Vacuum tubed tone control???

Hello, I was wondering if anyone has manufactured a tubed tone control that could be put in-line between a cd player and preamp? I was hoping to add some musicality by rolling some NOS tubes into it, hopefully without hurting resolution too much.
A company called PSE used to make a hybrid pre-amp that had tone controls of an unusual design. As I understand it, the tone control switches somehow adjusted the current to the tubes as you switched them...which didn't interfere with the signal path...just changed the "flavor" of the sound a bit. (Please understand that I'm a complete idiot when it comes to comprehending electricity, so I may be describing this incorrectly.) I thought it was a great idea, and have one of the pre-amps, but apparently they're not made anymore.

I'd be curious if anybody knows more about this. Seems like a potentially fruitful area to work on, for those of us who (perhaps secretly) wish we still had tone controls, regardless of the high-end bias against them.
I've had the same dilemma, but, unfortunately, couldn't find a solution. Too lazy to fool around with cabling/tubes to serve as tone-controls. So,a Mac pre- is what I am going to get.
Why not find a vintage tube preamp that has tone controls?
Yeah, Behringer makes one that looks cool...Model 1851 or something like that.
You're obviously not 100% satisfied with your Preamp and/or CD Player so, either get a CD Player with a tubed output or a tubed preamp??

What do you mean by add "musicality" to your sound???? And, why do you think a tubed volume control will add it??
You can also get one of those Musical Fidelity Tube Buffers to put in your chain. I just noticed one listed.
Musical Fidelity has just such an item, called the X-10D Tube Buffer, and they're cheap and easy to come by both new and used. Try Audio Advisor for a new one or just do a search here.
AMC CVT 1030S is a good low-cost tube preamp with tone controls. Click the link and scroll down for more info:

Other than that, you could get a Z-man ASE tube line buffer. It uses a single 12AX7 tube for both channels and you could tube roll (but no tone controls).

If you like the Z-man idea, I have a good one that I may sell. You can e-mail me privately if interested.
Hello Everyone! Thanks for all you responses. Actually, I've got a pretty good preamp already. I have an Audio Research Reference 3 preamp. I guess what I'm looking for is a tubed equalizer to go between the preamp and amp to add a little musicality. I was hoping to roll some Telefunken or Amperex tubes. Thanks again! Stan
I think VTL made such a piece for the pro market.
ARC Ref 3 preamp, Pass 600.5 monos, and Eggleston Andra II loudspeakers and you want to add some tone control tweak to gain musicality?

Something's wrong with this picture.
why not have a technician create an r-c circuit that will enable you to attenuate the treble frequencies, i.e., generally starting as low as 3000 hz ?

i have had personal experience with such a device.

there is no accounting for personal taste.
Bojack, you are correct. It is the Behringer T1951 Tube Ultra-Q. Parametic EQ with adjustable tube 'warmth' using 12ax7's. Not in the league with hi-end, but around $150 or less, won't hurt to experiment. I have one and would be glad to answer any questions.

Also, isn't the Musical Fidelity X-10D just a tube buffer, with no tone controls?
Tvad, I recently retubed a McIntosh MR71 fm tuner. It takes fourteen tubes in all. Most of the tubes that I rolled into the MR71 are Telefunken with a few Amperex in the mix. I'm amazed at the sound that I'm getting. It's the most musical component that I've heard. I thought that introducing a tubed equalizer into the audio chain might bring some of that musicality to the cd player as well. I really don't want an equalizer as much as I just want to add some NOS tubes to the chain. Stan
I'm not criticizing your choices at all. I just can't comprehend inserting a device to change the sound of your $10,000 preamp, $10,000 CD player and $18,000 amplifiers, which were presumably purchased for their sonic purity (and musicality), and which now it seems you now want to degrade.

I have heard the ARC Ref 3, Pass 600.5, Eggleston Andra II and Meitner CD system in different systems, so I believe I can imagine generally the sound you have at the moment. The Andra II are very musical loudspeakers. The ARC is a very natural sounding preamp. The Meitner and Pass Labs gear are very accurate and neutral components.

IMO, you cannot achieve the musicality you seek without degrading the signal and losing resolution to some degree. Musicality lies on a continuum between uber-resolution (which you now have), and sonic muddiness.

If you want more musical sounding CD playback, try a $500 Paradisea DAC and run your CDSA into the Paradisea.

This is one nutty hobby.
Why is anybody taking this post seriously? It's clearly a joke! I have $40k plus in equipment, but I'm looking to add some NOS flavored musicality -- GIVE ME A BREAK. He's jerking our collective audiophile chain.
Onhwy61, I believe you're right. Being that it's June 4 and not April 1, I didn't see it clearly.
Of course you can add a tube device, like the MF X-10D mentioned by a previous poster. You can also add some type of tone control. However, looking at the art posters you have in your audio room, it makes me wonder if the problem isn't the media you choose to play.

Lots of rock music originally intended for vinyl sounds horrible on CD. Do you always feel the need for tone controls in your system, or is it just when playing older rock CDs? Do you ever play anything where you don't hear the need for added musicality?

Just curious as I have lots of older CDs (and some newer one, like U2) that are nearly unlistenable on a high resolution system. They do, however, sound just fine played on my car cd player!

If the issue is making bad recording more listenable, without affecting your good sounding CDs, maybe you could add a musical/colored DAC between the CD player and pre-amp. You could have the analog output of your CD player and the analog output from the DAC connected to different inputs on your pre-amp. You could then "engage it" as needed by simply selecting the appropriate input on your pre-amp.


Hello all, Thanks for all your input. This has turned into an interesting post. It's taken me two and a half years to bring my system to the level that it's at today. I thought that it was well matched, resolute, dynamic, live sounding--everything that I was looking for. The soundstaging especially is superlative. But after retubing my McIntosh MR71 fm tuner, I realized that there was something missing. As I said before, the MR71 is very musical, but still surprisingly clear. Obviously, the tuner sends an audio signal through the preamp, amps and then the speakers. No problem there. If the tuner sounds good then the downstream components are good as well. My EMM Labs cd player, although still breaking in, is great sounding--neutral perhaps, but it's not that musical. It gives what it's fed--no more no less. Thus my post concerning a "tone control" or equalizer. What I was wondering was if someone made an "audiophile grade" equalizer, that wouldn't harm the audio signal, into which I could insert one or two pair of tubes--say 12au7's? I'm getting the impression that that device/equalizer doesn't exist without harming the audio signal. Thanks again for you responses...Onhwy61, You have a nice system, by the way. I especially like your McIntosh C-42 preamplifier "w/ 8 band EQ".
You're better off addressing which component or components are unmusical.

IMO, and it's only my opinion...neutral components inherently create an unmusical system. They may send the signal along to the loudspeakers in an unaltered state, but those systems that I have heard with this attribute have sounded dry and lifeless...although one could clearly hear the second trombonist's shoe squeak.

Now, I'm donning my Nomex suit to protect against the inevitable flames from the Absolutists in the group.

Seriously, though, try a Paradisea DAC. It's $500. Cheap. Like the relative cost of a single potato chip to the cost of an entire lunch when you consider the total cost of your system. It will make your digital source musical, and it will bring a smile to your face. Promise.

Give some consideration to the following pro audio oriented tubed EQs

D.W. Fearn VT-4 -- it's mono, you'll need two
SPL Qure
Tube Tech EQ-1 -- it's mono
Drawmer 1961
Millennia NSEQ -- has both tube and solid state EQ
Manley Massive Passive

All of the above are built to audiophile quality standards and will allow you tremendous flexibility in how you can shape your system's sound. Unfortunately, they only offer up to 4 bands of EQ and can't match my McIntosh 8 band. Mine will still be bigger than yours!

Seriously, I do find it a little strange that you want your digital source to match the frequency and dynamically limited performance of your FM. If that's really what you want to do, then you might want to reconsider how you put your system together. It could be that you're not a high powered solid state kind of guy?
Hi Tvad, That would probably be the amps. I'd love to get a tube amp, or a nice turntable for that matter, but I've got the WAF to be concerned about. Besides, I've already spent way too much money on the system in the last few years and my wife doesn't want to deal with a turntable. So unless it's a lateral change of components-same price point used-, it's probably not happening. I'm waiting for the EMM Labs cd player to breakin. It only has about 430 hours on it. It's been running 24/7 since I got it. Hopefully, the EMM Labs is the last stop. I understand that there is a very long breakin, however. Best wishes, Stan
Talon4 and Tvad are making very real points that shouldn't require Nomex suits in order to voice safely.

For 18 months during 2004-2005, I was living as an expat in an apartment in Holland, and had to "make do" with a simple Linn Klassic system that cost about $1,700. Somewhat to my surprise, I really, really enjoyed it. Almost everything sounded at least acceptable on it, and many CDs were quite sensuously pleasing. Sure, it wasn't "high-end." And it was obviously rolled off in the top. But I had a lot of happy sessions with it, nevertheless.

In the 2 years I've been back, I feel like I've been in a constant battle with the high-end system I left behind (and its various successors) to obtain a consistently pleasing and pleasant sound (as some of you may have noticed from my other posts). I've been using some darn good equipment, that too often tells me (a) how lousy some recordings sound, or (b) how lousy some mastering jobs are, or (c) both at the same time. I have really had to step back and ask myself, why am I doing this? Maybe it's just me, but finding equipment that tells you about the detail in a recording, without rubbing your nose in the all-too-frequent negative aspects of that detail, seems to be a major, major challenge. And I feel very sympathetic to those that seem to suffer from that same frustration, and am very glad to have the resource of the Audiogon forum in which to vent those concerns.
FWIW, I recently sold my preamp, amplifer, and loudspeakers. I replaced them with an integrated amplifer and another pair of loudspeakers. All totaled, I pulled $4k out of the system (40% of the total cost).

The new system is more musical than the old system, and I find it to be more satisfying. There is less overall resolution, but I find I enjoy the music more.
I just want a system that will make me do "the church lady dance"--from Saturday Night Live. Stan
hi tvad:

so, less is more ??

watch out, the end end police will arrest you for insufficient resolution.

by the way, are you still using the paradisea dac ?

i almost bought one but i was late.
No, Mrtennis, I'm not using the Paradisea, but I still recommend it. I'm using a Leben CS-600 integrated amp and Castle Howard S2 loudspeakers. You might like the Leben (and the Castle).
I'm all for the idea of an equalizer and I don't mind giving up a little resolution either if it helps to provide musicality and an ultimately satisfying sound. You may want to take a look at the Avalon line of equalizers. Don't see or hear much about them in the audio forums, but I've always lusted after one. They have a tubed one too. Anyone want to chime in on Avalon?
It's taken me this long to figure it out, but McIntosh offers a "high dollar" pre-amp with tone controls! I think it's the C2200, or something like that. According to the reviews, it's pretty good. That having been said, I wonder what it sounds like compared to the usual suspects, ARC, CJ, Cary?

What an innovative idea! A tone control. Who would have thunk it?

(I wish some of our favorite mfrs would wake up and install switchable tone controls in at least some of their lines. Some of us--the ones who are sick of "really accurate" systems on which 30+% of our CDs (including many we would REALLY like to listen to) are unlistenable--would probably pay extra for the privilege of being able to monkey with the sound of those 30% of our CDs, so we can hear them with some modicum of pleasure.)
I will take you up on your offer. I just read the T1951 manual, and I am intrigued. I like the fact that it can be set to a "hard bypass" when EQ or added "tube warmth" is not desired. The specs look impressive, but I was wondering: How much does it raise the noise floor? How useful would it be when digitizing analog sources to CD-R (for example, smoothing out an LP that has excessive treble energy)? Does Behringer's claim of minimal phase shift seem to be accurate? Is it difficult to keep all those pots clean of dust that would make them scratchy-sounding? Thanks in advance for your reply.
The above post was supposed to be addressed to Joeylawn36111. Sorry about that!
I won't tell if you won't. ;>)
Thanks, Joeylawn. I ordered a T1951 (great deal on a refurb at Musician Friend with a 45-day return option). I will post my impressions once I've used it a while.
btw, i have a pse hl-1 in near new shape... the tone control is called a tilt control... let me know if you are interested