Sick Tone in Stages
The first test of any attenuator worth its salt is how is handles a high-watt amp cranked up to kill. For that purpose I set up a 100-watt JMP Marshall Mk. 2 Lead, first with a Rickenbacker 330 on the bridge pickup then a '72 SG with P-90s into a ProCo Rat.
The Rickenbacker and Marshall setup was selected to reproduce a slashing Pete Townshend or Paul Weller sound—direct, brash, percussive, and difficult to replicate at low volume without a significant loss of character. Bypassing the attenuator, which is accomplished using a switch on the front of the unit highlighted the transparency of the Phantom. But most importantly, the tone spectrum wasn't diminished in switching straight to the -6 dB attenuation setting either. The drop in volume was considerable, my ears appreciated the rest, and I could almost sense the relief and gratitude of the soundman at the imaginary sound check in my jam space. Even attenuating the signal by -10 db did little to squash the ringing resonance and chop inherent to the Rickenbacker/Marshall that's so dependent on the sensation of really moving air. And the signal retained those characteristics when digitally recorded as overdubs in Logic at the -10dB level. Moving to the quietest settings on the Variable Control did finally diminish the overtone content coming off of the 30-watt Celestions in the cabinet a little. But as advertised, the V-Speaker signal from the Line Out and direct into Logic retained the aggressiveness of the Rick'/Marshall—enlivening the mix of my demo considerably.
The SG/Rat/Marshall combination is rich in overtones and colors generated from teetering at the brink of feedback—another tone equation that's easy to upset at lower volumes. And while attenuation of the signal by as little as -4dB did make physically interacting with the speaker to generate dashes of feedback color more difficult, the burly growl of the tone equation remained very much intact through all of the presets and well into the quieter reaches of the Variable Control. And run through the V-Speaker into my audio interface and Logic the tone was equally impressive. Even as I moved the Variable Control to Load and shut off the signal to the speakers, the SG and Rat screamed. I used the setup to add a rhythm track to a demo of acoustic guitars and drums. In no time, I had just transformed the track into thunderous power pop monster and for all the folks in the adjacent studio knew, I was kicking back with cup of tea and a good book.
The Phantom Dx2 is a kind of a survival kit for any guitarist who moves between gigs and sessions of every possible room size. It can make managing backlines of varying power much simpler if you're a touring musician and can eliminate the hassle of playing through an unfamiliar amp or forgoing use of a tried-and-true, high-watt rig when a room or studio is too small. And because it can retain so much of your amp's tone at lower volumes, you can actually leave behind pedals otherwise dedicated to accessing gain at lower volumes.
The real beauty of the Phantom Dx2 is the V-speaker feature. Whether you use it for recording, practicing, or like I did to route through a PA to create an enormous, panoramic wash of sound that can be manipulated by a sympathetic soundman, it makes you and your rig adaptable to a thousand situations. That's the root benefit of the Phantom Dx2, whether you use its most basic attenuation functions or the full breadth of its capabilities.
you gig and record in big and small rooms, prefer the sound of a high-wattage rig, and want access to those sounds regardless of the environment.
you rarely pack anything bigger than a Champ for a gig.