In praise of Tone Controls

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by JoeSmo, Apr 4, 2018.

  1. JoeSmo

    JoeSmo SL1200 lover.... Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maidstone
    I’ve had so many high end pre/powers and integrateds: Naim, Chord and Leema. As powerful, dynamic and propulsive as they were I always found myself falling into ‘upgradeitis’ territory.
    Now I mention this as I spent thousands on amplification over a 10 year period and noticed, on one famous manufacturers forum, that the majority of posts were about running in period, or, when would the amp sound as good again as it did before? Could I get the sound I’m seeking with an even more expensive external power Supply? How do I get more Bass? Or, the trebles too harsh and I can’t listen for long extended periods?!....on and on.

    This perplexed me as I was in exactly the same boat.

    Audio Nirvana only came my way when I purposely decided it was time for a high end amp with tone controls. Sacrilegious to me at the time, as I was a purist and had fought off this ‘work around’ for years. Eventually I caved in and bought a Creek Evolution 100a which had defeatable tone control; if I wanted straight-line, it was still available.

    Now, I don’t doubt all the minimalist, pure amplification equipment I bought sounds great in an acoustically treated room but I don’t have one. Nor, do I suspect, do many audiophiles with expensive amplification.

    Quite simply, I put on my favourite album with the Creek, tuned it with the tone controls to sound exactly the way I wanted it and found that every album I played from that point on was quite simply right for my ears. I have been in HiFi heaven since and the tone controls have not been touched other than the original setting.
    You may have noticed I said the sound was right for my ears and not my listening room. Here’s another great thing about tone controls; they correct the sound to your specific level of hearing? This is important as I’ve noticed room-correction is becoming a popular sound treatment but it cannot take into account your individual or, in my case, diminishing hearing as 50’s take their toll, lol!

    TVs’ come with picture adjustment controls because nobody’s room has the same lumen levels so for the best picture the set needs to be adjusted. I can’t beleive it took me 10 years to deploy the same rule of thumb to HiFi.

    Does anyone have a similar experience?

    For the purists I should concede that when the Creek is switched to ‘straight line’ there is slightly more clarity but to my ears, at the expense of enjoyment.
     
  2. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland, U.S.A.
    I have been enjoying the Schiit Loki equalizer. For the sources that "need something", the Loki does just that. Very pleased with it.
     
  3. Gibsonian

    Gibsonian Forum Resident

    Location:
    Iowa, USA
    I use em and I like em.
     
  4. allied333

    allied333 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Fenton, MI
    I always thought the new amps removed tone controls as a matter of costing less and claiming purity of sound. Give me tone controls.
     
    George P, augustwest, russk and 5 others like this.
  5. Hubert jan

    Hubert jan Forum Resident

    Madness, NO tonecontrol, NO phono pre on amplifiers, NO mono switch, No 78 rpm on pickup's.
    Just a scammers trick to sell these features as overpriced accessoire' s. Or plain stupidity.
     
  6. DigMyGroove

    DigMyGroove Forum Resident

    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Until I began spending time on this Forum I was unaware of the stance many have against tone controls. For me there will never be a system that omits them, period.

    I will admit that as I upgraded my system and now have tube equipment, I need less tone control, so I can understand how a very high end system and room treatments could perhaps have some finding them unnecessary. However in my world it’s doubtful I’d ever find myself in that position, so tone controls....I thank you!
     
  7. Vignus

    Vignus Digital Vinylist

    Location:
    Italy
    My amp has tone controls. I don't use them too often but I do when I need a little EQ, and I'm glad they're there
     
  8. Gie663

    Gie663 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Flanders (Belgium)
    My Accuphase integrated has tone controls, even a loudness button (the horror, the horror !) All Accuphase integrateds have these features. Some older recordings can be made more enjoyable, especially when they lack bass. My purist friends however consider this as treason, as if a room treatment device doesn't do the very same thing : adjusting the sound towards your own personal hifi heaven.
    Maybe a hundred percent neutral amplifier does exist, the acoustical environment is never neutral though, so thank God for tone controls.
     
    SandAndGlass, ShawnG, fogalu and 2 others like this.
  9. head_unit

    head_unit Forum Resident

    Location:
    Los Angeles CA USA
    I think historically that stance against tone controls and equalizers came about due to many ignorant users putting said controls in a "smiley face" curve with way too much bass and treble...AND the Loudness control on. Why? Because when you turn all that off, the music sounds instantly DEAD. For quite a while, until your ears/brain recalibrate and realize you were listening to a mess. So no controls = no possibility of abuse = "purity"
    But some combinations of recording and speaker/room are not felicitous, so I always thought something like the Cello Palette would be good. Slight, not ridiculous, EQ, at carefully chosen points to adjust the music.

    I'm curious how our host Steve and other mastering guys who post here feel about well-applied tone/EQ controls.
     
    augustwest likes this.
  10. JoeSmo

    JoeSmo SL1200 lover.... Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maidstone
    Interestingly, when I moved from class a/b to pure class a (Luxman 590ax) I found the degree of tone I needed to dial in was much less than the Creek as class a adds natural warmth to reproduction.
     
  11. JoeSmo

    JoeSmo SL1200 lover.... Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maidstone
    The joy of consumer choice. There’s loads of amplification without the features you feel are overpriced and unnecessary and I have audiophile friends who share your views.
     
    Hubert jan likes this.
  12. Fishoutofwater

    Fishoutofwater Forum Resident

    I wish my amps had tone controls and mono switches. I do use a DSP from time to time but i really dont get this anti tone control values that so many of us audiophiles have.
     
  13. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland, U.S.A.
    A mastering engineer would probably see where the faults were in the source (mastering). And I would imagine they would know how to use a good equalizer (transparent, and enough "bands"
    to control what needed "attenuation") Using an equalizer requires some thoughtfulness, or you end up with sound that is not balanced. Frequencies need to overlap correctly.
     
  14. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland, U.S.A.
    So what do "purists" do when they listen to great music that is lacking in bass? Do they just stand around and imagine how good it would sound if the bottom end was bumped up a little?
    I sure would not spite myself that way. Jeez.
     
  15. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland, U.S.A.
    See post #2. :righton:
     
    Fishoutofwater likes this.
  16. Solitaire1

    Solitaire1 Carpenters Fan

    When I had an over-the-air stereo system (meaning listing to the music over actual loudspeakers rather than a portable with headphones) I tended to make minimal use, if any use at all, of sound adjustment controls since I just took the music as is. I would occasionally use the loudness control but that was it. Part of it was the less-than-optimal sonic conditions I lived in (such as dorm rooms).

    Since moving to a portable with headphones, I use the build-in equalizer to make an adjustment when connecting my headphones to my player to compensate for the way my headphones color the music . My goal is to get the music sonically flat to my ears. As an example, Koss Portapros enhance the bass so I use the equalizer (or Bass Reducer on the iPod Classic) to reduce the bass, while with my Sony Earclips I increase the bass a little for the same reason.

    To sum up: I don't view tone controls/equalizers/other sonic adjustments as necessarily evil. To me, they are a tool that can be useful to improve your enjoyment of your music.
     
    Vignus likes this.
  17. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lewes, DE
    I appreciate tone controls.
    They are a lot like certain working girls that give you a thrill when you don't have time for the dating scene.
    But true love is MUCH better.

    P.S. The only controls I use are the balance control because no two engineers put the center in the same spot.
    And a subsonic filter to engage when playing vinyl to remove the woofer pumping.
    And an absolute phase switch because once in a while the engineer has everything recorded in reverse phase because he lost track of the signal path. so I reverse it BACK and the sound is more solid.
    But tone controls?
    A sure path to MADNESS.
    And a sign you were not getting the experience completely and fully and so you had to "jazz it up."
    Which as I said, is for punters.
     
    noway and Old Audiophool like this.
  18. Kyhl

    Kyhl formerly known

    Location:
    Savage
    Curious if people that require tone controls have measured and treated their rooms. Ever since correcting problems with my room I've not needed tone controls. IMO, everything added to the signal path adds something else, be it a coloration, distortion, or reduced transients. Even something as simple as inline attenuation is audible, and that is more simple than a tone control.

    Absolute phase has become my newest pet peeve. I've started making notes on inner sleeves to remind me which tracks have phase flipped before putting on the LP. Sometimes it might be that side two is out of phase from side one. :realmad:
    Also am starting a list of digital files with absolute phase issues and plan to go back later to flip them on the NAS.
     
    Dave likes this.
  19. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lewes, DE
    That is also my experience.
    If the speakers are telling the truth and are full range then why not just sit back and appreciate how great it all sounds.
    Rarely does a recording sound "wrong" or weak.
    At least NOT if done by a pro.
    BUT.
    Sometimes cheaters gotta cheat.
    And for THOSE FOLKS---there are TONE CONTROLS.
     
    Mitland and Dave like this.
  20. JoeSmo

    JoeSmo SL1200 lover.... Thread Starter

    Location:
    Maidstone
    Oh I’ve never seen Tone Controls as a cheat, just a practical solution to the age old problem of room acoustics, poor hearing or a mixture of both. My conviction is that all recordings are pretty much ‘correct’ but the difference in how they’re reproduced by differing HiFi equipment and listening rooms is so vast that forums such as this exist to understand and discuss how HiFi can be assessed.
     
    Pancat, SandAndGlass and krisbee like this.
  21. DigMyGroove

    DigMyGroove Forum Resident

    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    My first amp when I got back into this hobby five years ago was a Pioneer SX-850. For that receiver I loved the sound with the loudness button on, the bass boosted a bit and the treble boosted a lot. I next switched to a circa 1976 Luxman L-85v integrated amp and found I did not need the loudness button at all, but still tweaked the bass and treble. This particular amp offers a wide range of equalization and I quickly found the settings that worked for most music. When I added a sub-woofer I was able to largely do away with tweaking bass EQ unless the specific recording I was playing was too inherently bassy for how my sub was set up. A couple of months ago I bought a Fisher 800-C here in the classifieds and quickly found it needed little or no EQ adjustment for most recordings. I only had a week with it before I needed to head back out of town for my current work project, but it was a telling experience.
     
    bluemooze likes this.
  22. allied333

    allied333 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Fenton, MI
    BTW- adding tone controls to my DIY tube amplifier. Using premium capacitors such as K40Y-9 is important. Do not use Sprague Orange drops, etc.
     
  23. riverrat

    riverrat Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oregon
    A thread on tone controls. My bet was that the first snarky comment would appear on the first page of the thread. I was right.
     
  24. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lewes, DE
    Wow.
    I thought it was pretty clever how I tied hookers in with our hobby.
    You are now officially cut off from my personal stash of fine foxes.
     
  25. Vignus

    Vignus Digital Vinylist

    Location:
    Italy
    Maybe getting a bit disrespectful?
     
    Extra Dry likes this.

Share This Page