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1972 Gibson SG through ProCo Rat and 100-watt Marshall Mk. II Lead. Recorded un-attenuated and at -6dB, and -10 dB, and switched in real time.
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Rickenbacker 330 with Toaster pickups through 100-watt Marshall Mk. II Lead. Recorded un-attenuated and at -6 dB, -10 dB, and -2 dB, and switched in real time.
Every gig and recording session is its own environment with its own set of rules. And as any of us that have gigged in a bar can attest, an amp and guitar that we've dialed in to perfection in a rehearsal space can be a soundman's nightmare on stage if it's too loud. Though we'd all dig having a dozen amps for every gig and recording situation we ever encounter, the truth is few of us have the budget or space to keep that kind of firepower around. Then there are players who count on a higher wattage amp for a signature sound—how do you preserve the tone of a big amp blaring from its sweet spot without overpowering band, sound tech, audience, or neighbors?
Attenuators, which typically use the electrical principle of resistance to reduce the power of an amplifier signal before it hits a speaker, are one workable solution. And in the form of the Phantom Dx2, Faustine has built one of the most versatile, effective, and rock-solid attenuators we've seen. The Phantom Dx2 is not just for high-watt amplifier players who need to adapt to a variety of performance situations. It can also work for home and small-studio recording artists who like the sound of a big amp but need to record to low volume or direct to a board or interface. It may look simple, but this little piece of gear can give any guitarist that works in varying performance situations a whole lot of flexibility.
The Phantom Dx2 has the look and feel of high-grade laboratory test equipment. It's small but hefty. The aluminum enclosure certainly weighs a bit, and the high-quality switches and pots probably add a few extra ounces. But a lot of the weight is attributable to the heavy-duty heat sink—part of which is visible on the exterior sides of the unit and distinguished by its substantial cooling fins. The heat sink is one of the most integral parts of the Phantom's construction because in heavily attenuated applications the unit functions by converting the energy that drives speakers to heat. And the Phantom's ability to perform the conversion effectively is key to both the unit's noiseless performance and the ability to build in more versatile circuitry.
The unit is totally passive, which means it requires no external AC or DC power for operation—another key to cool, noise-free operation. The selectable impedance capability of the Phantom differentiates the Phantom from a lot of less flexible attenuators and can be set for speakers of two, four, eight, and 16 ohms—which covers just about any amp from the oldest vintage specimen to modern hyper-gain monsters.
The attenuation control is also beautifully versatile and easy to operate. There are five presets that attenuate the signal by -2, -4, -6, -8, and -10 dB. There's also continuously variable attenuation control that enables further attenuation from -12dB to a Load setting, which silences the amp entirely save for a signal you can route via the line out into your recording interface or board. In Load position the Phantom also does the clever trick of introducing a reactive load circuit to the amp that mimics the impedance curve of a speaker, which means the amp will perform as if interacting with the impedance of a speaker—a function that's vital to preserving the character of an amp.
One of the most unique functions of the Dx2 is the V-Speaker Virtual Speaker Response function, which simulates the sound of Celestion Greenback mic'ed by a Shure SM57. By switching on the contour knob on the rear of the unit the signal can be routed via the balanced Line Out TRS output to a recording interface, board, or monitor. But the Contour knob also has the function of an EQ—helping shape the voice of the virtual Greenback to suit performance conditions by adding high end as you move the knob clockwise. The V-Speaker section of the circuit also has a push-pull volume pot that not only enables you to control output level from the Phantom, but also allows you to select whether the signal is routed straight from the Phantom's input or through the attenuation circuit.