It’s a pretty un-rock-n-roll idea, really. For decades now, the burly king of modern music has made a point of embracing sheer, ear-splitting volume as its broadsword. As a company, Jet City is no different. Their designs are more often than not aimed at those of us who stand behind our noisy heroes like loyal foot soldiers. Why, then, would any rock-pig in their right mind want something that brings down the ultimate level? The answer is simple: Lemmy is dead, and not everyone has the ironclad fortitude to live and listen the way he did. For most mere mortals, attenuation is the key to achieving that blisteringly and blissfully loud sonic maximisation without replacing your eardrums after every rehearsal. I’ve had a rudimentary variation on this theme built into the back of my main amp for years, and I personally swear by the positive effect is has on my overall tone as well as the peculiar options it affords me where pushing tubes is concerned.
Some attenuators offer little more than an in, an out, and a switch. Others come in bulky, overbearing powered units that are not necessarily something every player wants to deal with. The Jettenuator is the best of both worlds with a smattering extra to sweeten the deal. There are dedicated inputs to suit the three most popular resistance levels required by most head units, 4, 8 and 16ohms, and a simple speaker out all situated on the rear plate of the unit. The big knob on the front is the main character as it allows you to boost or cut your output level to your heart’s content with a step-less, continuous potentiometer. Furthermore, there is an uncoloured line out that you can use alongside the speaker out, which is handy if you want to send clean signal to a recording desk or front of house. The cherry on top of this cake is the cabinet simulated XLR output, handy for those of us prone to recording demos in the wee small hours. Both of these features mean that your Jettenuator can be used not only as a mediator between head and cab, but also as a fully flexible DI box - something few other units of its ilk think to offer.
As I mentioned before, I am a big fan of attenuation systems in general. Even jazz players admit to loving the sound of hot tubes working overtime, and this is where these devices come to life. Drive your preamp as hard as you can and use the Jettenuator to ensure that you don’t burn the filament in your favourite, ancient ribbon mic. Use the dial to rein in your hellfire to listenable levels, or use it to hammer your amp in a different way in order to unveil heretofore undiscovered corners of tonality. There is potential not only for quietude, but newness in the balance between power and volume that stompboxes can’t produce. In my mind, that is an idea well worth exploring.
We all know what a Vox AC30 pushed to its very limits sounds like, but there are nuances between the input stage of a head and the sound produced that desperately want illumination. The functional simplicity and lightweight nature of Jet City’s design renders it as road-ready as it is studio savvy.
Hits and Misses
Smooth, continuous attenuation augmented by a selection of timely extras
A little bulky
3dB of standard attenuation when in use, even at max volume