When asked how his band Jawbreaker achieved the distinctly huge guitar sound on their recordings, singer and guitarist Blake Schwartzenbach replied that the answer was simple, miking up tiny, low wattage practice amps. As opposed to the behemoth, plexi stacks of old, these progenitors of the mid-western, emotional rock archetype of the mid 90’s starved their tone of might in order to make it work harder. The ‘small amp; big sound’ approach has since become the ace in the hole of many an expert tonechaser in search of ear bleeding tonal magnitude without shaking the studio to its foundations.
Following that particular train of thought has dragged engineers and builders alike in and out of many and varied sonic stations. The idea of sucking power, and in most cases headroom, out of bigger amps has seen attenuators; power soak units and the like become unusual but inarguably useful items on the gear list. I myself have had a simple attenuator built into my amp for over a year now and the little extra heat it gives my tone is something I personally couldn’t do without. Simultaneous experts in the twin fields of home and studio equipment, Sound Performance Lab, in conjunction with amplification wizards Tonehunter, have taken the relatively simple concept of attenuation and resistance and applied a generous helping of reliable, German precision in their collaborative effort, the Reducer attenuation unit.
Hand wired point-to-point in Cologne and capable of soak up a whopping 200 watts of power, the Reducer’s three simple pots can knock off the edges in just about any way imaginable without even laying a hair on your tone. On the left you have the coarser of the two controls. Simply switch between zero, -3db and -5db attenuation before moving over to the variable pot to sweep up between -7db and infinite reduction via the center dial. Choose the rate of resistance relative to the impedance of your cab and you’re away. The signal path is completely passive meaning that the only thing influencing the sound of your head is the ferocity with which the electricity hits your speakers.
The biggest thing that designers have to worry about with a unit like this is heat exchange, and more specifically build up. We are, after all, attempting to hold back electrical current from its intended destination so features like perforated top and bottom plates and the fact that it is a free standing unit are imperative and negate the use of noisy fans. The beauty of the engineering here is that SPL have come up with a design that harnesses said troublesome heat and channels it into the output stage, meaning that not only is your signal untouched, but it is also unmitigated with no noticeable degradation occurring between head and cab. This function is really what separates this design from the pack in so much as a simple set of resistors will not only tarnish your aural gold ever so slightly, but will do so more and more with time. A simple yet extremely effective improvement to say the least.
It’s the kind of thing you don’t know you need until you have it. Sat between your favourite head and its faithful cab SPL and Tonehunter’s Reducer will turn any dynamic duo into a power trio, all the while saving your ears and the ears of everyone around you. It’ll make your speakers work just that little bit harder so you and your head don’t have to.
Hits and Misses
Durable and effective build quality.
Thorough attention to problematic heat transference.
A little bulky.
No option to mount in a rack case.