Why All Hi-Fi Should Have Tone Controls, Including High-End.

IntelliVolume

Well-known Member
^^^

Hey! I loved those "component stack" things behind the smoked glass!
 

[email protected]

Active Member
I know it's been said before but surely it's just down to what your tastes are ? Direct on my set up sounds awfully flat and yes I even use loudness although the bass and treble settings are just a little above middle. I have a room to listen in but it's in a real house with real things and a system that only cost £1800 all in. But I love the sound and isn't that what matters ?
Not just taste. I have two systems. One sounds best flat. The other can use adjustment with tone controls. Difference in room and speakers. Not just taste.
 

norliss

Well-known Member
Alan Sugar himself once referred to Amstrad HiFi as "a mug's eyeful" which is actually a great description of that garbage!
 

Mr_Movie_Dog

Standard Member
Pretty much a silly question. For those purists that think no controls is the way to go because it muddies your signal paths, well sure anytime you add components to a circuit you get more noise and you can get signal loss. So with that thought shouldn't the studio's not use mixing boards and a large array of other forms to shape the sounds they are recording. Maybe guitarists shouldn't use loopers, delay, overdrive, and distortion pedals? I totally agree with the common sense, no snob approach of the author of this article.
 

phil t

Well-known Member
Pretty much a silly question. For those purists that think no controls is the way to go because it muddies your signal paths, well sure anytime you add components to a circuit you get more noise and you can get signal loss. So with that thought shouldn't the studio's not use mixing boards and a large array of other forms to shape the sounds they are recording. Maybe guitarists shouldn't use loopers, delay, overdrive, and distortion pedals? I totally agree with the common sense, no snob approach of the author of this article.
There are recording labels who just use a crossed stereo pair straight to Dat and nothing more.
 

IntelliVolume

Well-known Member
Wanna hear something that's sillier?

I just read a customer "review" someone did on Crutchfield's site for the Panasonic DP-UB9000 UHD Blu-ray player he/she just purchased, and the individual made some kind of reference to the fact that Panasonic was right to not include a power LED indicator on the player because this "introduces noise"...
 

old45s

Standard Member
You usually find that in this forum (and the S.H. Forum) that the people that say your system doesn't require tone controls are the people who have already outlaid thousands of bucks for Amps with no tone controls and are simply justifying their purchase.. they're simply putting up with no tone controls but (secretly) wish they had them. Of course they'll never admit it!
 

NEW MUSIC

Standard Member
You usually find that in this forum (and the S.H. Forum) that the people that say your system doesn't require tone controls are the people who have already outlaid thousands of bucks for Amps with no tone controls and are simply justifying their purchase.. they're simply putting up with no tone controls but (secretly) wish they had them. Of course they'll never admit it!
Hi Old 45s

I must confess that this hadn't occurred to me, but you might have something there.

Look out for a summarise in about a week or so on my part as I feel that most points of view have been put across now.

Keith
 

AndreNewman

Active Member
Then there's the, no tone controls but I just bought a minidsp, brigade!
 

Hear Here

Active Member
Keith - The main reason that tone controls (and also graphic equalisers) went out of fashion decades ago is simply sound quality. Putting the signal through this additional processing circuit adversely affects the fidelity of the music. With mid-fi equipment (the most likely to feature tone controls) feeding mediocre speakers, the un-critical listener will not realise that some potential sound quality has been lost.

The listener who wants to hear his music in ultimate fidelity will forego this apparently useful feature to maintain the excitement factor of the original performance that was recorded in the studio.

Ultimately the fewer stages of processing circuitry the better, so ideally no tone controls and not even DSP room correction. The latter (and to a certain extent the former) is designed to adjust the sound to correct for poor room acoustics, but far better is to get the room acoustics improved by other means such as speaker placement, use of furniture, carpets and curtains, etc.

If you really feel your room is so bad (or your speakers or even amp) that tone controls or DSP is necessary, don't add these circuits to full-range amps as the top end in particular (the part that conveys the "tingle-factor" in music) is degraded by this unnecessary signal processing. Instead look towards bi-amping and add DSP to the bass amp only. This is the area where room acoustics most spoils the speakers' performance, but leave the much more critical (for ultimate music enjoyment) upper frequency range un-molested by room correction processing.

There’ll be howls of protest at this logical argument from the multitude of Lyngdorf users who have strayed to this forum from the more appropriate AV forum, but all DSPs do add an extra stage of signal processing that should be avoided if possible, particularly the top end. Peter
 

ddlooping

Active Member
Keith - The main reason that tone controls (and also graphic equalisers) went out of fashion decades ago is simply sound quality.
I personally think marketing has more to do with it.
"Our pre/amp... is so good it doesn't need no stinking tone controls!!"

The listener who wants to hear his music in ultimate fidelity will forego this apparently useful feature to maintain the excitement factor of the original performance that was recorded in the studio.
I do not want to hear the music in "ultimate fidelity".
I want to enjoy the music on my own terms, not based, for example, on "What the artist intended" (how the hell would one know what the artist intended anyway? :D )
What if :
  • the recording is not good?
  • the mastering engineer did a poor job?
  • my room deadens the sound/bloats the bass
  • I have hearing loss in the highs/lows?
  • ...

Music, like any other form of "art", is mainly meant to trigger emotions.
What if one needs to turn the bass up or tame the treble (or do whatever he/she feels improves their experience) to make the triggering easier or the emotions more pronounced?

Also, I'd be extremely surprised if a well implemented tone control would "degrade" the sound so much that the vast majority of audiophiles could hear a difference in a blind test (same amps, one with tone controls at 0, the other with no tone control).
 
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ddlooping

Active Member
P.S: regarding "What the artist intended"...

Actually, there's probably one thing we can assume all artists intend (or hope for), which is for their "art" to be appreciated.
I personally think they wouldn't give a monkey's if one would use tone controls or not to achieve that goal. :)
 

NEW MUSIC

Standard Member
Keith - The main reason that tone controls (and also graphic equalisers) went out of fashion decades ago is simply sound quality. Putting the signal through this additional processing circuit adversely affects the fidelity of the music. With mid-fi equipment (the most likely to feature tone controls) feeding mediocre speakers, the un-critical listener will not realise that some potential sound quality has been lost.

The listener who wants to hear his music in ultimate fidelity will forego this apparently useful feature to maintain the excitement factor of the original performance that was recorded in the studio.

Ultimately the fewer stages of processing circuitry the better, so ideally no tone controls and not even DSP room correction. The latter (and to a certain extent the former) is designed to adjust the sound to correct for poor room acoustics, but far better is to get the room acoustics improved by other means such as speaker placement, use of furniture, carpets and curtains, etc.

If you really feel your room is so bad (or your speakers or even amp) that tone controls or DSP is necessary, don't add these circuits to full-range amps as the top end in particular (the part that conveys the "tingle-factor" in music) is degraded by this unnecessary signal processing. Instead look towards bi-amping and add DSP to the bass amp only. This is the area where room acoustics most spoils the speakers' performance, but leave the much more critical (for ultimate music enjoyment) upper frequency range un-molested by room correction processing.

There’ll be howls of protest at this logical argument from the multitude of Lyngdorf users who have strayed to this forum from the more appropriate AV forum, but all DSPs do add an extra stage of signal processing that should be avoided if possible, particularly the top end. Peter

Hi - Hear Here

Thank god graphic equalisers went out of fashion as they did more harm than good in the wrong hands, but I would not agree regarding tone controls, yes the more circuitry the signal goes through the more it can degrade. However I did cover this point before and as I know a very qualified electronic expert I asked him this question before and he said, yes the more circuity the signal has to go through the more it degrades, but consider how much difference it makes to the overall path I.E. how many components has the signal passed through anyway in that unit alone without tone controls adding these into a circuit (assuming that all the components in the unit are of decent quality) would make very little difference what so ever, in fact the benefits may outweigh the very minor loss that you may or may not be able to hear. Actually when he said would make very little difference that was my wording he said the difference would be like P…… in the sea.

Tone controls have not disappeared it’s just most (not all) Hi-End units do not have them as I said when I started this forum a status thing for some, there are some Hi-End units out there with tone controls take a look at Yamaha C-5000 pre-amp this has tone controls also there slightly lower models that are integrated these to incorporate tone controls plus I have not heard it but the integrated PMC Cor amp also has tone controls that (I am told) is Hi-End and getting very good reviews. As I have already said (and others) every pre-amp should incorporate tone controls but have a by-pass switch so you have a choice to use if required.

I can understand that people want the sound as intended by the artist but my understanding is that unless you are such a massive artist they are at the hands of the sound engineer and producer who say they know best regarding the recording ! also (I think I have mentioned this before) groups / bands that have their own mixing desk and sound engineer when out on the road spend a lot of time getting the sound on how they want to be heard and a lot of the time let’s just say there is far more bass and treble live than on the recording.

What you say regarding very poor acoustics in some rooms I can understand but also pleased that’s not the case for myself but for those who are affected I feel sorry for you, another contributor to this forum said those in these situations headphones are a good solution which makes sense, not to sure regarding DSP though I thought this made more changes to the dynamics of the sound then tone controls. Yes using more than one amplifier Bi- amplification makes a massive difference to the sound quality 3 or 4 way in a night club with a few hundred people dancing as so much is affecting the sound and constantly changing (I know this from my younger days as a club DJ) but in you front room I would say good quality cross overs in your speakers should be sufficient.

But as always enjoying your music is what’s it’s all about I just think the Hi-fi manufacturers could give us a little more for less cost so Hi-Fi systems would sell in far greater numbers that way more people can enjoy good sound quality rather than all this compressed stuff.

Keith
 

NEW MUSIC

Standard Member
I personally think marketing has more to do with it.
"Our pre/amp... is so good it doesn't need no stinking tone controls!!"


I do not want to hear the music in "ultimate fidelity".
I want to enjoy the music on my own terms, not based, for example, on "What the artist intended" (how the hell would one know what the artist intended anyway? :D )
What if :
  • the recording is not good?
  • the mastering engineer did a poor job?
  • my room deadens the sound/bloats the bass
  • I have hearing loss in the highs/lows?
  • ...

Music, like any other form of "art", is mainly meant to trigger emotions.
What if one needs to turn the bass up or tame the treble (or do whatever he/she feels improves their experience) to make the triggering easier or the emotions more pronounced?

Also, I'd be extremely surprised if a well implemented tone control would "degrade" the sound so much that the vast majority of audiophiles could hear a difference in a blind test (same amps, one with tone controls at 0, the other with no tone control).

Hi Ddlooping

I could not agree with you more what you have said hits it straight on the head as they say, so many things effect the recording especially the condition of the engineer (have a good story about that).

Also what the Hi-End manufacturers (without tone controls) forget to mention is that there system may sound different to other Hi-End systems on the market, why if it's as it was meant to sound !!! they should all sound the same shouldn't they, oh no they tweak it to what they think sounds best.

Thanks for every ones input.

Keith
 

NEW MUSIC

Standard Member
Why All Hi-Fi Should Have Tone Controls, Including High-End
Summery – In my opinion.

I still feel that having no tone controls on high-end Hi-Fi is a status thing for some people.

If they recorded your 3 favourite tracks in the top 10 studios they would all sound different.

When the artist / band have involvement in how they want you hear them live, then most probably the sound is different to their record.

Vinyl, if you have the perfect recording that is pressed using a high grade plastic it may sound fantastic, now the same press on a different batch of plastic or many pressing later may be just slightly different.

How many people have the perfect room for listing, for most it’s their front room with various items of furniture within in it. There is always a balance control as not everyone can place their speakers in the perfect listing position so why not tone controls.

Other formats that you may have connected to your system, CD, Tuner, Streamer, Cassette player will all bit different regarding the sound they deliver, if you have the same album on vinyl and CD they will almost certainly sound a little different.

Let’s just say you have the pre-amp and power amp of your dreams, what about the rest of your system, does this need a slight tweak until that part can be upgraded. Not forgetting your speakers.

And of course the main and last link in your system, YOU. Not everyone’s hearing is perfect and as you get older some people have a slight loss in certain sound ranges.

Why do Hi-End systems with no tone controls all sound different, surely if it’s as intended they would all sound the same, genuine true sound.

Yes the more circuitry the signal goes through the more it can degrade but consider this. How much difference does it makes to the overall path by adding tone controls I.E. how many components has the signal passed through anyway in that unit alone without tone controls adding these into a circuit (assuming that all the components in the unit are of decent quality) would make very little difference what so ever, in fact the benefits may outweigh the very minor loss that you may or may not be able to hear.

Also with reference to added circuitry there is far more effects and EQ adjustments in a studio these days than any Hi-Fi so how pure is the source.

I don’t think there is the perfect source as to many variables in the studios and the sound engineers, but that’s a good thing it’s individuality that has given us some of the best music ever.

Other suggestions have been DSP and other ways to compensate poor room acoustics but a number of these affect the sound dynamics more than tone controls.

Not just myself but a number of people agree that having tone controls but with a bypass switch so they are there if you need them and removed from the circuit when not.

This way everyone is catered for, poor or different source, your room dynamics changing or you just get a bit older and need a tweak due to hearing changes.

So come on Hi-Fi manufacturers get your act together make a top-end system for the masses at a reasonable price and you just may make lots of money in the process.

I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to contribute to this forum it’s been very interesting and I have learned things I did not know prior. I think it’s run its course now and not much else could be said but then again who knows, feel free to post something new as I will be watching.

A very rough figure of around 65% of you are in favour of tone controls but this may be a bit less as from some posts you could not be sure due to the conversation.

But what I feel we all have in common and agreement on is our love of music and how it can makes you feel, that’s what’s it’s all about.

Should this be of interest to you.

As I am so passionate about my music and how we get it I have started a new forum around digital downloads and there quality (ones that we pay for). So if this is of interest to you please go to:

Why are the digital downloads we purchase not as good as they could be.

Hi-Fi forums
Hi-Fi stereo systems & separates
Music streamers

Once again thanks for everyone’s input.

Keith
 

harkpabst

Active Member
There’ll be howls of protest at this logical argument from the multitude of Lyngdorf users who have strayed to this forum from the more appropriate AV forum, but all DSPs do add an extra stage of signal processing that should be avoided if possible, particularly the top end. Peter
You're right, Peter, there'll be howls of protest. Unfortunately you are wrong regarding everything else.
Can you define "an extra stage of signal processing"? What you consider to be "music" has been "processed" hundreds of times while creating the "source" you and I are listening to. Analogue ... digital ... whatever ...

The least number of (active?) elements between you LP, CD or download and you speakers does not ensure the most pure listening. Sorry.

Why are the digital downloads we purchase not as good as they could be.

Hi-Fi forums
Hi-Fi stereo systems & separates
Music streamers
LOL! All this fuss just to promote your own forum? Really? That's not even funny anymore.

I feel sad for those who fell for you and I feel very happy about avforums.com removing the link to your pothole.
 

Khazul

Well-known Member
What you consider to be "music" has been "processed" hundreds of times while creating the "source" you and I are listening to. Analogue ... digital ... whatever ...

That should be thought of more like sculpting a work of art rather than a long processing chain. I might have run half the mix through a bit crusher (think of bit crusher simplistically as like a very low bit count ADC/DAC process at maybe a really low sample rate too), but I still worked creatively to get the resulting tonality in the final mix.

A layman may well start ranting WTF - that means the audio is only 4 bit resolution at 1k sample rate blah blah... No - its the end result that matters not how you got there.

Truthfully most parts (instruments, vocals etc) can sound terrible in isolation going on to the mix bus because they have be carefully crafted to sit alongside other parts to create the desired whole while maybe enhancing the clarity of each part in that context. Some of the gear we might have used to get there may well be quite shocking to people spending 10s of thousands chasing down their perfect hifi system to listen to it on :)

The least number of (active?) elements between you LP, CD or download and you speakers does not ensure the most pure listening. Sorry.

Same is true in electronics. I am pretty sure my amp (having examined its schematic) has loads of components you could get away without, but each contributes to the whole in some way often improving the stability and/or precision of such circuits (and balanced signal handling needs to pretty much double up as well). The one exception - the tone circuits - they have bypass relays :)
 

harkpabst

Active Member
Truthfully most parts (instruments, vocals etc) can sound terrible in isolation going on to the mix bus because they have be carefully crafted to sit alongside other parts to create the desired whole while maybe enhancing the clarity of each part in that context. Some of the gear we might have used to get there may well be quite shocking to people spending 10s of thousands chasing down their perfect hifi system to listen to it on :)
You really think that engineers like me are too stupid to separate an instrument from the recording process? Come on, that's plain silly.

You are not clear about what your role is in music production. But you should be aware that every mixing console contains dozens and dozens of OP amps (equaling "processing stages" in this stupid discussion).

Same is true in electronics. I am pretty sure my amp (having examined its schematic) has loads of components you could get away without, but each contributes to the whole in some way often improving the stability and/or precision of such circuits (and balanced signal handling needs to pretty much double up as well). The one exception - the tone circuits - they have bypass relays :)
Well ... "each contributes to the whole" could be a nice summary of somebody falsely interpreting an amp as a piece of art rather than a piece of engineering. I'm pleased to see that your concept of circuitry goes a little further.

However, the main argument against the mandatory need for tone controls (as proposed in this thread) is not even the fact that they could harm the otherwise (magically) perfect signal. The main argument bis that traditional tone controls are randomly different from one amp to another. There's no point in believing that just any sort of tone control (no matter how it works) could fix even one of the many proposed problems with rooms, records and personal taste.

There is no such thing as a standard for tone controls.
 

NEW MUSIC

Standard Member
LOL! All this fuss just to promote your own forum? Really? That's not even funny anymore.

I feel sad for those who fell for you and I feel very happy about avforums.com removing the link to your pothole.

Hi Harkpabst

Sorry to disappoint you but there was no ulterior motive as to why I mentioned another forum.
I am just an old man who is passionate about my music, the equipment and the format we listen to it on.

When I was 8 years old I got my first reel to reel tape recorder and from that day on was obsessed with doing my best to get good sound, so what annoys me is there is fascistic technology available yet the formats we can access our music on either degrades or not as good as it could be.

So when my friends son who buys far more downloads than I do (and feels the same way about the quality) herd me say I was going to do a thread about the downloads he said, put a note at the end as there is something called (can’t remember what he said) that people who are interested in the current thread, there would be a percentage of those who would also be interested in the new one, shared interest or something !.

So no conspiracy just you might want to see this if this is of interest to you.

Keith
 

Khazul

Well-known Member
me are too stupid
Apparently so...

I do not understand what I have said that justifies such an obnoxious response.

Earlier posts should make some of my views on tone controls quite clear. I don't really use them because mostly I find them mostly useless these days.
 
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harkpabst

Active Member
... so what annoys me is there is fascistic technology available ...
I'm sure you didn't mean to say that.

Anyhow, you keep repeating the same things: Those who are against "tone controls" are in the wrong believe they would alter the sound which is wrong because even if it was true a bypass switch was all that is needed to cure the problem.

This is oversimplified to the point where it doesn't make sense so I will take the freedom to me repeat my point once more: Tho problem with traditional tone controls is not (in the first place) their sheer existence doing too much harm to the music. The real problem is that they don't do much good.

Most untrained listeners always prefer more bass over less bass. Give them a bass control and they will crank it up, no matter if the manufacturer choose to boost 50 Hz, 150 Hz or anything in between. No matter if it's designed to create a rather narrow or rather broad peak. More is better. Almost the same goes for highs where typical simple tone controls might work anywhere between 5 and 12 kHz. Now, if playing around with these controls gives you a more pleasant listening that's just fine. It's just most probably not objectively "improving" the quality of playback. It's just masking unpleasant defects with more pleasant ones.

Surely there are reasons why one might want to alter the sound of a recording, some valid, some rather bizarre. I have pointed to the tone controls of gear like the Quad 44 or Quad 34 pre-amp which were brilliantly designed to effectively solve typical real-world problems. It is just not enough to get up and shout: All Hi-fi should have tone controls. The answer from my part is still: No!
 

GreyPoppy

Standard Member
I’ve read almost all of this thread and clearly either side can happily be certain of the need for, or the disastrous consequences of, tone controls. So I’ll relate my personal experience on this. I’ve always been lukewarm about tone controls becsuse whenever I’ve had them I’ve almost never used them. We get our system how we like it, and short of recovering a damaged or intrinsically low-quality recording (which I’d do with studio equipment, not hifi) my system plays music pretty well, whatever the genre and however recorded. I never ask the violins at a concert to turn it up because my hearing’s a bit dull that day, and I never complain if concert hall X is boomier or drier than concert hall Y.

I don’t think the loss of quality caused by tone controls is anything to do with circuit complexity. When I was at boarding school in the 1960s/1970s, many of us aspired towards quality audio systems, though not many of us achieved them while at school. Nonetheless, at school, university and for some years after that I heard many hifi systems of all sizes and values, and tge ones that sounded worst were undoubtedly the ones with wildly-set tone controls. Partly because that’s not good for sound quality, but also because the systems whose owners had abused the tone controls were much more likely to have other problems like poor speaker placement, badly set-up turntables, mis-matched components, you name it, I saw and heard it! Is it any wonder that I and others reflected on that and formed a (probably unconscious) conclusion that systems you don’t fiddle with all the time are stronger, better, cleaner, more desirable?

Now I do have my own listening room my stereo system is “pure” and I’d had my Audiolab 6000 amp for over a year before I realised it doesn’t have tone controls. And even then, I wasn’t looking for them. And I listen to stereo on our AV system fairly often, but always with all DSP bypassed. I watch video with all that switched in, but I most definitely prefer straight playback on all my music, LP, CD, SACD and streamed.

I’m not taking sides; just presenting my experience. I do have a friend though (still!) who always goes on about how much better my stereo system is than his. But he always has some tone control/loudness in operation and even with a pair of my speakers on the end of his otherwise comparable quality kit, it’s never quite the same. There are almost undoubtedly other issues involved, but I’m beginning to think that having no tone controls forces you to directly and positively address whatever hampers the performance of your system, and my friend does roll his eyes at some of the troubles I’ve taken to optimise my own system.

There. Make of it what you will. Half a century of casual listening dressed up as knowhow, I shouldn’t wonder …
 

harkpabst

Active Member
Apparently so...

Not to mention obnoxious for no reason.
Did I personally insult you? If so, this wasn't my intention. Fortunately, you can handle it very maturely.

You cannot tell by looking at the schematics alone which parts could be removed (in your usecase). Period. I don't feel like discussing this in depth here, but will give one simple example: Pretty much all op-amp based gear designed in past decades will make use of DC decoupling capacitors between stages. Today's audio optimized op-amps have practically zero DC offset, so you can often change op-amps with no or almost no changes to the original circuit design and get rid of those caps, leading to a shorter signal path. Good or bad? Up to you.
 

ddlooping

Active Member
... Now, if playing around with these controls gives you a more pleasant listening that's just fine.
Glad to hear it :)
It's just most probably not objectively "improving" the quality of playback. It's just masking unpleasant defects with more pleasant ones.
Who cares what it does and how it does it if the end result is "a more pleasant listening" for the listener? :/
 

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