Is it possible for the center image to drift from lp to lp?


Lately it seems I'm having to adjust speaker positioning, slightly, to accommodate for "center image drifting".

It does seem to fluctuate somewhat between varying lps.

Could it be either of these things:

(1) I'm a 57 year old male.
(2) The transparency of my system .
(3) The mixing of any particular lp.
(4) Once one's system is revealing enough, is it possible to hear if the center image, ( in the case of a vocalist) moves slightly from one side of the microphone?

I'm hoping for most to come down on number 4.

Thanks.
astro58go
..I've actually noticed this "drifting" while listening to the same lp, so that does kind of narrow any answer I was hoping for.

Anyone else experience this?
Of the points listed I would suspect items 1 and 4. Does this drifting occur with any consistency as cartridge crosses the album? Could it be do to linear tracking angle of stylus as it crosses?   
It's a given that my hearing is not consistent. Although this particular issue wasn't an issue until I recently acquired more revealing speakers.

I haven't considered your other point.
Do you have to do same with headphones?
I've even considered the fact that, (as most of us are), my facial features aren't symmetrical. My right ear is slightly higher than the left. I've accounted for this and as I say, just recently noticing the change enough to inquire here.
I have no headphones.
Yes, the center image can move depending on how it was recorded and then mixed.  Does your system have a balance control?
onhwy61, No, I don't have a balance control. (That would be a nice feature).
I agree with onhwy61.  I think it has much to do with the mix of in phase and out of phase sound (too much out of phase info), but would add that whether or not it is an issue might well depend on your room and speaker set up. It does in mine anyway.

 For example in a recent record which was music of a centered vocalist and a small group (jazz) the vocalist was very sharply focused a foot or two left of center. (My speakers are set up triangulated about 9' apart and 10' from the listening chair with the axis of the speakers crossing just in front of my head. When I centered the image by shifting my chair to the right about 6 inches I lost a little bit of sharpness but it was still very good. When I shifted my chair another 6" (or more) to the right the voice went out of phase with no center image. When I listen to 'well recorded' music the image now shifts just slightly right but it is not as distracting nor is it particularly soft focused.

FWIW.


Is your turntable level? Is the cartridge properly aligned? Are there any issues with the pickup arm leads binding, or any issues with the pickup arm bearings? Is the stylus pristine and clean? Do you have this problem with sources other than LP?

Some details on your system might be helpful.
#3 and #4!

If you listened to the group in person, the singer usually moves around also.

Recordings are not like real life, and maybe the person doing the recording mix was not listening in the center, between the speakers.  Not all vocals are in the center, on every Lp.
The cutting head on the master lathe was installed by hand. It would be nice to think every human installing this head installed it perfectly perpendicular. The act of tightening said head to the lathe was done with screws. yada yada yada.

Your stylus diamond was installed by hand, human hands.

Album thickness means VTA is perfect on some albums, and off on others. etc. etc. etc.

Stop your obsession. Enjoy the music.

Here's something that may make no sense. If you have everything perfectly setup. If you have a really good system. If all the stars are aligned.  What happens when the singer moves their head, this in the middle of a song. Does your system accurately reproduce the now moved center of the singers vocal cords.

Stop your obsession. Enjoy the music.
Mine does this and I have thought of several factors.  Wear of the record, tubes' gain changing, system warmup, differences in tracking different parts of the record, volume control mistracking at various settings.  I have a preamp with separate volume controls so this is rarely a problem I cannot fix but could be annoying with the lack of this.  Getting this right greatly improves my soundstage.
I hear it too, and I vote for 2, 3 and 4. Of course, this may have something to do with the fact that I am 70 (seriously, though, I hear just fine to 11KHz, lab measurement, repeatable). And I have taken care of the obvious things, as CLEEDS suggests.

Post removed 
I used to note this also but I'm 34. Then I realized that the room was reflective on one end compared to the other.
There is a great number of variables that can affect the sound in general and might cause the soundstage to shift from LP to LP. Some of these variables include but are not limited to time of day, day of week, sunspot activity, AC voltage variability, number of people in the room and changes to the system that were either forgotten or dismissed as too innocuous.
Addendum re soundstage shift

One need look no further than absolute polarity for the answer why the soundstage can shift from one LP to the next or from one track to another on the same LP. We know that inverted polarity produces an ill defined soundstage and or lack of depth, at a minimum. We also know that most if not the vast majority of audiophile recordings probably have inverted polarity. Some recordings have a mixture of correct and inverted polarity from track to track. Voila!
Another factor I forgot to mention was the recording itself, which might be found in the original master tape or could be a pressing issue.  I have tried multiple copies of the same recording and the center image is skewed one way, and when subsequently playing another recording the center image is in the middle. 
Get a preamp with a balance control!

I do not know why any home audio system would leave that out!

Recording engineers don't always put the singer centre-stage. More often than not, but not always. Sometimes they will alter the singer's volume on one channel so that they're slightly off. You can hear this on side two of Shriekback's Big Night Music: On the first song the singer is centred; on the second he is off to the right; on the final song he starts off to the left and drifts slightly towards the centre as the song progresses. I also have an album by Luke Hurley where both him and his guitar are off to the right throughout the entire album. God knows why they made that decision, but there you go.

Number 4 is, incidentally, impossible with a single close-mic which is how the vast majority of music is recorded. The only time this would happen is during an intimate live performance recorded with two extremely well placed microphones. This almost never happens.
I had recently been having this same problem. Solution in my case was from none of the possible causes you mentioned. It came down for me to speaker placement alone. Due to a slightly lackluster overall sound and the same kinds of center imaging problems you mentioned, I, too, was experimenting with placement. For example, set one way, the speakers imaged a little to the left. After widening them apart a bit they imaged even more to the left and after widening a bit more, then they imaged to the right...clearly something was going on. My room is a bit irregular making adjusting by measurement fairly unreliable when trying to zero in on the sound with any exactitude. So I decided I had to roll up my sleeves and arrive at best position by ears alone...a gruelingly painstaking and time consuming (but, time-honored) process.

After several straight days of learning my way around with it, and countless wild goose chases, I began to realize that while distance between speakers and from speaker to front and side walls are indeed very important, what is really even more critical is rake angle vs toe in. I suspect everybody gets toe in, but they may tend to forget about rake angle...and I happen to think that deferring to the manufacturer on that is usually a mistake anyway. But, rake angle, when improperly set between the 2 speakers, can result in a skewing of the center image height in which there is an apparent vertical *leaning*, or slanting, of the vocalist to one side. Toe in more commonly affects the size of the center image.

To make it short, when all these speaker angles have been dialed in by ear to the point that the overall image And center image is coherent enough, then, I’ve found, that all those center image vagaries (like the ones I believe you have described) completely disappear - especially including all the apparent, indefinable drifting of channel balance from recording to recording.

At the very least, rake angle must be taken into account by ear. Once you’re in the right ballpark of speaker agreement, very small amounts of misalignment can have a noticeable impact on the center image.

Hope this helps.
Similar experience with CD and SACD. SACD's center almost always shifts to the right. My guess is that my right ear is more sensitive to higher frequencies. But that's just a guess. I just move the chair a little.
:)
I have noticed this with numerous LP's.  I think the absolute phase between L & R channels is crap shoot in the long, arduous rendering of the recording from the master tape to the cutter lathe to the master to the stamper to the record. It only takes a couple microns of displacement from inner to outer walls of the groove to screw this up.

The solution is actually pretty easier - get and use a good balance control.  The ear will ignor the phase difference and center the image based on amplitude with just a minor adjustment (about in 1-2 dB) in L/R balance.

BTW, I've never heard this effect on a digital recording - they all seem to be consistent in this regard on my system.

cousinbillyl, What you described is exactly what I was trying to convey. I assume since your thoughtful answer detailed my concerns, you have thought about it as well.

cleeds, Yes, these things are checked often.

dcbingaman, Your "solution" is very expensive but under consideration regarding future purchases.

All, I've really paid attention, even more, to speaker adjustments. I can say, the issue is not noticed as much as when I first posted, but still there on occasion. I have been tinkering around with acoustic treatments as well. The sonics have been improved greatly. This revelation may have an additional affect of being more sensitive to "this issue"? Thanks!




I found in MY room, some frequencies are more/less reflective which alters the sonic stage a bit.  Depending on your tolerance, you can search for the truth in your room, but I just listen to the music.
Astro58go, if you are handy with a soldering iron, get a small box and and Alps RK40 (Black Beauty) balance pot.  These are the best pots ever made (IMHO), and are still readily available on eBay.  Put a set of input and output jacks on the box and use the box between your preamp and power amp, where it will make the least impact on sound quality.  There is a detent on the pot to know when you have equal gain on both sides.  You only need to make a small adjustment to center the image of any LP.  Total investment, including the pot, is about $150.00 !

dcbingaman, Thank you for the info. I do appreciate the alternative to an equipment change.

stringreen, I hear where you're coming from. I Do feel I have some more "truth" to find within my room. Thanks!
FWIW,  My next , (and maybe last upgrade, except for acoustical treatments) may be going from my EAR 834P, MC/MM & Bob's Cinemag to the  K&K Maxxed Out w/ volume, since I have a vinyl only set-up.