I've read several posters on guitar forums correcting other people for calling the Boss Tube Amp Expander an "attenuator". Their reason is that the TAE doesn't work like a traditional attenuator, dissipating some of an amp's power as heat via electrical resistors and powering a speaker with what's left over. And technically they have a point because that's the electronic definition of an attenuator. But then they usually follow it up by calling the TAE a "re-amper".
Hmmm. Well, if we're going to be sticklers for accuracy, that's not right either.
There's an accepted definition of re-amping in the audio world and the TAE is certainly not that.
In a rapidly changing world where technologies are obsolecsed at an ever-accelerating pace, sometimes functional definitions are a lot more useful than technical definitions. Sometimes we should be more concerned about outcomes than process. Is the Tesla not a car because it's powered by electricity? Or course not. They're vehicles designed to transport people and things from one place to another via land-based roadways.
Functionally speaking, an attenuator is a device that you feed an audio signal into and get back a lower-powered version of. By that definition, the TAE is totally an attenuator. What's going on inside the box makes little functional difference, just like what's going on under the Tesla's hood doesn't matter much in terms of getting from one place to another.
Re-amping is recording a direct guitar signal and outputting it later as a high impedance, instrument-level signal to an amplifier, allowing you to make decisions about amps and settings in the context of the mix. There's no way to actually do that with the TAE because by the time the signal gets to the TAE it's already gone through an amp – the TAE cannot capture the direct guitar signal. From a functional point of view, "re-amping", as understood in the common vernacular, is simply not what the TAE was designed to do. So calling it a re-amper is incorrect on a functional level.
So in this blog, I'm calling the TAE an attenuator, among other things, but I won't be calling it a re-amper.