Wondering about JHS Little Black Box

ITburst

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So as some might know, I now have my new DSL20HR and MX212AR cab. Out of the box I am very happy with the sound for the little time I've spent with it so far. Lower playing levels are important to me and I'm not disappointed with the sound turned down. However.....

I am wondering what this JHS Little Black Box or other volume type attenuators would do for me and the sound. {Some suggest a volume pedal}

As far as I understand about sound being produced by a speaker, a big part of rich tone is from the amount of air the cone is pushing. But the idea here is I stick this sort of device in the effects loop of the amp which lets me dime the volume. Nice, get those valves glowing! Now turn down the level on the Black Box to a nice "bedroom" level. Well wait, does that not make the cones move less and ultimately still deprive me of the richer tone of a un attenuated, cranked amp? I struggle to see how this route will make the amp sound like its at a higher level? I understand the idea behind working the valves harder but that will only help with the gain. But the "tone" is still lost, is it not?

Am I understanding this correctly?

I can most defiantly hear a difference in the tone depending on the overall volume. Its no different from my two channel stereo speakers, my home surround sound speakers, etc. That is why home stereo, surround sound systems all have some sort of artificial "boost" button to alter the resulting sound at late night volumes.

So is it really worth looking into something like the JHS product? I know its not all that expensive and I could always return it if I don't get results. The DSL20HR has no problem producing any degree of gain on its own. But what about the tone?
 

paul-e-mann

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So as some might know, I now have my new DSL20HR and MX212AR cab. Out of the box I am very happy with the sound for the little time I've spent with it so far. Lower playing levels are important to me and I'm not disappointed with the sound turned down. However.....

I am wondering what this JHS Little Black Box or other volume type attenuators would do for me and the sound. {Some suggest a volume pedal}

As far as I understand about sound being produced by a speaker, a big part of rich tone is from the amount of air the cone is pushing. But the idea here is I stick this sort of device in the effects loop of the amp which lets me dime the volume. Nice, get those valves glowing! Now turn down the level on the Black Box to a nice "bedroom" level. Well wait, does that not make the cones move less and ultimately still deprive me of the richer tone of a un attenuated, cranked amp? I struggle to see how this route will make the amp sound like its at a higher level? I understand the idea behind working the valves harder but that will only help with the gain. But the "tone" is still lost, is it not?

Am I understanding this correctly?

I can most defiantly hear a difference in the tone depending on the overall volume. Its no different from my two channel stereo speakers, my home surround sound speakers, etc. That is why home stereo, surround sound systems all have some sort of artificial "boost" button to alter the resulting sound at late night volumes.

So is it really worth looking into something like the JHS product? I know its not all that expensive and I could always return it if I don't get results. The DSL20HR has no problem producing any degree of gain on its own. But what about the tone?
Something you need to understand about the DSL is that it gets it gain from the preamp not from the power section, so you dont need to crank the amp to get the gain, cranking it will only make it louder not necessarily gainier. So no the JHS is not what you need. Again, you could use an attenuator between the amp and speaker and crank the heck out of the volume then attenuate to a lower volume but there isnt any reason to really do this, you already got your gain early on in the volume. Just plug and play thats how these amps are designed. :yesway:

Like you said, get one and try it, its a good experiment to see for yourself then return it. Music always sounds better louder thats what it is, same goes with a guitar amp. :yesway:
 
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fitz288

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So is it really worth looking into something like the JHS product? I know its not all that expensive and I could always return it if I don't get results. The DSL20HR has no problem producing any degree of gain on its own. But what about the tone?
As @pedecamp said, there's absolutely no need for these with a DSL.
Your best low volume tone is just going to be with the channel volume low.
 

ampeq

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So as some might know, I now have my new DSL20HR and MX212AR cab. Out of the box I am very happy with the sound for the little time I've spent with it so far. Lower playing levels are important to me and I'm not disappointed with the sound turned down. However.....

I am wondering what this JHS Little Black Box or other volume type attenuators would do for me and the sound. {Some suggest a volume pedal}

As far as I understand about sound being produced by a speaker, a big part of rich tone is from the amount of air the cone is pushing. But the idea here is I stick this sort of device in the effects loop of the amp which lets me dime the volume. Nice, get those valves glowing! Now turn down the level on the Black Box to a nice "bedroom" level. Well wait, does that not make the cones move less and ultimately still deprive me of the richer tone of a un attenuated, cranked amp? I struggle to see how this route will make the amp sound like its at a higher level? I understand the idea behind working the valves harder but that will only help with the gain. But the "tone" is still lost, is it not?

Am I understanding this correctly?

I can most defiantly hear a difference in the tone depending on the overall volume. Its no different from my two channel stereo speakers, my home surround sound speakers, etc. That is why home stereo, surround sound systems all have some sort of artificial "boost" button to alter the resulting sound at late night volumes.

So is it really worth looking into something like the JHS product? I know its not all that expensive and I could always return it if I don't get results. The DSL20HR has no problem producing any degree of gain on its own. But what about the tone?
Something I do with a 20w 800 style amp I have is, turn the drive down and run the volume up. Get it as loud as you want then add in just a little gain until you get the sound you want. It's kinda like hitting it with a boost pedal but it's all the amp. This is only for normal playing though, if your trying to keep it real quiet like late night playing you either push the pre-amp drive then bring in the volume, which will depend on the amp as to how it sounds. Or get a good pedal you can control the volume with as well as drive. The Little Black Box can work, the amp you have is a series loop I think and thus should work. The tone may not be what your after though, you will have to try it to tell. (But the pedal is pretty cheap.) Then of course is the attenuator, not my cup of tea but a lot of people like them. I have a Klon type pedal and on a clean amp I can get a very good overdrive sound at low volume. If you try a drive pedal make sure you try it on both clean and dirty channels of your amp. One will sound better than the other most likely.
 

ITburst

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The amp, and valves, are new to me. No previous experience with them but I’m quickly finding some sounds I really like.

The best thing being new to valve amps and Marshall in general is that I also have no previous experience with the speakers in my cab. These Celestion Seventy-80’s sound great to me yet most people seem to dislike them.
 

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Some do swear that the DSL20CR/HR is a slightly different animal to the other new DSL's.
But a LBAB in the loop would just act as another volume knob directly after the Channel volume.
They would both deprive the wide open power amp (i.e. no MV) of signal.

An attenuator would work better, but may be a waste of money.
Can you take your amp to a guitar shop and try one?
 
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WellBurnTheSky

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Something you need to understand about the DSL is that it gets it gain from the preamp not from the power section, so you dont need to crank the amp to get the gain, cranking it will only make it louder not necessarily gainier. So no the JHS is not what you need. Again, you could use an attenuator between the amp and speaker and crank the heck out of the volume then attenuate to a lower volume but there isnt any reason to really do this, you already got your gain early on in the volume. Just plug and play thats how these amps are designed. :yesway:

Like you said, get one and try it, its a good experiment to see for yourself then return it. Music always sounds better louder thats what it is, same goes with a guitar amp. :yesway:
Spot on.
I'd add that the whole point of any volume box is to control volume (obviously) on amps that offer no control over it (such as the NMV Marshalls, ie the SV20H, 1987x and others) by adding a preamp volume. You have to realize that volumes on the "Plexi circuit" are input gain pots, not preamp volume pots.
The DSLs have a preamp volume (one per channel actually), so adding another one is (mostly - having an "overall volume" can come handy) pointless and redundant.
 

purpleplexi

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Have say that when I get to play my DSL outdoors there's something special happening when you get the masters past 2 o clock which is pretty loud. It's a 40CR. That said it still sounds beyond good at volumes you can't hear in the next room. It's just about finding the sweet spot.
 

Clifdawg

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I tried sticking my Boss GT-1 in the loop of my DSL, dimed the volume, then used the GT-1 as a volume control.

I noticed almost no appreciable difference in sound between this and just running the volume low. Personally I don’t see the point in running the power tubes wide open for a negligible difference in sound quality at bedroom volumes. The DSL20 is a great amp - enjoy it at low volumes, and if you get the chance, crank it up!
 

ampeq

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So as some might know, I now have my new DSL20HR and MX212AR cab. Out of the box I am very happy with the sound for the little time I've spent with it so far. Lower playing levels are important to me and I'm not disappointed with the sound turned down. However.....

I am wondering what this JHS Little Black Box or other volume type attenuators would do for me and the sound. {Some suggest a volume pedal}

As far as I understand about sound being produced by a speaker, a big part of rich tone is from the amount of air the cone is pushing. But the idea here is I stick this sort of device in the effects loop of the amp which lets me dime the volume. Nice, get those valves glowing! Now turn down the level on the Black Box to a nice "bedroom" level. Well wait, does that not make the cones move less and ultimately still deprive me of the richer tone of a un attenuated, cranked amp? I struggle to see how this route will make the amp sound like its at a higher level? I understand the idea behind working the valves harder but that will only help with the gain. But the "tone" is still lost, is it not?

Am I understanding this correctly?

I can most defiantly hear a difference in the tone depending on the overall volume. Its no different from my two channel stereo speakers, my home surround sound speakers, etc. That is why home stereo, surround sound systems all have some sort of artificial "boost" button to alter the resulting sound at late night volumes.

So is it really worth looking into something like the JHS product? I know its not all that expensive and I could always return it if I don't get results. The DSL20HR has no problem producing any degree of gain on its own. But what about the tone?
Just for fun I took my Klon / Blues Breaker pedal and put it in the clean ch. of my Carvin combo last night. I had no problem getting really good overdrive or distortion sounds by running either one or both sides of the pedal into the front of the amp.
The pedal I have is called the “Horse Breaker” by Ceriatone. http://www.ceriatone.com/horsebreaker/
Of all the dirt pedals I have tried I like this one best. I like both sides of it myself and when combined it can push hard. For what you want to do it works great. I was playing guitar to my iPad at half volume with tons of drive. I would think using 2 drive pedals of most any kind into the clean channel would work for you.
 

scozz

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Some do swear that the DSL20CR/HR is a slightly different animal to the other new DSL's.
But a LBAB in the loop would just act as another volume knob directly after the Channel volume.
They would both deprive the wide open power amp (i.e. no MV) of signal.

An attenuator would work better, but may be a waste of money.
Can you take your amp to a guitar shop and try one?
@SkyMonkey hit on it here.

This is what I hear too, about the Dsl20 being the only Dsl that benefits from power tube breakup as well as preamp breakup.

@Gene Ballzz has mentioned it more than once and owns a Dsl20 as well as many other amps. He is also very knowledgeable on the subject.

As far as the LBB, it’s really just another master volume, it doesn’t drive the power tubes like an attenuator would. It works well with non-master volume amps, I think that’s what they’re designed for.
 

fitz288

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An attenuator would work better, but may be a waste of money.
^^ This ^^
Dsl20 being the only Dsl that benefits from power tube breakup as well as preamp breakup
^^ This, too, to a certain degree... ^^
IMO, with my DSL20H, the louder the better (obviously), but I can't say if it's better because of pushing the power tubes, the speakers, or a combination of both.
I've never fed any of my amps into a mic, ISO, IR, or anything that could be quantified, so some degree of speculation here.
But I'd also say any tonal improvement from a cranked power section that is then attenuated through conversation level volume speaker output would be a wash at best.
For the cost of a DSL20 and an attenuator that isn't a total tone muzzle, you could just buy a way better amp...
 

RLW59

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History of the little black box:

In the early 2000's there were lots of threads on the Fender Discussion Page (FDP) complaining about the low volume behavior of the volume controls on the Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. The drive channel went from silent to crazy loud abruptly between 0~1.

People were asking if they could fix it by changing the pots or modifying the circuits. Steve Dallman suggested putting a volume control in the loop and explained how to build one. Later on, user-name "Hank Hill" posted an illustrated tutorial on how to build them. Justin Holt's "Unofficial HRD Owner's Guide" had a link to Hank Hill's tutorial.

(This being a Marshall forum with a lot of youngsters, people may be unaware of how hugely popular the HRD was 20 years ago. Fender claimed the Hot Rod series were the best selling tube amps of all time, and it was probably true.)

But a lot of guitarists don't know how to solder, and don't own a soldering iron or a drill. So there were posts from people looking to buy a preassembled volume box.

A few years later Carl started selling them on e-bay. It's just a box with jacks and a volume pot, so he may well have just come up with the idea on his own.

But years before Carl it was a well known, popular device in the Fender community.

A lot of amps have abrupt volume controls. A volume box in the loop is a great fix for that. On multi-channel amps that don't have a global master that controls all the channels, the volume box can let you turn all the channels up/down at the same time.

But that's all a volume box is really good for.
 

Gene Ballzz

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History of the little black box:

In the early 2000's there were lots of threads on the Fender Discussion Page (FDP) complaining about the low volume behavior of the volume controls on the Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. The drive channel went from silent to crazy loud abruptly between 0~1.

People were asking if they could fix it by changing the pots or modifying the circuits. Steve Dallman suggested putting a volume control in the loop and explained how to build one. Later on, user-name "Hank Hill" posted an illustrated tutorial on how to build them. Justin Holt's "Unofficial HRD Owner's Guide" had a link to Hank Hill's tutorial.

(This being a Marshall forum with a lot of youngsters, people may be unaware of how hugely popular the HRD was 20 years ago. Fender claimed the Hot Rod series were the best selling tube amps of all time, and it was probably true.)

But a lot of guitarists don't know how to solder, and don't own a soldering iron or a drill. So there were posts from people looking to buy a preassembled volume box.

A few years later Carl started selling them on e-bay. It's just a box with jacks and a volume pot, so he may well have just come up with the idea on his own.

But years before Carl it was a well known, popular device in the Fender community.

A lot of amps have abrupt volume controls. A volume box in the loop is a great fix for that. On multi-channel amps that don't have a global master that controls all the channels, the volume box can let you turn all the channels up/down at the same time.

But that's all a volume box is really good for.

Some very good observations, references and perspective there! :agreed: You may have left out another important aspect of using the LBAB, especially with an amp such as the SV20 and many others with no master volume but with an effects loop. It allows all of the channel blending of the SV20 channels and modest, yet Marshall colored preamp distortion/overdrive, without kicking into that power section overdrive. That modest preamp crunch is often quite enough for many folks. Not to mention, on some other amps, the power amp/tube breakup is not always as pleasing and/or musical as on the SV20. The JHS-LBAB is quite a handy tool to have in one's arsenal, in a convenient and reasonably priced package. Yeah, it might be fairly cheap to build one (about $11-$13 in parts), but by the time you add in shipping costs and allow yourself consideration for your own time having some value, $45 to your door is a steal! :cheers:

Thanks Again!
Gene
 

scozz

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@ITburst, I’m curious, in the red channel,… have you tried raising the master and lowering the gain?

If not a good way to do it is put the gain on 0, then put the master on 10, then slowly raise the gain to the loudness you like. Adjust by blending the master down and the gain up, and see what tones you get. :agreed:
 

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I have a LBAB on the board for my VS65R, which has no Global Master Volume.
The board is wired 5CM to the VS65R and has a stereo output to slave my DSL40CR.
The LBAB is my just a last-in-the-chain Global MV for the VS65R.
It allows me to easily match the volume of the VS65R to the 40CR, which has two Global MV's.

20210404_161744-2000.jpg

And before I get slammed for slaving a DSL to a Valvestate: it sounds phenomenal.
Plus I have the reverse stereo setup too, where the DSL is in 5CM to a Boss GT-100, slaving the VS65R.
It just works better that way with the DSL, having MIDI and all!

So, two stereo setups for the price of much more than one!
 
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Old Punker

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I find that the LBB does improve low volume tone on some amps. I also realize that using it will not generate power tube distortion, but I have long noticed that the tone on some amps doesn't really open up until the MV is raised above some threshold (1 or 2), and depending on the power of the amp, you may not be able to do this at home.

With the LBB in the (series) loop I raise the amp MV (4-6 range, never dimed) and then dial in the amount of gain required on the channel, while using the LBB to reduce the PA input level only enough to keep the overall volume manageable (find the sweet spot). For me, at least, this works well on some of my amps. I get good tone at reasonable volume, better than only using the MV. I don't use this for 'whisper' volume though, more like 90-100 dB.

I've also found that on amps with a presence control, like Marshalls, cranking the presence can greatly improve really low volume tones.
 


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