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Mesa 2:90, Attenuators and/or Variac?

Discussion in 'Amp Input - Normal or Bright' started by sachio999, Jun 11, 2018.

  1. sachio999

    sachio999 Strat-Talk Member

    Age:
    54
    12
    Mar 12, 2018
    Bay Area, CA
    Hello all,
    I have a Mesa Boogie Triaxxis and a 2:90 going into two 2x12 Rectifier cabinets and I don’t play stadiums. I know it’s a common problem but I love this setup!

    I’m not looking to run it full bore at bedroom volumes. Right now the volume pots on the amp and Triaxxis are so low they are jumpy and hard to control. Even if I can get them to 9 o’Clock I would be happy.

    Does anybody have experience with a Variac? What about attenuators? Since it’s stereo the cost of two attenuators like the THD Hot Plate gets pricey.

    All of the discussions about attenuators tend to be focused on combo amps, nothing on rack mount stereo amps.
     

  2. TheDuck

    TheDuck Most Honored Senior Member

    Age:
    53
    Jan 12, 2016
    Lil' Rhody
    If you knew how a Variac worked, you wouldnt even consider using one. Without going into details, you kiss your expensive Mesa 2:90 goodbye if you decide to use one.
    Others will say that's not true, so I suggest you do a lot of research (and not from a vendor) about the effects of starving your amp of power.

    Attenuators ... geez, will these things ever go away? They are far and away the worst idea to control volume, ever.

    You have a killer set up, one that isnt designerd for bedroom use. So think long and hard before you decide to "tame it".

    I used Mesa for a very long time, in the studio, live and in my house, so I'll offer this advice ...

    Get a lower output power amp, and use a single cabinet.
    Other than that, its either annoy you neighbors, or risk damaging your Mesa gear with a Variac or attenuator.
     
    Cerb likes this.

  3. carver

    carver The East Coast Strangler Strat-Talk Supporter

    you could look into having your volume pots changed out for ones with a more gradual taper.

    this will get rid of the instant jump from whisper to death punch if a flys dangalang skips across the dial.


    the thing with attenuators is folks dont really get the ratings...

    its kinda needed to have an attenuator that is double the rating of your amp. 100 watt attenuator into a 50 watt amp kinda deal.

    so with a 90 watt, youd want a 200 watt attenuator.. times two because of the stereo dealio.

    not cheap, and yes.. they will change the way the amp reacts.

    the best one I have found was a Dr Z Air Brake. it worked great with my bassman. but i also wasnt drilling it with power, I was just using it to keep the amp tame when playing in front of people.

    folks that dime an amp then attenuate it to a bedroom volume are similar to the people that do brake stands with their cars. they both end up and the repair shop wondering what the hell happened, and where all this extra smoke is coming from.
     
    TheDuck likes this.

  4. gonzo

    gonzo Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 4, 2009
    POWDERVILLE, UTAH
    attenuation is easy,
    but you would need two, one for each channel of your power amp.

    simplest thing to do,
    would be to buy a small watt solid state power amp,
    and be done with it.
     

  5. gonzo

    gonzo Senior Stratmaster

    Dec 4, 2009
    POWDERVILLE, UTAH

  6. sachio999

    sachio999 Strat-Talk Member

    Age:
    54
    12
    Mar 12, 2018
    Bay Area, CA
    I've been down this rabbit hole before and this time I thought I'd take some company.

    I agree that a smaller amp like the 20/20 would be perfect but they rarely come up on the used market.

    I've thought about extracting the chassis from two inexpensive combo amps and feeding into the effects return. But it's too much stuff to haul around.

    What I have is working, I'd just like to see what options I have with what I already have.
     

  7. Swampash

    Swampash Senior Stratmaster

    Jun 13, 2012
    Here
    You have a rig inappropriate for your requirements. Start playing stadiums, change your rig, or stay frustrated.
     

  8. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR I appreciate, therefore I am... Strat-Talk Supporter

    Feb 8, 2014
    Minnesota USA
    '
    Yeah, it's time to get a 5-15 watt lunchbox amp that has the tone you want at the levels that you need it to be.

    Good luck!


    '
     

  9. Bera

    Bera Strat-Talker

    Age:
    39
    246
    Sep 22, 2016
    Sao Paulo, Brazil
    I have a Mesa/Boogie Mark V 90w combo. With the output control I can play at bedroom levels with very good results. And it is a versatile amp, from cleans to full gain. Works very well with strats, too!
     
    carver likes this.

  10. sachio999

    sachio999 Strat-Talk Member

    Age:
    54
    12
    Mar 12, 2018
    Bay Area, CA
    As I implied earlier, this is not a huge issue for me. I’m not frustrated at all. Fortunately, my practice environment allows me play at a reasonable level. Far from fully open but it sounds good to me. As I think more on this, I’m just looking for a little better control of the volume pots at the lower settings.

    As Carver suggested, I’m now looking at changing the pots for ones with a deeper taper. I’ll need to open up the amp and see what’s in there. It may mean simply changing them with different brands to find one that’s smoother between 7 and 10 o’clock. Don’t really care about the other side since I rarely, if ever see the volume between 2 and 5 o’clock! I’ve done it outdoors and it’s a blast (literally) but those occasions are rare.

    Any suggestions for a deeper taper pot? And no, I don’t want to put any resistors on either or both sides of the pot lugs.
     
    carver likes this.

  11. Triple Jim

    Triple Jim Senior Stratmaster

    Feb 27, 2018
    North Central NC
    See what's in there first. If the pots are linear, just get replacements with an audio taper.
     

  12. albala

    albala Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    May 10, 2012
    stamford, CT
    Scholtz Power Soak works fine for me
     

  13. Swampash

    Swampash Senior Stratmaster

    Jun 13, 2012
    Here
    Yes opening the amp and modifying it with nonstandard parts is the most sensible option
     

  14. Robins

    Robins Dr. von Loudster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Dec 22, 2010
    Germany
    You could add some resistors to the leads going to the 2:90.
    Problem solved. Less input, less volume.
    I would suggest that for bedroom level only because you may need the full volume in Madison Square Garden.

    All the best,
    Robin
     

  15. Mr C

    Mr C Senior Stratmaster

    Age:
    45
    Feb 17, 2016
    New Zealand
    Mesa cab clone and some headphones maybe?

    Trying to make big amps sound good small is a bit of a chore to be honest - after many attempts and a ton of money I ended up with. A Yamaha TH10 which at home sounds almost indestingushable to my Mesa Mk3
     

  16. RJ Squirrel

    RJ Squirrel Strat-Talker

    Age:
    64
    428
    Jan 28, 2018
    Frostbite Falls
    Have you thought about buying/building an isolation cabinet for your speakers?

     

  17. JohnDH

    JohnDH Senior Stratmaster

    If you can do some soldering, you can build a pair of fixed attenuators using power resistors. 100W ones from China are just a dollar or two. You could take say 10db off, to get you down from 90W to 9W. Still loud at home but enough to get the tubes working, reduce hiss n hum and smooth out the volume control.

    Ive been building and testing these and if they are designed right, they sound good.

    To get the performance optimum youd need 3 or 4 resistors per channel to build the attenuators.
    See this:

    http://www.marshallforum.com/threads/a-fixed-resistive-attenuator-design-and-testing.98285/page-3

    Thats a three stage one with four db levels, but maybe you just need one stage. I can help work it out if interested.
     
    Triple Jim likes this.

  18. Triple Jim

    Triple Jim Senior Stratmaster

    Feb 27, 2018
    North Central NC
    That's a good solution that I've used for a couple amps, JohnDH. If you get the power low enough you can use a pot at the speaker as well. A 100Ω 5w wirewound was about $5 from Mouser a couple weeks ago when I built one.