I bought a pre with a balance for this very reason (possibility).
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I've been dealing with this exact same issue since I've been in my present room. In my case it is an asymetric room giving greater boundary reinforcement to one channel. When you have this issue with a room, balance controls may not entirely solve the problem as some frequencies may be reinforced more than others.
You can measure for any imbalance in your equipment by measuring voltage at speakers out on your amplifier. Play steady state tones at various frequencies and measure with the 2volt setting on DMM.
Well, it's pretty easy to determine if it is a speaker/placement/room issue. Simply swap the speaker cables at the amp end. If the problem stays with the original problem'd side, it's the speaker/placement/room, and not in the electronics. If the problem moves, then it is somewhere in the electronics. You can continue cable swapping unti you isolate it to one component. From there perform as many tube swaps between channels as possible to isolate it to as few tubes as possible.
I wonder whether the audiophile prejudice against balance and tone controls is misguided
Yes, I think so. I think most folks would be surprised to find that they have an acoustic imbalance in their listening rooms. I hope eventually we'll have 2-channel DSP gear (or we've moved to AV pre/pros) that solves these issues automatically. There are DSP controlled speaker systems that do it today.