What are the benefits of a 'stepped attenuator'?
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meech

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First of all,,,,,,,what is a 'Stepped Attenuator'?

Secondly, what does it enhance in the quality of an amplifier?

I noticed that singlepower offers this in the amp upgrades and i just wanted to get some feedback on it.
 
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lan

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It's a volume control with many resistor combinations that make precise volume levels.

They're good. Get 'um
 
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chillysalsa

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As I understand, it depends on the particular stepped att' that you're talking about.

Some get better impedance characteristics across the frequency spectrum. They can also offer closer L/R channel matching than a potentiometer.
 
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JeffL

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To "attenuate" in terms of volume (loudness) means to lower, or to soften. "Make quieter" if you will.

A stepped attenutaor would do this in steps, as opposed to logarithmically, exponentially, or linearly, as a potentiometer (variable resistor) would.
 
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sacd lover

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Stepped or ladder attenuators only put a single, or at most a few, high quality resistors in the signal path; as opposed to the conductive plastics used in standard poteniometers. The attenuators give you more refinement and added resolution to my ears. Example refinement: there is a glare or electronic signature removed whenever I listen to a good attenuator. Example resolution:I can better hear low level sounds and decays to notes, as well as a better sense of the recorded space with attenuators. The only problem with an attenuator is setting the volume just right. I thought using an attenuator was a nightmare with the sony cd3000's low impedence and high sensitivity. However, with the high impedence headphones like the dt 880 or senn 580/600/650 that are also lower sensitivity and require a higher volume setting, the attenuator was easy to get right. An attenuator will not make a bad amp into a good one, but it can easily make a good amp even better.
 
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Mindless

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As sacd lover said, it would probably make a good amp even better. However they are quite pricey for beeing a thing to lower/highten the volume. A stepped attenuator is also stepped, för example 12, or 24 steps. The more the better I would say as you get better precision the more steps it has because lets say that a potentiometer could turn 360 degrees. A 12 stepped would increase the volume very much with 1 step compared to a 24 stepped.
 
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jefemeister

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Quote:

Originally posted by Mindless
However they are quite pricey for beeing a thing to lower/highten the volume.


When you think about volume control being the entire objective of a preamp, it makes sense that the device used to control the volume would be among the most important.
 
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Mindless

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Yeah, I admit, it is important to have a good pot in a preamp. But still $100+ IS expensive for a pot, at least for a regular person.
 
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ITZBITZ

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Quote:

Originally posted by Mindless
But still $100+ IS expensive for a pot, at least for a regular person.


$100 for a pot is expensive and likely won't even get you in the door for a stepped attenuator. Most of them start around $149 for a quality kit using Vishay/Dale or Holco resistors. I think goldpoint has a series unit that might be $20-$30 cheaper.

I have a ladder stepped attenuator waiting to find a home in my own PPA, but I haven't had a chance to hook it up yet (argh).
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by ITZBITZ
$100 for a pot is expensive and likely won't even get you in the door for a stepped attenuator. Most of them start around $149 for a quality kit using Vishay/Dale or Holco resistors. I think goldpoint has a series unit that might be $20-$30 cheaper.

I have a ladder stepped attenuator waiting to find a home in my own PPA, but I haven't had a chance to hook it up yet (argh).


Ouch! $149 is a load for a volume control are they really "that" much better than a good quality carbon pot?
 
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Yeah!, because with a stepped attenuator you have a much much better contact. Each step provide a firm contact allowing very small signal loss if any.
With a normal pot you have a cursor running over carbon or whatever stuff, and it's easy to understand that the contact is not as good as a true 'switch'.
And also with 'true' resistors you can have a very good L/R balance.
 
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ITZBITZ

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Quote:

Originally posted by PinkFloyd
Ouch! $149 is a load for a volume control are they really "that" much better than a good quality carbon pot?


On a $150 amplifier, no. On a more expensive unit it starts to make sense the higher and higher you get. I wouldn't pay close to $1000 for an amplifier if it didn't have one.



 
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Quote:

Originally posted by ITZBITZ
On a $150 amplifier, no. On a more expensive unit it starts to make sense the higher and higher you get. I wouldn't pay close to $1000 for an amplifier if it didn't have one.


You know, there aren't many amps out there for near a grand that has a stepped attenuator. As a matter of fact, I think the gilmore built by antness maybe the only one, but that's more DIY type of deal.
 
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BTW, if you're willing to solder, you can get quality Elma ladder stepped attenuator kits for ~$90 through group buys such as this:

http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/showt...threadid=30468

And there are some assembled ladder attenuators such as these that go for ~$50, but people have mixed results with them (but for the price, what the heck!):

http://cgi6.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dl...sort=3&rows=50

My biggest concern with pots is channel mismatch, which can be much more evident when listening through headphones than through speakers IMO, so I think a stepped attenuator is worth investing in. In my next DIY project (a really souped-up PPA) I am planning to use a quality stepped attenuator.
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by doobooloo

And there are some assembled ladder attenuators such as these that go for ~$50, but people have mixed results with them (but for the price, what the heck!):

http://cgi6.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dl...sort=3&rows=50


I put one of his in my Gilmore, and I have no complaints, it was a definite sound qualit improvement.
 
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