Tone Controls, why not!

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Phono Groove, Oct 6, 2019.

  1. Phono Groove

    Phono Groove Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Montreal, Quebec
    For the longest time I owned amps without tone controls, now that I acquired a Rotel integrated I experimented with a little fine tuning by using the bass ans treble. My room is not perfect, it generally sounds bright because of reflective surfaces. I used to have a very purist set of ideas when it comes to audio now I care a little less about that. I dialed down the trebble and boosted the bass and it sounds great. I could easily spend hundreds or thousands on room treatment but why? Some will say it’s sort of like cheating but i’ve gotten to a point where I just want to sit back and enjoy the music! Curious to know if others share the same idea!
    basie-fan, Eigenvector, russk and 5 others like this.
  2. Thorensman

    Thorensman Forum Resident

    They use equalisers in studios.
    So why not tone controls?

    ALAN SICHERMAN Van Cortlandt Park

    Cleveland, OH
    As I stated in a different thread here, I have enough trouble getting it right without tone controls; If I had them I'm sure I'd mess it up!
    vconsumer and BrentB like this.
  4. Josquin des Prez

    Josquin des Prez Forum Resident

    Midwest USA
    You're comparing very different things. Mastering controls on a professional board are very different from tone controls on a consumer system.

    My systems haven't had tone controls in over 40 years. I have never thought I needed to do anything about it.
    dalem5467, BrentB, benzo and 5 others like this.
  5. F1nut

    F1nut Forum Resident

    The Mars Hotel
    A studio equalizer controls very precise frequencies. Tone control frequency ranges vary from gear to gear and are not precise. Not to mention they increase the noise floor.
    Mike from NYC, marcb and Big Blue like this.
  6. gregorya

    gregorya Forum Resident

    There could be a number of things that affect perceived frequency response.

    If the OP finds that judicious use of tone controls improves his listening experience, then why not?
  7. Josquin des Prez

    Josquin des Prez Forum Resident

    Midwest USA
    There's no reason to object to anyone using them if they want to, but it is a compromise and has a cost. Where it improves in one area it can be detrimental to sound quality otherwise (e.g. in terms of clarity, detail, soundstage, noise floor, etc). Might be better off working on tuning the room.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2019
    Ontheone, Big Blue and F1nut like this.
  8. Lonson

    Lonson Don't Get Around Much Anymore

  9. Jeffreylee

    Jeffreylee Rock 'n' Roll Typist

    Before anyone jumps to conclusions, let’s check the other 75 threads on tone controls.
  10. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    I am all for tone controls. When well engineered, the control amp section does not introduce significant coloration, noise nor distortion. But.. of course the purist wants to eliminate every possible amplification stage, and potential distortion of sound.

    Tone control circuits are parasitic, that the capacitors in circuit result in negative gain, (typically -20dB, a lot) so we always need an extra amplification stage to make up the difference. The capacitors additionally introduce phase shift which can impose a veil on the music. It's not only the caps, the potentiometers (bass and treble controls) are also lossy. This isn't readily noticed until one pushes a direct bypass button, and then the music opens up slightly.

    One of the reasons adding bass and treble sounds better to the listener, is that much of the gain lost is restored, and that not as much signal gets "absorbed" by the caps and the potentiometer. (remember tone control circuits are parasitic) The other factor is the nature of hearing, via the equal loudness curve. The equal loudness curve adds a lot of bass, some treble to simulate the perception of loudness, in other words an increase of bass sensitivity at lower volume and a "more realistic" presentation of the music. This fails for me, but that's the idea.

    The bottom line for me, the benefit of tone controls surpasses any very small loss. When I first started out with my Pioneer system in'74, I used the Loudness switch all the time, "whoa listen to that", haha!

    I think ignorance is bliss , certainly was for me. The more one knows about circuits, and the more experience listening to music, the more unattractive tone controls become... and maybe we become less happy!
    Gramps Tom, The Pinhead, Kyhl and 2 others like this.
  11. Thorensman

    Thorensman Forum Resident

    Maybe up to the individual.
    My system has no tone conttols.
    Sounds fine to me.
    But a colleague swears by them.
    Could be useful on poorly mastered cd s
    WapatoWolf, The Pinhead and Mike-48 like this.
  12. moops

    moops Forum Resident

    Geebung, Australia
    My Vincent SV-237MK has tone controls and a Loudness function, and that played a factor in me deciding to buy it. I can switch them in and out and I don't use them all the time, but I can tame recordings that are a little bright or give ones that are a little thin a little more kick and I use the Loudness at night when everyone's asleep. They've been implemented really well on this amp, just a little turn here or there and things sound great. You don't have to go crazy with these things but it's nice to have the option if you're restricted for room options and aren't too much of a purist.
  13. Balthazar

    Balthazar Forum Resident

  14. PinkIsTheSky

    PinkIsTheSky Old Blues Man

    I have tone controls on my pre amp, and frankly when I use them I dont notice a loss or distortion anywhere. It's a nice feature to have and I enjoy having the option.
    tineardrum and The Beave like this.
  15. DigMyGroove

    DigMyGroove Forum Resident

    Until I started spending time here I had no idea of the bias against tone controls. For me it’s essential, it’s my ears, my rooms, my ability to correct the sound for a given recording as I see fit. In my experience it’s solid state gear that needs tone controls most, but for my Fisher 800 c tube receiver, not so much.
  16. I just read about Neil Young's guitar gear- apparently one of his guitars is rigged to bypass both the volume control and the tone control and go straight to the amp! The guy who did it said that he was amazed at how much extra gain he got from running the signal straight into the amplifier circuit. Volume &c. dealt with by using the amp controls, of course.
  17. Doghouse Riley

    Doghouse Riley Forum Resident

    North West England
    The balance on different recordngs can vary considerably, as can the volume.
    To be honest on my vintage Leak 2000 tuner/amp I rarely touch them.


    I may press either the Loudness or Filter button occasionally when playing vinyl.
    But for the most part I leave the tone controls on the designed middle position where the control knob "clicks," to indicate it's centred. But systems very and I guess with some they need constant adjustment, but personal perception of what's "the best" comes into it.
    The FRiNgE and ALAN SICHERMAN like this.
  18. ShockControl

    ShockControl Bon Vivant and Raconteur!

    Lotus Land
    Couldn't do without them. Too many engineers don't know what they are doing.
  19. JackG

    JackG Forum Resident

    I like to have them available, mostly a good bass range as loudness compensation for the human ear. Speakers are fixed tone controls and lots of people use those.
  20. Doghouse Riley

    Doghouse Riley Forum Resident

    North West England
    It's these Eastern European technicians where vinyl is produced on ancient equipment that cause the problems?
  21. ShockControl

    ShockControl Bon Vivant and Raconteur!

    Lotus Land
    Not sure what you are referring to. I have thousands of LPs and CDs. They don't all sound right when everything is set flat.
    MusicNBeer likes this.
  22. Not Insane

    Not Insane You talkin' to me?!

    When I sold Hi-Fi back in the 70's the "no tone controls" idea was that it's one less circuit to "muddy up" the sound. I even bought a pre-amp (Hitachi HCA7500) that allowed you to bypass the tone controls.

    However, I got over it. Tone controls allow you to, at a good level, tune the speakers to the room and even the source. And what about the amount of impact it has on the purity of the signal, you may ask?

    I used this analogy regarding most of the hi-fi snake oil stuff: Air conditioning has an impact on the performance and mileage for your car. It's well worth it. :)
    Mike-48 and Xulio like this.
  23. Gibsonian

    Gibsonian Forum Resident

    Iowa, USA
    I can't tune my room/system for every album, every mastering, not a chance.
    Panama Hotel and ALAN SICHERMAN like this.
  24. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    It isn't cheating but you're kidding yourself if you think you're accomplishing the same result as treating your room. The two will inherently sound different.
  25. Phono Groove

    Phono Groove Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Montreal, Quebec

    The Rotel A12 I acquired allows for the treble and bass to be adjusted “digitally” I simply set BASS to +2 and TREBLE to -1 , it just perfectly brings down the brightness and adds that extra weight. In this case it’s not a potentiometer would you be able to explain how it is implemented electronically?

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