speaking? So amp and speaking. Guitar sounds really really very nice. I can’t achieve this with my Shure mic.

    • avatar
      Kinglance
      Posted at 21:48h, 27 December

      Does Fil mixed his recordings? Or did something in ProTools afterwards… He has a nice reverb in the sound.

    • avatar
      banane
      Posted at 21:50h, 27 December

      Hi Jean-Luc, Fil uses 2 expensive condenser mics from AudioTechnica. One is slightly off the speakers center, one is centered.
      In opposite to the Shure SM 57 (dynamic mic, kidney characteristics) the condenser mics records also the environment, so I think, his speaking is recorded by the same mics. The Shure doesn’t record things behind itself. The condenser mics do.

      But this isn’t the secret of Fil’s quality.
      It’s a lot of things together: condenser mics, the cranked and attenuated amps, his vintage cabinet loaded with vintage speakers, the great quality of the vintage guitars, maybe also equalizing, and most important: FIl’s playing.
      In other words: Fil spends a lot of time and a lot of money in this. And “a lot of” means an understatement here :)

      See, your Shure is just fine. The Highway to hell album was recorded with Shure SM 57 mics (as far as I remember), and with some tweaking (amp settings, guitar settings, recording settings) you will be able to get a similar tone. Just take your time to play around with all the settings.
      It took me almost 4 weeks to get a nice tone with my attenuator, so I know this will take a lot of time.

      Your test recordings were done with a lot of preamp, Angus plays almost clear. I’m not sure, but I doubt that Angus is using more preamp than 4 or 5. This makes me feel that you just need to get more familiar with your gear.

      I would change the speakers, but the rest is just experience, know how you have to work for to get it.

      • avatar
        banane
        Posted at 21:51h, 27 December

        I’m not fully sure, but I think he adds a bit of reverb, yes.

  • avatar
    Lemmiwinks
    Posted at 00:46h, 18 December

    OnTopic: Would a weber minimass 50 do the job for a 50w jmp? I dont really understande webers homepage on that point. Shure I get that you could keep the volume down a bit when fully cranked but is it “dangerous” at medium loud tv kind of levels?

    OffTopic: I have blackbacks on my -79 jmp now (stock) . Is it time to change em to greenbacks?

    • avatar
      banane
      Posted at 00:59h, 18 December

      I have a 50W JMP and an older model of the Weber Mass Lite 50W. When playing for 2 hours with the amp at Volume 8 and attenuated with the Weber to bedroom level the weber becomes pretty warm, but not hot. I would not crank it fully, but its totally ok to attenuate the 50W JMP with volume level 6-8 to bedroom level.

      Dont know about the blackbacks, I have G12T75s in my cab and will also change them with greenbacks later too. But dont know if the blackbacks are that much different. Did you compare the frequency diagrams?

    • avatar
      Angusrocks
      Posted at 12:36h, 18 December

      There is no need to change the blackbacks !!
      Listen and look at this. This sound comes out of blackbacks.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0lKDjsNE_o

      • avatar
        SoloDallas
        Posted at 12:42h, 18 December

        That’s true! Blackbacks are the same as greenbacks ๐Ÿ˜€

  • avatar
    jakesg61
    Posted at 13:27h, 15 December

    Hey Fil, I Finally got my 1959SLP reissue yesterday, hehe I plugged in right away. You said it would brush my hair at 3, well it was brushing my hair at less then 1 hehehe. I know see what you all mean about the volume. I have yet to do a review, but will do one soon. Think Im going to save up for an attenuator now, heard the hot plate is good. Want one thats going to be kind to my amp as ive heard that attenuators reduce the valve like quicker.

    • avatar
      banane
      Posted at 16:06h, 15 December

      So you became 18 now? Congratulations! :)
      Yeah, such amps are REALLY LOUD…I was shocked too when trying out my 50 watt JMP.

      Well, its not true that attenuators reduce the tubes life time. It’s the fact that running the amp fully cranked all the time (while it’s attenuated) will reduce the tubes life time because they are running at full power all the time.
      I’m using an attenuator too but only with the volume at maybe 5 or 6, not fully cranked. That will save the tubes. When running the amp always fully cranked, I would expect to change the tubes at least 1 time per year.
      Also, it’s important to let the tubes warm up before pulling up the volume.

      • avatar
        Angusrocks
        Posted at 21:36h, 15 December

        oh yeah ? Do you have your Weber now ?
        Or a different attenuator ? How does it sound ?

        • avatar
          banane
          Posted at 21:41h, 15 December

          Yes, i have the Weber now, but it took me a lot of time to get a good sound out of it. Solution was to switch amp and cabinet to 4 ohms instead of 16 ohms. Planning to write a review for us here.
          For the sound, what do you think of this: http://www.banane.at/media/solodallasnet/Weber-Attenuator-Test/hwthtest-att-4ohm-3.mp3
          Amp is at master volume 6, preamp also 6, bass at 6, mids and treble full cranked, presence at 4.

          • avatar
            Angusrocks
            Posted at 22:07h, 15 December

            yes, some things need a lot of time to study, to find out what is best. To your sound, basicly good, but i would turn the mids to 6 or so and maybe the preamp to 4. But this is what i think in front of my computer. It is always better to hear it live and to see what kind of room and so on….

            • avatar
              banane
              Posted at 22:29h, 15 December

              I’ll try it out. Generally, the sound is darker, when the amp is attenuated, so I cranked up mids and treble. I find it cool that it sounds like this just at bedroom level.
              And yes, I tend to use too much preamp, I just love this distortion :) Thanks for the hints.

              • avatar
                Angusrocks
                Posted at 22:37h, 15 December

                oh yes, fine amp !!
                I wished had this…..

      • avatar
        jakesg61
        Posted at 16:12h, 16 December

        Hey Banane :D,
        Yeah I turned 18 last saturday, thankyou ๐Ÿ˜€
        I like your thinking of using the amp at like 5 or 6, Its more comforting to know now. I just didnt want to get an attenuator for it to then go and damage the amp, but thinking logically about it now you mentioned that, I guess weather its being attenuated or not you would have to crank it to full to get that tone anyway so the valves will just wear out at the same rate, attenuator or no attenuator?
        Silly question maybe but how would you tell if a valve has gone?, loud bang?, smoke?, or amp stops working?
        I must say I love the warmth of the valve tone though its so full filling, an the volume is incredible! With the volume down to the stop band on zero its really loud, and if I even move it a little higher then zero not even to 1 its too much haha, so to get the AC/DC tone im sure I will need an attenuator, but I dont know what to get, I heard the THD Hotplate is good?

        • avatar
          banane
          Posted at 16:51h, 16 December

          Hi Jake, yeah, it’s really cool to have such an amp with 18 :)
          Having a tube amp and playing a guitar was just a dream for me for a long time. With 18 I just played air guitar :)
          And yes, I just love that tube sound too. Was an incredible feeling when I tried mine out for the first time.

          I did a lot of research before looking around for an attenuator to buy. Yes, it doesnt matter for the tubes if you’re using the amp with attenuator or without. When the amp is cranked all the time, the tubes are worn out faster. many people think the attenuator damages the tubes while they forget about the fact that they attenuate their fully cranked amp all the time while playing.

          User Angusrocks here has a THD hotplate, maybe he can help you further with practical experiences. I can only tell about my Weber Attenuator, got this one used from Ebay.

          It took me about a week to get the settings right to have a good sound at bedroom level. Sound was very flat and muddy and i was a bit disappointed until I switched Amp and Cabinet from 16 to 4 Ohms. That gave me the good sound back.
          So, you will probably have to play around with all the settings on the amp and the Attenuator to get the sound you want.
          An important thing for Attenuators is, if you plan to run your amp fully cranked, your Attenuator should be specified for twice the power of your amp. That would be 200 Watts for yours.
          I’m using a 50 Watt Attenuator for my 50 Watt Amp, but I’m not running it fully cranked. When I’m playing for half an hour at volume 8, the Attenuator gets pretty hot, so its nearly under-dimensioned. I think I would burn it up when playing fully cranked for a longer time.

          For the valves, I don’t have experiences with broken valves yet, but from what I heard and read from other people you will hear it when they are worn out. I buyed a used Marshall at Ebay and its tubes seems to be pretty old. You can barely read the marking on them and they have big black heating points on them. See pictures here: http://www.banane.at/media/Marshall-Amp/

          As a rule of thumb I would say, I would change them every year if the amp is used very much. A tube that burns up would damage the rest of the amp for sure, so it’s better to change them often enough. I read from other people who plays every day for hours and going on tour also, they change the tubes every 6 months.

          But other people here may know it better and more exactly, probably.

          • avatar
            banane
            Posted at 16:52h, 16 December

            Ah, and I forgot to add a link: http://www.tedweber.com/atten.htmhttp://www.tedweber.com/atten.htm
            There you can read a lot about attenuators in general.

          • avatar
            jakesg61
            Posted at 18:14h, 16 December

            Thankyou for the links Banane :),
            Your amp looks awsome! I love how you went into detail on the pictures to get a close up!
            I dare say I would play it every day or most days, but not for 6 hours at a time maybe 1 or 2 hours. Maybe changing the valves once a year would be ok for that, one thing im unsure about is my warranty and changing valves, I go 3 years warranty on the amp, this means marshall will have to change the valves?
            Going back to attenuators I like the look of the THD well not the look but from what I read about it hehe. Shame about the power break heard thats good, but i dont think it could take the power from my amp.
            I noticed my amp venting heat from the vents, obviously thats normal for a tube amp, do you think a cooling fan would be a useful addition?
            Thanks for your help by the way ๐Ÿ˜€

            • avatar
              banane
              Posted at 18:37h, 16 December

              Hehe, thanks. I just love my amp :)
              Yeah, I think a yearly change is enough.
              For the warranty, I don’t really know if they have to be changed by Marshall themself, but I doubt so. I mean, they couldn’t expect all their customers to send in their amps for a tube change. Maybe it has to be a Marshall certified shop or even the tube change is outside the warranty deal. Just check the warranty paper.

              For the attenuator if possible, try them out and take your time to chose the right one. Maybe you’ll find some videos on youtube with your amp and a THD.
              And the Aracom attenuators Fil uses here are also very good. And very expensive :)
              I can’t really be a good help for your decison here because I dont know the THD myself. My Weber is totally ok for its money, but the THD is maybe better.
              I remember Angusrocks saying here in a comment that it sounds very good even at bedroom level. And the THD is a very popular attenuator. Thats all I know about it. Sorry :)

              Yes, I noticed that too here. The tubes are going so hot you cant even touch them. They need to be warm or hot, thats ok anyway, but I removed the backplate of my amp for a bit better venting. That should be enough I think.

              • avatar
                Michael91
                Posted at 19:51h, 16 December

                Im glad that you like the WEBER!! I play mine throug a JMP Superbass and its the fuckin’ Malcolm-Sound at bedroom level.

                • avatar
                  banane
                  Posted at 20:05h, 16 December

                  Yeah, the Weber is really cool. Which one do you have? I experienced a rather flat and muddy sound first before I changed amp and cab to 4 ohms. Did you experienced similar things?

  • avatar
    KyleSG
    Posted at 19:11h, 14 December

    Check this out guys I think this guy also does an awesome job at nailing the Riff Raff Tone using am amp like theses.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0lKDjsNE_o&feature=related

  • avatar
    Harley James
    Posted at 04:32h, 14 December

    SoloDallas,

    I donโ€™t mean to be a pest, but your 2204 sounds so great I need to know.

    Do you have EL34 or 6550 tubes in your 1977 Marshall 2204?

    Also, what do you have them biased to?

    Thanks!

    • avatar
      banane
      Posted at 13:42h, 14 December

      I bet he uses EL34s. Don’t know how hot he bias them.

      • avatar
        Harley James
        Posted at 17:05h, 14 December

        I think you are probably right, but I sure look forward to hearing from SoloDallas if that is correct and the bias setting.

    • avatar
      ghostwriter
      Posted at 20:16h, 16 January

      Yes, which tubes are they?

  • avatar
    LedSabbath
    Posted at 00:16h, 14 December

    When are we getting more videos?????

  • avatar
    AngusWW
    Posted at 13:49h, 11 December

    Hi, I am a new member, and an almost novice in Marshall amps, so I have a question both for SoloDallas and every initiated person ;-)…

    The “2203” and “2204” numbers are also associated with the JCM800 (resp. 100W and 50W), seen on many gig and studio pics. I read that, according to SoloDallas and other, Angus used this kind of amp (220x) for the Back In Black album.
    – do I make a mistake when I say he used the JCM800 for Back In Black ?

    Marshall provides today a reissue of the JCM800 2203. So :
    – do you know if the actual JCM800 (100W) is a good reproduction of the well known 2203 of the early years ?

    Thank you for any help ! I have the same kind of question about :
    – the old JMP50 and the new 1987x
    – the old JMP100 and the new 1959SLP !

    • avatar
      Dave4433
      Posted at 21:18h, 11 December

      I doubt that Angus has used a JCM800.
      Allthough I think Malcolm has used an amp that seems to be a JCM a few years after BiB.

      As for the rest of Your question’ i’m not sure, can’t tell You anything that i do not know myself

    • avatar
      Dobos รdรกm
      Posted at 19:19h, 14 December

      The circuit of the JCM800 and the JMP is the same. The story is:
      When Marshall decided to come up with a new design (black grill cloth on the heads instead of the leather front) then they didn’t want to design a new amp, they just simply took their newest model at the time (the JMP 2203 and 2204) and they just put it into the newly designed head cabinet, and renamed it JCM800.
      …ok, they ARE a little bit different. The actual circuit is the same, but there are little differences such as the bias, the main voltage supply of the whole amp (B+ and stuff like that) and maybe the output transformer is a little bit modified. But again, these are just changes to the transformers, the voltages and stuff like this but the actual circuit board is exactly the same. So a JCM800 almost equals a JMP from this era. With a little tweaking on the settings, you can get JMP tones easily with a JCM800.
      But this is only true for the 2203 and 2204. I’m saying this because the JCM800 family has a lot more models, such as the 2205 etc. those have a different circuit.

      I dont know anything about the JMP50 vs. 1987x or the JMP100 vs. 1959SLP. But I can tell you one thing: DO NOT buy a reissue marshall! They are nowhere near the quality of older amps. They are not handwired! That’s right, a brand new 1959SLP has PCB inside, and doesnt have the mustard capacitors and quality resistors. Even if its a marshall, a reissue is a chinese crap! trust me :)

      • avatar
        LeroyKincaid
        Posted at 00:45h, 15 December

        You say you don’t know anything about the two reissues mentioned, but you say they’re crap?

        I agree with you about the brand new amps i.e: ones made in the last 9-10 years have the fx loop.

        The early reissues are very good. My 1959 is a ’93, so it has a few miles on it.

        With a bit of tweaking (not modding) it sounds brilliant.

      • avatar
        AngusWW
        Posted at 22:09h, 15 December

        OK, thank you for your answer…
        Too late : I just ordered a 1959SLP yesterday…
        I hesitated with the 1959HW (Hand Wired), but other sources says the sound doesn’t justify the price. And it doesn’t have the FX loop, so why pay $300 more, if I must put a reverb pedal *before* the amp ?! (Hurk !)

        I am not sure that the PCB are so recent that you seem to think. If I believe http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_amplification, post-73 models are PCBs… even the model that SoloDallas make us hear ๐Ÿ˜‰ here.

        Let’s relativize : you are lucky : you have a new member of this forum who will be able to talk about a Plexi reissue ! ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • avatar
          LeroyKincaid
          Posted at 07:07h, 16 December

          Good buy!

          Not many have them here I’ve noticed, it’ll be good to share some tips and tricks.

        • avatar
          banane
          Posted at 09:47h, 16 December

          Congrats! Hopefully you’ll get it before christmas, so you can rock off the needles of the christmas tree ๐Ÿ˜€
          Can you pay it loud enough at your location? And which cabinet do you want to use for it?
          Well, and a review with pictures (also from inside the amp) and audio files would be nice too :)

          • avatar
            AngusWW
            Posted at 17:42h, 16 December

            Thanks for your welcome, all :-)

            The place to play : far enough from neighbours (but fragile crockery ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

            A review : it’s scheduled ;-), but when I’ll have a good cabinet (money don’t fall from sky). Maybe before, if the sound is correct with the “Line Out” !

            • avatar
              banane
              Posted at 17:58h, 16 December

              Alright, I’m looking forward :) It’s always good to have a place to play at high volume :)

  • avatar
    Harley James
    Posted at 17:32h, 10 December

    SoloDallas,

    I don’t mean to be a pest, but your 2204 sounds so great I need to know.

    Do you have EL34 or 6550 tubes in your 1977 Marshall 2204?

    Also, what do you have them biased to?

    Thanks!

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