What happened to the loudness control?

Why have they stopped using them on equipment? I miss the loudness control. Does anyone else?


Well, maybe SOMEONE does, but probably he/she is also using tone controls. It (and tone controls) is just one of many 'bells and whistles' that does NOT appear on high-end audio equipment.
Please! For the love of God! No loudness button!
tone. filters. loudness. still available on Accuphase & Luxman products: somewhat pricey equipment but certainly worth the price
speaker wire isand interconnects are today's version of tone controls and loudness buttons. its ironic that the audiophile community has a distain for them, when they are a far more cost effective way to adjust a system to its room conditions than cables and room tweeks. we hear they were abandoned by many manufacturers, because they changed the sonic character of what the recording (no kidding).....as if everything else we do does not. the fact is, the fewer convenience features on a preamp dramatically reduce the cost of any properly made, high quality piece.....get ready to spend a bunch though to try and compensate each 'recording's shortcomings' with lots of other stuff.
I wish I still had one since the Fletcher Munson curves still apply in all cases. Try McIntosh preamps - they allow the user to control whatever they want or if you so wish, leave the controls out of the circuit, whichever you prefer.
Such intolerance for tone controls! Who makes equipment that keeps the acoustic impact equalized across the entire power spectrum?

If I'm listening at low enough levels to want a loudness button, the sound is compromised anyway and the button would improve my listening experience. I would be nice if it was out of the signal path when off.
No, I do not miss the "loudness" button nor do I miss the tone controls in my ref system.
(I do have both in my HT & bedroom AV receivers! My HT receiver has a "direct" button allowing me to bypass loudness, bass & treble boosts).

Loudness button is just a bass boost button that increases bass by 6-9dB. It's a filter. Tone controls are filters as well.
Both colour the sound while providing the function intended. If one considers purity of the signal then these control compromise it. You can use the best parts to create these controls but it WILL alter the original music signal.
The approach taken in higher end audio equipment was/is to use the shortest path between input & output while still providing the required function (preamp or power amp or D/A or step-up, etc). Has higher end audio acheived this goal? Subject of endless debate!! :-)
Less signal processing => less compromised sound & a better chance that you will be hearing the recording rather than the electronics.
The "purest" of audiophiles, the vinyl fans, think nothing of the RIAA equalization (drastic) that is applied to their signal. And yet the minor adjustments needed to restore tonal balance at low volume is viewed with horror. A loudness control can hardly be called "processing". It requires no additional amplification stage, and can be switched out if you prefer.
When properly implemented a loudness contour is a wonderful thing. It's well established that the human ear becomes less sensitive to both low and high frequency sounds as the volume level is reduced. A properly design loudness contour will counteract this effect and restore the intended tonal balance when listening at low sound levels. In analog equipment a loudness control should not be a fixed EQ button, but instead a variable EQ knob that applies different EQ at different volume levels. Only a few manufacturers ever did it right. In the digital domain, Tact preamps/room correction devices allow for multiple user defined loudness curves. I believe Meridian's digital speakers have a similar feature.

I wonder if all those who berate tone controls, EQ and loudness compensation always listen at high volumes because their systems only sound "right" at high volumes. Improper tonal balance due to low listening levels is a compromised sound.
Why would we want such devices that are based on empirical, repeatable, scientificaly demonstrable processes, when we can use cables that provide a far less consistent, but much more expensive solution.
Are loudness controls filters - yup. So is your room, your furnishings, your cables and everything else your system consists of.
Do they affect the sound - sure, as they're supposed to to enhance those frequencies that the ear cannot distingush as well at low volumes.
The gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands that we would affect the signal, yet our ears can't effectively hear that multi-thousand $ signal as it's being reproduced at lower volumes in a non-filtered set-up. But we wouldn't be audiophiles if we screwed with that signal right?
Go figure.
I agree with Onhwy61.

However, proper implementation of tone controls and loudness contour controls would have an extremely bad effect on our declining hobby. Sales of cables, IC,s, etc ect etc would fall like a stone. IMHO, many folks are using cables/IC's, etc, as tone controls of some sort. Actually, its worst that that, because a lot of equipment is bought/sold for nothing more than tonal reasons which could be corrected by a versile TC or loudness compensation control. If you think I'm FOS, pay close attention to the questions asked by folks here (as well as the responses) and see how many questions arrise out of a search for true neutrallity. Most are "how do I get more bass", "How do I get rid of boomy bass", "How do I get rid of the brightness/glare", etc, all of which could be handled by properly designed and implemented frequency bending devices.

One of the reasons for not including such in high end equipment that I have always loved was "that the controls would be mis-used by the end user", even though this same end user was discriminatory enuf to buy that piece of high end stuff and could obviously hear its merits, never-the-less he would be an acoustic ignoramus and use the TC's distructively.

Humm.....just food for thought. By the way, I keep a seperate tone control (with low,med, and high frequency adjustments as well as high and low filters in my tape loop. I use it to compensate for some problems with old LP's and CD's. Don't have to use it often, but when I do its well worth it!
I had one once, but she does listen with me anymore.
It would be nice if someone manufacture a high quality, stand alone "loudness" control (with Fletcher-Munson curves) that could be inserted in tape-loop for listening at low volumes & removed from circuit when not needed. Know of manufacturer who does this?
Who has a tape loop?
snofun3 is the voice of reason...and he's right
IF you miss loudness buttons you miss distortion
I should have said a variable loudness filter controled by a knob and not a button. I dont like the button typeloudness, but found the variable knob control usefull.
I should have said a variable loudness filter controled by a knob and not a button. I dont like the button type loudness, but found the variable knob control usefull.
I am amazed that you people are happy to run the signal through another attenuator and more unneeded connections. This stuff degrades the signal. And you say that the signal is already degraded, so why not add a little more. That stuff adds up. You may be coloring the sound with those fun buttons and knobs, but you are also putting layers of haze over it.
Mabey we should all have 10 types of interconnects hanging on the wall ready to swap out for different recordings. This would be the purist way, but tone controls are so much easier. Tone contoles do degrade the signal but sometimes it just sounds better when they are in the circuit with some recordings.
The obvious absence of tone/loudness controls on hi-fi equipment is one of the strangest paradoxes of this hobby, and is a reason why many audiophiles are considered waco's (that's in reference to another thread currently active). As someone aptly mentioned, audiophools have no trouble keeping a stable-full of IC's, speaker cables etc. that are used as de-facto tone controls. It's well known that your room and the listening environment is one huge tone-control. Audio components all have distinctly different tone-control signatures. Studio-recording engineers are butchering and over-processing live material.
And yet, despite all of the above, a true-blue "audiophile" with foam on his mouth will rebel against any sort of EQ in one's system under the phony pre-text of some mythological distortion...Lunacy? You betcha!
I think it's going to snow this July; I'm agreeing with Onhwy61 in quite a few posts lately.

As stated above, the Fletcher - Munson Curve still applies. Listening to an audiophile system at low volume shows how far off things can be. I always scratch my head with amazement when I see people throw such large amounts of money at building a system, only to listen at 70 dB. The tonal response just being completely wrong...
Trelja, welcome to the dark side. Your decoder ring is in the mail.
What about instructions for the secret handshake, or is that type of information only revealed during the ceremony?
I know this posting is 8 months old but I'm throwing in my input!

I own a 2004 Luxman L505f int amp that has tone and loudness and love it!!

Can tone controls degrade the quality of the sound sure! Maybe on a $300 A/V reciever but my Luxmans tone and Loudness controls do not degrade the sound in any way to my ears. They are a way to improve the sound to my ears. Other people can come over and it may sound like it is degrading the sound but to me it is not.

They can tell me it sound like your tone controls degrade the sound and I might say it needs more bass hold on one second and turn up the bass. It's all up to what the indivdual likes!

This hobby is a individual hobby. Sure you can listen with friends and get advice on equipment, etc but in the end it comes down to what SOUNDS GOOD TO MY EARS OR YOUR EARS!

So yes I am a user and plan on staying that way. All you anti tone control people can preach about signal purity, etc and I will continue using tone controls on my Luxman. Now on my Denon 4800 A/V reciever I don't use the tone controls because I can hear the bad effect the tone controls make. But on my Luxman I can not hear any ill affects on the quality of the sound.

If I can not hear any sound degregation then there is none. If you hear sound degregation then there is some. We all hear things differently.

The idea that tone controls degrade the way the musicians intended the music to sound is a majorly flawed theory!

Okay have any of you heard of a music producer,sound engineer, record excutives? How many artist do you think are aloud to go into the studio and never have anyone change their music. The album they release is not what they would release if left alone in the recording studio. Very few artist have that kind of clout to be totaly left alone when recording.

So the album they release has already been compromised from the artist orginal intent. So I have no problem adding more bass or treble to the way I like it.

The sound engineers can really butcher a recording also. I don't know how many cds I have that sound bad! The music I love but the recording is plain bad.

I don't know about you but if I have the means to change a bad recording into a listenable one I will do it. Now you anti tone people can sit there and listen to a bad recording but I will not.

So for the anti tone people great don't use it but for anyone else who wants to use tone controls and does not hear any ill effect use tone controls and tell the anti toners to leave you alone.
Some of my preamps (I have many, mostly vintage) have a loudness button. I lean a little to the purist side and I do not use it because I can listen at higher levels. At low levels a well-designed loudness function does improve the frequency balance, imo. Some are better designed than others. For instance H-K designed a "Phase-Correct Loudness" (as they call it) feature for their Citation 21 preamp. It boosts only the very low end and can be used to extend the low frequency response of smaller speakers, as they say in the manual. They go on to say that high end boost is not necessary, from their listening tests. A look at the schematic reveals much more than just an RC network. It is an active circuit with four transistors per channel in addition. To my ears it is not unnatural sounding.
IIRC the old Fletcher-Munson curves were superceded decades ago by a study by Robinson and Dadson (spelling may be wrong) which provides more accurate correction for changes in hearing sensitivity at lower sound levels. Of course, these are data averaged over lots of listeners, and your level-specific sensitivity is likely to be a bit different. You could have a simple audiogram to get an idea of your sensitivity across the spectrum, but that wouldn't tell you about your relative growth of loudness across the spectrum at various sound levels.

An equalizer set the way you like it seems more appropriate. I fear the god of audio purity may strike me for writing that.

That is what a loudness compensation control is, an equalizer, but variable with the volume. One hopes that it complementary to the frequency response variability of the ear according to volume.
I use the variable loudness compensation control on my Nak 630 pre-amp by setting the compensation at 0 and the main volume control for a natural sounding volume of about 80db or flat frequency response. When I want to reduce the volume to more background levels, I use the loudness compensation control. The main volume setting remains the same.
Works great! I think that the loudness controls on the old Macs worked in the same fashion.
One button loudness compensation is next to useless because it is fixed.
Bob P.
The reason the loudness control was dumped is simply that no one has ever come up with a circuit that worked 100% of the time at 100% of the volume settings. Consumers eventually figured this out and preferred not to own it.
Spatialking...No one uses 100% of the volume control range! The twin control scheme described by inpepinnovations@aol.com works very well.
Eldartford: What you wrote isn't exactly correct. Although few folks will turn their volume up to max, there are ocassions when that becomes neccessary. I have experiemented with amplifiers with sensitivities so low that my volume control was at max with some recordings.

But, the reason I stated 100% of the range is that the loudness control is a relative to the volume setting. By design, if it can't function properly over 100% of the range, the circuit is flawed by definition.

Secondly, all preamps have a dual knob loudness control if they have a bass control. Simply turn the bass up slightly to your preferece when you turn the volume down. At least you will get the proper amount of bass. Please understand the loudness control is simply nothing more than an attempt to eliminate one additional tone adjustment. It isn't much effort to tweak the bass control a smidge.

Lastly, the Fletcher Munson curves are an average, they aren't correct for all humans. Consequently, even if the loudness control followed the curves perfectly, it would still be wrong for many, if not most, of us.
Spatialking...Turning the volume all the way up is not using 100%of the range. In practice 50% of the range (eg: from 40% to 90% would be typical) and with a two knob loudness circuit tracking Fletcher-Munson very accurately over such a range is not a problem. Of course F-M is an average, but it is better than nothing. A bass control is NOT the same thing as Loudness, although people have to make do with it these days.
Eldarford: In the example I gave you, I used 100% of the volume control simply because there wasn't enough gain in the system. During that period, my volume control would be at max most of the time, not at 90% or any other setting.

Tell me how your loudness control compenstates for the roll off of your subwoofers? They certainly aren't flat nor do they have uniform output as the volume drops.

However, you have piqued my interest in loudness control circuits. I think I will revisit the current thinking of circuit topology and see if anything new has been done in the last few years.
Spatialking...If your volume control is always at the same setting, whether that is 100% or 60%, a Loudness control has no relevance. In this situation, if you don't like your sound, what you need is some kind of fixed equalization. Loudness controls are not intended to correct equipment/room frequency response problems, like the SW roll off that you mention. As to your suggestion that a SW efficiency (dB/watt) varies with SPL (watts), I have heard this suggestion before, but it is not true at all for my particular custom built subwoofer system. (I have actually made measurements to investigate this).
Eldarford: Really? You have consistent efficiency in your subs across the entire voltage input range? I would be most interested in your studies. Many, if not most, subs or speakers for that matter, have consistent efficiency across their entire voltage input range.

My comment above was spoken in the context of linearity, rather than efficiency. It seems in general these days, if your speakers efficiency is off across the input range, it is acceptable for the amplifier to make up for it. There is an arguement that consistent efficiency, as well as higher efficiency, results in better sound but I don't take a side on that one as I have heard bad and good systems at both extremes.

I am still very interested in seeing your test results. If you don't want to publish your results here, please email me directly.

Spatialking...First let me point out that my subwoofers are a custom design, and may not behave like your off-the-shelf subwoofer. Each of my three front speakers (Maggie 1.6) has its own subwoofer system in a 7 cubic foot sealed enclosure embedded in the wall behind it. Each SW system consists of a 15" driver and a 12" driver, each driver powered with it's own amp rated at 600 watts (CarverPro ZR1600). This gives a relatively large radiating area, especially when you consider that there are three of these systems in the room, so that no extreme cone excursion is necessary.

I have a spectrum analyser. When I play a noise test signal the frequency response, which is (with equalization)quite flat from 20-20KHz does not change with SPL. This suggests that if there is any loss of efficiency at low levels it is the same for the Maggies and for the subwoofers.

I had a discussion with Sean (of fond memory) about this subject and the following is a report of the tests that I ran for him.



Both the electrical signal and the SPL were measured, in units of dB, using my two Behringer DEQ2496. The SPL at 60 and 80 were crosschecked with my Radio Shack meter, and agreed within 1dB. The signal was white noise from a DVD player (used for channel balance). The measurements were RMS. Because this bounces around a bit, some estimation was necessary to get an average value. I set the SPL using the preamp volume control, and then read the associated electrical signal. The speaker measured was one MG1.6 backed up with a subwoofer, and the mic was about 4 feet from the MG1.6. I could not go higher than 90 dB because my preamp volume control maxed out using the DVD player signal. 90 dB RMS is pretty loud, and there is no indication of compression.

A plot of the data shows that at low volume below 60dB the SPL does not increase as steeply as it does over the rest of the range. However, I do not think that this reflects the kind of low SPL inefficiency which Sean suggests, because the background noise of the room ranges between 45 and 55 dB, as a function of traffic on the road outside. This background noise is pulling up the SPL data for the lowest two points. Late tonight, when background noise is low, I will make some more measurements.
Eldartford (Reviews | Threads | Answers)

03-30-05 El: thanks for taking the time to not only perform the testi ... Sean

03-30-05: Eldartford
Sean....I did not get to rerun the test last night when background noise was low. Maybe tonight. I am quite sure that the background noise is the reason that the plot becomes nonlinear at low level. By the way, the data looks too perfect over much of the range, and you might be suspicious, but that is exactly what I read from the instruments. It surprised me.

Per you suggestion I will run a test using only the dynamic cone subwoofer with a warble tone as a signal. This will cover the range 22.5 to 250. The warble will come from an Audio Control Richter Scale equalizer, and it is only as good as it is. One problem I anticipate here is that if I go to any loud SPL all the windows and doors are going to rattle, and screw up the measurements.
Eldartford (Reviews | Threads | Answers)

03-30-05 If you are going to test a sub, try to get the meter as clos ... Sean

03-30-05 I loved that audio control richter scale and the sweep it ca ... Cytocycle

03-30-05: Eldartford

..NONE...40 to 55 background noise

The signal was white noise, as before, but limited to frequencies below 400 Hz, and reproduced by my subwoofer system. (Easy to do. I just muted the HF and adjusted the X/O frequency up to 400 Hz). From prior experience I know that the warble tone would have rattled things. The mic was positioned about one foot from the 15 inch driver.

This time I set the signal level using the preamp volume control, and read the resulting SPL. When reading the SPL for the range below about 60 dB I took the lowest of rms indications over about 30 seconds, which corresponded to a lull in the traffic (background noise). For the higher SPL readings I took the average, as before.

Plot the data and you will see that there is almost no suggestion of decreased sensitivity at low SPL, which I attribute to the greater care that I took to minimize error due to background noise. And anyway, the SPL range where the data is not perfectly linear (for whatever reason) is so low as to be almost inaudible, so it wouldn't matter anyway. I am particularly happy to see no compression for high SPL, which would be a worse problem.

All of this is for my speakers :-). Maybe yours are different :-(
Eldart does it again...
Eldartford, you have to stop using facts and objective numbers in your discussions - they just don't 'sound' as good as 'hearsay' and feelings!
Bob P.
inpepinnovations@aol.com...Sorry guys. I didn't intend to confuse you with facts! Actually I dug up my data in answer to Spatialking's specific request. And the data was taken in the first place for Sean.
I like tone controls others do not. No one is wrong!
Eldartford: Thanks for publishing the data again. I have been offline for the past week or so due to some reconstruction of my home network.

Your data is very interesting. Who made your subs and what drivers are you using?
A loudness contour is designed to compensate for the long-recognized Fletcher-Munson curve, which dates back to 1933 and now is memorialized in ISO 226:2003. The problem is not with the equipment, but with the human ear: at lower volumes, bass and treble sound softer, but of course the impact gradually becomes greater as the volume lowers and, conversely, lessens as the volume increases.

If you want to avoid the negative impact of your own hearing deficiencies, turn your volume control to concert levels. If you have a wife and neighbors, however, this may not be always practical. To suggest that your system should not distort the perfect signal at less than concert levels, however, in order to compensate for human hearing deficiencies seems odd. Concert level sound quality can be achieved without corresponding hearing loss.

The observation that the loudness contour needs to vary with the volume seems consistent with ISO 226:2003. I know this is sacrilege, so you don’t need to tell me, but the best variable loudness contour I have found is DFX 8 Audio Enhancement. Of course, to install it, you have to use an all digital system, such as Windows Media Player running variable-bit rate Windows Media Files through a high-quality DAC which accepts a USB input. Best $20 I have spent. The other features on DFX 8 are basically worthless, IMO.
I think I want everything LOUDER than EVERYTHING else!!

You know we are all 'told' what we want..Bass is good..
hmmm..how 'bout a lil more...yea...thats..thats...yea thats

There is no such thing as "flat" any more...well maybe in
yesterday's coffee.

My 'button is always 'in' in my recording studio playback
monitors cuz thats how the customers expect to hear it.

By by Mr Fletcher...C-ya later Munson!!

Terry Duoos @ RIF_RAF RECORD'G