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Audiophile amplifier with Tone Controls... Does it exist?

YiannisK

New member
Apr 30, 2015
9
0
0
I know... tone controls are considered bad. Room treatment, good system matching proper speaker positioning are the way to go. This is what I have been doing (trying) for the past few years with my main and secondary systems and I have gladly paid the 'price' which entails practical sacrifices in the living room. My primary and second system are great and have no complaints. That is until I decided to use them for movie watching. The word to describe the experience is: FAIL. The problem is this: Movies have a wide dynamic range and sound is super uncomfortable with loud explosions and very low level speech. I am sure you know the scenario... explosion: Run for the remote to reduce volume. Speech: Run for the remote to increase volume so you can hear better. Even when it comes to music, my second system is problematic. I don't have any option to treat the room and the speakers are not ideally placed. As a result I get a boomy sound which begs for some eq correction. Unfortunately my Rega amplifiers (Elicit II) have no tone controls.

For movies I have tried: i) Kodi on laptop, ii) Apple TV4, iii) Nvidia Shield TV. Kodi is the best solution so far as it offers a dynamic compression option but I absolutely hate using a full on pc as htpc. The Nvidia Shiled is better option but Android crashes on me occasionally. Apple TV4 is the easiest to use but you cannot load Kodi (at least not without hassle) and the 'reduce loud sounds' option is terrible. In fact, itunes movies were the worst when it comes to sound quality. Very low level speech and boomy explosions.

For music: I use Roon and it is amazing. It offers a wonderful DSP which does everything I need. My main system needs no correction at all but my second system suffers from a boomy sound (due to bad speaker positioning) and Roon helps me get rid of that (low frequency attenuation ).

I am however still stuck with bad sound for movies especially in my secondary system. I am slowly admiting defeat and considering replacing this second system with an amp that offers tone controls. Ideally I would like to find an amplifier that offers the punchy sound of Rega but with the added option of (defeatable) tone controls. Price range would be the same as a Rega Elicit (around £1600) and I would consider second hand as well.

Sorry for the rambling post. Anything that you could recommend I try?

Many thanks
 

Macspur

Well-known member
May 3, 2010
77
0
18,540
YiannisK said:
I know... tone controls are considered bad. Room treatment, good system matching proper speaker positioning are the way to go. This is what I have been doing (trying) for the past few years with my main and secondary systems and I have gladly paid the 'price' which entails practical sacrifices in the living room. My primary and second system are great and have no complaints. That is until I decided to use them for movie watching. The word to describe the experience is: FAIL. The problem is this: Movies have a wide dynamic range and sound is super uncomfortable with loud explosions and very low level speech. I am sure you know the scenario... explosion: Run for the remote to reduce volume. Speech: Run for the remote to increase volume so you can hear better. Even when it comes to music, my second system is problematic. I don't have any option to treat the room and the speakers are not ideally placed. As a result I get a boomy sound which begs for some eq correction. Unfortunately my Rega amplifiers (Elicit II) have no tone controls.

For movies I have tried: i) Kodi on laptop, ii) Apple TV4, iii) Nvidia Shield TV. Kodi is the best solution so far as it offers a dynamic compression option but I absolutely hate using a full on pc as htpc. The Nvidia Shiled is better option but Android crashes on me occasionally. Apple TV4 is the easiest to use but you cannot load Kodi (at least not without hassle) and the 'reduce loud sounds' option is terrible. In fact, itunes movies were the worst when it comes to sound quality. Very low level speech and boomy explosions.

For music: I use Roon and it is amazing. It offers a wonderful DSP which does everything I need. My main system needs no correction at all but my second system suffers from a boomy sound (due to bad speaker positioning) and Roon helps me get rid of that (low frequency attenuation ).

I am however still stuck with bad sound for movies especially in my secondary system. I am slowly admiting defeat and considering replacing this second system with an amp that offers tone controls. Ideally I would like to find an amplifier that offers the punchy sound of Rega but with the added option of (defeatable) tone controls. Price range would be the same as a Rega Elicit (around £1600) and I would consider second hand as well.

Sorry for the rambling post. Anything that you could recommend I try?

Many thanks
Off the top of my head I don't know any amps with tone controls at that price point.

Nowadays it's the more high end amps that have them, Luxman, Accuphase, or Mcintosh.

You could try scanning the likes of Ebay and you might get lucky.

Personally, tone controls are a must.

I'm sure there will be plenty of other advice coming along re room correction etc, Ellisdj is supposed to be pretty hot on that kind of thing.

Good luck

Mac

www.realmusicnet.wordpress.com
 

tonky

New member
Jan 2, 2008
36
0
0
I dislike the idea of tone controls - but - the Marantz 8005 integrated is a fine sounding amp with bass and treble (defeatable) controls.

I had difficult with a cambridge amp sounding decent with tv and movies etc ( sounded good with music CDs etc) FWIW it had defeatable tone controls - hardly made any difference - far too subtle - and a slight degradation in sound quality.

Now I have a Naim Unitilite - sounds excellent musically and does a much much better job with the tv and blu rays etc.

Anyway - the Marantz is a decent price too - great value inmho. - try before you buy - see if you think they will do the attenuation you desire

cheers tonky
 

YiannisK

New member
Apr 30, 2015
9
0
0
Cheers tonky, you make a very good point actually. I cannot be sure if the tone controls are going to be the solution but I have ran out of ideas sadly.

If only those streaming boxes (Apple TV, Nvidia Shield etc.) could allow for a system eq.

I will look at the Marantz for sure. I can also see that the PM7005 offers digital inputs (great price). Not sure about the Marantz sound as I have not heard one but it is rumoured to be a warm and cuddly sound (whatever that means).

tonky said:
I dislike the idea of tone controls - but - the Marantz 8005 integrated is a fine sounding amp with bass and treble (defeatable) controls.

I had difficult with a cambridge amp sounding decent with tv and movies etc ( sounded good with music CDs etc) FWIW it had defeatable tone controls - hardly made any difference - far too subtle - and a slight degradation in sound quality.

Now I have a Naim Unitilite - sounds excellent musically and does a much much better job with the tv and blu rays etc.

Anyway - the Marantz is a decent price too - great value inmho. - try before you buy - see if you think they will do the attenuation you desire

cheers tonky
 

YiannisK

New member
Apr 30, 2015
9
0
0
Many thansk for the ideas Macspur. Much appreciated.

Macspur said:
YiannisK said:
I know... tone controls are considered bad. Room treatment, good system matching proper speaker positioning are the way to go. This is what I have been doing (trying) for the past few years with my main and secondary systems and I have gladly paid the 'price' which entails practical sacrifices in the living room. My primary and second system are great and have no complaints. That is until I decided to use them for movie watching. The word to describe the experience is: FAIL. The problem is this: Movies have a wide dynamic range and sound is super uncomfortable with loud explosions and very low level speech. I am sure you know the scenario... explosion: Run for the remote to reduce volume. Speech: Run for the remote to increase volume so you can hear better. Even when it comes to music, my second system is problematic. I don't have any option to treat the room and the speakers are not ideally placed. As a result I get a boomy sound which begs for some eq correction. Unfortunately my Rega amplifiers (Elicit II) have no tone controls.

For movies I have tried: i) Kodi on laptop, ii) Apple TV4, iii) Nvidia Shield TV. Kodi is the best solution so far as it offers a dynamic compression option but I absolutely hate using a full on pc as htpc. The Nvidia Shiled is better option but Android crashes on me occasionally. Apple TV4 is the easiest to use but you cannot load Kodi (at least not without hassle) and the 'reduce loud sounds' option is terrible. In fact, itunes movies were the worst when it comes to sound quality. Very low level speech and boomy explosions.

For music: I use Roon and it is amazing. It offers a wonderful DSP which does everything I need. My main system needs no correction at all but my second system suffers from a boomy sound (due to bad speaker positioning) and Roon helps me get rid of that (low frequency attenuation ).

I am however still stuck with bad sound for movies especially in my secondary system. I am slowly admiting defeat and considering replacing this second system with an amp that offers tone controls. Ideally I would like to find an amplifier that offers the punchy sound of Rega but with the added option of (defeatable) tone controls. Price range would be the same as a Rega Elicit (around £1600) and I would consider second hand as well.

Sorry for the rambling post. Anything that you could recommend I try?

Many thanks
Off the top of my head I don't know any amps with tone controls at that price point.

Nowadays it's the more high end amps that have them, Luxman, Accuphase, or Mcintosh.

You could try scanning the likes of Ebay and you might get lucky.

Personally, tone controls are a must.

I'm sure there will be plenty of other advice coming along re room correction etc, Ellisdj is supposed to be pretty hot on that kind of thing.

Good luck

Mac

www.realmusicnet.wordpress.com
 

Nelis87

Well-known member
Nov 24, 2014
24
2
10,520
The Pioneer A70-DA is a wonderfull 17kg amp and according to some reviewers a reference amp in its price class. It should give you all the options you are looking for. I can vouch for Pioneer stereo equipment. If its really the solution for your problem is an other story.
 

insider9

Well-known member
Sep 20, 2016
853
399
5,270
Audio for movies is recorded in more than 2 channels. If you're using an optical out from for TV you're sending a surround sound to your 2 channel amp/dac. No amount of EQ will counteract that.

Your stereo amp/dac does the best it can with it but won't play channels it doesn't have and will have a hard time correctly interpreting the signal.

In reality any home cinema amp with a centre speaker (even second hand from eBay worth £20) would do better for movies. So you either need a centre and an AV amp or a way to convert surround signal to stereo.

The easiest way to do it is as a test plug in headphones to your TV and play around with settings until it sounds good on headphones. TV will have virtual surround sound options etc. and via analogue will no longer send a surround sound, just 2 channels.

If you're happy with results connect your TV directly to your Rega from headphone out to RCA (no DAC necessary). You'll need an appropriate cable if you haven't got one. It's bound to sound acceptable to say the least with hardly any expense.
 

lindsayt

New member
Apr 8, 2011
16
2
0
YiannisK, how does your system sound for watching TV, EG the News?

How does it sound for vintage films, EG Laurel and Hardy?

If it sounds OK for them, then it sounds like the issue is that your movie source is not good at mixing 5.1 / 7.1 / Dolby Atmos film soundtracks down into 2.0 stereo.

And that the solution would be to add a centre speaker and the processing and amplification to mix film soundtracks into a 3.0 speaker system.

I'm assuming that you don't want to go the whole AV hog and get something like a 5.0 / 5.1 etc speaker system?

For the centre speaker it doesn't have to be anything particularly good for music. It just has to be something with an OK midrange, IE acceptable for speech. To keep costs down you could go for a small used £20 1990's speaker - eg something from Mission. Then you'd also need an AV receiver. They are cheap used as the technology keeps moving on to the next latest craze - EG Dolby Atmos - which makes last year's AV receivers undesrable and cheap even though they could do a good job for you. Just make sure that whatever you buy is in full working order and has the inputs that you require - EG HDMI.

For music - chances are - the AV receiver will sound a bit worse than your existing stereo amplification. For modern films - assuming you add at least a centre speaker - the overall sound should be much better - going by your description.

By using compression on film sound tracks you are just fixing one problem by creating another problem that makes the effects of the first problem less noticeable. Surely the better solution would be to fix the initial problem?

A decent home AV system gives you sound quality broadly on a par with going to your local multiplex. You don't have to put up with mumbly dialogue and explosions that are too loud.
 

YiannisK

New member
Apr 30, 2015
9
0
0
Many thanks and indeed a great idea. Unfortunatly my Samsung 6400 UHD tv does not have an analogue out for Audio (only optical). Otherwise it would have worked perfectly.

insider9 said:
Audio for movies is recorded in more than 2 channels. If you're using an optical out from for TV you're sending a surround sound to your 2 channel amp/dac. No amount of EQ will counteract that.

Your stereo amp/dac does the best it can with it but won't play channels it doesn't have and will have a hard time correctly interpreting the signal.

In reality any home cinema amp with a centre speaker (even second hand from eBay worth £20) would do better for movies. So you either need a centre and an AV amp or a way to convert surround signal to stereo.

The easiest way to do it is as a test plug in headphones to your TV and play around with settings until it sounds good on headphones. TV will have virtual surround sound options etc. and via analogue will no longer send a surround sound, just 2 channels.

If you're happy with results connect your TV directly to your Rega from headphone out to RCA (no DAC necessary). You'll need an appropriate cable if you haven't got one. It's bound to sound acceptable to say the least with hardly any expense.
 

YiannisK

New member
Apr 30, 2015
9
0
0
Hi Lindsayt and thank you for the detailed response. I have not tried a vintage movie in quite a while but I recall playing the African Queen and the problems were present there too. I have considered going down the AV receiver path but to be honest the priority is music and I would like to avoid multiple speakers. Overall my usage is 70% music and 30% movies, it is just that at the moment I cannot enjoy the 30% at all due to the terrible audio. A hybrid based on your suggestion would be to find an AV preamp / processor to connect to my amp. Maybe that would work better with movies. I am just not sure if that would be better than an amp with tone controls.

Cheers

Yiannis

lindsayt said:
YiannisK, how does your system sound for watching TV, EG the News?

How does it sound for vintage films, EG Laurel and Hardy?

If it sounds OK for them, then it sounds like the issue is that your movie source is not good at mixing 5.1 / 7.1 / Dolby Atmos film soundtracks down into 2.0 stereo.

And that the solution would be to add a centre speaker and the processing and amplification to mix film soundtracks into a 3.0 speaker system.

I'm assuming that you don't want to go the whole AV hog and get something like a 5.0 / 5.1 etc speaker system?

For the centre speaker it doesn't have to be anything particularly good for music. It just has to be something with an OK midrange, IE acceptable for speech. To keep costs down you could go for a small used £20 1990's speaker - eg something from Mission. Then you'd also need an AV receiver. They are cheap used as the technology keeps moving on to the next latest craze - EG Dolby Atmos - which makes last year's AV receivers undesrable and cheap even though they could do a good job for you. Just make sure that whatever you buy is in full working order and has the inputs that you require - EG HDMI.

For music - chances are - the AV receiver will sound a bit worse than your existing stereo amplification. For modern films - assuming you add at least a centre speaker - the overall sound should be much better - going by your description.

By using compression on film sound tracks you are just fixing one problem by creating another problem that makes the effects of the first problem less noticeable. Surely the better solution would be to fix the initial problem?

A decent home AV system gives you sound quality broadly on a par with going to your local multiplex. You don't have to put up with mumbly dialogue and explosions that are too loud.
 
Whilst they will help, I don't think tone controls will solve the issue, as A bass control and A treble control work over a certain range, so if you're attenuating a peak in the bass, you could end up listening to no bass at all once you have that peak tamed. You'd be much better off with a PEQ (parametric equaliser), which will allow you to tame specific peaks, and choose the range the attenuation has an effect, so as not to reduce bass of the frequencies you don't want to reduce. If things are that bad, you could look at the miniDSP or DSpeaker products.

If you use normal tone controls, I would only use them subtlety - no more than +/- 3dB. This was why I used to like the tone controls on the old Audiolab 8000A, they didn't spoil the sound and were quite subtle.
 

YiannisK

New member
Apr 30, 2015
9
0
0
David, many thanks for great idea. I thing you are probably very right and that tone controls will not be enough to adress my problem. Maybe a full home theatre PC / Mac Mini can be used with PEQ installed? I know DIRAC can even be used with that solution. Is it perhaps a cleaner / neater solution as compared to adding a device like miniDSP?

Cheers

davidf said:
Whilst they will help, I don't think tone controls will solve the issue, as A bass control and A treble control work over a certain range, so if you're attenuating a peak in the bass, you could end up listening to no bass at all once you have that peak tamed. You'd be much better off with a PEQ (parametric equaliser), which will allow you to tame specific peaks, and choose the range the attenuation has an effect, so as not to reduce bass of the frequencies you don't want to reduce. If things are that bad, you could look at the miniDSP or DSpeaker products.

If you use normal tone controls, I would only use them subtlety - no more than +/- 3dB. This was why I used to like the tone controls on the old Audiolab 8000A, they didn't spoil the sound and were quite subtle.
 

insider9

Well-known member
Sep 20, 2016
853
399
5,270
YiannisK said:
Many thanks and indeed a great idea. Unfortunatly my Samsung 6400 UHD tv does not have an analogue out for Audio (only optical). Otherwise it would have worked perfectly.

insider9 said:
Audio for movies is recorded in more than 2 channels. If you're using an optical out from for TV you're sending a surround sound to your 2 channel amp/dac. No amount of EQ will counteract that.

Your stereo amp/dac does the best it can with it but won't play channels it doesn't have and will have a hard time correctly interpreting the signal.

In reality any home cinema amp with a centre speaker (even second hand from eBay worth £20) would do better for movies. So you either need a centre and an AV amp or a way to convert surround signal to stereo.

The easiest way to do it is as a test plug in headphones to your TV and play around with settings until it sounds good on headphones. TV will have virtual surround sound options etc. and via analogue will no longer send a surround sound, just 2 channels.

If you're happy with results connect your TV directly to your Rega from headphone out to RCA (no DAC necessary). You'll need an appropriate cable if you haven't got one. It's bound to sound acceptable to say the least with hardly any expense.
Unfortunately, you're quite right. Why not look for a surround sound to stereo converter then? I know they exist but wouldn't be able to tell you how good they are having never used one myself. If you managed to get one from somewhere with good returns policy there would be no downside.

Otherwise, why not go all out and get yourself an Arcam AVR with Dirac built in? :)
 

tonky

New member
Jan 2, 2008
36
0
0
muljao said:
Maybe the TV output, or inputs to TV can be set to stereo, not surround?
If you search around the menus of your tv I think it's possible to change to a stereo - I had to do this on my 5/6 year old samsung led tv. I use a virgin remote and It was possible to change to stereo

tonky
 

MajorFubar

New member
Mar 3, 2010
690
3
0
OP already made it clear his TV doesn't have an analogue outputs, so no amount of jiggery pockery with the TV will fix anything. Some DVD and BD players have dynamic range control which both compresses the DR and raises the volume of the dialogue channel. This would probably solve your problem but if you're leaning towards a PC-based solution I guess that isn't going to help. Tone controls won't help you at all in this instance.
 
My old Panasonic Bluray player has a dialogue enhancement feature, which is fine if all you want to do is hear what people are saying, but it drastically changes everything else as well - overall it sounded really bad when I tried it. Maybe some players can do it better than others?
 

YiannisK

New member
Apr 30, 2015
9
0
0
Thank you all for the great ideas and help. From all the above I can so far conclude that tone controls are likely not going to solve my problem assuming that I stick with a stereo setup for movies. I understand that I should either find a way to employ compression (e.g. via VLC or KODI) or find a way to employ PEQ (such as miniDSP). From the above feedback I can also understand that audio compression can be achieved either through i) a streaming box such as the NVIDIA SHIELD (KODI) or ii) via a full Home Theatre PC / Mac mini running KODI. iii) a HTPC can also be used to run more complex PEQ and room correction software such as DIRAC (albeit at a higher cost in order to acquire a PC /Mac). iv) an additional option could be the ARCAM or Anthem AVR with DIRAC although I would be wasting the additinal channel amplifiers if I were to stick to stereo only.

The Apple TV seems like the worst option as it restricts Audio settings.

Thank you all for the great ideas. Very grateful

Yiannis
 

YiannisK

New member
Apr 30, 2015
9
0
0
David, my experience with Apple TV4's audio compression echoes yours. The 'reduce loud sounds' option in the Apple TV4 audio settings resulted in a very strange sound. Voices were a bit more clear but a lot of ambient information was lost. What was worse, some low voices were totally lost. When I tried KODI's audio compression it sounded a lot better although I did not test it extensively at the time.
 

MajorFubar

New member
Mar 3, 2010
690
3
0
davidf said:
My old Panasonic Bluray player has a dialogue enhancement feature, which is fine if all you want to do is hear what people are saying, but it drastically changes everything else as well - overall it sounded really bad when I tried it. Maybe some players can do it better than others?
Never liked it on mine either but if the other options are either mumbly dialogue or a volume level which knocks down walls during the loud parts, it could be a the best compromise. Moot point probably, seeing the OP has his sights set on streaming, not disc players.
 

MajorFubar

New member
Mar 3, 2010
690
3
0
YiannisK said:
David, my experience with Apple TV4's audio compression echoes yours. The 'reduce loud sounds' option in the Apple TV4 audio settings resulted in a very strange sound.
That's not the same as a dialogue enhancement option on a BD/DVD player. The dialogue enhancement option raises the volume of the dialogue channel sent out through the stereo mix, which is the polar opposite of the ATV4's approach.
 

YiannisK

New member
Apr 30, 2015
9
0
0
Ah ok, I see now. Either way, the ATV4 setting resulted in quite a bad sound overall. Indeed the streaming option is preferable for me as a Iave a large database with purchased movies and series so a streaming box or a fully fledged HTPC / Macmini would be needed. Considering that an amp with tone controls will not help, I think I need to find a way to improve things digitally.

Cheers

MajorFubar said:
YiannisK said:
David, my experience with Apple TV4's audio compression echoes yours. The 'reduce loud sounds' option in the Apple TV4 audio settings resulted in a very strange sound.
That's not the same as a dialogue enhancement option on a BD/DVD player. The dialogue enhancement option raises the volume of the dialogue channel sent out through the stereo mix, which is the polar opposite of the ATV4's approach.
 

MajorFubar

New member
Mar 3, 2010
690
3
0
I'd be surprised if most modern DVD/BD players won't stream your video library, many of which may have built-in options to boost the dialogue channel. Trouble might be, finding some with all the features you want + analogue output sockets. You're back to your TV not having any analogue outputs again, which over the last five years has gone from being rare to being the norm, and IMO is a right royal pain in the ass.
 

newlash09

Well-known member
Aug 28, 2015
219
45
10,820
Parasound halo integrated as it has a seperate sub out and a high pass filter for your main speakers. So you put your sub somewhere it doesn't boom. But Dirac would be a safer bet at taming those bass issues in my opinion
 

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