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Back to the 80s...

Discussion in 'audio' started by wd40addict, Feb 2, 2022.

  1. wd40addict

    wd40addict pfm Member

    I remember when many Hi-Fi magazines were in the grip of the flat earthers. If a manufacturer dared to submit an amplifier fitted with tone controls then the review would spend many paragraphs slagging this off, even if there was a bypass button. Audiolab were probably the last manufacturer to just about get away with it. If you miss those days then they appear to be back!
    omega3 likes this.
  2. sprogbasket

    sprogbasket pfm Member

    Hmmm Macintosh and Luxman offer similar sound shaping features that usually get featured as positive enhancements by reviewers … as giving flexibilty to listener’s preference and room acoustics.
    Tarzan likes this.
  3. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Tone controls did become politicised in the UK in the ‘80s, I suspect as much to facilitate simple design for the countless little kitchen table start-up manufacturers (though US high-end such as Krell, Levinson, Audio Research may have started the trend) but to be honest I think they’d become obsolete once folk better understood where to place their speakers. I think of tone controls as being a 1960s or 1970s thing to correct for say plonking a Ditton 15 on the carpet by a sofa or whatever.

    I ran a Quad 34 for a while several years back (still got it) and I never used the tone shaping aside from one especially bright CD (out of a house full of countless thousands of the things). I don’t hate on them, I just don’t find them very useful. They also represent a lot of faff and extra circuitry on valve preamps and are clearly impossible to implement on passive pres (I use both). Just not something I’d pay extra for myself. Nice to see very traditional Japanese amps (Accuphase, Luxman etc) keeping true to their past though, it means if folk want tone controls there are some very good amps offering them. I think current Quad kit does too, as it always has, though now it needs the remote to access.
    Ben&Ted likes this.
  4. Mr Pig

    Mr Pig Trade: ^'- -'^

    If you believe magazine reviews you disserve what you get.
  5. early

    early pfm Member

    I find tone controls invaluble for the odd time you need them . I have a few badly mastered records in my collection ( thank you the 1980's ) that I wouldn't enjoy listening to if I couldn't add a bit of warmth or tame over zealous HF's .
  6. Andy Stephenson

    Andy Stephenson pfm Member

    At risk of dating me, I too remember the 80s and how any controls on amps
    apart from volume and selector were viewed with suspicion if not outright
    hostility. I think many a fine piece of equipment was roundly condemned
    wrongly. It's funny how so many of the japanese amps of the time now
    are going for a lot of money. It can't all just be nostalgia, can it?
    Generally they were well built reliable and sounded good. There always
    will be exceptions of course. Was British always better?
    Lecson AC1 & AP1 anyone? Gorgeous to look at but is that enough?
    I'd have one in a flash but they would just be for looking at! That's if one
    could be found that still works!!

    Waiting to be hounded out of town..
    Regards Andy
    narabdela and Mr Pig like this.
  7. Alex N

    Alex N pfm Member

    For no good reason, I’ve been half-looking for one of these lately, (I think) Technics’ top dog integrated amp in a brochure my dad or brother picked up in the early eighties...


    From around the same time, I love the simplicity of an early NAIT, and my A60 even has subtle tone controls, but sometimes I crave super bass with adjustable super bass turnover.
  8. El_Soldado

    El_Soldado Member

    I quite liked how many had inbuilt speaker selectors. A pity now that many don't. That and/or a switchable pre-out would probably help quite a few setups that are used for daily as well as critical listening.

    Infuriatingly my SuperUniti can indeed flick between the Pre-Out / Speaker Out / both but not from the App!
  9. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator


    Quad, who refused to play by the 1980s magazine and dealer rules, had quite an interesting tone control system on the 44 and 34 preamps. The key bit being a ‘tilt’ control which shifts the whole balance around a pivot point at I think 1kHz or so. That is used in conjunction with a more conventional bass cut/boost and two HF filters. Some clever thinking that I imagine some would find useful, though I very seldom used it as it was a bit of a faff just to blunt an overly bright CD or whatever (I did use the filter for that now and again).

    The problem with the ‘tilt’ for me was the very few times I ever even think of wanting tone controls is to dull an unusually fierce digital recording (I usually just get rid of the CD and find a better mastering) or to cut bass on hyped-up ‘small speaker mix’ pop, rap etc which is just overpowering through 15” Tannoys. The tilt alone was useless for this as cutting the top boosted the bass and vice-versa, so it always involved actually EQing using the three controls in unison, which was a real faff. This exacerbated by the beautiful stepped attenuators which for me had too large steps, i.e. I always felt it was ‘too little’ vs. ‘too much’ and would have preferred only to have a click detent for ‘off’.

    Since I’ve retired the 34 for a valve pre I haven’t missed this functionality in the slightest, though I do have some CDs (mainly rap etc) that I only play upstairs as the bass is so boosted up for tiny modern speakers or headphones and I have no ‘cut’ on the Tannoys.
    gx502, Alex N, Ben&Ted and 3 others like this.
  10. leevinyl

    leevinyl Member

    Because of ongoing building work I’ve been temporarily using my Mastersounds DJ mixer with tone controls as a pre amp. It may well stay as pre when everything is back to normal. Having not had controls on my hifi for 20 years the ability to correct poor masters or tailor to current mood has made think I’ve been chasing shadows when recordings vary so much.

    This may be rubbished by some people but I wonder if their listening habits are concentrated in genres that are generally a higher standard.

    It’s also possible I’m trying to convince myself it’s true because said mixer has vu meters and does anything else matter.
  11. wd40addict

    wd40addict pfm Member

    I think it has contributed to the people who apparently listen to nothing but Diana Krall and 'kind of blue'.

    Liking the Technics up thread with its dual phono inputs and tone bypass :)
    Tarzan likes this.
  12. Gervais Cote

    Gervais Cote Predator

    The "king" of tone control for me was the Sugden A48mk2. Not far behind was the A60 and then the Quad 34.
    Never needed more buttons/selectors than that.
    MUTTY1 likes this.
  13. hifinutt

    hifinutt hifinutt

    Running an arcam a75 with tone controls, cheap as chips but still sounds pretty good .
    AnilS likes this.
  14. Amber Audio

    Amber Audio This is the Day

    Around 1980 I moved from a Ferguson Ultra music centre to Rogers A75 S2/T75 S2 - Tone Controls and Filters :)


  15. Del monaco

    Del monaco Del Monaco

    Have then on my Yammy. Useful to have them but don’t use them a lot, not the loudness facility. They’re switched out most of the time.
  16. Amber Audio

    Amber Audio This is the Day

    Use loudness/tones now and again if the Mrs is WFH on the phone or late at night if not using headphones. Keep an eye out for an A75 on eBay but seem to just miss them when in good nick and not overpriced.
  17. Del monaco

    Del monaco Del Monaco

    Maybe I’ll experiment a bit.
  18. Durmbo

    Durmbo not French

    I like Yamaha's variable loudness control. The tone controls on my amplifier work well at the extremities of bass and treble. In fact generally I prefer said controls switched in whether I use them or not as I find the sound a tad clinical and brittle when everything is bypassed. That said, my Yamaha is a 1990-91 model and things could've improved meanwhile (and I prefer my A60 most of the time anyway!).
    Jodet and Amber Audio like this.
  19. James

    James Lord of the Erg\o/s

    In my formative hifi years, I thought tone controls or EQ was essential to achieve the 'right' tonal balance. For a while, I had never heard a hifi sound any good without some boosting of the bass and/or treble. That's until I heard a friend's proper hifi comprising a Japanese class-A pre/'power amp playing through a large pair of Electro-Voice loudspeakers. It was gobsmackingly good, and I was astounded it did so without tone controls.

    Since then, I'd always aspired to be purist - believing that people who mastered records had set the right tonal balance, and I needed to hear the music as they intended. For the most part, a decent hifi with good loudspeakers could deliver a fulsome and balanced sound. My hifi certainly does. But I, too, have some music that I'd desperately like to EQ a bit. Maybe my next amp will have tone controls. I quite like Accuphase...
    AnilS likes this.
  20. Amber Audio

    Amber Audio This is the Day

    I grew up when any amp with tone controls, filters, loudness etc was lambasted by the press, after the Rogers I went for barebones Brit amps and missed out on the big Yammy/Techy/Sony stuff type stuff until much later in life. The Lyndgorf/TACT gear with DSP/EQ is pretty special to my ears, only sold my 3400 cos the Logans have Anthem room correction for their subs meaning the Lyngdorf wasn't making a big difference anymore, worked a treat with Kef Ref and big B&Ws.

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