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Posts Tagged ‘Aracom PRX150-Pro’

Wow! Who woulda thunk it? The latest issue of Premier Guitar has a great review of the Aracom PRX150-Pro Attenuator. If you receive the magazine, it’s in the latest issue, but here’s the review online. Here’s the reviewer’s final mojo:

Sonically, the Aracom PRX 150-Pro attenuator stayed very true to every amp I paired it with. My tone stayed stable as I lowered the dB level to its minimum amount (the variable control doesn’t turn the sound completely off). Even super-quiet bedroom settings sounded very good and responded to picking and touch extremely well. This attractive, sturdily built unit would be a great addition to any guitarist’s tone arsenal.

PG gave it a 4 out of 5 picks which, for them is a great rating. I’m so happy for Jeff Aragaki that he was able to get a major guitar mag like PG to do a review on the unit. And the reviewer’s positive feedback just affirms what those of us who have one know: No other attenuator maintains the feel and dynamics of our amps at any attenuation level.

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There’s an unspoken battle raging on The Gear Page forum about which is the best “popular” attenuator on the market. Yeah, everyone claims theirs is the most transparent, and frankly, that’s true for very low levels of attenuation. But for really cranking down on the volume, my money, of course, is on the Aracom PRX150-Pro. To me, not only is it the most transparent attenuator based upon head-to-head comparisons of some of the popular attenuators done by me and others, and also being the safest with its input AND output impedance matching, it is also the most cost-effective attenuator out there. Don’t believe it? Well, the numbers don’t lie. When you consider the versatility of input/output impedance selections vs. cost of the unit that the PRX150-Pro offers, it’s simply no contest.

Let’s have a look at the numbers shall we?

Cost Per Impedance Selection Combination
Attenuator Price # Impedance Combos. Cost/Imp. Combo
THD HotPlate $329.00 1 $329.00
Alex’s Attenuator $350.00 1 $350.00
Faustine Phantom $799.00 3 $266.33
Aracom PRX150-Pro $650.00 16 $40.56

Clearly, based upon the number of impedance matching selections, the PRX150-Pro is the clear winner in terms of value. Even if the Aracom unit only had three impedance matching selections, it still will have 9 different available input/output impedance selection combinations, and each combination would only cost $72.11; still far below the competition!

Furthermore, let’s say the PRX150-Pro didn’t have output impedance matching, reducing its impedance matching combinations to 4. It still outperforms the competition in terms of value at $162.25 per selection!

Let’s compare the PRX150-Pro with the Alex’s attenuator for example. People love the Alex’s attenuator, and I understand it works great. But you have to get 4 of those units to match the impedance matching capabilities of the PRX150-Pro. In absolute cost terms, yes, the PRX150-Pro costs more. But with respect to value, well, you can’t hide from the numbers. The same thing applies to the THD HotPlate (though I have other reasons not to like this product). As for the Faustine Phantom, it has more versatility than the Alex’s by far, but it’s also very expensive, and it is unclear whether or not you’ll get one in a timely fashion. Some people have been waiting for theirs for several months.

Sometimes you have to spend more to get much more, and in the case of the Aracom PRX150-Pro, you’re getting A LOT more!

Disclaimer: I will say this again that I am not an employee of Aracom – I’m a faithful customer because of the superior product Jeff produces.

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Mullard Zaerix 12AX7Conventional tube-amp wisdom states that you get the most bang for your buck by replacing your pre-amp tubes. I’ve been a believer of this for quite awhile, and have tried out all sorts of pre-amp tubes in my amps over the years. A couple of days ago, I wrote that I had installed a new Mullard ECC83 (12AX7) into my Aracom VRX22. This particular Mullard is a Zaerix-labled ECC83 that probably came from the GDR (I didn’t look at the numbers – I really don’t care, for that matter). All I know is that it made a HUGE difference in the way my amp sounds. The overdrive instantly became smoother and more focused without top-end artifacts, and the notes are still very defined even at high overdrive settings on my amp.

The clip below says it all. I recorded this clip playing in the bridge pick up of Goldie, plugged straight into the VRX22, which then fed into the ever-so-awesome Aracom PRX15-Pro attenuator. The amp’s master, tone, and volume knobs were all set at 6 (about 2pm on the amp), and the clip was recorded at bedroom level!

To my ears, the VRX22 sounds like a much bigger amp than its 22 Watts! I’m really in tonal heaven right now!

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Aracom Amps PRX150-Pro AttenuatorAs many know, I’m a big fan of attenuators. In the past I’ve owned a couple and have tried out several. And with the addition of the Aracom PRX150-Pro to my rig, I’ve finally got a device that is helping me realize all the tonal goodness my amps have to offer. But this entry isn’t about the Aracom attenuator. There are a few attenuators that have entered the market in the recent past including the Faustine Phantom and others that are having the same effect on axe slingers and how they approach their tone.

So what’s the big deal? Most folks know how an attenuator operates. It sits between your amp and your speaker(s), and squelches the output signal from your amp which results in a lower output volume, so you can drive your amp to high gain levels and not shatter your eardrums. That’s the basic premise behind attenuators in general. But up until recently, attenuation came at a price, and that is the loss of tone and dynamics, or completely changed tone at higher attenuation levels; to put it simply, loss of tonal quality. I’m willing to bet that this very thing has kept lots of people from using an attenuator.

But with the new breed of attenuators hitting the market, loss of tonal quality is much less of an issue, if it’s an issue at all. Now you can bring your output volume WAY down, and be assured that the tonal quality you’ve worked so hard to achieve is still there.

So how will this change the way we approach our tone? I would venture to guess that many guitarists have really never known what their amp sounds like fully cranked up – at least for extended periods of time. Sure, if you’re a pro and regularly play huge venues, you know what it sounds like. But for us mere mortals who rarely play in more than a dance club, we’ve never been able to fully experience the cranked up tone of our amps, and that’s where a great attenuator comes into play.

When I hooked up my PRX150-Pro, the first thing I did was to set it on load mode and turn the variable to full attenuation, then dimed the master and volume on my amp to see what it would sound like. I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of new tones that were suddenly available to me: rich harmonics, tons of sustain, and incredible touch sensitivity. It was as if a whole new world was opened up to me.

With my old attenuator, I rarely went to real high levels of attenuation because it made my tone sound weak and lifeless.  Plus, I didn’t want to burn out my tubes – which I learned the hard way when I cranked my amp while hooked up to the attenuator. But with the Aracom attenuator, I knew I could crank it as high as I wanted to and still be safe. What this means is that I now have access to a wider landscape of tones and dynamics that I can also safely reach. And that’s another feature of the new breed of attenuators: They appear to be much safer to use than the older designs out there.

Here’s an interesting question I got from a buddy of mine: Will I get rid of my overdrive pedals as a result now being able to get the fully cranked tone of my amp? Not on your life! 🙂 I love how they add color to my tone. But I will tell you this: Now that I can crank up my amp to high gain levels without the concomitant high volume levels, I’m actually not using my overdrive pedals as much. Oh, I still use them because they add certain characteristics that aren’t possible with my natural overdrive tone; just not as much as I used to because when I want just straight amp overdrive, I just crank my amp. But when I want to use them, I run them through the clean channel of my amp that has lots of clean headroom, so I can take advantage of the tone that they offer.

So is it a significant change to how we approach our tone? Possibly. I know of some folks who’ve completely stopped using overdrive pedals altogether as a result of using an attenuator, and use a clean boost or even just their volume knob on their guitar to get the lead volume they want. Me? I like to have a few different “brushes” that I can use to create different textures, but in either case, getting that cranked up tone naturally without shattering eardrums is pretty huge.

I think the folks who will gain the most from these great new attenuators are the home studio musicians. Imagine being able to record a screaming guitar solo, and not have the wife or neighbors yelling at you to turn down your volume! I regularly do my recording into the wee hours of the morning, so having an attenuator has been a godsend. But up until I got my PRX150-Pro, I had to wait to record solos until it was day when I could turn up my amp to a gain level that didn’t get me yelled at, as my other attenuators just didn’t give me the tone I needed at high attenuation levels. Even if I used an overdrive pedal, it doesn’t sound good unless it’s working with your amp and pushing your pre-amp tubes, and that takes juice! With a great, transparent, or non-tone-sucking attenuator, you can push your amp hard, and keep your volume under control!

I know of a lot musicians who poo-poo the use of an attenuator. But an attenuator can do wonders for gigging. Want to make the sound guys happy? Here’s another way to look at it: With an attenuator, you can focus on your tone, and not projecting out to the audience. Get enough volume to hear yourself on stage, then let the sound guys do their thing. PA technology has come a long way since the early days of rock and roll, where amps had to be played loud to get the sound out to the audience. Also, if you think about it, speakers are highly directional. If you want to disperse your sound, use the PA.

There’s been an interesting thread that I’ve been lurking on The Gear Page entitled, “Sound guys think I’m too loud.” Someone suggested early on that the original poster could use an attenuator or a smaller amp to reduce their volume. The suggestion of using an attenuator went largely ignored, but as I followed this thread and read all the various insights, using an attenuator is the perfect solution for this.

I’ve heard a lot of the complaints about attenuators in the past, and I’ve also had my issues with them. But with the new breed of attenuators, tone suck is no longer an issue. And that tonal quality will be sure to change how guitarists approach their performances.

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Aracom Amps PRX150-Pro AttenuatorAracom Amps has just posted a page on their site which features Gene Baker – luthier of the famed Baker Guitars and now of Fine Tuned Instruments producing “B3” guitars – demonstrating the transparency of the Aracom PRX150-Pro Attenuator at various attenuation levels.

Gene has also provided commentary on the recording and how no EQ adjustments were made to the amp – even down to bedroom levels! This is a re-affirmation of what I’ve been saying all along about this awesome device! The PRX150-Pro simply retains the tone you work hard for – no matter how much attenuate your signal; and more importantly eliminating the need to compensate with EQ.

Check out Aracom’s Gene Baker audio page here!

Having someone like Gene Baker demonstrate the capabilities of the PRX150-Pro is huge! Gene is an incredible guitarist!

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Ladies and Gentlemen! Welcome to the bout of the century! A truly momentous occasion in the vein of David versus Goliath! In the red corner we have a Goliath, the reigning King of Attenuators, the Ultimate Attenuator; self-proclaimed King of Transparency – Guaranteed! In the blue corner is the Aracom Power Rox PRX150-Pro, a virtual David, armed with only a transparency sling ! And here’s the opening bell!

The Ultimate Attenuator strikes first, tongue lolling, with bombastic claims of pure transparency. The agile Power Rox ducks, and moves away, its sling of true transparency whirring rapidly. Wait! It launches! It strikes the Ultimate Attenuator square in the head. It’s going down! Oh the humanity! Oh the humanity! The match was over before it was even begun!

I had the great opportunity this evening of testing the Aracom Power Rox and the Ultimate Attenuator in a head-to-head shootout to determine which was the most transparent attenuator. As you can tell from the somewhat facetious and fictitious pseudo-boxing match, you know who won: The Aracom Power Rox PRX150-Pro. Folks, it wasn’t even a contest. Even at the lowest attenuation levels, the Power Rox swept the floor with the Ultimate Attenuator!

My Test Procedures

Equipment: My test was conducted using a Replica JTM45 equipped with original Mustard Caps and a pair of  KT-66’s, into a 4 X 12 cabinet equipped with (2) Original 55Hz Greenbacks and (2) Custom Weber (75Hz) Greenbacks, with a ‘Gibson 57 Les Paul Historic Goldtop as my test guitar.

Clean Test

First, I started with the amp totally clean. I strummed a simple chord progression to get my base tone. Setting the Ultimate Attenuator at about half “volume,” I activated it. I immediately noticed a distinct loss in both highs and lows, as even at minimal attenuation, the bandwidth of my tone was severely narrowed. The full bottom-end and sparkly top-end of my clean tone were significantly reduced. The tone wasn’t that bad, mind you, but it certainly lacked the richness of my base tone – it sounded flat.

One thing that really bugged me was activating the UA, which required a strumming the guitar, then switching on the UA, as if the UA needed a signal to pass through it to even start working. What a pain! It’s amazing that users would even tolerate this.

I repeated the same test with the Power Rox, setting it at half attenuation on the 6-way switch. The result was a reduced volume, but no loss of bottom- or top-end at all.

Clean Test – Bedroom Mode

Same test as above with both attenuators. With the Ultimate Attenuator, can you say “tone sucker?” The tone was not at all pleasing! Even more narrow bandwidth, and non-existent dynamics. There was nothing even remotely good to like at this level with the UA. How the UA website can claim to be “the most transparent and safest tube amplifier attenuator on the market in the world. Guaranteed” is beyond me. Even my old Dr. Z Airbrake sounded better than the UA. So again, at this level, the Power Rox just kicked ass. Lower volume, but full retention of bandwidth and dynamics.

Dirty Tests

In my dirty tests, I ran the amp in its drive channel cranked up fully. 40 Watts through a 4 X 12 is LOUD!!! Especially when you’re standing right in front of the cab! Actually there’s nothing like feeling the SPL’s with an amp full-out! I ran the same tests as I did with the clean channel with both attenuators, and as expected got the same results: The Ultimate Attenuator really sucked my tone, while the PRX150-Pro retained tone and dynamics at all levels. The Plexi switch just made the tone even worse, acting like a treble booster, which made an already horrid tone even worse by just upping the highs. The tone was akin to an old transistor radio played at the volume of a loud TV. Not pleasing at all, and actually, it was a bit annoying, like cats screeching! YUCK!

The Power Rox, on the other hand, again just reduced the volume. The tone remained rich and full, and all the overtones and harmonics came through. It’s amazing what those subtleties do for your tone. You really miss them when they’re not there, as they provide depth.

It’s evident that the Power Rox’s Speaker Reactance Thru technology is far superior at any application. For me, the Ultimate Attenuator company can make all the claims it wants about transparency, but that’s all they are: claims. And while it doesn’t sound all that bad at low attenuation levels, the marked difference in tone between the UA and Power Rox at any attenuation level relegates the UA – at least to me – to the junk heap. You couldn’t get me to put this in my rig if you paid me.

I realize that the UA was the best game in town for quite awhile, and I am sure that at the time it came out, it outperformed the THD HotPlate, which I have also tested, and didn’t like. I also realize that I’m being fairly harsh – much more harsh than I’ve ever been with a product – but all the claims of the UA being truly transparent are mere exaggerations, and not backed up by any discussion of its technology. In fact, all the hyperbole surrounding the UA is quite irritating!

If you knew what went into a UA, you’d have serious concerns, not the least of which is the 32 ohm fixed resistor, which essentially flattens out your impedance, and creates a mismatch so high that you could fry your amp! Adding insult to injury, the solid-state amplifier is what is really running your speaker. Transparent? Hell no! Not electronically, and definitely not audibly.

And mind you, I’m not the only person who feels this way. One new PRX150-Pro user, who is also a former UA user was so impressed with the Power Rox and disgusted by the UA’s tone compared to the Power Rox, that he bought two Power Rox’s! That says quite a bit.

For more information about the Aracom Power Rox PRX150-Pro, visit the Aracom Amps PRX150-Pro product page!

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5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!
Aracom Amps PRX150-Pro Attenuator
Aracom Power Rox PRX150-Pro Attenuator

Summary: This is hands-down the best attenuator on the market! I’ve played a lot of attenuators, and no other has been able to retain tone and dynamics at high attenuation levels as the Power Rox!

Pros: The Power Rox isn’t just an attenuator. It packs extra features that’ll just blow you away, making a it versatile part of your stage or studio rig!

Cons: None.

Features:

  • Rotary Switch provides (6) Step Attenuation Levels, plus
    the Variable Mode allows continuous variable control of “bedroom” level adjustment
  • 33dB attenuation range
    * Attenuates 100 watts down to well under 1 watt (0.05 watt).
  • 150 watt (continuous average) power rating
  • Independent Input Impedance Switch: 2, 4, 8, 16 ohm
  • Independent Output Impedance Switch: 2, 4, 8, 16 ohm
    * Uniquely allows mismatched amplifier and speaker impedances to be used.
  • Attenuator Bypass Switch
  • Load Mode
  • Line Out with Level Control
  • 2 Speaker Jacks (wired in parallel)
  • Passive design, does not require AC power
  • Rugged, black anodized aluminum housing
  • Heavy duty, steel reinforced handle
  • Handwired and Handcrafted in the USA.

Price: $649 direct

Tone Bone Score: 5.0. Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps never ceases to amaze me with the stuff he comes up with! This time, it’s an attenuator invention that blows away the competition in safety and tone and dynamics with its patent-pending Speaker Reactance Thru (SRT) technology, plus extra features that make it unmatched in versatility and usability.

I’ll admit it: As much of gear nut that I am, I’m also a huge techno-geek. I dig new technologies and the engineering behind them; and when someone comes up with some new approach to something, with completely awesome engineering, it’s hard to control my GAS. I just have to have it.

I recently took delivery of a brand new attenuator invented by Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps, called the Power Rox PRX150-Pro. This, by far, is the best attenuator I have ever used, and will be a fixture in my rig for years to come. That’s right. This will always be in my chain. But not just because of its ability to transparently attenuate an amp signal. This attenuator has features that no other attenuator has such as two speaker outs, and a Line Out that you can use to go direct into a DAW, or even another amp! Talk about versatility. Not only that, because you can match impedance in both the input AND the output, combined with Jeff’s patent-pending Speaker Reactance Thru (SRT) technology, you can squelch down the power of your amp and not worry about ever blowing our your tubes and ruining your amp. The SRT technology just kicks ass!

Talking the Talk AND Walking the Walk: Speaker Reactance Thru Technology

Jeff is a very humble man, so he’d never say anything like this, but I’m not nearly as humble, so I will say it: There’s not a better attenuator than the PRX150-Pro. Even if Jeff didn’t include all the extra features you get with the Power Rox, this attenuator simply kicks the shit out of all the attenuators I’ve ever tried – and I’ve tested several, including the Ultimate Attenuator that seems to be the most popular attenuator; and with respect to safety, tone and dynamics, all others simply pale by comparison.

Where other manufacturers make bold claims (read: brag) about their attenuators’ transparency, not only can Jeff Aragaki make the claim (in his quiet and humble way), he backs it up with detailed discussions of his SRT technology and the engineering behind it and what makes it so transparent. Jeff’s SRT technology is absolutely incredible. At any level of attenuation, the Power Rox retains your tone and dynamics. This is because instead of just dealing with amp power reduction through a series of resistors or a dummy load, which also have the added effect of flattening out the impedance curve and changing tone, the SRT technology ensures that reactance between the amp is maintained throughout the entire spectrum of attenuation; hence, the name “Speaker Reactance Thru.” This means that the impedance curve is kept intact so that the continuity of reactance between the speaker and the amp are maintained. Jeff discusses this in a detailed article about the advantages of the PRX150-Pro.

Let’s talk a bit about safety…

As I mentioned, the PRX150-Pro will not burn out your amp. You can crank your amp up all the way, getting that wonderful power tube drive, and not worry about your amp blowing a tube, or worse yet, frying some circuits from flyback voltage. We’ve all heard the horror stories about people using attenuators, cranking their amps, and blowing power tubes. A lot of this has to do with impedance mismatching. Some manufacturers have added options to match impedance from one direction, but the Power Rox has impedance matching in both the input and output jacks! But the point of this is that with impedance matching on both sides, you don’t have to deal with any type of mismatch. That is very comforting to know.

I’ve actually been playing with the Power Rox for the last couple of months regularly before it hit the shelves, and to date, I haven’t had any power tube problems. And we’re talking running my amps down to less than a watt for a few hours straight. I could never do that even with my Dr. Z, which is one of the more safe products out there. I’ve burned out power tubes using my Dr. Z by cranking power too much. It’s not pretty, and I’ve been lucky so far that only my tubes got burned out. It could’ve been a lot worse.

This ain’t yer Daddy’s Buick…

When Jeff first spoke to me about the Power Rox, I thought, “Okay, it’s another attenuator. I’m sure it’ll be great considering what a whiz Jeff is…” But when he delivered the unit, I couldn’t believe what he had added! I was already impressed that it had both input and output impedance matching. That was simply awesome. But he added some awesome features that I was not at all prepared for:

  • Bypass Switch – This is a mechanical bypass that completely bypasses the attenuation circuit.
  • Line Out – This one thing is just so cool! I used it to go both direct into my DAW, and also used it to re-amp into my Hot Rod Deluxe! Talk about versatility! For a test, I ran a cable to my 1 X 12 cab, then ran another cable to my Hot Rod. I could’ve easily just run direct into my Hot Rod without going out to another speaker as well, but you can see how useful this is. I could get my amp’s tone and combine it with the Hot Rod’s tone. So cool!
  • Two Speaker Outs – This is yet another cool thing. You have multiple cabs that you want to drive with a single amp? This makes it easy.
  • Input AND Output Impedance Matching – No other attenuator matches impedance in both input and output, but the Power Rox has it. It’s all part of the package to ensure continuous reactance between the amp and the speaker.

So as you can see, the added features make this oh so much more than just an attenuator, and it’s a testament to Jeff’s creativity!

The proof is in the pudding…

Unfortunately, doing sound clips of an attenuator’s effect is fruitless, because it is difficult to hear the changes, and moreover, it is difficult to describe the change in dynamics on a recording. However, the Power Rox was tested side-by-side to a number of popular attenuators, and even at low levels of attenuation, compared to Power Rox, all the other attenuators had an effect on tone and dynamics. To date, several people have performed head-to-head comparisons between different attenuators and the Power Rox, and they all come to the same conclusion: The Power Rox is truly transparent; not just the most transparent of the lot, but truly transparent. To me, this box sets the standard by which all others must be measured now.

I used my own transparency test procedure to compare attenuators, but Jeff has also provided a very detailed, and in-depth transparency test that you can view on his site.

I know, I must sound like a twitterpated schoolgirl with how I’m raving about this product, but for the very first time, I’ve been able to record my amps fully cranked without pissing off my family and neighbors, and more importantly, without having to worry that I’m going to blow a tube. Even with my Dr. Z, I’ve had to settle with less drive on my recordings for fear of burning out my amps. But with the Power Rox, I can crank my amps and get that wonderful power tube drive! And even better yet: I can trust that my tone and dynamics will not change, no matter the volume!

For more information on the Power Rox PRX150-Pro attenuator, go the Power Rox Product Page!

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