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Microphone Month 3

What’s the Difference Between an Attenuator and a Load Box?

Q: I’m trying to figure out the difference between an attenuator and a load box with guitar amps. Can you help?

A: An attenuator can be thought of as a volume control that you can insert between your amp’s speaker output and the speaker itself. It soaks up some of the power from the amp and reduces the volume coming out of the speaker. One application is taming stage volume a bit. Another is dropping the volume so a powerful amp can be used for low-volume rehearsal or practice at home.

A load box, on the other hand, is designed to replace your amp’s speaker, allowing for silent recording or direct feed into a PA system. The load box has the same impedance as a speaker, and provides the proper load for the amp to safely drive so that its output power is safely handled without a speaker connected to the amp. Typically, load boxes are used to create a line- or mic-level signal that can then be sent to a preamp or mixer for recording or live sound amplification without need for a mic or unnecessary volume.

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