When it comes to recording guitars, amp-modeling software has come a long way, but there’s still nothing like the sound of your favorite amp turned up to the point where it starts to sing. Unfortunately, that point is well past a decibel level that neighbors or family will allow, which is where the Fryette Power Load comes in. This device lets you plug your guitar into your favorite amplifiers (up to 200 watts) and run the signals directly into your audio interface, bypassing the actual speakers (or not, as we shall see). The Power Load provides a variable reactive load that makes the amp behave as if it’s driving a speaker, which is a crucial element of any amp’s sound and feel.
Some attenuators add a reactive element to simulate this, but the Power Load is not to be confused with an attenuator. Using its Cab Thru output, you can still send signal from your amp to the speaker while sending separate signals to the P.A. or a recording device. However, while it will control the volume to the latter destinations, it will not lower the volume to the speaker. That said, the Power Load’s uses are myriad. Space doesn’t permit me to go into all the inputs, outputs, knobs and switches available on this versatile box, so I’ll hit some of the highlights.
Once the signal comes into the box from the amp’s speaker output, it can be routed from Direct Out 2 — which offers analog mic and cabinet emulations — to your chosen destination. Not only did this simulation satisfy my need for a basic mic’d-cabinet sound, but the lo mid, hi mid and emphasis knobs, along with an air/bite switch, also let me shape the sound to faithfully resemble those created by various configurations of Vox, Fender or Marshall cabinets, among other tones. This makes separating overdubbed guitar parts in a mix a piece of cake. If I want to get even more specific cabinet-wise, the Power Load’s Direct Out 1 eliminates the cab and mic sims, making it perfect for running through IRs (Impulse Responses) of actual speakers.
Fryette recommends running both direct outputs together into separate channels of a DAW or P.A. for a more dimensional sound. I ran Direct Out 1 and 2 into separate channels of Ableton Live, panned hard left and right, and the results were huge sounding. Using the Cab Thru output to include the amp’s actual speaker in the mix, I was able to set up a lush wet/dry/wet stereo rig by combining my amp with a laptop and a couple of full-range powered speakers. For silent practice, the signal can also be routed to the headphone section, which has an effect loop and a 3.5 mm input for playing tracks from a CD or MP3 device.
If you need to attenuate your actual speaker volume, Fryette offers the Power Station. But if your applications more closely resemble those above, you owe it to yourself to check out the Power Load. Whether driven by a 1966 Fender Bandmaster or a Supro Comet, it sounded and felt so good that it took all I had to stop playing and write this review. Inspiration is the truest test of an Editors’ Pick–worthy piece of gear, and the Power Load definitely fits the bill.
PRICE $499 street
CONTROLS Level, low mid, hi mid, emphasis. Edge/bright/flat switch. Deep/warm/flat switch. Air/bite switch. In/out and phase-reverse switches
I/O ¼" aux input with -10dB pad. ¼" headphone output with 3.5 mm program input jack. XLR and ¼" transformer-isolated direct-only outputs (Direct Out 1). XLR and ¼" active amp, cab and mic emulated outputs (Direct Out 2). Amp In jack with selectable impedance (4/8/16Ω). Cab Thru output
EXTRAS 200-watt speaker load capacity. Headphone amp with dedicated effects loop. Silent recording capability. 12VDC 500mA power supply included. Passive load operates without external power
KUDOS Lets you retain sound and feel of your tube amps when recording direct or running through a P.A.