How to Build a Guitar Amplifier Attenuator

Written by larry rivers
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How to Build a Guitar Amplifier Attenuator
A guitar amplifier attenuator is a useful tone tool. (electronic multimeter image by Albert Lozano from

Guitar amps can be loud, and many amps, especially tube or valve-based designs, can sound their best when turned all the way up. Guitarists seeking these more distorted sounds can use a guitar amplifier attenuator to control the volume of the amp's sound and tone, which works by soaking off some of the signal when placed in between the amplifier and its speakers. Guitar amplifier attenuators can be simple to build, and very useful in the recording studio or rehearsal scenarios.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Large metal electronics project enclosure
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Fine tip marker
  • 100-watt rheostat
  • 1/4-inch tip sleeve jacks (2)
  • Drill
  • 1/2-inch drill bit
  • Adjustable wrench
  • 100-watt 8-ohm power resistor
  • Low-wattage soldering iron
  • Electronics solder
  • Hookup wire
  • Wire clippers
  • Wire strippers
  • Multimeter

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  1. 1

    Open the large metal project enclosure with the Phillips head screwdriver, removing the included screws.

  2. 2

    Position the 100-watt rheostat and both 1/4-inch tip sleeve jacks within the large metal project enclosure, leaving enough room for the 8-ohm power resistor and for good air circulation. Mark these three locations with the fine tip marker. Label one 1/4-inch tip sleeve jack location "amplifier" and the other "speaker" with the fine tip marker.

  3. 3

    Drill one hole at each marked location using the drill and the 1/2-inch drill bit.

  1. 1

    Install the 100-watt, 8-ohm rheostat and both 1/4-inch tip sleeve jacks in their respective locations. Tighten the nuts with the adjustable wrench to lock them in place.

  2. 2

    Connect the "amplifier" 1/4-inch tip sleeve jack's tip lug to the 8-ohm power resistor's first lead, using the low-wattage soldering iron, solder, wire strippers, wire clippers and hookup wire.

  3. 3

    Connect the remaining 8-ohm power resistor lead to both the first lug of the 100-watt rheostat and the tip lug of the "speaker" 1/4-inch tip sleeve jack in the same manner.

  4. 4

    Connect the 100-watt rheostat's second lug to the sleeve lugs on both 1/4-inch tip sleeve jacks in the same manner.

  5. 5

    Test for accidental shorts with the multimeter. Close the enclosure with the Phillips screwdriver and screws.

Tips and warnings

  • Guitar amplifier attenuators work by converting the amp's signal into heat, which can be an issue when using higher-wattage amps turned up for extended periods of time. Be sure to leave plenty of ventilation room in your enclosure to dissipate heat build-up.
  • This attenuator design is intended for tube amps under 30 watts and only for use for short periods of time. Larger wattage amps require more heat dissipation; this attenuator should not be used for such amps.
  • Always check the heat level of the guitar amplifier attenuator. Never allow the unit to become too hot to touch.

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