REVIEW: Tube Amp Doctor’s Silencer

Tube Amp Doctor is a German company that specializes in anything and everything related to tube amps including parts, cabinets, amp kits, electronics…you name it, they likely have it. Their vast inventory includes the Silencer, a power attenuator for tube amps.


WHAT’S A POWER ATTENUATOR AND WHY WOULD I WANT ONE?

Power attenuators are used to reduce ouput power and volume while maintaining tone. Imagine your favorite amp cranked to tube-saturating goodness. Depending on the amp’s loudness and the environment you’re playing in, this may not be practical. The small club you’re performing in may overpower your audience. If you practice at home you may instigate the neighbors to call the cops on you or greatly sacrifice your tone by having to dial your volume way down. This is where an attenuator like the Silencer comes to the rescue.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Simple! In a head and cabinet configuration, the Silencer sits in between. The amp feeds the Silencer which then sends the attenuated output to the speakers. The beauty of this unit is that the amp itself is unaffected – all stages from preamp through to the output stage work as designed. And it doesn’t require any power. One additional speaker cable is all that’s required to get up and running.

FEATURES

The Silencer is a fairly weighty and chunky piece of gear but the quality of construction is top notch. The unit delivered for review was finished in a beautifully applied tweed and there are numerous choices available to match the fashion statement of most any amp. The POWER dial offers nine degrees of attenuation in 2dB increments from –16dB to FULL which serves as a true signal bypass. The –16dB setting engages a dial labeled FINE which allows smoothly graduated attenuation from silent to –16dB. Very thoughtful – very cool! An additional setting on the POWER dial is labeled LOAD. This allows you to use the Silencer without speakers in order to feed a recording system or mixer directly. Two outputs are available at this setting: an unfiltered volume-adjustable line level fed through a standard 1/4″ mono connection and a 3-pin XLR out labeled “F.A.N.T.A.” (Frequency Adapted Natural Tone Accessory). This latter low impedance ouput serves as a speaker emulator and is promoted as more natural in its response to playing compared to standard speaker emulators. Two additional toggle switches offer optional tone-shaping: BITE boosts treble frequencies in the HIGH setting and high mids and treble in the LOW setting. PUNCH boosts bass and low mids in the HIGH setting and primarily bass in the LOW setting.

HOW DOES IT SOUND?

In a nutshell, the Silencer sounds really, really good and by that I mean transparent. I did perceive some loss of richness and sparkle when engaged but had to switch back and forth several times to truly notice. And this was in the silence of my studio. I juiced the hell out of my tubes and with the Silencer I was able to play mere inches from my cabinet without shattering my ear drums. The BITE and PUNCH toggles are nice features and work well, though their effectiveness is relative to how the power is set. More attenuation = more noticeable bite and punch.

THE FINAL WRAP

Tube Amp Doctor’s Silencer is a quality piece of gear that delivers as advertised in an attractive package. Its features are simple, yet broad and thoughtful for something that’s meant primarily to control sound output. It ain’t cheap and it is chunky, but if you gig in a variety of venues and don’t want to compromise your tone or you’re seeking to recover a lost relationship with your amp because you haven’t been able to take it for a spin like you used to, this could very well be your answer.

PROS: Outstanding construction and finish. Practically transparent. Simple, yet feature-rich. No power cord required.

CONS: Expensive. Chunky and weighty.

MSRP – $599 US / EUR 429 incl.VAT (inside Germany/EU) / EUR 352.10 excl. VAT (outside EU/export)

  • Nick

    nice, more toys to eventually play with.

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