Playing guitar with a tube amplifier at max power without the neighbours complaining – is it even possible? Well, yes. The only problem with playing through a tube amp is that it needs to be hooked up to a speaker cabinet before you flip it on. If you don’t, you risk doing irreparable damage to your amp. That’s because tube amps require a ‘load’, and that’s exactly where the loadbox comes in to replace your loud cab. Read on to learn how to use one and what it can do.

What Load?

The load refers to the electrical load that your tube amp holds before passing it on to your speaker cabinet. When you want to practise or record in silence, however, hooking up your cab defeats the purpose. To keep things quiet, you can hook up a loadbox instead, but always make sure that the impedance of your amp matches the impedance of your loadbox so that you don’t blow up the output stage of the power amp section.

Do I Need a Loadbox?

Basically, you’re always going to need a loadbox if you have neighbours or housemates and want the option to play through your tube amplifier without getting any noise complaints. Here’s how you can hook one up: start by connecting a loadbox your combo or amp head. Then, connect your amp to an audio interface and plug the interface into your computer or laptop. Since this set-up doesn’t include a speaker cabinet, you’ll also need an IR (impulse response) loader to simulate the sound of a speaker. Fortunately, most loadboxes feature built-in speaker simulation so you can fire up an IR of choice. In addition to recording at home, loadboxes are quite useful on stage since they do away with the need to lug hefty speaker cabinets around.


Loadboxes are often equipped with a built-in attenuator – a welcome feature when you’re recording in your home studio. The attenuator allows you to spur on your amplifier for the desired compression without the need to turn the volume up past the 12 o’clock position. Meanwhile, you’ll be able to monitor the sound with a pair of headphones or studio monitors, and enjoy that tasty, saturated tube sound without bothering anyone.


Since loadboxes essentially turn the output of your tube amplifier into heat, it’s important that you set yours up according to the instructions in the manual. Generally, the manual will tell you that you need to make sure that your loadbox has enough room to dissipate heat and cool off, so don’t ever cover it up or tuck it away in a cramped spot. You also need to be careful with the volume setting of your amp since you’re operating in ‘silent mode’ and won’t be able to hear any direct feedback. If you’re running a loadbox with a built-in attenuator, always pay close attention to the status of the tubes and any heat build-up. Bear in mind that the tubes will also wear out faster when they’re given a serious beating.

Whether you’re already using a loadbox or not, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below!

See Also

» Loadboxes / Attenuators
» Speaker Simulators / Loadboxes
» Tube Combo Guitar Amplifiers
» Tube Guitar Amplifier Heads
» Amplifier Tubes

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