THE NEED TO TAME THE VOLUME OF guitar amps without actually having to turn them down has led to the development of attenuation devices that are placed between the amp and speaker. Attenuators definitely work, but any time a signal is fed into a resistive circuit some change in tone is inevitable—especially when a serious reduction in volume is called for.
This conundrum has led Fluxtone to develop a means of controlling volume at the speaker itself. The way the Fluxtone system works is by its patent-pending VMT or “variable magnetic technology,” which literally reduces the speaker’s ability to be loud. The system can provide up to a 25dB of reduction in volume without significantly affecting the tone. In a Fluxtone speaker, the standard fixed magnet is replaced by a variable electro-magnet that’s connected to a separate 110-volt powered VMT unit. You simply connect the speaker output of any amp (up to 50 watts) to the input jack on the VMT unit (which can be mounted inside any open-back or vented closed-back cabinet) and use the VMT’s level control to set the volume.
We tested Fluxtone’s Model 3 speaker— its version of a 12" Celestion Vintage— loaded in the company’s Tweed Deluxe Style cabinet ($1,350 retail/street price N/A as tested; speaker and VMT unit only, $750 retail). The Model 3 uses the same type of cone, spider, and voice coil as a standard Vintage 30, and the only physical difference is the Fluxtone’s cylindrical electro-magnet, which is a little longer than the stock speaker’s ceramic magnet. Fluxtone offers other types of popular speakers in 10" and 12" sizes (in 8Ω and 16Ω)—including 100-watt models—and has other styles of cabinets to choose from as well.
Paired with a 50-watt Tonic Tornado amp, the Fluxtone Model 3 impressed us with its ability to maintain a consistent and balanced sound at all levels of attenuation. This test unit was a “high efficiency” version, which doesn’t reduce the volume quite as much as the standard model, and actually allows for a little more volume than you’d get from a stock Celestion Vintage 30. While you’d probably want the high-efficiency model for live playing (where you don’t need to attenuate down to “bedroom” levels), even in our studio environment the Model 3 was able the lower the Tonic’s full-bore roar to a volume we could talk over.
More importantly, there was no loss of girth or complexity, even at the fully attenuated setting. The dynamic response also felt very consistent throughout the volume envelope. Overall, no matter what attenuation setting we used, the sound and touch sensitivity remained on par with what the amp delivered in non-attenuated mode. The Fluxtone system definitely works, although the price of admission for a loaded cabinet is steep. However, when you consider what a pricey speaker like a Celestion Alnico Blue costs (around $300), and then factor in an attenuator (another $300 or so), the $750 price tag for the basic Fluxtone speaker and VMT box doesn’t seem so out of line. Currently these units are handbuilt and American made, but Fluxtone is planning to build some of its speakers overseas, which should eventually lower the cost significantly.
FLUXTONE MODEL 3
KUDOS Maintains consistent tones even at maximum attenuation.
CONCERNS Speaker and cabinet combo is pricey.
CONTACT (303) 907-9078; fluxtone-speakers.com