Yep. In the same boat as you. I don't have a symetrical set up, and I neeed either a balance control or a dual mono preamp to get the sound right. I realise it is not the purest of set ups, but it is what I need to get it right for me. I tried a dual mono preamp, but I personally just didn't like always adjusting both controls everytime I listened. With a balance control I can set it and pretty much leave it.
Ah, the tribulations of the Rich and Famous :>)
My wife and I had a standing joke about how every system we set up in our earlier years needed a twirl of the balance control to adjust for what we blamed on living at the wrong location relative to the position of the moon and planets.
Then I decided the quality control guy at each factory took his lunch break while our particular units came down the line.
You're right about a particular rightness when the listener is positioned where the recording engineer centered the image.
Next, I can predict you'll become aware of the off center (but, real) positioning of certain musicians and vocalists, who also occasionally dare to turn their heads, further complicating things.
The ultimate solution to all of this is for minimalist high end manufacturers to re-introduce the long gone balance control, this time as a remote control feature.
Meanwhile, I have pressed back into service my KLH 21 table radio whose monophonic imaging, and limited bandwidth, hide all the rough edges in any recordings.
"We don't need no stinkin' balance control."
Vote me in the Balance control camp, I have the same issue with vocals and stage right...so the slight scew is a nice option, wish I didnt need it but glad it is there.
I guess I must be lucky, as I don't have a balance control, nor do I feel the need to use one. On almost all of my recordings, the imaging is solidly centered.
(Once in a great while I do get the odd record where the image seems really off, but I either just live with it, or move on to the next record. Oh well, no big deal to me.)
Sure, why not?
On the other hand, you could rearrange your room and put the speakers equidistant across a common corner -- or just simply position the quieter speaker an inch or so closer to the listening position. Playing with toe-in, and putting acoustic damping material on the closer side wall could help quite a bit too.
Absolutely. I find that maybe 10-20% of the recordings I listen to have images slightly off center. A touch of the balance knob can center the image easily. I consider a balance control mandatory, just like a polarity invert switch, and to a lesser extent, a remote control.
Plato, you are joking right? Thanks guys, and the balance is on my remote as well. Since my pre has a standby feature (I don't know if that is the reason for this) it keeps everything in memory. Bottom line? Don't have to redo the balance everytime I listen. Huge difference in my music now. That vocal, though only a tad off center, was bugging the shit out of me and hard to rationalize/spin. Dead center is where a vocal usually is , and dead center is where I like it. The rest of the music falls into a balance.
Alhtough my room is asymmetrical, I don't need the balance control for normal listening. I do find it tremendously helpful for trouble-shootong when something is not quite right in the system, or for when someone is in the adjacent room near the right speaker, to turn that speaker down so as to not be too loud for that person.
I don't think Plato was joking at all. His are good suggestions, and so is a balance control.
Drubin, I'm sorry, but I thought my post was clear about the room and not being able to do the things Plato was talking about...Plato, I think I hurt Drubin's feelings more than yours? If I'm wrong, didn't mean any harm. Not on Christmas. Any other day: beware...lol..I'm joking Drubin.
As long as your speakers are equadistant (I think that's a word) from your seating area, go for it. Since moving to the new house I have had to balance left 2 notches to centralize vocals. The room is not symetrical...what's a guy to do?
I use the balance control. I don't know of a single setup where I thought the balance was so perfect that use of a balance control would not be of help.
It is quite surprising how noticeable even a small shift in balance can be perceived. I have (now a back up preamp) a Levinson No. 32 that allows balance and volume to be changed in .1 db! increments. It is impossible to reliably hear a .5 db change in volume with musical material, but it is quite easy to hear a .3 db shift in balance.
If the balance control is achieved by sending the signal through another set of potentiometers, then the control, at least in theory, degrades the signal. But, if the control is like that of the Levinson, a microprocessor is simply controlling the volume control resistor ladder to achieve balance control so the signal is no more degraded than it is by having a volume control.
My current linestage, an Emotive Audio Epifania, allows for microprocessor control of a resistor ladder to achieve balance control, but not in as fine increments as the Levinson. Good thing it sounds better than the Levinson.
The centering of my vocals with the pre amp is much more profound than I realized. When the balance centers the vocals it moves more than (obviously) merely the vocal, in my case, to the left. Instruments' position in space, and the soundstage itself have been profoundly affected. The balance is a good thing....
The balance is a good thing....
Yes, I've always felt it was very important, as I stated before. I also like a polarity invert switch on my preamps as well.
I never did, until very recently. My room is a bit asymetrical, and a hair off center of the balance control seems to help. I expect to be doing a fairly serious room overhaul in the near future and suspect the balance control will become superfluos once again. I suppose it comes in handy for those with LP rigs.
I too became aware of slightly off center imaging from critically listening to other systems. The solution came with some simple room treatments. First reflections and rear corners defusers helped balance everything nicely. Now the only time I turn the Balance control is for system diagnosis.
If the "only slightly off center image" could be taken care of by a few clicks of the remote, why go for the expense of the room treatments? I would think room treatments have a much more profound affect on many other things other than the center image?
In my case, it's not so much imaging, but volume (sound level) that a hair off center seems to balance. One side of the room is slightly larger (greater volume) than the other. There are other things I want to do with the room, so I'm taking the opportunity to help the sound as well.
Although my ARC Ref 3 has a balance control, going to mono is the first thing I try to cure an unbalanced image. My room also is asymmetrical but the speakers are positioned so that the sound is balanced on good recordings. If it isn't, my first assumption is that it must have been the sound engineer's fault. After 20++ years of pursuing the 'absolute sound' in stereo on vinyl in classical, jazz and rock, I've come to suspect that a great many stereo recordings (more than half, perhaps?) in fact never had a stable, balanced image on the master, not to mention on the copies that were issued and reissued, regardless of format.
I have the same problem. One side of my room is open and the speaker on that side loses the side wall for reverb etc. Anything I could do, acoustically, would have a VERY strong negativo WAF...
One advantage of having a center speaker is that center sounds (particularly vocals) are properly located without need for ultra-precise gain matching of 2 channel signals.
Some recordings I have basically require balance adjustment. Often times the gain levels aren't matched properly. It is amazing how lax some recording engineers can be. Oh well, at least I can fix it myself.
Aball...On those recordings, perhaps the sound image that you seek to center is not supposed to be centered. Good speakers will produce a "soundstage" with instruments located anywhere between the speakers, and sometimes beyond. But image location has more to do with time-of-arrival than SPL, so trying to move an image by gain control (balance) is not the greatest idea.
The balance control is very useful to obtain equal gains in your electronics, as opposed to what is on the recording. The method is to play a mono source and listen to a speaker or headset bridged across your stereo amp. Adjust the balance control for a null (silence). You will probably find that perfect silence cannot be achieved until frequency response of the two channels is also tweeked with an equalizer or tone controls. I did a lot of this stuff when I tinkered with various matrix multichannel schemes.
Of course I realize some parts of the soundstage will be off center. How can you expect me to not know that??
I was referring to music that should have a center image or centered soundstage like lead vocals or some acoustic bands. For those, I will have it the way I expect it to be. My stereo is for my own enjoyment and since there isn't hardly an absolute in this hobby, you can't disregard any method.
Aball...Since you realize that "some parts of the soundstage will be off center" it should not surprise you that not all lead vocals are centered (although most are). Performers sometimes wander around the stage while singing, and a good audio system will reveal that.
Of course you have my permission to twist the balance control any way you like :-) I do a similar thing with my multichannel system when the soloist, particularly a solo instrument in a classical piece, is mixed too loud so that if the instrument is at a proper volume the orchestra is too soft. I reduce the center channel gain.
This soundstage thing: The musicians are postitioned in space where the recording engineer puts them. Referent? Not a clue. Now let's look at a live recording. Again, unless I was there and remembered the exact positioning of all the instrumentalists, singers, etc. there is still no referent. Soundstage, IMO, is the most over used descriptions in this audiophoolish hobby and one of the most profoundly misunderstood characteristics when describing live or recorded music as a positive or negative thing. Particulary recorded. Unless the guy who did the mix is sitting next to my listening chair, how am I to know where the instruments are meant to be? On a stage, regardless of where the musicians are they all come out of the speakers in the same place, unless we are talking a small jazz venue with the drummer moving his drums all over the stage and the sax player following him into the audience. Granted I have been guilty of using the soundstate lingo for a long while, as well, but no more.
A test disc like Stereophile's "Test CD 3" provides a couple of tracks that offer definitive placement information: Stereo Channel Phasing, and Soundstage Maps and Microphone Techniques. Utilizing these tracks takes all the guesswork out of determining if one has correct placement of a voice or instrument in the stereo image.
Also, Chesky's "The Ultimate Demonstration Disc" has track after track of music that demonstrate specific qualities of stereo reproduction. Each track and it's purpose is introduced by a narrator who explains what one should listen for during each musical selection.
Soundstage is neither a mystery nor a phantom audiophile term. Using these discs can assist anyone in properly placing speakers and balancing left and right channels. Of course, once one has the proper set-up, then it's "user's choice" to vary the setting to suit one's personal taste. And, has been discussed previously, none of us know what the recording engineer was hearing when he/she recorded the session. We can hope the room was properly set up for correct balance.
I don't know what that has to do with what I said, and I am aware those "Test CD3s." I'm tired of the soundstage talk and its' power over so many audiophools. Save it Tvad, ain't happening here. "Phantom audiophile term?" I like that. But as for soundstage? Not from me anymore. At least you know one thread you won't be reading me. A healthy and a happy to everyone. peace, warren :)
Once one knows their system's stereo image is correct with the balance control (or dual mono volume controls) set at neutral, then adjusting balance to suit one's taste will be more meaningful, and one can always return to the neutral position on the balance control knowing the stereo image is at the correct baseline.
For those interested in knowing if their systems properly create stereo imaging and soundstaging, I encourage you to check out the Stereophile and Chesky test CDs. They're very cool. The phase test track is worth the price of the disc alone.