who wants tone controls on your next preamp?

I can remeber tone controls. They used to be on preamps, and integrated amplifiers. Then somehow, they vanished. I KNOW why they say they got rid of them, but really i think it was so cable manufacturers could sell billions of dollars worth of cables. Anyone else also notice tone controls disappeared same time as we all started to need 'special cables'? it's a plot!
I want tone control back on my stuff.
How about you?
Of course, they would have to be defeatable.
Don't need em or want em myself. They add distortion just like balance controls.
I have a spare Carver c6 pre-amp that I am not using with some of the most flexible tone controls on it that U have ever seen. It also has two tape loops and two loops for external processors, plus adjustable gain and impedance mm and mc phono inputs. Everything can be switched in and out. PErfect for anyone who really needs a lot of tone control or other processing (equalizers, dynamic range processing etc.).

If anyone is interested in it pop me an email and maybe we can work something out in that it is sitting unused currently and has low resale value.

Oh and Sonic holography as well which really does work to create a big holographic soundstage if that is what you are missing.

Also, a dbx 3bx mkii dynamic range processing unit that also sits unused in that my current preamp has no way to switch it in and out easily, but the Carver does.
IMHO the anti-tone control crowd is blind to the fact that everything else in their system including the room acts as its own tone control. Couple this with the undeniable fact that most most recordings have already had tone controls (EQ) applied results in the following. If tone controls, EQ, or whatever adds to your enjoyment of a particular recording then it is the proper thing to do.

I also have a carver C-9 sonic hologram generator, and a DBX-3bx. I have a kenwood GE1100 equalizer with reverb. They have not been used in ages. I don't know why anyone would ever use such things. Back in the day, I thought they were "cool". Lots of blinking lights and such. Always a hit at patys when I was a kid. Now, in the real world, why would you want them, or tone controls? Does it change the sound? Yes. Is better, IMO no. Give me the shortest path, with no coloration, or change, that I can get. I wouldn't pay a penny for any of it. I don't think any of the above mentioned items are worth the cost of shipping them.
Zydo, equating antiquated devices like those you mentioned with what can be accomplished today with modern tone controls and computer EQ is like comparing the performance of a Ford model T to a Ferrari.

Given the choice, I'd choose to have them provided the circuit could be bypassed completely if desired.
My preamp allows me to have different sound levels for left and right speakers, does that qualify as a tone control?
My second system is based around a Yamaha CR-1000 receiver, with base, presence and treble controls plus some filters. It has more things to fiddle with than I care for but for the room and adaptability it is great.
It is a fact that at low volume our ears are less sensitive to low frequencies hence the loudness compensation. And early CDs transferred from LP mix were too bright. I'm not a purist. Sometimes they could be handy. Interesting and provocative question!
Old fashioned, cheap treble and bass tone controls were dropped because they added audible distortion and generally were of so little use that few protested their demise. (Quad preamps were perhaps an exception to the useless rule.) Useful, low distortion analog tone controls are very expensive to implement. The Cello Palette is a nice unit for a few thousand bucks. Digital tone controls are cheap and do not add distortion, so buy a digital preamp and have fun. In the mean time you can use the Itunes equalizer for free.
McIntosh still uses them and when placed in the nuetral position the audio circuit is direct. Not sure if anyone else uses them or not. But if they do it that way I wouldn't mind having them.
To drunk to read what's been posted, but if you want tone or EQ, just get an out board pro unit.

"It is a fact that at low volume our ears are less sensitive to low frequencies hence the loudness compensation."

Or could it be the system is not in balance with only a fraction of a watt?

Theo, Dynaco introduced that circuit in 1966 with the Dynaco Pas 3X preamp.
I do . . . actually a modern, high-quality tone control arrangement is something I've been working on for some time.

Herman is quite correct in the fact that high-quality equalisation is a necessity in many parts of the recording chain, and anybody that has experience with top-shelf professional equalisers can attest to the fact that equipment indeed can be designed that sacrifices nothing in transparency, detail, noise, distortion, musicality, etc. etc. in order to perform its task. But these units are also available in seemingly endless configurations, each suited to specific applications and engineers' preferences, and virtually all of them must be used skillfully and judiciously to get positive results.

The challange in a high-end audio context is to get just the right amount of adjustability in just the right ways . . . so that the desired, significant improvement can be made the vast majority of the time in just a few seconds. I've used several graphic and parametric mastering EQs in my various systems over the years, as well as a smattering of recording-console channel strip EQs, all semi-parametric in some fashion or another. From this I come to the conclusion that the "knob-count" should be 3-5, settings should be easily repeatable (especially for frequency/turnover), and work identically on both stereo channels. More than five controls starts getting really fiddly, and fewer than three . . . you might just as well have the Baxandall circuits.

I also feel that some frequency-variability is necessary . . . simple five-to-seven-band graphics (i.e. McIntosh) never seem to have the bands quite where they're needed, and using two adjacent bands together usually starts messing things up. Narrower graphics with variable-slope or "constant-Q" filters also IMO start sounding heavy-handed.

Meyer Sound used to make a simple 1U EQ called the VX-1 that was my favorite of the bunch, although it has dual-mono controls and everything's continuous (no repeatabilty). Five knobs . . . low/mid/high with variable turnovers, all constant-slope single-order (6dB/octave). It had sensible range (+6 to -12 IIRC) that precludes the need for making master gain adjustments.
If someone could make a transparent EQ for my Ref3 I'd love it. I love my preamp just the way it is, but if an EQ could improve things I'm all for it.

A lot of times in high end audio we do things just because "it's always been that way". There are those among us that immediately dismiss the thought of an EQ in a system. Well maybe 20 years ago. But if the technolgy is here today, to hell with tradition and audio snobbery, let me see the new stuff. And if it works let's move forward. Nothing has slowed progress like being stubbornly stuck in longtime traditions.
This is the classic study done in the 50's regarding perceived loudness in relation to frequencies. I think this justifies tone controls.


Now, this begs the question of how to do it. "Spatial computer" has begun to build into the computer the software to adjust the sound to your room. It is a beginning. And it may be the future. In the meantime, having some adjustment to compensate for loudness or poor recordings is reasonable. In a perfect world we have a perfect room with perfect material and is played back through a perfect system. Now, back to reality!
If we can put a man on the moon, we can build gear with tone controls that help when needed and not distract when not. Gear done right may be able to get along without them 90% of the time, yet would be nice to have. The better brands that have them and include such things as headphone output offer that much more value and a real world approach to their products.
"I also have a carver C-9 sonic hologram generator, and a DBX-3bx. I have a kenwood GE1100 equalizer with reverb. They have not been used in ages. I don't know why anyone would ever use such things. Back in the day, I thought they were "cool". Lots of blinking lights and such. Always a hit at patys when I was a kid. Now, in the real world, why would you want them, or tone controls?"

Because they work and make life easier.

The world of extreme audio often has little to do with the majority of the real world.

BTW a party is not a good application of Carver holography in that it only works when sitting in the sweet spot and has no benefit otherwise. That would have to be a mighty cozy party.....

It might work with omni speakers in some cases but additional holography should not be much of an issue in that case.
They can make tone controls that work well but they are digital and purists freak out.
A good sub with room EQ sure helps a lot to alleviate the need for tone controls also.
Yes. Defeatable tone controls. I say bring them back. Poor recordings can be doctored to sound good. Even "bass boost" for low volume listening, and "rumble filters" have been found in my opinion to be quite useful. My old Dyna PAT 4 had a switchable high freq filter that worked wonders on tape hiss. I miss them all.
Agreed that use of adjustable subs alleviate the value of other tone controls somewhat and may have helped led to their general demise.
I wopuld like to have them, but I don't think it was a conspiracy to sell cables in place of tone controls, unless we can prove that equipment manufacturers are getting a cut of those cable sales.
"Fer sure dude". My Yamaha CX1 had them & I do miss them. It had a "pure direct" button to bypass the controls.
My Krell KCT does not. It allowed me to semi-fix the crappy recordings from the 70's and 80's. For ten big ones they oughta be able to put one in there with a bypas button. Maybe even squeeze in a keg-a-rator at that price.
Its all in fun isn't it..?
"For ten big ones they oughta be able to put one in there with a bypas button. Maybe even squeeze in a keg-a-rator at that price."

The people who will pay this much in general do not want tone controls, so I doubt it will happen to any large extent.

There will always be some vendors that use practical ease of use features to help differentiate themselves and appeal to a larger market. Carver did this to the nth degree.

McIntosh anyone?
Don't need them; don't want them. And I don't want to pay for the cost increase that the inclusion of high quality tone controls in a product would lead to; this stuff is expensive enough as it is!

Although I do recognize that tone controls can increase the range of recordings that can be listened to enjoyably, and that they would be particularly useful when listening at low volume levels (which I don't generally do).

-- Al
In addition to tone controls, a must is a balance control.
Would really like to see tone controls make a come back.....but the cable manufacturers won't let it happen...
I want recording engineers to make recordings that don't require tone controls.
This can be done well if you have a competant amp designer.I have a George Wright AU-1000 preamp with tone controls as well as a balance control. The tone controls can also be toggle switched to a neutral position that negates them if preferred. This thing sings, with no perceived added distortion what so ever, just good clean accurate control. I believe they are needed with all the faulty recordings and badly remastered projects that we are seeing of late. To my ears they are a blessing! Oh yeh, if I dont need them I dont use them.
FWIW, I was never able to detect distortion as a result of having tone controls switched in on any system I've ever owned or sold that had them.

Perhaps as a result of upping bass levels too high resulting in clipping that would not occur otherwise, but it was not the tone controls fault that the bass was turned up too high.

I have owned systems for over 30 years and only within the last two years with my latest pre-amp upgrade did I loose the tone controls. Losing them was just a part of moving to the new pre-amp. It was not by design. If the ARC sp16 I use now had the same sound but with switchable tone controls also, that would be icing on the cake.

I never used tone controls heavily however even when I had them. They were switched out 95% of the time. On occasion, they came in handy and added value without any distortion that I could detect. I used to listen quite carefully for differences with tone controls in and out, even with no level adjustments set when switched in, and heard no real difference.

There are lots of circuits regardless in most any pre-amp. Heck, our systems sre nothing but a bunch of interconnected circuits. One more, if done well, does not hurt if needed in practice based on my experience.
Plenty of preamp choices with Tape In/Out. With a tape loop and any outboard devise you can alter the original signal to your hearts content. I can't remember visiting folks who's receivers didn't have their Loudness buttons activated. I love bass too, which is why having a sophisticated subwoofer or two can help with system, room, and some recording deficiencies. Personally, I have two and they add a bit of life to some digital sources. Put on an LP and I have to shut them off.

Balance? IMO, if you need to adjust the output balance you have more serious issues and are clearly missing the staging potential of your system.
First Tone controls obviously add Color, there is devices in them that of course changes the frequency response and distortion levels. However rarely do you hear a bad sound or added distortion unless its a loudness button that overdrives the electronics in turn the speakers producing this to audible levels.

Now that being said BALANCE controls are virtually negligible unless a really generic design with bad resistors or something in it, this simply at Zero is making both the left and right signal balanced, but turning it one way or the other is simply reducing gain not adding color or changing frequency response as a whole. The same as adding a resistor to your tweeter in a larger size to tame it down, but fact is it still already has a resistor doing this so is a larger resistor going to add more distortion or just reduce volume? Obviously not add more distortion, so this is WAY overthought.

The balance controls today are fairly transparent so I would not get to excited about "Bypassing" these, but again old generic types could be just cheesy and cause noise etc... Where back then you get the crackle due to simply physical wear and contacts getting dirty.

I doubt anybody with a hi end piece of gear using balance could say they had it modded and it was much better without. Exceptions to the rule I am sure exist, however again its silly, and hey if you have a room that really boosts one channel in a corner to be louder than the other, its much better to have the option to balance it out than not, only other way is many options requiring a new room, or room treatments. I could see putting in a flip switch to pull the balance out just for those concerned, less is more sometimes.
Would really like to see tone controls make a come back.....but the cable manufacturers won't let it happen...

I don't think there's a cable company that has that much influence on what equipment manufacturers design.But hey,what do I know?
An audiophile and tone controls should not be in the same sentence, unless that audiophile has a hearing deficiency in a certain frequency.
Be honest, some audiophiles don't have the intelligence to properly use high quality tone controls. You know who you are!
Zydo, I had a phase linear 4000 designed by bob carver with all kinds of tone controls. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
"Don't need them; don't want them. And I don't want to pay for the cost increase that the inclusion of high quality tone controls in a product would lead to; this stuff is expensive enough as it is!"

Al - I feel the same. I want neutral system that plays what artist intended/approved. For the same reason I don't climb the stage during concert to adjust their tone to my liking.

I also noticed that with inexpensive receiver and speakers I had long time ago every record sounded bad without tone adjustment plus highs and lows were disappearing at low volumes. Today with very simple but better quality system (DAC+Power amp) every CD sounds different but nice and at low volume bass and treble are still there. I have no explanation for that but I would rather invest in quality than number of pieces in the chain. Tone controls or equalizers might help with bad room acoustics but it should be fixed with room treatments without sacrificing transparency.
The last time I recall actually using the tone controls when I had them was to sometimes adjust the sound of one source when my system was tuned for another, for example digital versus phono. Also sometimes to get speakers in different rooms to sound more similar. My system is a bit unique in this way in that I have 5 pairs of speakers in 5 different rooms all hooked into the same system. Getting each room to sound similarly good to my ears was not an easy task.

Then I set a goal to get each source and room to sound as similar as possible out of the box. Once I accomplished that to my satisfaction, the tone controls sat mostly unused. Now, I have everything pretty well tuned to a particular sound regardless of source or speaker/room combo, so tone controls are not missed.
You hit the nail on the head. If most audiophiles had any idea of what all can be achieved though the use of mastering level studio gear, they would quickly realize how silly the high-end's cable, component and tweaks/isolation/power-devices' "swap-trial-and-error rituals" really are.

One of these days, I'm going to have to make some time to post my reference system; as I'm now able to achieve everything that I want from it's sound reproduction, and all at a turn of a knob or two and/or a click of few switches. It so far beyond the realm of the high-end audio world that it makes the dogma of the audiophile's "purist's approach" appear not only stale and archaic but sheer lunacy!

You would think that with so many intelligent individuals in the ranks, more would have already figured it out; that it's all, after all, "The Great Audiophile Swindle!" But I guess that you need to know a little bit about the recording process, sound reproduction, acoustics, psychoacoustics, electronics and musical timbre, along with some common sense, to figure it out.
Carlos269- You are so right. We are lemmings into the sea! "Don't mind the man behind the curtain." On the other hand, what would I do with my free time if I didn't buy new stuff, change stuff around, spend hours listening to my rig, and log onto every audio website I can get my hands on?
If your preamp/amp has inserts, or a tape loop/monitor arrangement, the ideal method to give you sound shaping flexibility is to employ a top flight studio eq unit...

This will in 99% of cases provide a far higher fidelity and configurable/defeatable option than any internal circuit.

Manley make a couple of superb units, as do NEVE, and GML amongst many others, there are also numerous superb tube based mastering quality eq's, some active, some passive (i.e: no boosting, only cutting) which may prove equally effective or moreso !

Funny how some people 'can' the concept of EQ, when in fact most cables, speakers, etc... are all 'voiced' far from neutral by the designer !

More often than not the biggest EQ which many people are in denial of is their listening room/speaker interaction, so instead of treating the cause, they spend money in all the wrong places...'audiophiles' I think they call themselves, when in fact they have never taken time to study rudimentary acoustics theory, and understand very little about the actual recording or reproducing process.

All of that is fine of course, one doesn't need to be a Cordon Bleu chef to appreciate fine food, however more money often equates to less cents ;-)
Carlos, why did you wait until I spent so much money on gear to tell us/me my approach has been wrong all along? :) So yeah, show us an easier, more efficient and affordable way to do this.

I'm 42. I never had a stereo growing up. In the late 70s, the older kids in my neighborhood or my friends brothers all had stereo systems. I couldn't wait to earn some money and put together my own system. Back then, to me, these systems sounded awesome and....they all had tone controls. I don't remember looking for more bass or treble extension, it was all there if we needed it. These days, if your components are lacking in a given area, it seems like it takes a lot of effort to diagnose where the problem is and a lot of money to fix it with a room treatment, new cables, component swap ect.... I'm not pro or con either way on this, but it would be nice to turn a knob or push a button rather than investing in new cables, speakers, or whatever to get the sound one may prefer.
If you go to a quality steak house type restaurant you'll always find salt and pepper on the table. The chefs cook the food to your specification, but as the eater you have the option to slightly season your meal. That's kinda' what well designed tone controls can do. They give you the ability to add (or subtract) some of tonal flavor to a recording.

Some people have mentioned using studio oriented EQs. If you want to explore along those lines I would strongly recommend "program" type EQs over standard graphic or parametric designs. The Manley is an all-tube, passive design. Another interesting design is the Dangerous Music Bax.
I understand where you are coming from. I also started down the same path: buying the most expensive components I could afford, changing to the latest cables which magazine reviewers claimed to be the best thing since sliced bread......and then all of the sudden I started taking notice of the kind of world I was living in: $4,000.00 "Power-cords", $90 fuses, resistance compensating speaker cables and all the snake oil marketing, which has no real basis or foundation in science and engineering; so possessing advance degrees in both physics and electrical engineering, I said to myself this is all nonsense. Surely we should be able to manipulate all spatial and the musical presentation's parameters through electrical means, signal-processing?????? I then dove deep into the mastering world and discovered that studios DO posses such tools, signal processors to manipulate every aspect of the playback's presentation. Unfortunately, there is no free lunch as the top quality mastering gear is also extremely expensive, but you get away from the "blind" audiophile exercises to "known", predictable, repeatable, defeat-able and scale-able exercises. Let's just say that it's a great world. Haven you ever stopped and wondered why a remastered version of a recording can accomplish so much more than component swaps, and certainly more than gold fuses and $5K power-cords? Just think of the K2, XRCD, XRCD2, XRCD24 and K2HD remasters. Don't you wish you could do the same for any recording at home? Again, this is not plug and play like the component, cable swapping merry-go-around, as it does require you to know what the knobs and switches actually do and what effect they have on the recording; analogous to "anybody can get behind the wheel of a formula-1 race car, but only some one who knows what he has in front of him and knows how to use it will get the most out of it.

Onhwy61's recommendations are a good place to start.
YEs, one way to look at it is that you are at the mercy of the engineers who use sophisticated processing devices to muck with the purity of the sound. You need tone (and dynamic range) controls in order to fight back! Our masters are heavily armed so maybe we should be also? Or we can just be sitting ducks. Kind of like guns and self defense.

Or on the other hand, maybe we should just dump the picture adjustments on our TVs as well! They add all kinds of clearly visible distortion!
It is quite apparent that all of the people who want tone controls are equipment lovers as opposed to music lovers. With tone controls they can muck with the music. Tone controls are not illegal, add an equalizer.
What do you think microphone positioning does? Furthermore, recording engineers? Mastering engineers? What do you think is going on when you swap interconnects, speakers cables and power cords? Isolation devices, fuses, magic-pebbles and power conditioning devices? When you change listening positions? or room treatment? Or the temperature of the listening room or of the recording/performance's venue? When you adjust the volume? In your "music lover's head", what do you think is going on then?
If you go to a quality steak house type restaurant you'll always find salt and pepper on the table. The chefs cook the food to your specification, but as the eater you have the option to slightly season your meal.
Onhwy61's analogy is excellent, and actually one that I use to encourage casual listeners to stop abusing the tone controls - i.e. a fine steak doesn't deserve to get smothered in sauce the way you might a ground sirloin from a truck-stop. I think that a prerequesite for the proper application of tone controls is that the system first sound pleasing to the listener without them, on the majority of recordings for which its used . . .

This is similar to good studio practice, which holds that the first priority (after making sure the instruments themselves sound like they're supposed to) is to use the best microphone for the application, and the second is to place it properly, before any processing or EQ is applied.

But there are a few problems with this idea that by adding any EQ or processing on playback, you're somehow getting away from the artists' "true intention" of the recording. For instance, there is a huge percentage of recording and mastering facilities out there that have rather idiosyncratic acoustics and monitor setups. Mixing and mastering sessions are also very frequently conducted at SPL levels that are way too high, and not at all representative of the playback volume . . . consequently, so many of the people making decisions about the final mix have significant hearing damage -- which I think explains the excessive upper-midrange energy that's present on so many rock and pop recordings.

So insisting that a flat EQ be used on playback, for "pureist" reasons, is IMO akin to insisting that Beethoven's metronome markings always be adhered to literally . . . it simply doesn't work in practice. And if one's musical taste extends significantly into the realm of sub-optimally produced recordings, a little seasoning can make a huge difference, just like an excellent reduction sauce on a sub-par piece of meat. Which just happens to be one of the foundations of fine French cooking . . .
I have tone controls on my McIntosh C2300. They are completely defeatable and are removed from the signal path when defeated. That said, I use them when I play old vinyl from the 50's and 60's. I can add richness to the bass, cut hiss, and make older recordings much more listenable.

I like tone controls!
No tone or balance controls in my system. I do miss the balance control most of all. Some recordings just have an off stereo balance. And loudness compensation would be nice for listening in the evening.
The posts on this thread are driving me into "coniptions". You buy music created by people who have been inspired by the Gods, and you want to mess it up with "Tone controls".