When did this start? Has it always been there? When was the last time the image was centered? I recently had the exact same problem and I switched everything SCs, ICs, speakers, I tracked it down to a tube in my CDP that was going bad. Again, when was the last time it was centered? What changed since?
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How far off center? I experienced this same problem nad couldn't remedy it until I broke down the whole system because I needed to paint the walls. Initially, it seemed like the vocalists were off to the left side by half a head.
When I put everything back in, the layout of furniture near the center audio rack was slightly changed, but the center image had aligned to dead middle. The only other things that may have contributed to the shift was disconnecting and reconnecting all my cables. I had also placed contact enhancer on all the connections. So it could have any number of things that corrected my problem. Room acoustics, a bad cable connection to begin with, contact enhancer or pure luck.
Have you played a MONO source--you need to do this to see if it, whatever the content, is centered or not. If that's not centered and you switch the source channels and then switch the amp/preamp channels, as well as the speakers that you mentioned you did, it's got to be room acoustics some how, in my opinion. Also not every stereo vocal album has the vocal centered. Good luck!
I had this problem for years and in more than one house and with several speakers. I had assumed I had a hearing problem in my right ear (image shifted left). Long story short - it was because of the speaker placements interaction with the rooms acoustic's and the placement of the listening position. I moved my listening chair and speakers into a nearfield listening arrangement - speakers are 8' apart (center to center) and listening position is 9' from speakers.
Don't rule out the possibility that your set up could be the cause.
Take a hard look at the placement of furniture, rugs, artwork (particularly with glass in the frame), the balance of audio absorbent coverings such as cloth uphostery vs leather or plastic, and so on.
You might also try slightly different toe-in angles to help correct - one angle for one speaker and a slightly different angle for the other. The degree difference does not have to be much to have a big impact on image placement.
There could also be a defect in a cross-over network or driver in one of the speakers, or an off-value or deteriorating component in the source, preamp or amp. For example, on turntables, I've seen the stylus cantilever get knocked slightly out of alignment and that'll affect the volume between channels.
This won't help with the phono cartridge, but if you have a steady-state mono source (e.g., frequency generator) and a reasonably sensisitve multimeter, you can check the voltage being delivered to each speaker terminal. That might help narrow your search.
Is it possible that you are actually hearing a phase problem? Insure that your speakers are wired correctly, i.e. "red to red", "black to black" on both of your speakers. Also, it is possible that your speakers are mis-wired inside, i.e., one of the drivers is wired out of phase.
I agree with the previous poster that suggested playing a mono source. if you play something in mono and the image is not centered, you definately have a problem.
If you have swapped interconnects (between source and power amp) and you have (in a separate test) swapped speakers with their respective cables (left channel to right side and right channel to left side) then you have eliminated your system as the source of the problem.
=> The only things that remain are your ears and the room!
(if your equipment was causing this the problem one of the above tests would have moved the image to the other side of center by one foot)
The system was recently in a small bedroom and the problem became prevalent without me changing anything. One day, the image just seemed off a little. I thought it was wax build up or that my hearing was going. It seemed to come and go somewhat and I began to think that I had a problem with a tube in the Cayin TA-30 I was running. I moved the system into my newly designed room about 2 months ago and the problem persisted. I figured I would wait until all the traps were in place to make a judgement. Now that I have the traps just about completed, the problem seems more prevalent than ever. I have measured and re-measured distances between speakers and listener, ie. triangle (speakers approx. 9 feet apart and same distance to listening area. I guess it is possible that both amplifiers, the cayin and the arcam, could have the same problem. I highly doubt that.
The room is perfectly symmetrical in every way. Some angles designed accoustically but all symmetrical. The room only has a leather sofa, placed perfectly in the rear center and about 6 feet from rear wall. A nice large wool rug, once again, centered. All tubes have been switched, and, as I say, I have tried swapping the tube amp for a solid state. Same issue. This problem was also prevalent in the smaller bed room where I had the system until 2 months ago. Could wiring induce interference that may cause this?
A preamp or linestage with a balance control is the ticket. I go through the same thing with tube variables, recordings, and all the other things can can screw your day. The equipment designers that leave off balance controls in the interest of purity are mad.
Another method you might try is called Masters. Sumiko has some dealers who are trained for speaker placement that matches their placement in the room according to equal pressurization. Rod Tompson at Soundings in Denver is rather adept at this.
"If you have swapped interconnects (between source and power amp) and you have (in a separate test) swapped speakers with their respective cables (left channel to right side and right channel to left side) then you have eliminated your system as the source of the problem."
So did you ever swap the speaker connections so that the left output of the amp is driving the right speaker and the right output of the amp is driving the left speaker ?
I didn't see an answer to this question, and in my opinion it is the key question.
If you are convinced the room is acoustically symetrical and your physical arrangement is good, and you've switched all cables and equipment including speakers back & forth with the same off-center effect, I think you're back to the room. There is something you're missing. (There is an old saying that when you hear hoof beats you look for horses before you look for zebras - unless you're in Africa.)
Would it be a dumb question to ask if you've taken an album where this effect is pronounced and listened critically to other systems outside your home? If you hear an off-center image there, it could be that you're experiencing a change in your hearing ability due to age, past hearing damage or another medical issue. Been to an audiologist lately? (I do recall you saying others have heard this, but never hurts to check with your doc.)
If it is external EFI that is causing the problem, it would presumably be picked up by the speaker cables since they are the only ones not physically together from source to amp (unless you have outputs to monoblocks by the speakers.) You could try doubling the length of the speaker cable and looping a section over to the other side and see if that causes a similar shift in image. (You might have to use cheap wire for this test to get the extra length.)
You could also check out alternate speaker cables. Some offer better shielding, akin to a coax or balanced cable type shield.
Or, you could move the equipment to the opposite end of the room and see what that does to your image. If that does change things, you could be back to re-examining your acoustics or possibly have revealed an EFI source that is stronger at the other end.
Swap the speakers. If it remains, it is not your speakers.
Completely swap the speaker cables:Disconnect completely and put the right cable on the left side (amp to speaker) and the left cable on the right side (amp to speaker). If it remains, it is not your speaker cables.
Now swap the speaker terminals at the amp. (use the right amp channel to drive the left speaker, and the left amp channel to drive the right speaker). What was being presented to the right side of your amp is now being presented to the left side, and vice versa.
If the sound DOES change (you hear a shift past correct to the right side) Your Amp is OK.
IF the sound does not change, (same left-prevalent image) Your amp, somehow, it to blame. Check Bias on the tubes. Swap JUST the power tubes.Listen. Then swap just the pre/driver/input tubes. Listen. IF the Amp is auto biased, the circuit could be pushing a power tube too hard because of a weak driver/input (Maybe, someone else chime in here).
Completely swap the right and left ICs between source and Amp. IF still there, not your ICS. Now swap the ICs at the rear of the source. IF it is still there, hire an exorcist.
By the way, I had a similar problem a while back. Hearing tested. Everything done. The only difference between my situation and yours is that no-one else heard my issue.
I would suggest that you get as many different opinions (without leading them to hear what you hear) by asking "is teh image center, right, or left"
My problem is that, while my hearing is fine, I am right eye-dominant, and tend to turn my head to the left while searching Visually for the center image in the soundstage.
Perhaps not coincidentally, my right ear is slightly farther from the tip of my nose (or the center of my face) than my left ear. SO, I have to turn my head slightly to the left to present my ears at the same plane. When I do this, I hear the image in the center, but my head is oriented slightly to the left. If I remain focused on the center point by gazing slightly right (so my head is turned slightly left, but my eyes are straight ahead) I hear ( and "See" which is just as important) the image as it should be.
Don't measure your head if you aren't prepared to see a couple millimeters of diference!!!
This sounds like a classic phase problem. Yes, try a mono recording if you have one, or a regular stereo one if not. Switch the positive and the negative on one (only) of your speakers. Perhaps you have purchased a (used?) pre-amp/you don't have the manual/ and it reverses polarity. Many do. In any case if it sounds better, with centered image and better bass, that's it.
If that doesn't get it and you've tried the above, go ahead and make speaker placement adjustments, move one closer/forward, angle one more than the other (this makes a big difference in centering), because your room is not perfect. Things don't have to be perfectly symetrical, you neurotic engineer.
(I know, we're all neurotic.)
If you have tried swapping and eliminating all hardware (checked voltage output on standard tone out of each amp etc) then clearly it can not be the equipment. It is you or the room. If you know for sure others hear it (or you have tested your hearing with same db output from each speaker and you dont hear the difference) than it is the room. If it is the room, try: (i) measuring dbs with same db tone CDs, right and left channel using an audio shack db meter and if that does not make the issue clear (ii) download the room EQ wizard (buy a mike) and measure not only immediate dbs but also map out various milisecond scenarios. That will allow you to see if reverbs are causing sustained dbs beyond the immediate timing (often the problem.) If that is the problem, get your money back from your room designers and start experimenting with room treatment (forget equalizers for reverb problems, much less helpful if at all.) If that is not the problem, then move houses!
By the way I assume your issue is not only vocals but pretty much all sounds. Otherwise, it is really mysterious.
Mihalis what is the reference position for all sounds,and where are they supposed to be seen on the landscape of audio recordings? Even with vocals, which you would assume to be placed at perfect center there may be a blur in the acoustic bubble which may place it off to the side. Where does that blur originate, is it a singular point of the chain or is the cause of many? From the recording space, or mics or mix, to the press to the consumer electronics to the playback room, all are probably to blame. I have been fighting these issues of image solidity for years. The more powerful microscope you have the more crap you can see. So is the same for high resolution audio, darn it.. Tom
I am now pretty certain that it is indeed a volume issue. Not room related. I started playing with the volume knob and very slowy began to turn it clockwise. The right speakers begins to have sound coming from it before the left channel. I guess that probably means that the right speaker is slightly louder than the left, therefore causing the image to shift sligtly to the right of center. How would someone fix this problem???
Well, you could try a different preamp, however if you swapped the interconnects at the back of the preamp, it should be reversed. (You might want to verify this before trying to correct it). Unfortunately, the preamp will likely have to be repaired, and the manufacturer is teh best place to start. I remember I had an old C-J preamp that had this problem. At low levels, really low, one channel "ramped up" quicker than the other one.
Anyway glad to hear that you have identified the source of your woes.
I am now pretty certain that it is indeed a volume issue. Not room related. I started playing with the volume knob and very slowy began to turn it clockwise. The right speakers begins to have sound coming from it before the left channel. I guess that probably means that the right speaker is slightly louder than the left, therefore causing the image to shift sligtly to the right of center.
One more test, cross the ics from the preamp to the power amp.
Right out of the pre to left in on the Amp.
Left out of the pre to right in on the Amp.
Is the off center image shifted to the other side?
"I am now pretty certain that it is indeed a volume issue."
You may be correct but your experiment is flawed.
Most volume controls (potentiometers) have poor channel balance at very low volumes, but have a perfectly acceptable channel balance in the normal listening range. Just because channels are out of balance at low volumes does not mean that they will be out of balance at higher volumes.
Did you try any of the other suggestions ?
VOLTAGE! Well, my problem similar stemed from I have MONO blocks originally, and found left was more prominent than right, a portion of this was listening position, but guess what I found later? That one amp was getting a different voltage than the other, the bias was then imbalanced to the 2 different channels, even with the same power cords, and this happened more when I plugged both amps into the same circuit with common ground than plugging them into 2 totally different circuits, I guess the draw on the same circuit caused part of this, or that the PReamp running was also off from its voltage, I don't really know, but it could be electrical in your voltage drop.. You did not really say what you run, but if its tubes, or Dual mono stereo, or Mono blocks it could be this simple.. But room acoustics and Hallways closer to one speaker than the other have caused this in my experience as well. Good luck
Good question. Don't know the 'scientific' answer.
I have traditionally set up my speakers (of all types) a minimum of 9ft apart and a listening distance of 10 feet, toeing in the speakers to minimize 1st reflection points from the side walls. Sort of got into a rut on this set up and compensated for room induced image shift by moving my listening position a few inches to the right and angling my chair so it pointed between the center and the right speaker.
On a boring, rainy, day I started moving the speakers about and brought them in to about 8ft apart (on speaker centers) and ultimately moved the listening position up to 9 ft. The speakers were pointed straight ahead as opposed to being toed in. Two things occurred. 1) The center image became very sharply focused center image, and I mean very sharply, it wasn't chopped liver before! 2)Apparent depth of image increased substantially, and both improvements came at no loss of stage width.
I called that 'nearfield' as that's about as close as you would want to sit to 4ft high floorstanders with 5 drivers and it seemed to take much of the room effect out of the mid/upper frequencies. I'm still working on it.....
I don't have a separate pre. (will soon) I have a Cayin TA-30 Tube Amp.http://www.goodsound.com/equipment/cayin_ta_30.htm
Cross the ics between CDP and the Cayin TA-30.
Left ch out of the CDP, to right ch input of the integrated amp.
Right ch out on the CDP, to left ch input of the intergrated amp.
Is the off center image shifted to the other side? If yes
If no, Swap the speaker cables at the Amp.
Right speaker cable to left ch output on the amp.
Left speaker cable to right ch output on the amp.
Is the off center image shifted to the other side?
Okay, here goes, for anybody still interested that is.
I initially thought that I had this problem solved. Swapped amplifiers. Tried an Arcam Delta 290 and the vocals were perfectly centered. I was happy, this issue had dissappeared. I was getting ready to drop my tube amp off the house.
NOT SO!!! Just realized the other night that the balance knob, (I wasn't even aware the Arcam had one), was turned a quarter turn toward the left. That of course caused the image problem to be compensated and to now become dead center. I'm not amused!!!
Sooooo, I called two of my friends. One guy relatively new to the world of audio and the other as experienced as one can get in this area. I tested both of them by asking where they heard the vocals. Both stated slightly to the right of center. I tried this using my Tube Amp first. THen, I switched to the Arcam. I first turned the balance to the left to make the image appear centered. I called the lads back into the room and sure enough, both thought the image sounded dead center. I then thanked God that it was not my hearing. I then tried all of this with an additional Classe CAP 151. Once again, same issue. I measured all distances from seating area to the tweeters. Perfect triangle. All distances the same from all walls, (which by the way are perfectly symmetrical.) Then I switched the speakers, (placed the left speaker on the right and vice versa), Same problem. Then I swiched the cables, including interconnects. Same problem. Then I switched the interconnects, (left channel to right channel and vice versa) same problem. Then I switched the power cord, same problem. I tried using a dvd player in place of the cd player, no change. I tried listening to a movie with just vocals and speech, same problem, vocals off to the right of center.
The only thing left is to take all of the gear apart, remove it from the room and to introduce each piece back into the room. I could also try bringing an entirely complete and different system into my room and listening for the problem on that system.
Could something be causing some sort of interference?
Could this be an electrical issue?
The room is not an issue (for those of you thinking this) because the problem was happening in a small bedroom upstairs before I moved my gear into this dedicated and archetecturally designed and engineered room. The room is essentially a room within a room. All walls are drywall on two by four. Nothing special or unique. All bass traps and diffusion is symmetrical in the room. Also, the issue was present before I moved into the room, but I figured it was just that room. Now, I am in a professionaly designed room and the issue is still present.
My contact person who designed the room has asked me to wait until all diffusion and traps are finished before trying to assess for this problem, but I am just so baffled by this.
Anyone know an exorcist??????????
I'd try moving each speaker inward about 6 inches(total 1'). If there is no change, move'em back. If its better but not perfect try moving them closer an inch at a time. If it works then start moving the further apart again, inch at a time, until you lose the center focus, then move the closer ay an inch and you probably will have as good a central image as you're going to get.
Another thing to try, cross the axis of the speakers in front of the listening position. You will not only reduce side wall reflections but you will also change the 1st and second reflection points of your speakers.
If thru all of this nothing changes, move your listening chair sideways a few inches and forget about the perfect triangle. :-)
I don't believe anyone here has recommended the very first thing you should have tried and it's not clear from your statement "placed left speaker on the right and right speaker on the left and vice versa" whether you did this properly :
DO NOT SWAP ANYTHING - leave all cables, all settings, - EVERYTHING - exactly as it is when the problem is most pronounced.
Now just physically move (swap) the L and R speakers into each other's place - again, with all cables, wires, EVERYTHING! still attached.
If the imaging problem has not switched sides - then it is something in the room - PERIOD! CASE CLOSED! It cannot possibly be in the equipment. And you have already had your hearing tested. You can start experimenting with how to "equalize" the room better.
If the imaging problem HAS shifted to the other side - then it is something in your equipment - PERIOD! CASE CLOSED!
This is the only experiment that needs to be done to determine if it's a room or equipment issue.
If it IS the room - keep in mind that just because the dimensions are symmetrical does not mean that the resonances of the walls and floors (determined by construction of the house) are symmetrical. Is one wall an exterior and one an interior, etc.?