Tone controls

Barnaby

Well-known member
Feb 3, 2015
39
5
18,545
Hi,

What happened to tone controls? The amps and the two "music centres" ( complete with cassette deck, radio, and turntable ) I owned from my teenage years had them. The high-end amps I couldn't afford had them too and then they disappeared.

I was told by a dealer that they interfered with the signal path or introduced distortion or something and that they were not necessary with higher-end gear and I accepted that from then on. ?However, while I was spending thousands of pounds on power supplies etc for my Naim stack a few years back, I started to wonder if a couple of tone controls might not be a good thing and might have brought me some of the more subtle improvements I was after without the outlay. I have often wondered if their disappearance had been something the manufacturers thought into with enthusiasm in order to reduce cost and/or get us to spend more cash on accoutrements that might have been otherwise unnecessary. It might simply have been a way to stimulate interest in different amps which otherwise might sound - or with the twist of a knob made to sound - the same?

In the software age, we seem to have them in the way of EQ controls but I would quite like manufacturers to include them on amps again.

What's the reason ?
 
Hi,

What happened to tone controls? The amps and the two "music centres" ( complete with cassette deck, radio, and turntable ) I owned from my teenage years had them. The high-end amps I couldn't afford had them too and then they disappeared.

I was told by a dealer that they interfered with the signal path or introduced distortion or something and that they were not necessary with higher-end gear and I accepted that from then on. ?However, while I was spending thousands of pounds on power supplies etc for my Naim stack a few years back, I started to wonder if a couple of tone controls might not be a good thing and might have brought me some of the more subtle improvements I was after without the outlay. I have often wondered if their disappearance had been something the manufacturers thought into with enthusiasm in order to reduce cost and/or get us to spend more cash on accoutrements that might have been otherwise unnecessary. It might simply have been a way to stimulate interest in different amps which otherwise might sound - or with the twist of a knob made to sound - the same?

In the software age, we seem to have them in the way of EQ controls but I would quite like manufacturers to include them on amps again.

What's the reason ?
Some manufacturers still use them, my amp does, and some are now burried away in the menu of some modern amps.
In the old days the more knobs and switches you could add to an amp was the way to go, the thinking being give it more facilities and you will sell more.
Most manufacturers considered them an unnecessary expense to add to a product as plenty of people never used them.
I only use a balance control at the moment .
Many would reason that if you need time controls you have the wrong speakers.
 
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twinkletoes

Well-known member
Nov 16, 2021
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done right, they are really handy tools to fine-tune things. The problem is most of the time they're implemented poorly and do next to nothing other than add distortion. Same as the loudness switch, really handy for listening at night and when tied into the volume properly they're awesome but very few do this.

Modern-day parametric EQs are a different kettle of fish altogether and really shouldn't be looked at as a tone control they're nothing like it, shouldn't even be thought of as Eq's from yesteryear either again nothing like it.

And no tone control shouldn't come back all, what they should be doing is adding proper digital domain Eq's Ie Direc live to all modern integrated amp.

I find the hi-fi industry is like the tour de France, they take an age to adopt new innovations in the tours case disc brakes and clincher tyres
 

Gray

Well-known member
I was told by a dealer that they interfered with the signal path or introduced distortion
They necessarily route the signal through components, potentiometers and 'source direct' bypass switches.
No matter how little trouble these things cause, it's 100% worse than it would be without them -and gets worse over time.
I've had amps with and without, but never used them. (Had a Rotel standalone graphic EQ back in the stupid days. After playing with it for 5 minutes, never used it again).
Better if you're able to do your tone control in the digital domain.
Better still if you can optimise positioning and room acoustics.
That leaves the odd tracks that were recorded with the wrong 'tone control' settings but, fortunately, I find them too rare to worry me.
 

Edbostan

Well-known member
Aug 5, 2021
213
104
970
Hi,

What happened to tone controls? The amps and the two "music centres" ( complete with cassette deck, radio, and turntable ) I owned from my teenage years had them. The high-end amps I couldn't afford had them too and then they disappeared.

I was told by a dealer that they interfered with the signal path or introduced distortion or something and that they were not necessary with higher-end gear and I accepted that from then on. ?However, while I was spending thousands of pounds on power supplies etc for my Naim stack a few years back, I started to wonder if a couple of tone controls might not be a good thing and might have brought me some of the more subtle improvements I was after without the outlay. I have often wondered if their disappearance had been something the manufacturers thought into with enthusiasm in order to reduce cost and/or get us to spend more cash on accoutrements that might have been otherwise unnecessary. It might simply have been a way to stimulate interest in different amps which otherwise might sound - or with the twist of a knob made to sound - the same?

In the software age, we seem to have them in the way of EQ controls but I would quite like manufacturers to include them on amps again.

What's the reason ?
More likely to save manufacturing costs where the odd cent can be saved. My original Cyrus One did not have them but my Onkyo does and I use them to tailor the sound depending on what the recording sounds like. To be honest it's not a make or break decision and would not deter me from buying one make of amp over the other.
 
done right, they are really handy tools to fine-tune things. The problem is most of the time they're implemented poorly and do next to nothing other than add distortion. Same as the loudness switch, really handy for listening at night and when tied into the volume properly they're awesome but very few do this.

Modern-day parametric EQs are a different kettle of fish altogether and really shouldn't be looked at as a tone control they're nothing like it, shouldn't even be thought of as Eq's from yesteryear either again nothing like it.

And no tone control shouldn't come back all, what they should be doing is adding proper digital domain Eq's Ie Direc live to all modern integrated amp.

I find the hi-fi industry is like the tour de France, they take an age to adopt new innovations in the tours case disc brakes and clincher tyres
The way Quad did it by adjusting slope did not and could not induce distortion. There is so much wrong thinking here and some total ballcocks.
Done well it works.
Now people think to get the same effect they have to buy an expensive subwoofer.... :)
 

manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
1,447
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19,570
The way Quad did it by adjusting slope did not and could not induce distortion. There is so much wrong thinking here and some total ballcocks.
Done well it works.
Now people think to get the same effect they have to buy an expensive subwoofer.... :)
From what I can see in smaller homes as in the UK, smaller speakers + sub is the way to go, and will be superior to any tone controls.
 
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I think you were nail-on-the-head about less-is-more now, whereas in the distant past, more was more - LEDs, controls, the dreaded graphic equaliser etc etc.
Then keep it simple took over, which I very much agree with.
Amp manufacturers have now tried to cram in DACs and many other devices that substitute for those old tone controls.
As we are well aware from questions on this forum, trying to buy all your eggs in one basket is a route I wouldn't want to go down.
 
Bass will be overwhelming when you have large speakers in a small room.
Sorry, not sure where that fits into this thread, however correct it may be.
I was hoping this would get back to the OPs original question which was why manufacturers no longer place tone controls on their amplifiers. However, in many cases they still do.
 

CheshirePete

Well-known member
Oct 12, 2020
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570
DIRAC live is the way to go if you need to fine tune a system, it has been a game changer for me. I know I can integrate any speakers into my setup, within reason.
 

Barnaby

Well-known member
Feb 3, 2015
39
5
18,545
Well, clearly there's some scepticism about tone controls being necessary.

I know maybe in an ideal world all recordings would be pure and a good amp would have its sound geared up to make them sound in its own way, however, I know there are recordings when I'd like to add a bit of treble or a bit of bass while others sound just fine without any tweaks.

I'm not really bothered about how the tone control is implemented but I do know I play adjust Amarra's EQ differently for some records than others. This is I suppose where my question came from. I miss having the option from time to time.
 

andybebbs

Well-known member
Apr 30, 2020
154
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1,670
I can adjust lots of settings via the app on my lyngdorf which is nice it also have lots of sound profiles you can choose from and a very sweet sounding amp best i ever had.
 

camcroft

Well-known member
Jan 12, 2012
572
258
19,270
For many years I had all my amps set to a specific setting in the bass and treble dept. One day I tried my present amp the CXA60 in the Direct setting and I have left it that way now Yes at first it sounded strange and can I say a bit lifeless to my ears but now I wouldn't use any other setting.
 

Barnaby

Well-known member
Feb 3, 2015
39
5
18,545
My Hegel 160 allows me to change the balance in the menu. I have never used it but I do like having the EQ in Amarra, which I do use on certain recordings. I'm pretty sure Amarra must "colour" the sound in some way but it really does sound so much better than other software ( to me ) so I don't care a jot.
 

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