Noobie question ...

How do you deal with line preamps with no tone controls? Most of tube preamps have no tone controls, as I can see it. Can you trust audio engineer with your listening preference?
Sure. He was there and you were not. Besides, tone controls, bass and treble, are too crude to do anything useful.

i deal with no tone control preamps by avoiding them like the plague, maybee in 1972 cheaply made tone controls interfered with the signal but im not buyin that theory now days.

here is what i find to be the silliest thing about all the claims made about tone controls interfering with the signal,i read all the time where guys claim their speaker wires gave them better bass or mids or even tube rolling to find just the right sound when a simple twist of a knob does the same adjustment only alot better & alot cheaper.

unless you want to end up tweaking your system endlessly or listening to recordings that make your rig sound good stay with tone control preamps.

i tried a few HIGHLY ACCLAIMED non tone control preamps & was not the slightest bit impressed nor did i notice any improvement in sound,only draw backs.

this is one of the biggest myths in hifi.
tone controls you need for bad records. if you don't have bad recorded material than you don't need tone controls. so the best one imo should have tone controls and bypass direct switch if you don't need them.
Hmmm .... your not yielding this "Noobie" a fair choice. Look at solid state and your options will change. It's really a resonal preference and that is all ......
I agree with zenieth -- personal preference. Lots of people like to pour ketchup all over their sirloin. Those of you who feel strongly about tone controls should know that each pot only affects one frequency. So all you can really do with them is raise or lower the volume of that particular frquency. If you want choice about your contour/correction, then you should buy an equalizer and learn how to use it. I believe that is what Kal meant about them being too crude.
equalizer... is probably where i was going with this question. however, there are less and less of them that are available on the market. recordings are getting better and better, i guess. still, cd's that are produces for mass market in my opinion have extenuated tones to compensate for poor stereo system ...
c'mon any good audiophoole knows you use interconnects and power cords for tone controls!
Mr. Noobie -

Fair question sir. Just to advance your education a bit... equalizers are used for two distinctly different processes.

In recording an EQ (equalizer) is used to correct or eliminate a specific frequency usually to make it easier to get a blend or to make up for a previous mistake... this is the whole fix it in the mix thing which rarely works out for anyone but the studio owner.

In playback, an equalizer is used to correct the interaction of the speakers and the physical aspects of the room. In other words the way the sound waves interact with the environment.

This is the only way to correct a room - but you need to understand that the goal is to set it to neutralize the problem and forget it. That is the antithesis of using it as a tone control. The whole concept here is to build a neutral reference system which accurately reproduces the source. That's why you set the EQ to fix the problems in the room then leave it alone.

The good folks at Rive Audios are frequent posters and are quite expert in the whole subject of room treatment and equalization... you might want to look at their stuff and some of the posts on room tweaks as you get into this a bit more. As it turns out, tweaking the room itself is often more cost effective and sounds way better then pouring more and more into gear...
Tone controls are for people who cant stand wehats on the record. The band has put what it wants on a recored. Then fools want to addd bass that the band did not add. Tone controls are for midfi low fi fools
doing away with well engineered tone controls and phono stages allowed uncle joe to start his own audio company selling tweeks.
Good one lol!
Please excuse the essay, but I must beg to differ with the eminent Kal here, and also the extension from his comments that Macrojack suggests. Unless you're very careful, patient, and schooled, you can do a LOT more harm with an equalizer than you can with well designed tone controls (bass and treble). I understand why 'audiophile' preamps historically began eschewing tone controls (they didn't always -- some founding marques of the high end preamp business used to have them back in the day). The preamps I've owned haven't had any in years, and I realize they may not be as needed today as they once were, from more than one standpoint. But judging from this thread and others, and the audiophile preamp marketplace, I think tone controls are unfairly denigrated and undervalued these days, largely as a result of marketing propaganda and received wisdom that no longer need hold true, if indeed it ever had to.

Macrojack says they only "affect one frequency", but this isn't how 'shelving' tone controls work. It's true that a simple tone control might only have one, non-selectable 'turnover' frequency where it begins its effect (below that frequency for a bass control, above it for treble), but the control progressively increases or attenuates all the frequencies beyond that point, usually at least a couple of octaves' worth of range. Another way of putting it is that tone controls are 'low-Q', i.e., don't have a peaky, highly resonant nature that focuses their effect on a narrow slice of frequencies; for that kind of very specific correction, you do need an EQ. (I own but seldom use one of the best ever offered for home stereo, the 3-band full parametric from Sony's late, lamented Esprit division, of which extremely few were made. Maybe only the Cello was better.)

But a broad yet subtle action is sometimes exactly what's needed to help compensate for the vagaries of mastering and recording quality. We're not talking about room correction here -- that's a separate and much more involved issue. With real-world recordings that can often show either a treble that's slightly too dim or bright, or a bass that's slightly too lean or heavy, it's quite possible to get a genuinely improved result (i.e., higher in fidelity to the original event) through the use of simple but intelligently designed tone controls. Incremental, 1-3dB adjustments covering the high and/or low ranges of the frequency spectrum can sometimes make a world of difference between sound that's noticeably lacking or overbearing and something you can more easily 'relax into', or at least tolerate. (Of course, for those tragic audiophiles who've traded sonic perfection for musical corruption and simply banished any recordings they ever loved which exhibited such flaws, you may be excused, without my sympathies.)

The key -- other than using high quality filter circuitry and providing some sort of defeat option (assuming this is being done in the analog domain) -- is to keep the frequency regions affected mostly out of the broad midrange, and to use gentle contour slopes offering a moderate amount of boost or cut that comes in gradually. NAD for example has done this successfully for years, and although their products that feature tone controls aren't what audiophiles call high end, anyone who's used this type of well-engineered control can attest to its helpfulness in aiding the playback of less than perfect recordings. MacIntosh is a higher-cache, highly historical brand that's also never seen the 'wisdom' in doing away with tone controls entirely.

Part of what I think gave tone controls a bad rap among audio enthusiasts -- other than a general desire for keeping circuitry as simple as possible and a largely misapplied popular phobia of phase distortions -- were mass market receivers and preamps with tone controls that increasingly went the other way, purposely designed to heavily encroach on the presence and warmth regions of the midrange, with steeper-slope actions that provided for excessive, discontinuous boost, to enable the kind of 'boom and sizzle' no-fi presentation which tends to impress the young and the innocent and diverts attention from things like fundamentally poor speakers. (Somewhere in there also lies the notion that, despite all the distortions -- both random and introduced -- which inevitably must intrude on our recording and playback capabilities, as good audiophiles we can always smile and point to the false fact that, hey, at least we don't do anything 'deliberate' to adulterate the 'purity' or 'accuracy' of the signal. Ha!)

But it's perfectly possible for a high end manufacturer to put as much care and quality into a tone control as they would a volume control or an RIAA or crossover network, using the best parts and judicious design. Such a conservative implementation isn't as amenable to abuse, and anyway knowledgeable audiophiles presumably wouldn't try or want to use their tone controls that way. It would add cost, but if you look at the expense of the cable and tube games and so forth audiophiles love to play, often in a pursuit to banish the everpresent threats of 'brightness' or 'edge' or 'leaness' on their favorite non-audiophile recordings, and the prices top preamps fetch today regardless, this doesn't seem to be the culprit.

The real problem is that the die has long been cast, and audiophile preamps for a few generations now have been identifiable in part by their relative lack of controls of any sort other than volume and usually only a bare minimum of I/O and switching facilities. Thus, audiophiles have come to 'know' that tone controls are bad -- they must be, otherwise we wouldn't be shunning them -- and so almost no preamps with high end aspirations can be introduced with tone controls in this day and age, because to do so would probably mean marketplace suicide no matter how benign and effective the implementation. But I don't think anyone could seriously continue to make the argument that a high quality, defeatable tone control would really do more harm than good under any and all circumstances.

(Occasionally, especially since they went extinct in preamps, rough tone controls of a sort -- the analogy isn't perfect and the purpose not exactly the same -- have reappeared in audiophile speakers through the provision of modest boost or cut switches, usually affecting only individual driver ranges. But even this type of adjustability, useful as it may be, hasn't been too popular overall. This selectable filter-abhorance disease even seems to infect the phono renaissance -- despite the necessity of, at minimum, RIAA compensation, and the ever-expanding plethora of new offerings in a crowded marketplace -- exceedingly few preamplifiers seem to offer switchable rumble filters, whereas during the true era of the LP many if not most did.)

Perhaps ironically, maybe one thing that could start to change this state of affairs a bit will be the need for traditional 'analog' preamps to compete with a new wave of digital preamps that already do and increasingly will offer the option of not only advanced room and speaker compensation EQ, but also a digital version of essentially the same kind of bass and treble tone controls, for quick'n'simple 'touch-up' use on a recording-by-recording basis, that we abandoned in our heyday. (Nahhh, I don't really believe that -- the purist analog preamps will probably further solidify their bare-bones approach, to wear as a badge of honor in the face of increasing digitalization.) In reality, the supreme irony is possibly that, as decadent audiophiles, we are often at odds with the 'slide-rule objectivist' crowd as to just what it is that audio reproduction ought to strive for. "They" say accuracy, as defined by measurements. "We" frequently say, that's great, but not at the sacrifice of personal enjoyment and aesthetic emotional involvement. "They" say the newer technology is demonstrably superior. "We" often feel, OK, maybe it is in certain ways, but let's not forget about some stuff they seemed to get more right in the past. Now, apply that paradigm to which camp it is that vehemently rejects old-fashioned, subjective tone controls, and tell me what end is up?...
Zaikesman, Nice post and for the most part I agree. The last pre-amp I had with tone controls was an Apt Holman made in the late 70's - nice pre amp for the times. It had bass, mid-range, and treble controls which were very well implemented. The most important control, in my usage, was the mid-range which effected the frequencies between 1500 and 3000hz which could either restore or reduce the upper-mid range dip or emphasis in a lot of speakers, recordings, and equipment coming to market at that time, which destroys the the potential for natural sound in much recorded music. A little added bass at low volumes didn't hurt anything either. Based on that experience I subsequently bought a outboard 3 band tone control which was not as well implemented, although it was very transparent in actual use I have rarely found a use for it. The mid-range frequency hinge points and the width of the frequencies effected just didn't solve any problems for me. I've since tuned my system differently and have learded to live without. But if you are willing sacrafice a bit of resolution I think it makes a lot of sense to use judiciously applied correction to make the music sound natural and enjoyable. JMHO.
Zaikesman: "Please excuse the essay, but I must beg to differ with the eminent Kal here, and also the extension from his comments that Macrojack suggests."
Dunno if we really differ. I like ketchup but it ain't my favorite condiment.

Yes, you can do a lot damage with a PEQ if you don't know how to use it but the same can be said for traditional bass and treble controls. (Or, in fact, any really useful tool.) I am old enough to remember when people kept them both turned up (along with the 'loudness' control). The only essential tool is a good ear. With that the old B&T controls can offer a modicum of tuning but, as you do, I prefer an adjustable shelving control. For that, I use the Z-Systems RDP-1 which lets me tweak the tonal balance a bit without throwing a blanket (or ice-cubes) on the music.

I find it encouraging that newer AVRs, with their DSP engines, are offering B&T and/or PEQs in the digital domain and no signal corruption. My Meridian 861 (other system from the one with the RDP-1) does this, too.
Kr4...There was a time when you needed to turn the BASS and TREBLE controls all the way up to make lousy speakers sound right. BASS and TREBLE controls were a big improvement over the "TONE" control, which boosted either (but not both) depending on which way you turned the knob. No wonder they got a bad reputation with audiophiles.

I have recently become a big fan of equalizers, but they serve a completely different purpose (room correction) than tone controls. I still use my tone controls to quickly tweek up particular recordings as necessary, and to vary frequency response for low volume listening. Alas, I have no LOUDNESS control.
all this stuff about the musician intented the music to be heard a certian way is a crock,there isnt a studio on the planet that dont tweak & adjust the recording to what sounds good to them,now how does the recording engineers idea of what sounds right match up with what all the different manufacturers & designers idea of sounding best is?

if non tone control preamps are presenting a pure unadultered signal then how come a pass labs pre sounds so much different from a krell or a levinson ?

all amps do not present the music in the same way,preamps all have their own sound,cd players all have their own flavor,tt's & cartridges all have their own sound,speaker systems have the biggest differences in sound of all,how on earth do all the different types of gear with their own sound now present the music to anybody the way an engineer intended it to be heard by not having tone controls.

for anybody to say that by having a non tone control preamp is somehow bringing them closer to pure music(the way the musicians intended it) is silly & self serving.
Kal wrote:

"...the old B&T controls can offer a modicum of tuning but, as you do, I prefer an adjustable shelving control."
Yes, bands 1 & 3 on my PEQ can be switched for either peak (with adjustable center and Q) or shelving (with adjustable turnover) behavior, and if I ever use it as a tone control, it usually gets set to shelving and I do take advantage of the frequency adjustability. Personally, I don't think not having the shelf turnover frequencies be adjustable is all that great a handicap if the points are well-chosen and the slopes and dB's are moderate. But as I'm sure you know, there have been B&T controls in preamps and receivers that offered quasi-parametric control of shelf turnover frequency, usually in the form of something like 2- or 3-position switches to go with the respective boost/cut pots.

"Yes, you can do a lot damage with a PEQ if you don't know how to use it but the same can be said for traditional bass and treble controls. (Or, in fact, any really useful tool.) I am old enough to remember when people kept them both turned up (along with the 'loudness' control)."
Hey, I may be younger than you, but no spring chicken anymore and not only do I well remember this from junior high onward, I think it might be worse today than ever, if you factor in what car sound became for gen-Y. (For better or worse, earphones, Ipods and ringtones seem to have steadily replaced boom-boxes in public.)

The first copy of Stereophile I ever read was given to me back in my late-80's bachelor days by a housemate, and though my own system at the time was strictly NAD mid-fi, I couldn't understand what he would be doing with such a mag, since his system was based around vinyl-clad, paper-cone tweetered, Nipponese Circuit City specials and keeping his receiver's loudness and tone controls cranked (he was a drum teacher with an unimpeachable collection of 60's and 70's rock, and a stereo to match :-) Turned out that two of his beer'n'music buddies thought his sound was so kickin', they had gone out and hunted down the exact same speakers and receiver!

On the other hand, there was my father, who owned the same Mac 1900 receiver for 30 years but conscientiously kept the bass and treble sliders fixed in their center detent positions for over 20 of them, before one day I demonstrated for him that, with his speakers (which were almost as old), just bumping each up a bit helped open-up and fill-out the sound, which made him smile. I believe he then left them just where I set them and never thought about the subject again.

Newbee wrote:

"I've since tuned my system differently and have learned to live without."
I totally agree that by the time you work your up to a truly good fidelity system, you find you need tone controls much less if at all the great majority of the time. But also agree this doesn't fully explain the almost irrational allergy most audiophiles seem to have toward them in principle. Then again, I can't explain many audiophiles' 'taste' in program material either (B&T controls are probably superfluous when you're mainly interested being swallowed alive by a 10ft. tall female vocalist -- not that the idea doesn't have its charms -- or are fully surrounded, subwoofed, and virtually fleeing from the same fate with a 30ft. dinosaur), so maybe it figures...
Thank you for all the responses.

We all do have different ears and budgets; however, "the record" stays static to however audio engineer decided it would sound better.

Since I am pretty new to all audiophile technicality I was wondering of there was some "magic" to dealing with equalizing the recording; it seems there is none, other then tone control of some sort. In this case I do not think that you can have satisfying musical experience in your home without them.

Again, thank you all very much. One question answered, many more to come :)
Moganes: I see you are indeed an Agon forums "noobie" -- Welcome! Just checked out your system and other thread, and so can guess what may have prompted you to post this one. (I'll leave aside whether the response you got is quite the kind you were anticipating ;^) Your speakers, even if you're sure about replacing them, probably don't need much in the way of tone conrols, but Kal can address that better than I. The integrated I'm not familiar with -- it sounds like you think you took a left turn there. Maybe this should properly continue on one of your two other threads, but you wanna fill us in a little more about what's up?
Eldartford: "Kr4...There was a time when you needed to turn the BASS and TREBLE controls all the way up to make lousy speakers sound right."

If you say so. I never had lousy speakers. :-)

Kr4...Lucky you. How far do you go back? Not to the "TONE" control era I bet.
Well, first note the smiley at the end of the quip.

Second, I do go back all the way to the mid-50s when I bought my first component system and, yes, that speaker system (singular and no-name) sucked. But, of course, I was a total newbie and there wasn't anyone to turn to for guidance. Following that, I had:
An RCA 12" coax in a large bass reflex
A pair of Weathers Book speakers and DVC University woofer (transition to stereo in 1958)
A pair of Jensen TF-3Bs
A pair of Altec A-7s
That took me to 1969 when I started building IMF TLS clones and moved into the "high end."

So, for their time, none of them were lousy, with the possible exception of the no-name one. I had tone controls until 1969.