Do you want tone controls? I don't know, you tell me!
Do I recommend tone controls? NO! Do I use tone controls? YES! Confusing? YES!
OK, so if you think you want tone controls, the answer is yes, you probably do want tone controls.
I perfectly understand that not everyone has perfect ears, perfect speakers, perfect room setup.
I understand there is probably more poorly recorded music, than music that is recorded perfectly!!
So what you need to know is that tone controls will always compromise sound quality.
This is because using a circuit with tone controls means you need to have a minimum of 3X as much gain as you do without them.
A high quality tone control circuit needs 20db of gain to overcome the losses of tone controls.
Tone controls work two ways, by cutting gain (usually thru filters which just filter those tones to ground) or in worst cases
by using negative feedback to reduce gain on those tones.
To boost bass and treble (more likely than reducing it) those extreme frequencies need more gain, more amplification, which can lead to more noise,
worse signal to noise ratio, more distortion, and usually all the other frequencies (the critical midrange) are subjected to negative feedback.
These are the things we deal with in order to make the music sound better to our own ears, using our own speakers, our own rooms, our own recordings.
We do need tone controls to overcome all these short comings, but we have to accept that the compromises involved are not as bad as the results.
Are they better? They can be, or maybe not, that again, is a subjective question that only you can answer for yourself.
Oh, so maybe you'd like my OPINION, rather than the facts as presented above?
Sure! Do I like tone controls? NO! Do I recommend tone controls? NO! Do I use tone controls? YES! Sometimes, but I only use them when needed,
as necessary, and when I am prepared to accept all those limitations to overcome my own personal set of limitations involving my own ears, my own speakers,
my own listening room, my own recordings, some of which are awful, some have no bass, some have way too much bass, some are tinny, some are hollow.
Hey, here's an idea for you. Need more bass? Get a subwoofer, you can dial in as much boost as you want or need. And guess what,
then you don't need a bass control on your preamp!!! You don't need extra gain, extra noise, poorer circuit design. What a concept!!!
So . . . . need more treble? Gee, let's think about that for a moment. Maybe I could add an extra tweeter, a more efficient tweeter, one with it's own gain control. . . .
Hey, here's an idea for you. Make sure your listening room is at least somewhat enhanced to actually sound better.
Do some research, read some books, buy some room treatments.
Go all in !!! Buy a digital DSP EQ system for $10,000 and have it shape and perfect everything to your ears and your room! Really??? No, I think NOT!!!
The bottom line - music is for enjoyment, and that is subjective, so do your own thing!!!
And MY recommendations? Get the very best speakers you can afford, get your room setup correctly, buy better music, and THEN,
either buy an SP14 (and a PH16 for phono) or buy an SP9 with tone controls, and then . . . . enjoy the music!! Simple!!