Any High End Tube Preamps with *gasp tone controls?

After dropping in a vintage Scott 222C into my system while my amp was out for repair I'm really missing the tone controls now that my amplifier is back. It seems sacrilegious but I just can't get the bass where I want it without a bit of boost plus I'm sure my hearing is changing as I get older so why not be flexible... even if it results in me being thrown out of the audiophile club.


All McIntosh preamps and integrated amps come with tone controls.  I find them a must for mysel as my hearing is deteriorating, the tone controls make the sound more enjoyable to me.  

Any opinions on C22 v SP-3A-1 v Model 7?

I'd like to lean away from the one that would be considered "softest"

I recently started using the 10K tone control on my McIntosh MA12000 to compensate for my hearing loss.  I expected the soundstage to collapse, but so far there seems to be only a positive result.  The equalizer is easily defeated when my 17yo daughter is using the listening room.  BTW: She is a big KPop fan and I was shocked to hear her playing various rock and jazz from the sixties to the eighties and current country.  She has Qobuz on her phone and it seems that she has been exploring.

I'm considering even worse, hold your breath and sit EQ. Love my sound, but no phono pre up to the Ref3SE gets me to where I am with CD and streaming. So, looking at a high quality EQ to boost the highs and calm down some of the bass with my subs. And if that wasn't enough, I'm limiting my next phono pre to units that only have a rumble/low cut filter. I know, what's this world coming to..tearing up my membership card as I type.

You could circle back to vintage Scott


Get the LK 150 amp, 350D FM tuner to complete proper setup. 

Period correct speakers and turntable your choice.

If you just need the bass boosted and have cone speakers get a space tech Lab vsub 100,  it's not a subwoofer but it boosts the bass. At least look up a few reviews on it, most reviews say that it sounded better than any subwoofer they ever had. I have a few pieces of space tech equipment, and the designer Al will tell you if it will work with your system, he has always been a straight shooter with me.

To the OP...turn in you shield your card and.....GET OUT !!!!


tone controls....really


You should make yourself happy with the tone controls, haha.

I have read others speaking highly of the Schiit Loki. I’ve read it gives you tone controls without interfering too much with the signal. Of course all that matters is if you personally like it. Should be easy to find reviews online. 






The Schiit Loki is amazing.  Allows fine tuning without overdoing it, and the price is ridiculous. 

Tone control, on top of RIAA re-equalization, is a must for 78’s. I have a Foz SS-Ex (gives bass boost) and a Transcendent Sound Fixer (Tube kit - high and low tone controls) both on a tape loop so they can be bypassed for ‘critical listening’.  Not that pre-amps with a tape loop are that common either - but it might be an option to consider. 

My ARC SP6 has tone controls - but I never use them. I long ago was converted to listening to the recording (LP's) naked. I'm willing to accept whatever the mastering engineer did to the tape to get it to fit on two 20+ minute sides! Of course we have progressed to CD's and now streaming. I still don't care to tinker with the frequency extremes.

Not to worry….tone controls are good! Even variable loudness, love it ! McIntosh is the way to go. Good luck!

My ARC SP6 has tone controls ...

If your preamp has tone controls, there's no way it's an ARC SP6. SP3, maybe.

Another ++ for Loki MAX.   Balanced in and out.  Super quiet.  Does only what you expect.   Great value too!!

I also would encourage you to try one of the Schitt tone controls. I have one connected to my Conrad Johnson LS17 preamp. The CJ  has an effects loop such that  can be switched into the playback chain with the remote control.

When I first got the Loki I was sceptical about it being transparent so it tried it, turned on but the tone controls in the neutral 12 o'clock position and switched it in and out via the remote while listening to music. I found it completely transparent with no change it sound. A good start.

I now use it solely to deal with "lean" sounding recordings. With the bass slightly boosted and the highs turned down a bit, it makes those recording much better, and I can choose to have it working it's magic or not with the push of a button.

I believe Schitt even has a 30 day return policy if you are not satisfied. Highly recommended!

I dont use tone controls, but i have them on my two Sansui amplifiers...

At times when my system was not finished or optimized , or for whatever reason they were useful... Audiophile that condemn their use forgot that we listen music with our own ears limits not with the gear first and last..



There is a McIntosh 220 preamp for sale here and it was a reasonable price.  

TONE CONTROLS?        Blasphemy forthcoming, but hear me out.  Equalizers are to help us adjust to the inconvenient truth that there is more than one recording environment in the world.  Let us assume for a moment that you are living your dream and have a perfect system for your listening environment and have optimized that space perfectly.

Now let's believe the old trope that it is critical to reproduce the sound field that the recording engineer strove to present in their recording.  How do you even get a clue what that was?  How were they listening? Headphones?  Sound booth? Backstage at Carnegie Hall?  On the field at Yankee Stadium?   Just maybe, one size does Not fit all. And it probably does not match your listening room perfectly either. 

Once you have reached the Audiophile level and have, to the best of your financial and physical limitations, eliminated everything that might affect the perfect reproduction of the available aural signal, what do you do next?  
Maybe, just maybe, tweak it a little so it sounds as close as You think it can, to Your ears, the way it actually would have sounded if you were there, holding a microphone in front of your face.  

My personal preference, as a person who likes to enjoy a wide variety of music types, and for both financial and age reasons must accept that my entire retirement portfolio will not buy me listening perfection or new ears, is multi-level.  Starting with the last step before listening:  Time-delay spatial adjustment with both current or 40-year-old Yamaha DSP processing if and when I choose and Like the result, and a 32-band per channel equalizer which helps if someone joins me or moves something in the room, both applied after electronically optimizing the time delay from each of the six sound channels in my room to my favorite seats to listen from.  
Yep, blasphemy!  I accept that on very few occasions will I even know what the original truly sounded like from wherever I may have been lucky enough to stand when the recording was made, so I am willing, when I feel it helps, to make it Sound Good to Me. Isn’t that the point?

I Know what it sounded like when I sat on the floor, first row, 15 feet in front of Simon and Garfunkel as they sat on folding chairs in my college gym over 50 years ago, and it takes some adjusting to make the tape someone made of that concert sound like I remember, but I Can make it sound closer to that memory and it really does help re-create the experience.  That is the whole point.

The hardware should be utterly transparent, but it also has to interface with the real world of the room it is sitting in. Only a few lucky folk may be able to eliminate this issue, but unless we can rent the group and the hall for the afternoon, all else is an approximation.  When I switch from a live performance at Boston Symphony Hall to an organ recital at a cathedral in Cologne, Germany and then to a bootleg jazz recording made in the club down the street from me, I do not want to spend the day or my next six month's Social Security checks to make the adjustment.  I see little difference between a careful adjustment in the sound curve to match my room and a careful adjustment in my turntable speed to match the original recording speed of 71.29 rpm on a pre-WW I shellac platter. It may sound “ok” at 78 but it will not sound as close as it can with even the meager system I have.
I expect that it may happen, but I have yet to read a thread here where several contributors all have the exact same hardware and listening environment. We tweak, we optimize, we trial and swap out, but hopefully we also get to do what is the point of it all - we listen to and enjoy music, based on our personal tastes, and guided by advice from like-minded others.   Don't be afraid or ashamed to add a small tweak from a multi-channel quarter-octave equalizer or even a lowly tone control to accommodate that last tiny imperfection in your sound space that stands between the artist you appreciate and your ears. 

Audio Research SP-6 does not have tone controls. Neither do the SP-7,8,9, or 10….

When you say “high end”, I unsure exactly what level you are looking at. The best unit I am aware of is the AVM PA8.3 preamp. You customize the design by choosing the cards you want included and it has both tube as SS output choices and tone controls. Most configurations put it in the $20k to $25k range and it is quite fairly priced in terms of what it delivers from a sound quality perspective. You would find it competitive with VAC or other preamps in that price range in terms of quality.

full disclosure, I am an AVM dealer. Not just trying to shill my products.  As you can see, the list of products with tone controls is not long.  

When you say “high end”, I unsure exactly what level you are looking at. The best unit I am aware of is the AVM PA8.3 preamp. You customize the design by choosing the cards you want included and it has both tube as SS output choices and tone controls. Most configurations put it in the $20k to $25k range and it is quite fairly priced in terms of what it delivers from a sound quality perspective. You would find it competitive with VAC or other preamps in that price range in terms of quality.

full disclosure, I am an AVM dealer. Not just trying to shill my products.  As you can see, the list of products with tone controls is not long.  

I'm replacing a Lamm LL 2.1 and don't want to spend too much more than that, so I'm a bit below the AVM configuration you mention. Is there a more bare bones config? I'm vinyl only.

My Luxman tone controls are outstanding. I’ve had other pre’s with tone controls that immediately veiled the music but not these.

Hopefully there are other outstanding solutions as well.

To be fair, I do most of my sweetening in the digital domain via Roon, but I've never felt like my music suffered when I used the Lux loudness or bass/treble controls.

My Luxman tone controls are outstanding.

Which one do you use? I'm trying to get my tube tech to let me borrow his CL35 III. I read that the CL34 might be the best sounding, though.

I'm all in for a Loki TC placed in a tape loop. I use one and the change it makes when needed far surpasses any potential down side. Used between the amp and preamp, I'm not so sure. If you don't have a tape loop, I'd seriously consider placing it between the source and the pre-amp. FWIW.

@invalid the Space Tech Lab VSUB-100 looks really interesting.

For myself, I’ve always been really interested in the Decware ZROCK2 with its simple 2 EQ curves. 

McIntosh MX 110Z in the house. This thing loves Jazz. Tone controls are nice but maybe not at the most useful frequency? I saw something about that on an another post. The loudness is pretty useless. Just bloats everything out. But Jazz is wonderful sounding...

Next week Luxman CL35 III.

I tried a Loki Mini last night and it muddled up everything in my setup. I'm trying to get ahold of a Max.

McIntosh MX 110Z in the house. This thing loves Jazz. Tone controls are nice but maybe not at the most useful frequency?

Ok..I’ll bite. What are the most useful frequencies?

Jazz is wonderful sounding...

Why only jazz? What strengths and weaknesses made this old tuner/preamp good with jazz but less ideal with everything else?

The MX110 was part of the first stereo system that I ever heard back in 1965.  Pretty sure that more modern McIntosh would be worth a listen.

I think that there's a range of bass (right?) and some music I'm used to hearing bass with, I'm not hearing with the MX110. I think that's because the bass is at a certain frequency (or range) that isn't boosted when turn the bass knob. Someone correct me if I'm wrong. 

I wish I understood why certain components sound good with particular genres. I know it's a thing. Someone smarter will have to explain why.

I think this recent review in TAS by the illustrious Dr. Robert Greene is well worth reading even if you are not interested in purchasing the $1500 Schiit EQ component. I found it illuminating and educational on a number of levels.

ON equalizers incorporated into equipment as well as outboard have three things that affect the sounds that they alter. Frequency center, for example - the bass control may be centered anywhere from 30hz to 120hz (or more). This range also has slopes, i.e. fall off, and breadth. Variations in the bass control center and slopes controls the breadth. Gets kinda complex. Then there is other equipment which might center the bass control at 60hz, 100 hz, ad infinitum. But they all call it just plain old BASS. I've seen integrated amps which allow you to change the center point up to 200 hz. Wow, imagine that. Now there are tone controls in the mid-range and highs with accompanying options. 

The message is 1) Figure out what range of bass that you want to hear and 2) what your prospective units spec's are when it come to their tone controls. What you get is up to you. :-)



I just looked at your system.  Are you using an 8 watt per channel amplifier feeding older speakers?

Yes. They are actually 96dB. Pretty efficient. It's not the wattage that's the issue. It's the new rebuild of the amp and choice of tubes that have created a tone I really like but it's left me a bit bass shy... bass I had before with other configurations..

Pretty tough making bass with such low wattage. When I was running a low wattage 300B SE, I was using an active crossover and 200 watt/channel subwoofers. Now, I’m using 350 watt/channel into 89dB speakers and quality powered subs really made a difference.

I enjoyed reading about your speakers.  They seem to be a highly desirable vintage speaker.  So, I now understand that you are trying to put together components of the same era.  

I'm just trying to make it sound as good as it can. No real plan regarding vintage. If I had the space, I would be buying the Lamm tube amps. I know those work perfectly. Bass to die for. 3D imaging. Just awesome. They pop up used from time to time but when ever I'm about to pull the trigger, I realize our small loft is just too small for two large chassis.

Well I don’t know what kind of an equalizer you’re looking for but, FWIW, Schiit has a 6 band equalizer that has both XLR and RCA and 2 channels as well. Pretty ’good’ and relatively inexpensive ($300 +/-). I use one.

I could build you a custom "high end" preamp with any tubes, tone controls, etc.

Happy Listening.



 Thanks newbee! I also see Loki Max. I wonder if it’s worth the extra chunk of $?

If you can afford it, sure. That remote control will come in handy in finding the tone you are looking for when adjusting for sources like records and CD's. For some room or system correction, no so much. You won't be fiddling with it that much or often.  Sonically I've never heard it but I think it might be hard to distinguish the sonic difference between the 2 six band eq's.  If you put this in a tape loop it's easy to distinguish the changes made by the eq. If you have in-line and use the switch on the eq, not so much I think. 

Transcendent Sound "The Fixer".  I believe it is zero gain. I know it is a kit, but there are folks on the Transcendent forum who would be happy to assemble the kit for you for a fee.

You will be shocked at the sound quality of the Transcendent amps and preamps.

Interesting ltmandella and much more affordable. It doesn’t mention if it has XLR or rca and they only put in a pic of the front of it. 

If you like affordable vintage, the SP3a1 is hard to beat.  Costs less than Mac preamps, and based on my experience with a 110Z and C20, easily outperforms them.  The ability to defeat the tone control when it isn't needed is a sonic bonus.

I’m with you! While not considered high-end, I still use an NAD 1300 Monitor Series preamp with 6 bands of eq available to shape sound. I use them regularly to optimize sound (to my ears) depending on the recording, as we know all recordings are not created equal.

I also tend to use eq differently for vinyl and digital in my system, usually defeating the eq for vinyl and adding some sparkle to digital in trying to replicate the vinyl sound.

As an older gentleman, I also find my hearing is changing and that I need a tone control, I have therefore incorporated a Schiit Lokuis 6 level tone control into my system. It is fully balanced in & out (RCA's are also there for my tube amps when in service). I find this is very useful when playing some older vinyl and poorly recorded items. The only drawback is that it doesn't have a remote like the Loki Max, but it was only about $500 which is reasonable (Price was $300.00 plus taxes, delivery and duty).

I have used it for about 3 years and find it invaluable in about 10% of those recordings between my hearing and the sound of the recording that requires some minor tweeks in my judgement. It has a tone control by-pass so flipping the toggle to "off" is all that is required for most listening. I find any alteration in sound quality with the unit installed is so small, given the benefit provided, as to be insignificant. This is just my experience, I would probably opt for the Loki Max today, just for the convenience of the remote.

The Octave HP 700 SE preamp is as good as it gets. I was going to get one, but the waiting time was too long at the time, and bought the Accuphase solid state instead.