Friday, 21 September 2012

A New Valve / Tube Tilt Tone Control.

This is very much an experiment at the moment. Years ago QUAD brought to a wide audience a very handy tone control for their HiFi preamps It was termed a Tilt control but is also known as a contour control which I find less descriptive. It differs in being a shelved filter so you control a broad range of frequency by a bit rather then a small area by a lot. It is better at changing the emphasis of the tone and not the tonal character. The idea is appealing but it is normally wrapped around an op-amp. I could passively add it but I came up with a topology which was far more tempting.

The topology places the control within the phase splitter and the output stage in my EL84 amplifier. The output is fed back into one side of the phase splitter. I liked the idea as the circuit has a nice symmetry which appeals.  The complication is it sits within the feedback loop from the speaker to the phase splitter so it's was always going to be a bit of a battle to ensure stability. If you look at the schematic below you can see that it would be very easy to add to an existing amplifier as it sits on top rather than within a normal EL84 output stage. The other issue I have found is that the switching from Pentode to Triode it changes the feedback gain and hence gain of the tone control.Click on the schematic to see it full size.

The frequency plot below is a multi-run simulation where the  TILT control is moved from 0k to 470k in linear steps. It shows clearly how at one end of travel it has bass boost and treble cut and at the other bass cut and treble boost.

In the circuit R47 (33K) sets the amplitude of the boost and cut in conjunction with R48 the feedback resistor. Current work is refining the balance between the two values which results in a good degree of tone control without sacrificing stability. It has proven to work well as a tone control but it would be better if the existing bass-mid-treble was not directly prior to this stage in my test amp. Better would be a topology closer to a trainwreck circuit where the tone control is early in the preamp cascade. That way you could alter the tonal emphasis going through the distortion stage and correct in the power stage.

If you are content with a boost / cut of a few db then phase shift can be kept very low, something that HiFi designers may find useful, which brings this full circle. It is trivial to obtain flat response at the bass end to low Hz.

EDIT. Looking at the above simulation the overall gain is ~29dB with flat gain, it should be nearer 18dB. I guess I took my eye off the gain whilst optomising tilt. The omission was to leave the grid capacitor C14 not tied into the feedback point. I'll address this excess gain and see if the instability issues previously noted disappear.