Tone controls

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So, whatever happened to tone controls? You know, the bass and treble boost/cut controls that used to adorn just about every 1950 and 1960's era preamplifier?

They fell out of fashion in the 1970's because purists didn't want them. The analog audio path must be absolutely pure.

They fell back into fashion in the 90's when Mark Levinson's Cello introduced the Audio Pallette (designed by Dick Burwen), a multi-thousand dollar tone control with separate power supply. It was deemed high-end and desirable, but too expensive for most of us.

20 years later, they've reappeared in almost every home theater processor and receiver on the market - but not in two-channel.

What's interesting here is two things: the apparent 20 year on again, off again cycle and that the cycle hasn't yet repeated itself in two-channel.

With the vast majority of high-end audio now digital, the old concerns of mucking up the analog signal with an EQ circuit are gone; while the value of tone controls, making up for poor recordings and deficiencies in the room and loudspeaker chain, never went away.

Now that we can add them without any worry of compromise to the audio chain, it has me wondering when they will become the rage once again.

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Paul McGowan

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