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Tone controls, the ear and the audiophile - curse or saviour?

kittykat

New member
Adjusting the recording itself?

Adjusting the recording itself?

The day tone controls ceased to be fashionable for whatever crazy reason, is the day high fidelity music at home became a never ending and insoluble struggle for the average music lover.
Other than compensating for room effects, would tone controls be useful for adjusting shortcomings of the recording?
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
Only one option (perhaps?)

Only one option (perhaps?)

... For owners of amplifiers (and preamplifiers) without a tone control, what would you suggest you do to have more control of the ability to recreate actual musical event?
That's simple to answer. If you want a real, tangible, measurable, scientific, true, repeatable adjustment in the sound of your system, even with a blindfold on, you have to change the energy in various frequency bands, as I explained in post #19.

When deciding what retro-fitted accessories may or may not meet that criteria - and great big dollop of good old fashioned common sense plus basic high school science plus (especially) an understanding of human nature and marketing - just ask yourself if the gadget is really likely to generate or absorb (or boost, if that's what you want) energy in the audio spectrum. A 20mm block of rock-hard magic crystal placed atop a speaker? A little wooden bridge that lifts the speaker cables off the floor? A special chemical spray applied to the amplifier case. Do those accessories hint at a credible change in the sound pressure entering your ear? Yes? No? Maybe?

OK, if you reject them, then you have one sure-fire option .... you are going to have to invest in adjusting the physical absorptive/reflective properties of your listening room and/or reposition your speakers in that room. Certainly, if your amplifier had tone controls you could at least have explored that route at zero cost and inconvenience. You may be so aghast at the thought of covering a significant surface area of your room (to absorb energy) that you'd consider some sort of external energy adjusting device (DSP room correction etc.). Again, no magic there: all such a system is doing is putting less energy into the speakers in the problem frequency bands so that working together the DSP + speakers + room character sounds acceptable but without having to physically soak-up energy in the surfaces of the room. DSP can work extremely effectively, but if there is such misplaced hostility to half a dozen simple resistors and capacitors in the amplifier to provide tone correction, what hostility to a box stuffed with ICs and software?

So the circle is complete. The listening environment (just like the recording environment) was identified as all-critical 50-100 years ago, and remains so. Physics has not been re-written in that time. Adjusting energy in-room remains the challenge for recreating the recording environment at home.
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
Compensation

Compensation

Other than compensating for room effects, would tone controls be useful for adjusting shortcomings of the recording?
Absolutely so. Again, I can quote from post #11 above ...

QUAD are reported saying, "The results obtained from any programme source depend on the aggregate effect of the listening room and the recording environment together with the (tone) corrections applied by the recording engineer, and the equipment of the reproducing chain and … it is extremely unlikely that the arbitrary combination of these variables when listening at home will will yield the closest approach to the original sound... The TILT control can improve the subjective quality of musical reproduction, while adding no colouration, just a simply slight increase or decrease in overall warmth or brightness."
So, to any amplifier designer I would ask the searching question ... 'justify to me why you deliberately removed the user's ability to make small adjustments to the sound of his system?'. I cannot see any justification whatsoever.

The iron is that at the recording end of the chain, there is lots and lots and lots of eq, compression, dynamic enhancement, stereo width manipulation, selective 'treatment' of instruments, loudness maximisation and a whole host of tonal tweaks on, I'd guess, 99.999% of recordings. There is nothing we can do about those, but to have the ability to get the best out of the recordings in our own homes is surely a right we consumers should reasonably expect to have. And that means we should be provided with tone controls which in an ideal world we'd rarely have to use.

I'm reminded of a show we participated in some while ago. The primary front end was vinyl, and the disks were all reissues of jazz recordings from the 40s and 50s. Needless to say, the amplifier did not have any tone controls and the overall sound (due to the vintage recordings) was dark and murky and with an inadequate top end. It was a torture being in the same room hour after hour, and it cast a very bad light on modern high fidelity. All we needed to ameliorate those old recordings would have been an amp with a tilt control to shift energy from the dark low frequencies towards the high frequencies to brighten the overall sound. Really, that rebalancing should have been implemented as part of the re-issue mastering, but I suspect that the reissue labels mantra was 'faithful to the original master tapes' which boxed them into a corner of not being able/willing/allowed to apply a little sonic correction here and there for today's listeners' benefit.
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
Tone Controls #4 - low frequencies in the home listening room

Tone Controls #4 - low frequencies in the home listening room

We've looked at the tilt control and how it is useful for increasing or decreasing sonic energy in the low or high frequencies, centred about a pivotal frequency. That can be most useful to compensate for a disliked trend in the recording, the room or the speakers. If the recording has a general tendency towards more warmth in the bass range than we'd like, a tone control can re-bias the energy (the perceived sound balance) away from the bass and more towards the top, and vice versa. That's fine if we have a general trend low-high trend, but what if the overall balance is deemed acceptable but we have a specific problem only in the lower frequencies - and the mid and top are considered OK.

That's a very typical situation when listening at home. It's a fact that when most loudspeakers are introduced to most rooms — even to those rooms with (thin) surface treatment which is an effective absorber in the mid and especially high frequencies — there will be more bass than the speaker designer intended. So why doesn't the speaker designer take into account the reality of putting his nice speakers, designed and perfected in his laboratory or anechoic chamber, into a listening room? Good question. The honest answer has to be this: the variation in acoustic environment between a Tatami rice paper-walled living space in Kyoto and a 60s concrete apartment tower couldn't be greater. The traditional tatami build has walls that are acoustically transparent; the high-rise walls are completely reflective. Which one does the speaker designer consider his reference when creating a standard product to be sold and used globally?

The answer is that the speaker designer has to have a general awareness of how the acoustics of a 'typical' living space impacts on the carefully considered sonic balance of his speakers, and that really is the best that he can do. What is typical? That really is a tough one. I suppose that, based on his observation of the demography of his customers he gradually develops an awareness of the 'average' customer's listening space, musical tastes, sonic expectations and so on. But this is not a science - speaker designers do not spend years travelling the world with test equipment measuring the acoustic characteristics of home listening rooms. Perhaps they should, but what then when they come to analyse all the accumulated data: there would be as many rooms which due to their construction tend to emphasise bass as there are are rooms which soak-up bass - the two extremes would tend to cancel out to yield an 'average' room.

So, the easiest way for the speaker designer to proceed is to take his precious new designs into an anechoic chamber — a room without the sonic character of a room thanks to lots of absorption — and, put out of his mind the inevitable contribution of the highly indeterminate listener's room. In other words, the speaker designer is obliged to resort to a standard listening environment (the anechoic chamber) and to accept the fact that in every single real world room his speakers will behave differently, perhaps markedly so. But what else can he do other than designing one-off bespoke speakers individually tailored to a specific millionaires listening space.

There are two things which mercifully come to the speaker designer's assistance, without which "high fidelity" listing in the normal home would be utterly impossible. The first one is that the deleterious effect of the home listening room is primarily in the bass and lower midrange - say, the red and yellow frequency regions in my coloured charts above. The second one (thankfully) is that most people actually prefer the low frequencies to be a little 'warmed-up' when they listen at home compared with real life. They may never have experienced live musical instruments to be aware of this, but we are so conditioned by the sound of speakers at home that we have lost, or never actually had, the connection with the live sound. Taken together then, this generally experienced bass lift in the real-world domestic listening room (due to inadequate absorption at low frequencies) plus the user's preference for a little extra bass 'weight and warmth' contrive to the speaker designer's advantage and within reason, he is safe to continue to design in his 'flat' anechoic chamber aware that at home, his speakers will fulfil the listeners preconditioned expectations in the bass region.

OK so far with this?

Now we can take another step forward. Those speaker designers that do get out and about occasionally with test equipment in 'typical' domestic listening rooms have observed some generalised sonic characteristics in those rooms. That is not to say that every room behaves in the same way. Nor is it to say that there is somewhere the 'standard' room which everyone could use as a domestic reference with the owner renting it by the hour for acoustic measurements!. All we can say is that there is a certain pattern that has developed by observation that seems to suggest that, as a generalised observation, if we measure a loudspeaker that has a flat frequency response in the anechoic chamber, that response will take-on a certain characteristic low frequency energy boost (due to inadequate absorption in the listening room) when placed in a normal domestic room. And that dB characteristic low-end boost can be drawn on chart paper v. frequency.

Important! As I said above, the gentle boost associated with extra energy in the low frequencies of the listening room may not only be of no concern to the listener it may actually be mandatory for a satisfactory 'lifelike' experience in the listener's mind. So what do the archives indicate is a 'typical' low frequency boost typical of home listening? There is little published literature on 'room gain at low frequencies'. This is an issue which has not been given much attention and largely ignored. Other experimenters and theoreticians will have their own data, but they will not greatly change the overall picture that normal domestic listening rooms crank-up the loudness of, and introduce peaks and troughs into the otherwise flat response of loudspeakers. Here is a working observation:

  1. We know that most room issues that draw attention to themselves are in the lower frequencies
  2. We do not know exactly what those frequencies are - they may vary from room to room or even position in the same room
  3. We do know that there is often a generalised warming-up of the lower frequencies i.e. there is 'room gain' at low frequencies
  4. We do not know at what frequency that room gain starts to take effect or fades out - for example, becomes measurable at 500Hz and increases in effect right down to 20Hz
  5. We do not know if the room gain is a certain number of minimum, typical or maximum decibels boost
  6. Any fancy graphs we produce can be no more than crude generalisations and approximations at best
That's quite a few unknowns. Practical experience shows that the acoustic theory significantly over-states the actual bass lift because real rooms have losses, turning sound energy into heat. What seems to be a believable lift found in a 'typical' home environment is of about +10dB at 20Hz relative to 1kHz, as shown on the attached chart, from Tolvan Data. This chart is probably an understatement of the behaviour of many rooms - but it looks about right to me as a minima. Do bear in mind that the nice, smooth, regular boost curve is a highly idealised situation. In reality, the room's boost characteristic will be highly irregular; the best we can do is to draw a mental line through the lumps and bumps to get a trend line, as shown.

Next we can see how easy it would be for us to use our tone controls to cancel that room lift, assuming that we would wish to do so.

P.S. Please, no calls or emails saying that that having read this post you are now in a mental spin about your system. If you have enjoyed whatever sound you have enjoyed for years, continue to do so. There is already far too much needless unhealthy anxiety in high-end audio without adding to it.

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Labarum

Member
QUAD step function software?

QUAD step function software?

Alan, Pluto, is there a software implementation of Quad's step and tilt tone controls?

If so, those of us with suitable replay systems could try it.
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
Tone Controls #5 - low frequencies adjustment with tone controls

Tone Controls #5 - low frequencies adjustment with tone controls

In post #4, we noted how placing a loudspeaker with a flat anechoic frequency response in an ordinary room will result in a tipping-up of the bass energy. As I noted, this bias towards the red end of the sonic spectrum may well be attractive to most if not all serious listeners for reasons we can illustrate later, so it does not necessary follow that we should attempt to reverse the bass boost if it is benign. But where it is excessive, there is nothing we can physically introduce to the ordinary listening room by means of acoustic damping that will soak up this excess energy (compared to what is on the recording) - we have to attack this issue electrically: we have to drive less energy into the speakers in the problem band, and just leave the room to bring up the speaker's output to a reasonably flat resulting balance. Whether we like the richer, fuller bass-boosted sound is obviously a matter of opinion but beyond a certain limit, most listeners would find that the excess low frequency energy drew attention away from the mid and top frequencies which stated to sound underpowered in contrast. The overall consequence of too much bass often reveals itself subjectively as too little top.

We've seen that the QUAD-type tilt control is very useful for adjusting the overall bottom/top sonic balance pivoted around a central frequency. The QUAD system has another control on the left which in the upper position can apply a bass boost (most unlikely to be needed in a normal room with normal speakers) and in the down position, can apply a bass shelf function, called 'step'. If we look at the typical room boost curve which shows the characteristic increasing loudness with falling frequency, we can very nearly cancel that effect (especially above 50Hz or so) by tilting the paddle down - the 170Hz setting looks about right. You can see that the gradient of the room boost is closely cancelled by the blue trace.

The key point is that there is absolutely nothing to fear or reject about the use of tone controls to get the best out of the room, recordings or speakers. These simple circuits need introduce no audio degradation whatever, and can be bypassed by returning the paddles to the horizontal position.

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Labarum

Member
How about bass lift?

How about bass lift?

Can the bass lift on the Quad tone controls be profitably used at low volumes with small speakers that roll off cleanly?
 

DSRANCE

Member
A touch of tone control

A touch of tone control

I've done this, but with very careful use of the volume control so as not to upset the bass driver, or amp for that matter..

I should in my defence and as an ex-dealer for amps without tone controls, suggest that subtle eq correction cannot compensate for time-smear at certain frequencies. I always believed that a boomy bass (i.e.boooooooooooooooooom) in some rooms wasn't fixable with level adjustment, and also a tizzy tweeter due to resonances within the drive unit/crossover interaction, although it wouldn't have been as noticeable perhaps with some eq added? The theory also was that adding tone circuits messed with phase distortion in the amp and also added complexity to the signal path. I do appreciate that all this may be dealer "programming" and I'm happy to be corrected on these assumptions.

In fact, I returned to tone controls when using my Sennheiser HD25 headphones, the rising mid treble on all music causing me fatigue long-term. Using first a rejuvenated Quad 33 and latterly an updated (op-amp and input coupling-cap) Amcron-Crown IC150 preamp, I've found a touch of treble cut perfectly acceptable without losing "air" or spacial clues in reproduction..
 

kittykat

New member
How to implement tone controls?

How to implement tone controls?

P.S. Please, no calls or emails saying that that having read this post you are now in a mental spin about your system. If you have enjoyed whatever sound you have enjoyed for years, continue to do so. There is already far too much needless unhealthy anxiety in high-end audio without adding to it.

>
There aren’t too many amplifiers made today with tone controls let alone those with an adjustment as elegant as Quad’s. Are there any suggestions from anyone as to restoring some fidelity for us tone control-ess listeners? Something simple, not overly complicated, without buying used would be ideal. Im not too keen on the new Quad electronic adjustments. Something mechanical and tactile would be nice.
 

Labarum

Member
Refurbishing Q34?

Refurbishing Q34?

Are there any suggestions from anyone as to restoring some fidelity for us tone control-ess listeners?
That's why I asked about a software implementation of step and tilt controls which might suit some, but I can see the attraction of the hardware solution.

You could buy a second hand Quad 34 or 44 and have it refurbished. Are there any DIY kits for those handy with a soldering iron? There is at least one pro audio equaliser with tilt controls, but that is probably too complex for domestic use.
 

Macjager

New member
Complete kit?

Complete kit?

so far the only thing I have been able to find are some kits, either pre-assembled or DIY. http://www.circuitspecialists.com/kit-100.html
However, as I know almost nothing about electronic DIY, I cannot attest to the fact that this unit will provide the fidelity required to adjust the tone of a system. That and the fact that it needs a box and a power supply, neither of which I am certain on how to put together...on the other hand, the kit is less than 30 GBP, and the additional box and kit are also very inexpensive.

If someone were interested in making me one, complete, I would be more than happy to pay them! (electricity is a black art to me)

cheers

George
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
What about DSP?

What about DSP?

To answer the last few posts ....

First, I don't necessarily think that the QUAD 34/44 is the ultimate solution to a modest rebalancing of the room sound. It certainly is one solution, and as these units are so inexpensive it may be worth the flutter, but you would have to buy-into the whole circuit philosophy and, importantly, the gain structure. That means that the preamp could be overloaded by a strong CD signal (above volume control mark 14 or so) and the output is designed to drive the rather sensitive QUAD power amps, such as the 405/606. An alternative solution would be for someone to built a little box that either sits in the tape out/in loop of the preamp, between the pre and power amp, or perhaps a digital implementation between digital source and DAC. If anyone had the skills to make such a unit, they should contact me directly as we would be interested in such a design.

We dedicated audio enthusiasts just want the best sound we possibly can achieve at home (with whatever speakers from whatever brand we have) without calling in the builders for serious structural work. 'Tone controls' however electrically implemented are a possible aid to that. But at this stage of the game when DSP solutions are so elegant and cost effective, I'm wondering if a more holistic approach has merit. The implementation of QUAD-like tone control shaping circuits in a DSP chip is utterly trivial, perhaps only using 1% of the computing power. Can't we do something with the remaining 99% processing capability that would solve other speaker/room issues, basically for free?

To that effect, it's been on my mind for the last few years to have a serious look at DSP and I made a brief pilot test a couple of summers ago. The overarching concern is not the technology, but how to bring it to market. There are several issues:

  1. Explanation, training and demystification (removing the fear of the unknown)
  2. If there is so much hostility to simple analogue tone/tilt controls amongst amp makers/media how about any DSP concept?
  3. Recognition that every listening room has different acoustic issues so a 'one size fits all' is not technically viable (although a marketing need)
  4. Deciding who 'trains' the DSP to the listener's room: does the user have the skills and patience?
  5. Could the sound actually be worse with an incorrectly applied DSP solution (yes!!! definitely worse!!)
  6. The potential for never-ending confusion and anxiety by the listener
  7. Role of the distributor/dealer in supplying DSP solution and after care
  8. Recognition that DSP technology is not core to Harbeth's business - would it become a serious distraction?
  9. Can 'DSP Ambassadors' be established per country to work alongside customers and dealers to set-up and tune the user's home systems?
  10. Supply route for DSP hardware - through existing Harbeth sales channels or not?
  11. What if user changes speakers/room? Reprogramming?
  12. Potential for mischievous media/competitor to claim that Harbeth speakers 'only sound good with DSP help'.
  13. Is there a (small) profit to be made?
That's a lot of questions. All needed to eb resolved. I'm off on holiday shortly and I'll take my notes with me (on my wonderful new Fujitsu M532 tablet - thinnest on the market) and re-read where we got to. Implementing QUAD-like tone controls, conventional tone controls or just about any sort of tone shaping you can dream of plus local speaker-only optimisation or speaker + room optimisation is all very much doable with current technology.

Please, unlike the amplifier project which was stamped-out at conception, can we set aside the internal business related issues of whether we should pursue this project at all - they are really for me to balance - and focus on the above issues. I'm sure you'll agree that it is a privilege to discuss this openly; let's not strangle this project.

In the meantime, I found Studio Sound (pro) magazine from 1976 in the archive. Attached is a review of the ubiquitous Klark Technic DN27 graphic equaliser and the Klein & Hummel UE400 stereo equaliser. I think it's safe to say that, pre-digital recording, the audio signal in the vast majority of recordings from the 70s and 80s probably passed through boxes like these.

Scan of 'classic' analogue EQ solutions attached. The DN27 gives 1/3 octave band boost and cut at spot frequencies exactly as Pluto described in post #6; the UE400 is more like the QUAD tilt control I've described with broad sweeping effects. It is entirely possible that the recording engineer would pass the signal serially through both - the DN27 to adjust the tonality of specific instruments or vocals, and the UE400 to give an overall tilt to the sound balance. Don't ever think that commercial recordings are recorded 'flat' - lots of eq is normally applied. Equipment like these analogue boxes would be a theoretically valuable tool to adjusting the sound of your room. Whether these boxes are sonically 'pure' enough for you, I cannot decide.

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kittykat

New member
Media Player

Media Player

That's why I asked about a software implementation of step and tilt controls which might suit some, but I can see the attraction of the hardware solution.
Ive tried using Microsoft Media Player’s tone controls, mimicking Quad’s curves. Its possible to save the curves in memory and pull the different ones up. Ive also tried Yamaha’s loudness control curves which seems to work pretty well too, at least on headphones. Some headphones are overly bright nowadays. Applying the Quad/ Yamaha type curves help a lot.
 

Labarum

Member
Tone temptation?

Tone temptation?

How about this for a solution?

http://nadelectronics.com/products/hifi-amplifiers/C-390DD-Direct-Digital-Powered-DAC-Amplifier

Expensive!

One of the major problems in any high power music system is what we call 'room modes' or 'standing waves'. The wavelengths in the bass frequencies are so large that room dimensions disturb the even propagation of the sound (think of water ripples in a fish tank – when the wave hits the tank boundary a reverse interference wave is produced). The result of this effect is that certain bass notes are reinforced and become much too loud, making the bass sound 'boomy'. This effect actually changes the perception of the harmonic structure of the bass instruments and spoils the illusion of "listening through" to the acoustic space of the recording. Our simple solution is what we call Room EQ. Playing back a supplied test tone sequence allows this problem to be easily tamed using your ears and the C 390DD Room EQ filters. There are six frequency centres in the low bass region that can be cut (or slightly boosted) to remove the 'boom' without reducing the low bass response. The width or "Q" of the filter can also be adjusted to be wide or narrow to address a number of different room configurations.
 

DSRANCE

Member
QUAD is a bargain

QUAD is a bargain

£2200 for this NAD makes the prospect of a well cared for vintage Quad 34/44/66/77/99 pre with one of their power amps in good working order a very interesting prospect :) - since a good pair can usually be got for under £500 in the UK.

The now ancient 33/303 can be magical, but the sonic "window" presented by the preamp especially is very small, focused on the midrange I found and even a full update kit doesn't fully modernise it (the Net-Audio kits effectively create a new preamp in the 33 case I believe and with some emphasis on bypassing the tone controls you may wish to use...).

What of possible phase shifts though with analogue based tone/tilt controls and would this have a negative effect on what "we" are trying to achieve on room?
 
S

steve

Guest
Behringer Ultracurve

Behringer Ultracurve

Another way to go is digital equalizer such as Behringers and most receivers these days have some kind of eq built in. I am happy enough with my AMPS tone controls and busy enough with work not to have tried these but I feel it is the way to go for those of us who, like AS, think that most amps sound the same other things being equal.
 

Albertus

New member
Wonderful QUAD website in Holland

Wonderful QUAD website in Holland

Alan wrote:

An alternative solution would be for someone to built a little box that either sits in the tape out/in loop of the preamp, between the pre and power amp, or perhaps a digital implementation between digital source and DAC. If anyone had the skills to make such a unit, they should contact me directly as we would be interested in such a design.

You might want to view Armand van Ommeren (Netherlands) at http://www.quadrevisie.nl/home.html
He sold me a revised Q34. Inpuls are adjusted. I use the Quad's bass lift.
 

Miles MG

New member
Tone controls - a MUST HAVE

Tone controls - a MUST HAVE

The challenge of tone controls is in deciding how to judiciously use the controls to get the 'correct' sound! Also, is there not a tendency to be obsessed with the controls, to fiddle with it depending on the recording, etc? I'm sure those suffering from OCD would not find this a godsend!

And those not suffering from OCD, might find themselves gravitating in that direction. In a way, not having tone controls will make life a lot simpler since there will be nothing much to adjust except speaker placement. In a way, audiophiles who use cables and interconnects to tweak and tune the system ate probably doing what you are achieving with your tone controls!
I have an early pair of HL Monitors and, to be honest, couldn't do without the tone controls on my amplifier. All recordings are different. Sometimes the bass is too prominent, be it classical or popular music. At other times a small cut on the treble control can make a recording more acceptable. I have lived with amplifiers ( in particular a Meridian ) without tone controls and put up with the situation. I made a wrong decision buying that particular model. Many use Naim amplifiers and are not in the least concerned by the lack of controls. I have a second system with a Quad 303 power amplifier and currently use a passive preamplifier. No tone controls, of course ! I enjoy tweaking and changing components on that system, and may well end up with an amplifier with tone controls, but for my main, settled, system I'd never go back to a model without them. Martyn Miles .
 

EricW

Active member
My music sounded better with tone EQ in

My music sounded better with tone EQ in

Sorry - I've come upon this late.

For a long time, I lived happily without tone controls as I bought in to the misguided audiophile notion that tone controls could only 'corrupt' the sound.

I still don't have physical tone controls on my audio gear. But as my computer and the iTunes software is now my main source, I did a little experiment with the built-in iTunes EQ (which is not terribly sophisticated). I balanced the sound till it sounded best in my study with my non-Harbeth speakers (the Harbeths are in the living room), and then switched the EQ rapidly in and out of circuit.

Well, audiophile purity notwithstanding, I could not avoid the conclusion that music sounded significantly better with the EQ in the circuit. Whether I was compensating for room or speaker anomalies, or both, I don't know - but that EQ represented a clear improvement was undeniable.

So I'd be completely in favour of a relatively user-friendly DSP system, ideally one that could also be implemented as an iTunes (or other software of choice) plug-in as well as a standalone box for those still using CD or other sources. Especially if it's reasonably priced. I don't think, actually, you'd get the resistance to DSP that you'd get to tone controls, because those types of systems are out there now - they're just awfully expensive.
 

thurston

New member
Tone control suggestions

Tone control suggestions

http://www.tonelux.com/tilt.html

This seems to be exactly what we are talking about. It is studio gear and as I have no knowledge about that stuff I do not know if you can put it inbetween a pre and a power amp or how else to use it. There also is a microphone-pre from Tonelux with the tilt-function. Yet again I have no idea how to put that onto a regular home-listening environment.

There seems to be a software solution from Softube (made together with the Tonelux guys) as well. For that software they built a prototype which never got into production which seems to be exactly what we audio-fans would like to get:
http://www.softube.com/index.php?id=tilt
 
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