Balance knob ..


So I'd say I've been a budget audiophile for 40+ years. Used to sell audio at Audio Warehouse in Cincinnati in the '80s. Currently I have a pretty big room with 12' ceilings, but different open areas behind each of the Maggie 1.7is and the Emotiva BASX 10" subs behind each. All driven by an Emotiva XPA-2 Gen3 and old CJ PV-10AL preamp. Listening mostly through a Bluesound Node 2i. CD player is a Panasonic Aventage BD1060 disc player. I have the sound, honestly, pretty damn great. But I am realizing a bit of bias to the left speaker. I think this is because that speaker has a lot space behind and to the side whilst the right has less and more complicated space behind and a closer side wall. 

I have always been told - and believed - that you shouldn't ever mess with the balance knob. But if the sound is a bit UNbalanced isn't that what it's for? Just to "balance" the output? But then I think with more signal going to the channel that the knob is turned to - which will screw-up imaging, soundstage, depth, etc., no? 

I am kinda stuck cuz I can't move the speakers or have a dedicated listening room. 

Thoughts? 
jkf011
Just try it and decide if you think it sounds better. You are the one listening.
Short answer - shift your chair to the right a few inches and see if the image (mono source preferably) shifts to center. IMHO better than using a balance control. I had this problem off and on for some time and solved it when I finally set up the speakers and listening chair in a 10' equilateral triangle with a lot of toe in. 
Well but am I not really screwing up the natural signal by "balancing?" Or am I not with the net result? 

As far as moving to the right a bit. I've done that and it seems to make little difference. Toeing them in more might but Maggie's are supposed to be toed in very little (like 10deg) and I am at like 15deg now (to account for big heavy entertainment center between and slightly behind them). 
I think this is because that speaker has a lot space behind and to the side whilst the right has less and more complicated space behind and a closer side wall.

A reasonable enough sounding assessment of the situation. So my question is, how is balance going to address this problem? It won't. 

Balance will make one speaker louder. It will indeed shift the image a bit to whatever side you make louder.

But that's not all it will do. It will also do real damage to the depth and solidity of that image. So what will happen is, you will be real happy at first. Got my center all nice and cetered! Big whoop. Then you notice sounds that used to be nice and 3D in the stage now seem to be coming right from the speaker. Now not so happy. Not happy at all.

You seem to have a pretty good handle on the situation. Just need to work out how to fix it any other way than changing the balance.
Yup that was what I was afraid of. 
Move some stuff from behind the right speaker to behind the left speaker. That way both sides will be equally compromised. Seriously, would a mix of bass traps and room treatments/reflectors behind both speakers help. Maybe pull the speakers a few feet further into the room. 
That's the thing, I am not a dedicated audiophile like that. System needs to live in a much used great room and the "stuff" behind right is complicated house structure. Wife will not go for treatments. I have pics of the setup but dunno how to attach here. 
Just use the balance control. That is what it was designed to do...correct the balance with no drawbacks.
Why do I think that was trolly?
Just use the balance control!...jeez...
As the SO is calling the shots, when she's not around move the speakers out one inch from the front wall every night before retiring. Hopefully she won't notice. In a few weeks, you're golden.
Is it a speaker positioning problem, or an amplifier etc. problem? I’d try to work out where the problem lies before resorting to use of a balance control.Try swapping the channels at the speaker leads to see if the balance issue swaps channels. If there’s no change, the balance could be due to the different acoustic space each speaker is in, as you say.
I use a balance control sometimes as some of my records have balance issues, and a small tweak of the balance control fixes it. As long as the balance control is correcting the imbalance, you should be fine with regards to depth of image, etc.
Unless you use a sure-fire method for speaker placement such as the XLO Test CD or similar test CD track for speaker set up you’re just shooting blanks in the dark. No matter what your room looks like or what you have in the room in terms of furniture drapes, acoustic devices, etc. or what speakers you have there will be ONLY one set of speaker locations that is the absolute best. All techniques that involve moving a little, listening a little are only going to obtain “local maximums.” Unless you have a guaranteed method of speaker placement it’s like trying to solve a set of x simultaneous equations in x + n unknowns. 
I have always been told - and believed - that you shouldn't ever mess with the balance knob.

Same story with tone controls. Rubbish. Use it if it feels right. I mean, what exactly would the consequences be?

I do have to watch out for ear wax though as it builds up faster in one ear, always worth making sure your ears are clean.

Best,

E

My listening space is perfectly symmetrical, all direct/indirect identical l/r.

I would never live without a balance knob.

In your case, if the physical space surrounding the speakers is not BALANCED, you will definitely benefit from a balance control, and, only certain frequencies will be boosted/cut by the lack of symmetrical surfaces, so tone controls in addition to balance might be a good idea.

I would definitely recommend toeing the speakers in, aim each speaker directly at the listening position, boosting direct and reducing indirect sound waves.

this current 'TONE Controls' thread is related to your situation:

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/toole-and-why-i-like-tone-controls

Please read my too long post there, there is a lot to think about, much interrelated.


I have 3 of these,

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Chase-Technologies-RLC-1-REMOTE-LINE-CONTROLLER-Complete-In-Original-Box-NEW/333463145628?hash=item4da3f3cc9c:g:bV8AAOSwEDFdpQFT 

one main listening; second office; 3rd spare!

105db S/N is true, no one can tell if it is in or out of my system, the benefits are terrific, would definitely help you.


...............................

anyone interested in the Chase RLC:

Not OP’s current issue, but, LOUDNESS Contour (I yap about that in the prior linked tone thread)

The Chase RLC unit has loudness automatically engaged as you reduce the volume from it’s default level. It gives you the two volume control system I talk about. RLC ON, default volume. Use preamp or integrated amps vol to boost to your normal preffered volume. Then, for more, boost the RLC. For lrss, cut the RLC, it will begin loudness bass boost progressively as you reduce volume.

I have seen threads, other buyers who love the RLC: they open the RLC and defeat it’s Loudness chip. That is because they do not understand it, don’t have the volume arrangement for it’s engagement set low enough, they engage the loudness too early, the boost is too loud, not it’s intended use.

Get it right, retained bass at low volume is terrific.
It actually doesn’t matter if the listening space is symmetrical or not because the radiation pattern of speakers is not uniform. And probably not symmetrical from one speaker to the other. Objects like bookshelves, furniture, etc. will also contribute to the non symmetry. Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water. 🦈 
I have a small system in my computer room and one speaker is about 4 feet from my listening position, the other is about 7 or 8 feet.  I listen from my computer and also have a turntable and CD player.  I use the balance controls on the PC and also use the balance controls on my Parks Puffin phono stage.  I can't do anything about the CD player, there's no way to balance the speakers when using that, but it's pretty rare that I do.

Repositioning everything so that I'm sitting smack dab between the speakers isn't really an option.  

Sure it's a compromise, but would listening with one speaker almost twice as loud as the other be better?  I don't think so.
@big_greg But your scenario is not the same as the OP's primary system. I don't know about you but my speakers are aligned for imaging to 1/8 inch.
@noromance Fair enough. I didn't mean to derail the thread by responding to those that think a balance control is the Devil's work.

I've done a lot of experimenting with positioning and sound treatments in my main system. I think my preamp has a balance control, but I've never used it.  I have some spaces limitations there also but have been able to get really good imaging. 
Eliot, Sorry, I have NO idea what you were talking about WRT that line conditioner. That whole thread just completely went over my head. 
What does "aligned to imaging at 1/8" mean?
The Chase Unit. Did you look at it's features? Not understand it?

Line CONTROLLER (not conditioner). Volume, Balance, Treble, Bass, Input switching. Noise free 105dn S/N

I am suggesting in your situation, asymetrical speaker locations, asymetrical reflecting surfaces: in addition to Balance, you might benefit from Tone Controls.

thus the linked Tone Control thread.

I am a big proponent of remote Balance, even in a perfectly symetrical space with perfectly matched speakers, to adjust for individual tracks with slight balance issues.

LOUDNESS Contour, Low Volume Bass Boost: I can understand young people not being aware of it, and many young and old pre-disposed to simple signal paths, However, you owe yourself some Bass Boost at low volume, especially if getting into Jazz.
Newbie, bad idea. There are two factors that determine center stage. Volume and phase. They both have to be right on for the best image. By just moving over you change relative volume but you leave phase behind and blur the image. With a balance control you change the volume without changing the phase relationships. 
With the best systems a balance control is vital. The balance of many recordings varies 1 to 2 db which is very significant. I frequently have to adjust the balance a little to get the right image even on digital recordings. If you do not hear the variation in balance between recordings you have work to do. 
jk, use that balance control as much as you need.
milostyn, Actually I agree with your analysis.  If I had a balance control on a remote I'd use it to correct recording imbalances. But for system set up I used the XLO disc which has an 'out of phase'  section so my system is fairly well dialed in and I do not have (so I cannot use) a balance control. When I last had one (in an old SP10 I rarely used it because the effort of dialing in a disc without a remote control was not really worth the effort - too fussy for me I think.

FWIW, I think OP's pre-amp does not have a balance control.  I really didn't think the small change OP might incur by buying a new pre-amp would be worth the expense, nor was I sure, with his room, that out of phase information on a disc would be all that important. 
newbee, I think you are right. The CJ does not have a balance control.
Incorrect phasing is always important if you want a solid image as well as the right volume for the location of the image. 
In thinking about it it is hard to describe the effect when you drop the volume on one side 1 db while at the listening position. The louder channel takes on more weight I suppose. The image is crooked? The image is blurred to the louder channel? Certainly the instruments located on the quieter side lose some of their presence and gain some on the louder side. Instruments and voices in the center lose some of their definition. 
No you're both wrong, CJ PV10AL DOES have one. Why would I have asked the question if it wasn't available to me? 

Phasing I have some understanding of. I have Stereophile test disc. What is an XLO disc?

I cannot afford, esp since it has a balance control, and would not risk replacing the CJ.  I have loved it for 20yrs and would have to spend a fortune (to me) to replace it. 
Oh and I think it's safe to say I won't be getting into jazz, ever. 
Just use that balance control. it will correct your problem. That is what it was made for. Personally, I would be reluctant to buy a amp without a balance control. Especially true for tube amps. If you get paranoid enough about this issue, you can convince yourself of all sorts of problems. Take a deep breath, try it, and listen. Don't like the results? THEN try something else.
For me the loss mostly affects 'depth of image' on recordings which have that information embedded, not so much an actual shift in left/right imaging and loss of focus/clarity. For me the tough part in the analysis is determining when the recording's imbalance is due to instrument(s) placement on the stage or microphone placement/mixing. I often find that in solo piano music, for example, there is a pronounced left leaning balance which I have assumed is the result of microphone placement, not so much as a mixing issue. Being a lazy audiophile, when this occurs, I simply shift to the right a few inches bringing the prominent left balance  back to center. And, when all is said and done, I'm not sure how much the out of phase information is present in the recording, audible in the listening experience, or important to most ordinary (not OCD's) listeners. 
LOL jkf011, obviously we erred! I just looked at the wrong picture of the PV pre-amp. Go figure, I said I was lazy. :-)

So then the answer to your question (for me anyway) is get off your butt and walk to your pre-amp, use the balance control to correct the shift then walk back to your chair and answer honestly the question "Well was that really worth all of the effort".

FYI, the XLO test disc is an out of production disc of high quality and contains, in addition to an out of phase cut, a 'room walk about' where Doug Sax centers a mike in a defined room and walks about the room recording sound at various locations which helps a user understand how the users room sounds or should sound. 
If you are going to get OCD about imaging in your system I highly recommend you get a recording  by Opus 3 called 'depth of image' which contains music recorded simply (microphone wise) and excels in portraying three dimensional imaging.  It is also out of production. 

Have fun.
Thank newbee we'll see about that. 
This thread reminded me of the fact that in all my years I have never used a balance control for anything other than diagnostic purposes. Never to "balance' the output of the music. Never really thought about it, honestly. Must investigate.