I have the same problem. More often than not, image is shifted to the right.
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Well, same thing in a concert hall except you are dead right in the middle in front of the stage. What's so disturbing with it? Plus there is some music (again you can witness it live!) when there's only little going on on the bass side! If your system - try some Test-CD - is balanced you shouldn't worry and just relax: music isn't always coming right from in front of you, is it? Happy season!
Are the speakers evenly placed? You might want to try and toe in the speakers a bit to the listening position. It will probably tighten up the sweet spot but you will have less off center soloist. Another thing may be the room reflection at certain frequencies. Is the tendency to be off center more with male or female singers? Hope this helped. Good luck.
There is no law to say that a soloist must be recorded equally in left and right channels, so that they image dead center. If your system images well it can put a sound source anywhere between the speakers, and sometimes outside them. The cure for vague imaging is to use a center speaker. Soloists that are recorded dead center will be nailed by the center speaker (regardless of listener position), and off center sources will image nicely between the center and right speakers.
I ran a test CD and it is centered. It doesn't bother me on instrumental music. Like I said, what bugs me is a fairly simple arrangement with vocal that you expect to be dead center in front of you and the vocal is slightly off center.
Good point about turning off the lights. That works but I can't darken my room during the day. I may notice it more than some because I have a small window centered on the wall behind my system that gives a visual reference for the center.
I just got an old Scott integarted with a balance control that takes care of it. A slight tweak on the control and I'm locked in.
Maybe some engineers don't mix a solo vocal dead center on purpose. But a consistent skew to one side could suggest some uneveness in your system in your room, perhaps just at certain key frequencies, which might not be evident to you in test CD's balance test.
I see the value in a very precise, remote-controlled balance function.
The H-Cat line stage with its precise imaging must be very carefully matched by the manufacturer as there is no balance control. I think everyone is correct that some recording of vocalists are not recorded with the singer centered. If a test cd or a mono record sound centered, conclude that an off-center singer was indeed recorded that way. I have several where the singer is centered on some cuts and off to the left on others. With the imaging of the H-Cat it does not bother you as you merely conclude that the singer walked to the left for some reason.
Bizarre how this expectation occurs to us since, as has been already pointed out by others, there is no reason music sounds better when coming at you from center stage. Is it strictly our expectations around our equipment? A 'natural'(?) desire for symetry? I wonder if most of us have equally good hearing in both of our ears. My Wright preamp has a Tilt control that would address the problem nicely. Any pre with dual volume controls would also work to center the image.
Interesting question. Thanks.
We are truly many who have had this experience with recordings. But to make a list it can be caused by:
1. Difference in components output ( the ear is a tricky thing to fool, and we can tell when there is a differnce in volume right and left, right? ).
2. Speakers are not properly matched in their sensetivety.
3. Cable connections ( inluding internal wire ).
4. Room is causing the trouble with windows, dooropenings, furniture or bookshelves.
5. Recording is not centered.
6. Speakers are not placed right.
7. An ugly combination of all/most/some above.
I have gone through the list in my search for the ´centre vocalist´. All of above was tested and measured. On some recordings, especially with female vocalists, I found that the centre floated off to the right when she struck certain notes. This was the combination of the speaker setup and the rooms acoustic that caused this ´floating´ to the right.
And just by moving one speaker ( missplaced by as little as 1/2inch ) I dead centred most recordings. It should not be noticed, but this small measure was the cause. I do have quite a narrow sweet spot, yes. But in comparison of driving me ´off-centre´-mad...
I think Drubin has got something aswell.
Hope some measures will help.
I have had the same problem, and to assure my self that I am not loosing it I have done extensive testing. Using a volt meter-the good old Radio shak multimeter-I have found everything to be within 1/100 volt, which equates to less than one db. Therefore I concluded it was one of three things, speakers, recording, or room. I switched the speakers and the imbalance did not follow. I have a hard time believing that every recording is off balance to the same side. Threfore I started looking at room reflections. The imblanace in my system is shifted slightly left of center. One side of the room is a wall, the other a window with coverings. The curious and perhaps concluding things is that the imbalance varied with frequency, type of voice, and volume. All this means reflecitons to me. Still working on it, but it is nice to know that I'm not the only crazy one.
I had that problem for a while and then realized that one speaker was 1.5 inches closer than the other and had more toe in. I adjusted the speakers by measuring from the woofer to my chin while sitting in my listening chair. I made sure each speaker was the same distance away (my wife moved the tape measure from left speaker to right speaker while I held the tape at my chin). Then I measured from the middle of the left woofer to the middle of the right woofer and took that distance and multiplied it by 1.22. The distance between the speakers X 1.22 gives you the optimum distance your ear should be from the woofer(or tweeter) in each speaker. You actually measure from the speakers to your ear and not the distance the from the middle of the speakers to your ear. Lastly, if you toe, be sure each is toed in the same amount. My speakers recommend being able to just see the inner side of the speaker. I also try to keep the same distance from the rear wall, but the distance of the woofer to the ear is more important. And, if you can keep the distance from the side walls the same, that helps too. Once I did this procedure, the imaging improved dramatically and only once in a while did the voice sound off center.
The elaborate setup procedure described by Hifimaniac amazes me. If it is that hard to get good imaging you have serious defects in the speakers.
I have absolutely no problem with vague imaging and I think the reason is as follows.
1. Planar (MG1.6) speakers. Their sound is unchanged in SPL from the back of the room to your ear at 1 foot in front of them. So moving them a little back and forth has no effect.
2. I use a center speaker even for 2-channel recordings. (My left and right speakers are too widely spaced for straight 2-channel).
3. Fairly big room with very irregular shape and wide openings into other rooms.
El, I don't think you can compare a system with a center channel to those without. I think it would be almost impossible not to get a stable center image with a center speaker. I have no problem with how you achieved the result, but I can't afford a third speaker and a third channel of amplification of the quality I have so that isn't an option for me. I would rather go to elaborate lengths like maniacal HiFi to optimize what I have.
Hifimaniac...You should not assume that I am ignorant of all that precise speaker positioning procedure. I went through that kind of exact positioning when I had a Carver preamp with the sonic "Hologram" feature. Yes, I could get the effect, but it was totally impractical for real listening. I will not be so arrogant to accuse you of ignorance about planar speakers, but perhaps you have not had enough experience with them to understand their sound dispersion characteristics. If I had to sit in some particular location, plus or minus an inch, would take all the enjoyment out of the sound system.
Herman...My use of a center channel (for about three decades) is a direct result of the layout of my room. It has two French doors at one end, leaving three pieces of wall. If the center speaker were omitted the left and right would be much too far apart.
There are (at least) two ways to drive a center speaker without any extra amp. (DON'T TRY THIS WITH A DIGITAL AMP).
1. Make a "Y" connection. Returns of the Left and Right tied together and then to the center HI and then the center LO back to the amp. The left and right channels will have an excess of differential signal unless you use a "Blend" resistor, but I always preferred results without the resistor.
2. Invert the polarity of one channel, and bridge the amp with the center channel speaker. You would think that this would create too low an impedance load for the amp, but I found that every amp I had could handle it. Probably because of the two channels being out of phase. Of course the speaker for the inverted channel needs to be hooked up backwards to restore correct polarity. I found this setup to be very very good. Most of the audio signal is common mode (mono) and this benefits from the bridged power capability of the amp. A simple "Blend" control (pot) allows you to attenuate the center channel as required.