Question about Tone Controls + Equalizers


So I wanted to get opinions on Tone Controls.

I listen to all my music including LP's with Tone Controls defeated.

Why do I do that, you say? Because when I started on this journey I had the impression in my mind that in order to be an Audiophile, you have to listen to all music in it's purest form otherwise you are degrading the sound (I know, a very novice and naive mentality). 

So my first questions, do you all listen to LP's with tone controls on or off (if you have the capability in your system)?

My second question is about equalizers and in particular the Schiit Loki. If you have Tone Controls in your system, is adding a equalizer or tone control system useless or does it interfere whit your built in Tone Controls? Would you have defeat the Tone Controls on your own system in order to use the Loki or could they work with each other? I am not sure.

Do you all think a device like the Loki could possibly help fine tune your system sound? Is anyone using it in their own rig with LP playback?

That is what I would use it for, LP Playback, if I ever got the Loki or anything similar.

Thanks
jay73
Tone controls are mostly a "feature" of cheaper amps. They help boost or tune the sound to compensate for system weaknesses.
I’ve no idea why you’d add another tone control device. Upgrade your amp to a better one. You’ll find there’s no tone adjustment on them. There’s no need.
Jay, being able to adjust a systems frequency response is a wonderful capability but tone controls and analog equalizers are like model T's to digital room control (acts like an equalizer). First of all it helps if you know what your system is doing. Impulse testing with a calibrated microphone does this. Then being able to make specific changes like adding a notch filter and hearing the result are extremely informative. I find that once a system has been corrected the only changes that require adjustment are for specific albums that have problems like sibilance. A 3 db notch filter at 3000 - 4000 Hz usually solves that. So, before this the older audiophiles were right. It was better to correct overall deficiencies is a system as best you could as analog tone controls were more detrimental than helpful given their limited flexibility. This attitude pervades when it comes to digital equalization which is a shame as now the benefits far out weight the detriments. 
Check out Anthem and Trinnov units.
Thanks for the inputs and suggestions.

Those Anthem and Trinnov units look incredible but unfortunately out of my price range.

I am quite happy with my system at the moment but was curious about the tone controls and how others use them, if at all (if they have that feature).

Thanks
Old school analog equalizers with manually adjustable sliders are much cheaper.

Rane used to make decent graphic equalizers.  The build quality is at the pro level.  Although they seemed to have discontinued this line, used units are still available on Amazon and pro music shops.

I have a two channel ME60 which is helpful for room compensation with 1/3 octave sliders having 12 db range and bypass switches. 
If you knew how much the recording been eq’d before it is put on your vinyl....and in the RIAA you have a huge eq system already. What’s not been eq’d is your speakers in your room and you need to do that to get a more even sound at least between 20-500Hz. Loki is fine but it only has four controls and therefore paints very broad. If you like to try digital the Anti-mode 2.0 may be a good start.

My McIntosh preamps/receivers have  always had equalizer controls which I used sparingly to make particular recordings more appealing to my ears. On those recordings I would be very frustrated if I couldn’t adjust anything at all!  It was annoying to remember to return it back to neutral on the next album though.
My latest preamp, the McIntosh C70, is a simpler style and has only bass and treble controls with a switch to defeat. This better suits me as I am using it like a loudness switch on those records that need some help. More often than not I want to tame some harsh highs and boost bass with certain recordings. But it’s a very small fraction of records and it’s easy to switch off and then my settings are close to where I need them the next time the recording needs it. 
It’s also, of course, very volume contingent which is why I would be very frustrated without any control at all.



If you use Roon, you can modify your digital signal to your taste. I enjoy upsampling to DSD 512. However, you need the right hardware to accomplish this. Some like the DSD mode and others do not. We all have different ears and taste.

Copied from a previous reply - Tone controls are mostly a "feature" of cheaper amps. They help boost or tune the sound to compensate for system weaknesses.

Some high end stuff has them too. Top of the line Luxmans from the '70s for example.
You can use them to overcome recording weaknesses also, as opposed to supposed "system" weaknesses.

Analogue tone controls must have both a resistance and a reactance (capacitance or inductance). Both of these are imperfect devices unless you spend very big bucks (think radio station and vacuum capacitors). Unless your tone control costs six figures, it must introduce distortion.

Digital has its own problems, but I don't use that technology (don't like it), so I can't give you chapter and verse.
The OP was talking about LP playback. Many of you recommended DSP. That means digitizing the LP playback in order to manipulate the signal digitally.  Why would you do that? Use a digital source if you want to use DSP. Use analog tone controls or an equalizer if you are starting from an analog source. If you like the sound you get then don’t let others tell you it’s a bad thing. Try the Schiit. You can return it if you don’t like it.
I use a soundcraftsman octave equalizer in my system. It is 80's analog, but it gives me the ability to adjust, albeit imperfectly, for a given recording/signal source. Cassettes tend to be a little weak in the high-end, while some vinyl is overly heavy in the low-end. Having an equalizer allows one to smooth out the frequency that is heavy or light. The best way to think of it is it makes you the recording engineer and allows you to adjust the material playback. 
How you adjust it is entirely up to you and your ears. 
My tone control has the word "volume" written under it.
I change out speakers and gear constantly. Marantz 4270, emotiva pt-100, adcom gfa-555, Onkyo m-508, magnepan 10.1qr, Dahlquist dq-8’s, Klipsch rf-35’s, JBL 4312’s, and my Rusty but trusty Denon dp-1800 turntable. I for some reason adhered to your same naive tone control mentality for most of my life. But a year ago I got the Schiit Loki. I’ve had several pretty lights equalizers over the years. Always thought they added more noise than was worth. But having the Loki I absolutely think it’s an essential piece of gear in my system. It sounds fantastic. No audible noise floor change. It sounds better than my marantz tone controls. And I love being able to tame a harsh recording or speaker with ease.
kphasap,

When using the Loki, do you keep the tone controls on your Marantz defeated (off)?

It wouldn't be advisible to use The Loki and the tone controls from the Marantz at the same, correct? 

Thanks
What I think unfortunately is missing in the Loki is the 4 khz control. If your Marantz got that it might be useful to try it. Our ears are very sensitive in the 3-5 khz area. Otherwise no.
Plus 1 to kphasap. The Loki is one of the best piece of equipment I have purchased.
Schiit has a 15 day return period (with a restocking fee).  You could just order one and try it.  Consider the return shipping and restocking fee a rental fee if you don't like it.

Having said that, in general I don't care for tone controls.  For home theater, EQ is great.  For two channel music, I prefer leaving things flat.  I really only have one device with tone controls, my Vincent SV 237.  They are pretty good and were fun to play with when I first got it, but I have them defeated.

For LP playback, another option to consider is the Parks Puffin.  It allows you to adjust bass, treble, balance, "air",  and "tilt".  I like it a lot, however I ended up leaving everything flat on it after a while also.
Jay73
If you don't have an old fashioned tape loop (to switch it in/out) I wouldn't bother with a Loki. You might find that affordable cables cause too much SQ insertion loss. I have and love my Loki but I rarely use it except for old old fashioned Fletcher Munson loudness compensation for low level background music. 
Most players like BluSound have tone controls or "Soundcraftsman"
 type EQ (foobar, Volumio)
"Alexa play WGBO" (on a hardwired JBL Charge 3) is good enough for background levels for me.
My response to your question is DO NOT use tone to "fine tune" sound.  Upgrade the offending hardware and room treatment for that.

@noromance ...........................

My 7K McIntosh tube preamp has tone controls.  Hardly cheap or mid-fi. Lots of new equipment has tone controls.  If I need to use them, I do.  A dB or so of bass or treble can make an unlistenable cd listenable again.  You never realize how much you miss tone controls until you have them again. 
Post removed 
It seems most here use tone controls to correct deficiencies in specific recordings which is great. There is also the realization that a lot of trouble occurs at the 3-4 kHz region and a slider here would be very useful. Cutting here just 3 db can make a huge difference on records with sharp violins, female voices and such. Also because our ear's frequency response changes with volume (Fletcher-Munson) we become way more sensitive to high frequencies. This is what limits the volume on many systems. On some recordings at volume (95-100 db) I have the treble rolled off up to 12 db at 20 kHz. You might notice that some older rock recordings sound a bit dull. If you turn them up loud they sound just fine.
This is because the mastering was done at high volume and everyone was probably stoned. 
Not to worry Jay. This technology will drift down to lower priced equipment. Just keep an eye on companies like Anthem and NAD. 
Just to see what your system is doing on the computer is hugely informative. Comparing one side to the other there are significant differences between channels. These can be corrected improving your system's imaging. All this is done at very high resolution. In my system it is 48/192. The bit depth is need to cover a wide range of volumes particularly in the bass where you can have 10 db oscillations. Bass you can not deal with entirely with digital correction you also have to improve room acoustics as much as you can. 
It is also interesting that a perfectly flat curve does not sound right. My baseline curve is boosted 3 db at 18 Hz and rolled off 6 db at 20 kHz. You could probably approximate this with analog tone controls. 
+1 mijostyn
It was a horrifying experience the first time I measured the actual frequency response at my listnening place. And I believe my room isn't too bad. Recommend everyone to do that. Then we can talk. 
Tone controls are just another tool in the arsenal that is available to be used if you so desire.

You could use the built in tone controls of your amp and the Loki at the same time if you want to, but assuming that the built in tone controls are just a bass and treble adjustment and the Loki being only 4 bands you probably will not see much benefit in doing so.

If you were using a 1/3 octave e.q. to tune your system to your room and then use the Loki or your built in tone controls to adjust for variations in recordings you should see a more dramatic difference.
Some streamers have equalization and other signal processing capabilities built in.   An example is Ipeng streamer for the venerable Squeeze system.   I'm sure there are others.
In my 80’s rec room systems I have a McInosh 31V pre amp and SoundCraftsman SP-4001 EQ/pre amp.  I use them both on occasion with my R2R and turntable.

I tried a Loki with my listening room system but found I didn’t really need it or like for that matter.  One of these days I’ll get around to selling it.
@stereo5 Fair enough. McIntosh is the logical upgrade path for folks who’ve had receivers with lots of buttons and tone controls but can't let them go.
noromance,

It's obvious of your dislike of McIntosh so I won't discuss any further.

I always prefer tone controls, simply because as we age, our frequency response to sounds change and need some compensating.

Some super humans on this thread may disagree with me since they have "dog" genes but most of us do not :-)

Just want to add....  Music is to be listened to and enjoyed, not measured on a scope and a frequency analyzer.  So, adjust everything (including the tone controls) depending on your OWN taste and not by what an oscilloscope tells you :-)
I use tone controls.  Everyone should.  It’s silly not too.  Is your room flat?  No it isn’t which is why tone controls are nice to have.  Also, not all recordings are created equally.  I used to be a studio musician.  Trust me, you have no idea all the frequency, expanxion
Expansion and compression is done before the tape starts rolling.

if it sounds right to you then that is what matters.

N. 
I use the Loki when a recording needs some help, otherwise it's out of the system but ready to be hooked up when needed. I've used all sorts of EQs in pro audio and recording over decades, prefer the "purist" approach in hifi with no additional eq, digital or otherwise, but that Loki is an amazing thing when called on....great product.
I don't use tone controls with vinyl playback.  My pre-amp does have tone controls but i don't use them.  I do use the digital equalizer in iTunes for a very few early digital recordings.   
Thanks everyone for their inputs and suggestions.

Always looking to learn about how a system can be improved even though we may not all agree on the approach we can still learning something new, at least I do.
My "Tone Controls" consist of adjustable vertical blinds in front of the 12" windows behind my speakers for the high end and mids, plus removing the grills.  For the bass, I use a separate, but matched amp and preamp for subs, with a double pole double toggle to switch or remove bass crossovers, for the purpose of keeping things in phase while having the ability to add harmonics for old, crappy recordings, especially on LP.  Yes, I did measure the center of the main and sub magnets to place every thing in the same plane.  If you have an extra amp and preamp, give it a try on subs..
LOKI works great for me. I use it most of the time because in my living room my speakers have too much bass despite positioning adjustments and bass traps. So I tame the bass a bit more on many recordings with the LOKI.
its easy to defeat During use,  and doesn’t add any noise to the signal as far as I can hear.
If i were you I would defeat the tone control on the amp if I had the Loki in the system.
Simply a bargain. Check out the Audiophiliac review on YouTube for Steve G review.
Music in "its purest form" is what sounds most like real music.  Having no tone controls to use and the room makes the sound thin?  Is far from purest sound when compared to real music.  From what I understand, the problem with most tone controls is the major phase shift that they caused.  Instead of just adding bass, it muddles the bass.  What we need is a linear tone control.  I have owned various small audiophile speakers. I have been using a Barcus Berry Sonic Maximizer for years. When using its adjustable linear bass boost it makes small speakers sound satisfying without any muddy sound that typical tone controls can introduce.  With the high quality small speakers I leave the processor for the high frequencies off and find a very natural balance.
I'm 70 years old and have been spinning vinyl and enjoying records for more than 50 of those years.  My first sort of "hi-fi" system came back stateside with me in 1971 after my Army duty in Belgium.  I no longer have any components from this system.  

One thing I learned over the years about audio:    "Simple is Better".

The system in my music room consists of:  
Four Turntables, 2 Belt Drive, 2 Direct Drive.
Four Emotiva XPS-1 Phono Preamps
One Passive Alpine Stepped volume control, with Source control
Two Vintage Restored 6L6 Monoblock vacuum tube amps
Two Vintage Restored Frazier "Black Box" Theater speakers.  
Speaker and Interconnect cables are modest upgrade components, nothing costing over $60 per cable.  (No Monster Wire Here!)

Note there are NO tone shaping controls in this set up as they are just not needed.  Many audio magazines over the years have recommended to keep your audio system as simple as possible for the Best Audio performance.  My system does not even have a balance control, as it's not needed.  I can actually control the volume of each mono amp by adjusting the on board input sensitivity pot.

Some of my local friends are also into quality audio, and have followed me in simplifying their audio component chain in their system to achieve better audio.  Try replacing a Preamp with Tone controls with a passive, volume only preamp.  You just may find that better audio can be found in simplifying your audio chain.        




 
Like stereo5-- I have a luxman 590axii and those tone controls work the magic when needed!! Was thinking of even trying the new mac c53 or 2700 tube unit.
Spininvinyl, I agree. When it comes to analog simple is always best and for decade I did exactly what you are doing. Then digital came along, a totally different animal. Now instead of modifying an analog signal you are just changing numbers. Numbers do not have noise or distortion. They are just numbers. A whole new world has opened up. The final product is better than what you can do in the analog world. So much so that I digitize the output of my phonoamp so that is uses the same processor as everything else. 
I no longer do vinyl and since I got my hearing aids, which work excellent BTW I never use EQ with speakers. However with headphones which account for about 30-40% of my listening I either use Roon DSP or my Schiit Loki. Until I got my hearing aids I did not realize what I was missing.I think most people over 60 have enough hearing loss to benefit from some equalization.YMMV
I agree re use of a Loki in a headphone system. I've never heard my system with such clarity and, with a tweak of the 2k knob, I can get rid of a lot of upper mid-range glare common with poor(er) CDs. (I'm using  Mr Speaker headphones, and a Wadia 302 CDP).  
 + 1 for the Loki . I run a tube pre and a tube power amp . I mostly roll tubes for tone . Within that , I mostly roll power and rectifier tubes . I use the Loki less than when new . On a second amp that’s lower quality I would use the Loki always . I also have an old MXR 15 band analog for my retro system . It’s the same as the instrument version , but has a case and RCA connection instead of 1/4”. But like stated above , it’s ancient , although effective. I run it through the tape monitor out/in on a Sansui 9090 with JBL 4312’s. I wouldn’t consider it for a purist system . But even with its 4 band limits , the Loki is a neat little piece . Also consider the the additional IC’s that will be needed . My IC’s like most , will cost more than the Loki . You might consider a different cartridge for your TT ,also recapping an old amp usually yields good results too . But in the end it’s your ears and your money . Happy listening , Mike B. 
I got my first preamp without tone controls back the late 70s. I've not looked back. The trick was getting all the components to that minimum level of competency that no tone controls were needed.


I do miss the bass on some recordings such as Everest (there was a EQ error in their tape machines which was later discovered by Mercury when they purchased the Everest recorders) and Westminsters. But its never been enough to cause me to want tone controls. I like the simplicity of the signal path; in my system from the low output moving coil cartridge to the loudspeakers there's only 4 stages of gain- the additional transparency from such a simple signal path is easily heard and not subtle.


I have tried room correction systems but what I discovered is that if you have a standing wave in the room in the bass region no amount of added power at that frequency will correct it! I prefer a distributed bass array to solve that issue; I found that by removing the room correction the system was instantly more transparent. For the mids and highs I work to make sure my room is right. It does help to take some measurements! But I don't go overboard- my model for a stereo is that the system has the ability to move my room through space and time to the actual musical performance which is grafted onto the front of my listening area.