I haven’t been super excited about a piece of gear in a long time. Yesterday, I stumbled across the Rivera RockCrusher Power Attenuator and about fell out of my chair. I own a Rivera Knucklehead 100 head. It’s an absolutely great sounding amp. I’ve had it for years and years, and it works and sounds great. But I do have one problem with it — it’s freakin’ loud. If I knew what I knew now back then, I would have definitely got the 50 watt head. Currently on my gain stage, I can’t get the master past 3 without vibrating the house. Just about every show I’ve played in, I’ve been asked to turn that thing down, but really, it needs to be at 2.5 to 3 to get the tone I’m looking for. Anything below 2.5 sounds weak. I’ve struggled with this for years.
Power Attenuators were designed to allow the amp to run at the level you want but you ‘attenuate’ the power to the speakers making it quieter while still driving your amp. These are definitely NOT new, but have been plagued with problems in the past. Often you hear of them impacting your tone and worse – actually can cause damage to your amp. I’ve looked at the Dr. Z Air Brake and the Bad Cat Leash, but based on reviews, I’ve never got that comfortable feeling that it was done ‘right’.
So, when I saw Paul Rivera (one of the early pioneers of the power attenuator) and the builder of my current amp offering a attenuator, I had to take a serious look. Rivera has been known for years to over build their amps to handle major abuse. With this attenuator it is clear they did the same thing and built it to last. More importantly, based on the video below, they really addressed the issues of tone and stability/safety of the amp.
As you can see, there has been serious thought put into this attenuator. I’ve read quite a few reviews on it last night, and the consensus is that it’s absolutely great. So next, I wanted to find a clip of the RockCrusher in action. Here is a video with Paul Rivera Jr. talking about the RockCrusher as well as sound clips as they go through the various preset attenuation stages with a Marshall 1972 Super Lead.
Here is the official description of the Rivera RockCrusher:
The RockCrusher is invaluable and unbeatably versatile because you can place it between your amp and speaker cab as a power attenuator, or use it in place of your speaker cabinet as a load box while sending its balanced XLR or unbalanced 1/4″ line out to another amp as a slave, or even send its output to a mixer for recording or live performance!
Taking a preamp output or turning down your volume doesn’t give you all of your amp’s tone, because getting your favorite tube amp to perform and sound like it does when it is turned up means that you need the power-amp section to add that rich overdrive character. Unfortunately, there are not enough venues that allow for high levels that come from an amp running at full tone and power through speakers.
Rivera designed and built the RockCrusher to maintain your tone. Built into the RockCrusher is a reactive load network for proper speaker-amplifier interaction. Rather than a purely resistive load like many other power attenuators, the Rock Crusher ensures that the amplifier and speaker see each other in a proper relationship of impedance and inductive/capacitive reactance. This translates to a superior tone, regardless of level. To enhance tonal balance, warmth, and shimmer, there are Edge and Warm switches that put you in total control of the final output.
In addition to providing superior tone, impedance matching is critical for your tube amp’s health and longevity. Rivera gave the RockCrusher an 8/16-ohm selector switch so you can use either value to accurately match your cabinets and amplifiers.
Additional features that ensure the Rock Crusher is easy to use both onstage and in the studio include a front-panel bypass switch that lets you use the amp with a speaker cabinet when full output level is desired.
When low speaker volume is desired, there is a Studio position of the Attenuator Level Selector that enables the Studio Level control to adjust from low to quiet output—perfect for home, project, and studio recording.
Balanced XLR and unbalanced 1/4″ phone jacks with a convenient front-panel level control allow interfacing with practically any audio equipment. Two speaker jacks allow easy connection with up to two speaker enclosures.
Bullet-proof construction, a standard feature of Rivera equipment, is also engineered into the RockCrusher: Within the 16-gauge welded steel chassis of the RockCrusher are heavy-duty and rugged industrial-grade components designed to give you years of reliable, cool-running service. In addition, both sides of the RockCrusher chassis facilitate mounting rack ears or other brackets for professional road case installation.