Do Your Speakers have LEVEL CONTROLS or EQUALIZERS? (Vintage or Modern) ???

Do Your Speakers have LEVEL CONTROLS or EQUALIZERS? (Vintage or Modern)

MANY Vintage Speakers had/have Level Controls, and a few big speaker arrays had external equalizers.


Many of you know It’s my contention ALL SPEAKERS should have Level Controls, to refine their frequency distribution in your space at your positioning in that space, and re-adjust for any space you move/use them in.

L-Pads retain impedance shown to the crossover; Potentiometers alter what is shown to the crossover a bit.


Just stumbled about these

2 Altec Lansing speaker crossovers N800-8K




Bose 901


My Uncle’s 1958 Fisher President II (Large 3 way, horns and big woofer) had/have 2 L-Pad level controls


AT-37’s used in many of their consoles and separates.

PRESENCE: for Mid-Range Horn’s Volume Control, relative to he 15" woofer with no control

BRILLIANCE: for Tweeter’s Horn’s Volume Control, relative to the mid-range.


My AR-2ax (compact 3 way cones) had/have 2 Level Controls

I just restored 2 pairs for my Office and Garage/Shop Systems


MANY Vintage Speakers had/have Level Controls, and a few big speaker arrays had external equalizers.


Do Your Speakers have LEVEL CONTROLS or EQUALIZERS? (Vintage or Modern)




My old Tannoy dual concentric Gold had two tone sound controls level behind ...

It could help especially if someone had no acoustic control in his room..


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My Yamaha 670s  (which I purchased new in 1975) have mid and treble adjustments.   Never used them.  Just set them  in the middle.    My  Boston Acoustics 975 however, have powered subwoofers, and I use the bass adjustment fairly frequently

Many of you know It’s my contention ALL SPEAKERS should have Level Controls, to refine their frequency distribution in your space at your positioning in that space, and re-adjust for any space you move/use them in.

L-Pads retain impedance shown to the crossover; Potentiometers alter what is shown to the crossover a bit.

While I agree that speakers benefit from being able to be altered for different placements and rooms I disagree that L-pads or even switched R arrays in a passive speaker are desirable. They are crap for reliability. Professional, active speakers have these features and IMHO are the correct way to implement them.

Also, adjusting individual drivers is not really as good of an option for adjusting the output as having an upstream EQ or tone control.  In general, the crossover points of a speaker and the human hearing and studio choices may or may not match up.  The "loudness" button on my receiver will work correctly regardless of the speaker design.  I'd hate to try to achieve the same thing with a set of level controls on a 2 or 3-way speaker.

 This was exactly mine... I owned two sets...

They were too big for my desk ... i sold them BEFORE learning small room acoustic Alas! ...


@elliottbnewcombjr wrote:

Do Your Speakers have LEVEL CONTROLS or EQUALIZERS? (Vintage or Modern) ???

Sure, kind of; with outboard actively configured speakers just about the most elaborate kind of controls with everything from individual gain to each driver section, crossover points, delay, slopestyle and -steepness, etc. This is done via a digital crossover placed prior to amplification, and can be done from the listening position via a laptop/tablet realtime/on the fly. With the aid of measurements, the initial help from a friend well versed in this field, factory specs with recommendations and their measurements, lots of reading up and research plus countless hours of listening, the results have been fine-tuned to my specific acoustic environment and overall preference.

My Apollo speakers are very adjustable in both the time domain and the amplitude domain via digital crossovers. All crossover parameters are easily adjustable. Adjustments can be made on the fly via tablet and multiple setting can be saved. I can toggle from one setting to another from my listening chair to compare or for different listening needs. Passive room treatment first then DSP is applied.


My Vandersteen 1C’s have a high adjustment dial, my Vandersteen 2CE Sig’s have both mid and high adjustment dials, my Vandersteen Treo’s have neither.

My Large Advents and KLH Model 5s had switches which I never used, just kept them in the neutral position.  My Boston Acoustics A400s and current Harbeths do not.  I don’t feel like I’m really missing anything.  Just my $0.02 worth.

I have DT Mythos ST's with built in powered subs that have a volume knob for the subs

Sort of. In addition to the 2 stereo outputs, which run ESL's, I have two blended outputs with their own volume controls. These volume controls are downstream of the master volume control, and drive Magnepan DWM's. 

Basically it's an active crossover built into the preamp, so the effect is much the same - except for distortion.

Yes. Janszen Valentina P8 (a current model). Each has a woofer level switch, a level pot for the electrostatic panels, and a second level pot for the side-mounted tweeters that can provide more local ambiance if desired.

Yes, my FinkTeam KIM have two controls. They are very useful, and the first speakers that I have owned with such controls.

This is how they are described in StereoNet:

Two level controls are located beside the rear speaker terminals. One is a simple treble trimmer to reduce the tweeter level, while the other is a three-position bass damping control to help tune the KIM to the output impedance of the attached amplifier.

Apropos of this, Karl-Heinz [Fink] explains that: “When I was working on a high end floorstander, I found that the inductor on the woofer crossover made distortion that I could measure. So we changed to an air core with thick wire. This was no problem on the floorstander, but the next model we did was a bookshelf and so there was no space for a larger coil. I was running some simulations and found that I could modify the parameters of the speaker in the box with the magnet system and a higher resistance air coil. Yeah, school knowledge is that the inductor should have low resistance, but that’s not true. If you know what to do with your alignment, you can use small inductors and get good bass.”

Karl-Heinz then tried using a higher resistance inductor and another resistor in series to change the speaker’s alignment even more. “We can switch between 0.5 ohm, 0.25 ohm, and nothing, so this can be used to tailor your speaker to different amplifier technologies. A modern transistor amp has a high damping factor, so you use the larger resistor setting, while more traditional amplifiers like Naim normally use a smaller resistor in series, so the middle position is correct. And the left option is for tube amps; this works well with push-pull designs and helps with the bass.”


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Sound Lab speakers have three level controls, bass, midrange (really mid/bass) and brilliance.

These level controls are not just for room acoustics. The frequency response of the speaker can change with the type of amplifier used. The changes are particularly severe for ESLs. This is a very important reason that some amps seem to sound better than others. An amp that sounds dull on one speaker can sound bright on another. Big solid state amps with extremely low output impedances will sound great on everything. This is not due to the power. It is due to the very low output impedance. 

Mine do not. Linn AV 5140. Each driver driven by separate 100W amplifier from within Akurate Exaktbox-i.

Lovely speakers from previous system now serving with updated amp and streamer.  No speaker-based level control.

@elliottbnewcombjr Wrote:


Do Your Speakers have LEVEL CONTROLS or EQUALIZERS? (Vintage or Modern) ???



I saw the Advent loudspeaker mentioned. I owned a set of these which did have a toggle for attenuation. The three positions should have been labeled "muddy... bright... just right". That said they were a very good speaker in their day and are still fun to this day

I am focused on OEM Provided Level Controls and OEM Equalizers.

My contention is OEM controls ought to be provided.

OEM could offer optional equalizers for specific models

Certainly decent and sophisticated non-oem equalizers can do a terrific job, however that is not for most people.

A few who have controls do not use them. I certainly would get an inexpensive SPL, adjust them before room treatments. 

Amazon, 5 stars, $28.

Even if no level controls, these are great assists for refining speaker positioning and toe-in.

After you get 'best', then it's up to your specific taste, and hearing which changes as you age


The IRS Beta has exceptional level controls, both on the midrange panels and the xover/servo unit. They are a double-edge sword, however, because while they allow the system to be set up properly balanced, it’s also easy to get it very, very wrong. But of course it’s worth it if you take the time to get it right.

@elliottbnewcombjr The reason vintage loudspeakers have level controls is because the output impedance of the amplifier was an unknown. So the controls allowed the end user to adjust the speaker to get flat frequency response.

They were not there to adjust the speaker to the room!

Speakers that have controls like this are on the Power Paradigm. Speakers that are on the Voltage Paradigm (considered 'voltage driven') will not have any controls on the rear. For more on this see:

The Power Paradigm

Yes my JBL 4367 have 2db of adjustment in the mids and an additional 2db in the highs. Honestly it makes the speaker work.  0.5db is audible for sure in the highs. Every speaker should have adjustments. 


Electro-voice provided one AT-37 Level Control for their 2 way's (8 or 16 ohm versions)

and two AT-37 Level Controls for their 3 way's (8 or 16 ohms).

Their literature is clear: to adjust for 'live/hard' rooms, or 'soft/dead' rooms (of various degrees of soft or hard of course); for various locations in a space; for an individual's preference.


Lewm's opinion: best, for 'easily' matching left to right, is a resistor based level control. Certainly easier to match l/r frequency response than continuously variable L-Pads.

Either type can be adjusted differently l/r for a particular condition in a space, like my AR-2ax's in my office: left speaker against a wall, right speaker not near walls

Electrovoice's 4 way Model 6 (18" woofer)


has a 5 step resistor based Level Control, with published graphs of the frequency response of each of the 5 settings

Page 2, adjustment of balance control, is all about different spaces different tastes.


Their monster Patrician 800 (30" woofers) had level controls



A speaker's impedance, then and now was and is nominal, and typical crossovers are designed for the nominal impedance, and transformer taps also anticipate a speaker's stated nominal impedance.


Canton 9k 2 way stand mounted  have no controls. As an aside they are outstanding.

Level Controls: especially continuously variable type are: Easy to Screw Up, Hard to get ’right’, then: to taste, or to your specific hearing ability. Set in the middle, leave them alone, or use them as needed/desired.

For many years, I would get a friend over, in a specific space, and simply mess with the balance controls until I, with my friends help, got what I thought ’best’, in that space, in that location, with ’that’ toe-in. All by younger ears.

Adjusting base for tilt, to aim tweeters at seated ears came later.

Infinite Slope Model 2’s with Slanted face also alters the angle of reflection from floors and ceilings, as does toe-in from side walls.



Covid Times, home all the time, unspent money, I upgraded my entire system

Including a much more careful adjustment/matching of my 3 way speakers

1. Mess with toe-in, two alternates for best imaging

a. one listener dead center

b. two listeners, small drink table centered

2. Buy Inexpensive SPL with bottom fitting for Tripod Mount (ear height/listening position

3. Find my Amazing Bytes CD with Test Tones: tracks 9-38 of this CD

4. Make enlarged copies of that page to write adjusted results on

Back and forth, back and forth, sleep on it, back and forth

5. McIntosh Preamp’s Mode Control, Stereo Reverse, L to both; R to both ... page 8

6. VOICE Tests, Voice (and Instruments) cannot wander from their positions as frequency varies

a. Cassandra Wilson, Blue Light Till Dawn

b. Barbra Streisand/Donna Summer Duet, Enough is Enough

c. Richard Burton, War of the Worlds

d. Annie Lennox, Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams

7. Hearing Ability: even though the microphone hears the highs ’equally’, I am 74, I don’t hear highs as well as the mic does, So, raise the tweeters a speck at a time, get the wife to listen (women hear highs more than men), get my neighbor recording engineer over: raise, but not too much. Eurythmics is helpful for this. Get my younger audiophile friend over here (very familiar with my system).

Not only best frequency for me in my space, the refinement of Imaging is revealed. The better you get your imaging, the more sensitive you are to great or not so great imaging, dumb decisions like having Max Roach right side, but moving Max to the center during solos.

Now you love remote balance to make slight changes that make a bog difference. All imaging id Phantom, based on balance of L/R to create/locate ... here or there.

Slight adjustment of balance improves Imaging of whole album or individual tracks (recorded different times/spaces/engineers).

Gotta get it right, it ain’t easy, but wonderful results after careful work.

Move to a different space: here we go again!


Of course, the big item I haven’t touched on, besides reliability is power.

All resistive elements waste power, and as those contacts get dirtier the switches and knobs will waste even more power and heat them up.

Modern, passive, multi-way speakers simply can’t avoid using resistors, that’s a matter of fact, but the more of this we can move to the active realm (i.e. low voltage/low current) the better we are.

IMHO, the least audible, most reliable methods of doing this is how Wilson and other high end makers have done it, by using either replaceable resistors or plug in networks that allow you to select the right resistive value through a jumper wire.

So, the answer would be "yes" to many (especially vintage) speakers.

We do custom performance upgrades to modern and vintage speakers. My standard practice (if the customer is interested in performance) is to bypass the level adjustments and replace with high quality resistors. Measure resistance, verify with RTA, than listen. It may a little trial and error, taking the values up, or down a notch, but Invariably the speaker will sound better in my experience. But, admittedly, the ability to "tweak" the speaker a bit is forfeited in the process. I also find it worth noting that the factory attenuators and knobs remain in place, the speaker still looks "OEM" and it can be reverted to "stock" at any point in the future.

I also make it a general practice to bypass protective fuses. These are serious sound de-generators. My rule of thumb is to bypass the fuse(s) IF: a) the driver, diaphragm etc IS replaceable by an OEM (or, better) device, b) the cost is not prohibitive, and c) the customer has had no instances of blowing fuses (maybe some exceptions, but too involved to detail here). If the owner has played the speaker with a high degree of enthusiasm for decades and not blown a fuse, the chances are low (to zero) that damage to a driver will occur in the coming decades. Please keep in mind that it’s not just a fuse. It’s a fuse holder with connections on both ends and a friction contact fit with the fuse. Not the most "audiophilish" approach to best sound quality. But, as mentioned, if the driver/diaphram is irreplaceable or extraordinarily expense, by all means keep those protective devices in place!!

When I designed my DIY triamplified horn speakers a DEQX DSP  was an integral part of the design.  I wanted bass folded corner horns back in the corners and midrange and super tweeter horns well out in the room where they could image better.  The DEQX corrected the large time difference between the woofers and the mids.  The room correction facility, a ten band parametric equalizer,  of the DEQX proved to be very useful and beneficial.

Their literature is clear: to adjust for 'live/hard' rooms, or 'soft/dead' rooms (of various degrees of soft or hard of course); for various locations in a space; for an individual's preference.

@elliottbnewcombjr Yes, I'm sure the document said that; it would have been a bit of a task to get the user to understand that the correct setting is an interaction with the output impedance of the amplifier.

You'll notice that by the mid 1970s these controls had all but vanished. Electro Voice and MacIntosh led the way pushing for the speaker to be 'voltage driven'. That eliminated the need for the controls. 

The Patrician was an amazing speaker. Thanks for the photos.


There is a pair of JBL L250’s for sale on US Audio Mart.




bluury, you get the idea, manual explains as ’their most sophisticated ... to date


They have a sophisticated set of optional level controls, shown in the manual here


My speakers have two level controls, a high frequency and mid frequency. According to JBL, they are for controlling the power response of the compression driver.


Hopping about looking at Equalizers for a different thread, found this info about Vintage McIntosh MQ101 Environmental Equalizer

Also Part 2: Room Resonances and Room Construction
and an Experimental Update for the MQ101