Everything I said is correct. The problem comes when trying to explain technical terms to non-technical people.. I'll drop it after this because it is clear that most who have contributed are using terms the way non-technical people use them. There is no way to educate them to a sufficient level in this forum that they will fully grasp all of the terminology. By taking technical terms and applying very narrow audiophile meanings to them we get confusion.
You are taking a technical term "attenuator" and saying you can only use it the way some manufactures use it, which by the way, is also often incorrect. How can they call a knob an attenuator when at some positions it results in the preamp having an increased output?
it is incorrect to say that an attenuator and a volume control are the same thing, because they aren't. depending upon the volume control setting you do often get gain as a result of the volume control
but you, of course, never get gain from an attenuator.
Perfect examples, you use gain in the non-technical sense which assumes an increase. In many cases the output of the preamp is less than the input which means it has a gain of less than 1. As long as the discussion mixes the meaning of terms we will just be going in circles.
The only way your statement correct is if you consider the entire preamp to be the "volume control." The knob you turn which is often called a volume control is indeed a voltage divider that can only reduce (attenuate) the level. Any gain (in the incorrect non-technical sense of increasing amplitude) comes from active stages either before or after this divider and that gain is indeed fixed. If you want to change conventional terminology and say a voltage divider plus an active gain stage equals a volume control then you would be correct.
On the majority of preamps the knob you turn labeled "volume" is a voltage divider at the input. It is an attenuator. It has no positive gain. A few put it at the output but it is also a voltage divider which reduces the voltage which again makes it an attenuator.
The other problem is you misquoted me.
it is also incorrect to say that the gain of a preamplifier is fixed:
I never said that. You are confusing the "active stages" I was talking about inside the preamp with the entire preamp. Once again, a confusion between what is technically correct and how non-technical people sometimes incorrectly use the terms. Although many preamps contain active stages they are not equivalent terms.
You insist an attenuator differs from a volume control even though they both attenuate, they both control volume, and depending on where they are set in a particular preamp they both might result in an increase in amplitude.
I'll stick by my explanation. It is technically correct.