Uneven soundstage help, please.


I've got a pair of ATC SCM40 v2's driven by a Musical Fidelity A308 (plenty of power) and overall I'm happy with this combination, given my budget, wife, and listening habits. My system is in an incredibly complex large room, with all sorts of variables in terms of reflection, absorption, etc. And these aren't exactly the same from one speaker to another. I have no choice about speaker placement, given the room configuration.
There's a phenomenon that concerns me, though, that I haven't been able to resolve. In order to get the center centered, I need to position the speakers and listening chair in such a way that the soundstage extends all the way to one speaker, but only three-quarters of the way to the other. It doesn't sound out of whack. It's just a narrower field than I had with my older KEF References, and I wonder if it would sound even better if this was resolved.
Has anyone else faced and solved this? What factors are driving it? I've been living with it comfortably, but I wonder.
Thanks ahead of time for any replies.
m
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Whats your primary source?  I ask because I’ve been playing around with Sonarworks Reference 4.  Its a dsp room correction software and does some cool stuff.  Another option for dsp is dspeaker antimode.

As far as your setup, is this the same amp you were using with your prior speakers?  You ought to run down the list of things to do in order to check for something in your chain not working properly.  Interconnects, speaker cables, all you connections are tight, speakers are wired in phase, distance from the listening spot to the right and left speakers is identical, same degree of toe in for left and right speakers, speakers are level and the same height?


Impossible to ascertain DIY and especially remotely. A professional tech look-over and analysis required on your source AND/ OR integrated amp

Before you do that, eliminate the other variables wherever possible

(1) swap in your other speakers .... is the same issue still present ?. If yes, then it’s highly likely of a new FUHBAR in your upstream source and/or amp.

(2) Swap in an alternate source .... repeat exercise. If it’s still there then it’s highly probable that your amp that needs to be serviced. 
I had a new comparable issue with an intermittent output FUHBAR arising suddenly in my “C” system integrated amp. It still worked but with an intermittent partial loss of output in one channel.
I took it in to a professional tech who tested it on his bench and quickly diagnosed the issue that was not visible to my naked eye. It was a failing output solder joint that was intermittently arcing ... that was a cheap and fast $100 fix .

GOOD THING I DID IT .... This was no DIY matter and not an item to ignore .... it was a potential fire hazard waiting to happen .

FWIW
distance from the listening spot to the right and left speakers is identical, same degree of toe in for left and right speakers, speakers are level and the same height?

This! ^^

Foolproof method in oddball rooms, what I have done before including at CES so I know it works:
Pull a string to establish a straight line between the two speakers. Use a framing square to go straight off mid-line to your listening chair. This establishes your perfectly equidistant and symmetrical speaker/listener triangle. Proceed to tweak to find the right amount of toe in. This is Step One.

Step Two, listen and look. Asymmetrical room reflections will pull and smear imaging. How and how much, and what sounds it affects, all depends on the various room surfaces. So look around. Follow lines of radiation patterns

Yes it will sound a lot better if this is resolved. Because right now you're noticing the obvious effects. If you are able to correct them however then you will notice a lot of less obvious effects are also gone.

You mention the wife factor. There's some guys, and I use the term guys loosely in this case, who were triggered when I said we do things to please women. Apparently we are all such rugged individualists we never turn our lives inside out to please the dames. Or if we do we're too ruggedly stoic to talk about it. So probably you misspoke. But if you do all this alignment stuff and still want better imaging without upsetting you know who too much Synergistic Research makes these little wonders called HFT which she who doesn't factor in will probably not even notice if you put them on your speakers. 

Seriously. They totally work.

Post removed 
Well, to completely understand, you can’t move the speakers, and you can’t add better room acoustic treatments, like GIK Art panels which let you pick any artwork and put it on them.

Those are always my first two suggestions. You can try crossing your speakers in front of your head, minimizing side reflections.

Lastly, if none of this work it's probably becuase you are getting a very unbalanced frequency response.  Assuming it's not bad speakers, you will need to measure and adjust using EQ, either from a separate unit, or by using the built in EQ of Roon or similar. If you aren’t familiar with measurement and correction I suggest you get something that has room correction built in, like Anthem pre/receivers, etc. or a miniDSP unit with Dirac live built in.

Here's an example of how I corrected a much milder problem than you are having using the built in EQ from Roon:

https://speakermakersjourney.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-snr-1-room-response-and-roon.html

What you should do is pick a speaker with the least reflections around it as your baseline, and try to get your other speaker to match it.

If you use ARC, like Dirac or Anthem they will do it all for you.
Thanks for great suggestions. More details: it's not the amp--no problem with different speakers. Equilateral distances and height and rear wall distance all the same. One rear wall is a thin layer of veneered plywood, the other is plywood backed by the metal frame of a large oven. I have one speaker toed-in more than the other, which helps vs hinders the problem That one is facing a wall of angled picture windows across a shorter distance than the other one. which faces more complex, longer angles. The high ceiling above them is slanted differentially too. I could hardly draw a room map, it's so complex.
My source(s) are the same as before when I had my old speakers-- the weak spot in my chain. But why would they suddenly worsen the moment I set up the ATCs? And I totally trust the wonderful guy I bought the speakers from. They worked impeccably in his system.
The volume from speaker to speaker is consistent. It feels like a romm/placement deal.
Of course I'll check out all the things y'all have mentioned, as well as the products/devices.
It definitely could be my ears. I'm 68 and I know I hear a bit better in one ear than the other. It didn't occur to me that this could affect soundstage. It's just something i'm used to.
I'll check connections. I did have trouble with one of the terminals on one of the speakers originally, It was very fussy.
I can't help thinking it's at least partially things about my room that are more unfriendly to the newer speakers. They're closed boxes and the KEFs were rear ported. Maybe this makes a difference? I would think it would help with a difficult room. Any more simple placement ideas? Maybe something counterintuitive?
I just tried sitting backwards. Bingo!
What can I do if it's my ears? 
I doubt it's the porting, but it could very well be the dispersion, or how wide speakers maintain a flat response.

In a cluttered room, you want narrow dispersion.  In a big open room you want wide.

Best,

Erik
Here's a cheap test:

Use blankets and pillows as acoustic panel proxies.  If this fixes your image, then you know what the issue is.
Erik, are you suggesting that I try narrowing the distance between my speakers or changing the toe in? I'm not sure I understand. As y'all can gather, I'm much less versed in all this than most people here.
I'm still hoping someone has ideas about how to adjust for unequal hearing. I guess I was trying to that when I toed-in the less prominent side.
I just tried sitting backwards. Bingo!
What can I do if it's my ears?
It could be earwax but most likely its just permanent hearing loss due to age. Nothing can be done. Hearing loss is incurable as you know. You could use a balance control with EQ. Thats the best you can do
How much do you have to spend to get an EQ with balance that doesn't mess the sound up? If I go that route, I won't want spend a lot.
Hey,

Look, at the point where your placement is so bad that you can't get a decent center stage, I promise you that a decent EQ will be the least of your worries.

If you want to be a purist, get a better room, with treatment.  If you can't do that an EQ is going to be a huge huge improvement by comparison.  I mean, do you want to spend years not listening to a great sounding system because you were worried about tone controls??

Honestly too, EQ's and tone controls are superbly better than they were in the past, so the benefits far outweigh the risks.

The issue you are having, as you point out, is that you need to treat both channels separately, and that's what ARC or a miniDSP will let you do.
I should point out that while an EQ will be better than not in the situation of uneven speaker placement, you still are going to have issues with uneven reflections. 

Controlling the room acoustics is always the best solution, but if you cannot do that, you are getting the second best approach.
"...I have no choice about speaker placement..."

That might limit your available choices for best sound. For a hearing loss, there are things you can do. I have a single sided hearing loss. So I slide over to hindered side and turn my good ear towards the center. A few years ago it was a minor adjustment but now it's a real big one. I don't use a balance control, I feel that messes up the way the speakers work and it makes it worse. Position of the listener works best. 
IF all is the same and only difference is the speakers used, dispersion pattern differences between the old and current speakers would most likely account for differences.

First though I would switch left and right channels to see if that reverses the soundstage. If so could be something different in one channel versus the other somewhere upstream and not the speakers or room.

Wider dispersion patterns tend to work well in more chaotic rooms with strange acoustics. THings will tend to even out better that way. Maybe the old KEFs had better dispersion than newer ATCs? Just wondering.

If it turns out to be the speakers and not the electronics, might consider a change at that point to find something better suited to the room.
Thanks, Russ. I think my best bet to start with--one that costs $0 and entails the least inconvenience as an experiment-- is to keep playing with speaker and seating position.
I wish I could employ room treatment or switch to another room or buy expensive equipment to fix things, but right now, none of that is practical. For that matter, how about a miracle cure for minor hearing loss? Or a lottery win?

I don’t think there is any way you can hookup an EQ or an external balance control to that integrated amp!
Yogiboy (an intriguing name): I didn't realize there were limitations with an integrated vs separates. Or is it just my amp in particular?
You need preamp out and amp in to hook up an external device. I took a look at that amp and it does not have that feature!
Erik, are you suggesting that I try narrowing the distance between my speakers or changing the toe in?

Normally we try to point the tweeters so they fire right at our heads and cross right between our eyes. I’m suggesting that you move this crossing point in front of your head, so the speakers are severely toed in, as if they started to point to each other instead of you.

This will minimize early side reflections, and perhaps improve the tonal balance.


Best,

E
Erik, I'll try that first.
I may be mistaken, but my understanding is if your integrated has a tape in and tape out the equalizer may be (and is ideally) hooked in there.  Someone jump in if that is not correct.

The Schitt Loki at $150 receives glowing accolades on this site.  However, it does not include balance control and that sounds like a feature you would want, assuming your integrated does not have it.  
I just looked at the Schiit a few minutes ago. $150 to run an experiment is doable, but EQ only.
If I recall, I'm using the tape hookup to hear the TV.

I like the Schiit, it is not for you. :)
To re-state the obvious there are many variables that can affect system channel balance. For years I wouldn't be caught dead owning a component with a channel balance control. Now, with age advancing and a mild hearing loss in one ear the balance control is my friend...
I had the same problem with an uneven soundstage because one of my speakers is encased in the wall corner, my small room being irregular...Playing with the balance button was not a very great solution....I was thinking also that i was poperhaps a bit deaf from one of my ears... 😊

This was the problem which set me on my experiments path in the acoustical embedding of my system in my room...

I optimally solved it with passive materials treatment , looking for a balance equation between absorbing surface, reflective one and diffusive volume and surface...
And with active embeddings controls with Schumann generators linked to resonators grids...( my resonators were bought for peanuts because they are not audio products)...


Then there is a solution, this is the good news...But my solution takes me 2 years to create it and with a complex grids of devices...

The bad news is i dont know how to adapt my solution to a normal living room on the critical eye of any wife...

Alas! my cheap cost solutions and devices are not adapted to a living room esthetically and i am pretty sure that no wife will acept them....

I am lucky enough to have a room solely dedicated to my audio system... At least know that solution exist, certainly some better than mine esthetically...


I wish you the best to come...


« What the hell all these cables  and weird bling-bling devices do in this room? They make one of the corner disapear  my dear »- Groucho Marx husband and acoustician
There’s several EQs for sale on Audiogon. If you don’t have tape monitor buttons you can hook up an EQ between your favorite source and the integrated pre amp. 
I will never live without this Chase Remote Line Controller RLC-1.

I have used one for many years in main system, now also in my office system, and a spare on the shelf downstairs.

Absolutely quiet, Signal to noise is 105db, it just does it’s job.

Open Box, seller takes returns:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Chase-Technologies-RLC-1-Remote-Line-Controller-RLC1-Upgrade-Any-Stereo-NOS...

Adjust everything from your listening position.

1. remote volume, a wonderful thing
2. remote balance. this will solve your room’s imbalance, and even if your room and listening position was perfect, sometimes certain tracks benefit from a speck of balance. It is surprising how much benefit can come from a small balance adjustment
3. loudness compensation. essentially bass boost at low volumes (boosts highs also), to automatically adjust for our irregular hearing at low volumes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal-loudness_contour

it’s a good thing when used properly, keeps music involving at low levels, rather than just background music.

4. tone controls. I don’t use them, but you might try, it cannot hurt. It remembers your adjustments which is great. On/off by remote, no controls on the unit. Unplug, plug back in, everything back to factory settings if you cannot remember where you left it for instance. I have easily accessible on/off switch for that as my memory sucks.
................................

Toe In. When I want a wider center for 2 people, I adjust my toe in, aim the left speaker at the right position, aim the right speaker at the left person. That works like this: you are closer to one speaker, but you get direct sound from the one facing you from the other side. It balances out, a wider center image for 2.


For now, I found a way to widen the distance between the speakers. Barring kids and pets visiting--unlikely these days--they should be okay/safe from harm. Then I matched the distance from the speakers to the listening post as best I could. By necessity, one speaker could be exactly right, but the predominant-sounding side had to be 6 inches farther. It's not worth explaining why beyond fixed wood stove, side wall, no wall at all, intervening door, etc.
I figured what the hell, let's try it. So I experimented with toe-in next. Lots of toe-in gave me a strong, equally heard center but a narrow soundstage and a loss of airiness that I didn't care for. I switched to no toe-in, which hadn't worked previously, and lo and behold,I heard a distinct improvement in soundstage with no loss in any other dept. I had to wriggle my seating around a bit to make it work.
I'm happy for now. Someday I'll see how much better my system can sound by trying some of the things posters have suggested. Thanks to all. I really appreciate your help. I wish I could be more helpful to others here, but I guess I find a way to do it in non-audiophile realms.
Elliot, when I read about the remote controller, I don't see anything about balance. Otherwise, I'm intrigued.
Elliot. Never mind. I found a close-up of the remote and there was the balance control, allaying my insecurity. Do you know this will work with my system? I'd like to get one if it does.
Details: Deezer and Qobuz to Mac to Audioengine D2 DAC via USB to wireless D2 receiver to MFA308 integrated amp via RCA to ATCs. Where would it go in that chain? Do I have the right inputs, etc? Remember, I'm an idiot who needs basic instruction.
It definitely has remote balance, you can read the specs on the box in this listing. I forgot, remote mute is also often handy.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Chase-Remote-Line-Controller-RLC-1-NOS/293767588499?hash=item4465e9aa93:g:z...

he does not take returns, I would not buy from him, which is why I gave you the other link.

btw, It has two identical set of outputs. I used to compare two different systems using that, no more. They say 'front' 'rear', because it came from early days of people messing around. It was sometimes put into a tape loop, I just run everything thru it.

Remember, there is no center, it is Phantom, and you control it's location (within reason) by equal or unequal volume from l/r. Bass player on the left of center can only be done by mixing more from left, but some from right
I'm sorry to keep bugging you, but... I'm still unclear where it goes in the system. Right before the amp as a preamp? So I'd plug-in my receiver D2 to it and then output from it into the amp?
What great little device! Nice work Elliot.
Maybe I missed it.  When you reversed the speakers L/R (or the speaker connections), there was no difference, correct?
Get hearing aids if you need them!!! It's really much smarter than trying to tune your system to accommodate your specific hearing requirements. I don't understand why people are so reluctant to do the one thing that will solve the problem most elegantly and simply.
Yeah, switching speaker connects didn't change things, and a DB reading said they're the same in volume.
Hearing aids, huh? You youngsters...
I probably wasn't clear earlier, but I'm happy now that I repositioned things--an obvious improvement.
Try this at your own risk!

lay on your side in bed and pour a small amount of hydrogen peroxide into your ear. If it starts bubbling like crazy, theres a bunch of wax in there. If it hurts, like you have uncomfortable pressure building up drain the peroxide out right away.  If it is just cold and tickles let it do its thing for awhile, like 15-20 minutes.  You’ll probably get dizzy but thats ok.   Drain the peroxide out of your ear and gently dry out your ear with some tissue. When your in the shower, run warm water into your ear and then tilt your head and drain the water. Do this a few times. Between the peroxide and a gentle stream of warm water in your ear, after a few days you should have cleared out any smaller obstructions. Gently pop your ears, not by closing your nose and blowing, but by yawning and tilting your head / stretching your neck in different ways. Look straight up and try popping your ears. Tilt your head side to side while popping your ears.


My hearing can easily become imbalanced due to wax buildup and I clean my ears all the time. Having clean ears improves your hearing drastically, which improves the sound of your system.
I do the same.....Good idea b_limo....But it is more gentle the way i did it....Peroxyde must not be put in great amount in the  ear....

Instead,

For the night only a drop of a special solution they sold cheap in pharma...Or a drop of peroxyde in many drops of water you push the 9 or 10 drops with a dropper into the ears...

Then at morning it is better to push slowly tepid water with a special seryngue into the ears ...

You go on like that one, 2, or 3 days it is relative to the size of the obstruction... You take the number of days it takes to have a clear water dirty one....For inspecting the water that will flow out of the ear you ,ust use a vase against the ear when pushing the water seryngue into the ears....

The best is to buy a tool kit for cleaning the ear at pharma... The instruction are given ... Or go on youtube and you will have more clearly all the method i just describe....


And then sounds take colors anew....

No more lost in soundstage balance either...

It is with that operation after which i was able to do my acoustical setting of room with only my ears...

😊


A soaked Q-tip is a simple way of peroxiding your ears....and it feels good to absorb the solution and whatever else shows up. ;)  Beats trying to pour it into the side of your head...difficult, even with a mirror.

Go and have your hearing checked anyway.  It's painless...except for finding out that your hearing Isn't what it used to be....🤦‍♂️

Single-side hearing aids aren't that unusual, either.  The tech involved has improved to the point that:
-If you wear both sides like me, you can adjust the balance and slightly coarse eq settings on your cell.
-Part of the set-up of your device(s) can include much finer initial eq at the audiologists' office; later fine-tuning can be done over the phone remotely with some....like mine.
-If you're using ear buds, you can toss them.  Bluetoothed, you can take/make calls or listen to your tunes.  Newer TV's allow you to listen as well at whatever volume you like.
-Bass lines aren't 'physical'...but that's best left to a sub anyway.
-I'm allowed 3 follow-up 'tune-ups' for free.

The last came in handy, but was hilarious for the while before taken.
Everybody appeared to have a slight 'lisp', caused by sibilance.  Even on the TV....

Listening to The Chump lisp was precious, getting to hear him have an apparent 'disability'....so much for Mr. Perfect. ;)

Wonderful. 🤣

I even have the ability to 'focus' their acoustic response; biased forward, 'surround', even towards behind me...which takes care of being snuck up from behind or talked about behind my back.

My mids had lapsed quite badly, which I was delighted to have returned.

The main drawback?

The world is a lot nosier than I'd remembered.
But now...I can 'tune it out' or even shut it off.

Oh, and you can still use your system earphones even with the 'behind the ear' versions....like mine.  The 'in ear' versions are for minor loss generally.  Sound protection earphones become necessary, but should be used by everyone anyway to avoid my issue from the get-go.

"But I've got Perfect Hearing."  Uh-huh...if you're anywhere close to my age (69), doubtful.

Go get checked, and get back to me on that....



Good advice above or go to your md or pa and have them flush it out.   I have done it twice and the relief is great.   
Thank you for the old ears advice. I'll try it.
The Chase Remote Line Controler RLC-1

I use it for everything, remote control of volume and balance of any source.
Your imbalanced situation, you would also, to control balance for any source.
Remote volume and mute are also a real treat.

therefore, everything goes into the Chase, then Chase to the amp.

Amp, receiver, mono blocks, integrated amp, it doesn’t matter, just into whatever drives the speakers.

IF Receiver: Chase output to any line level input, ’aux’ typically, leave all controls neutral on receiver.

My amp is an integrated amp. Chase is the only thing plugged into it.

CD player direct to Chase’s CD input (skip preamp)

Reel to Reel direct to Chase’s TAPE input (skip preamp)

TT (3 arms) to SUT with 3 inputs. (pass for MM; 4 optional loads for MC)

SUT to Preamp’s MM Phono Input

PREAMP Output to Chase VCR input (very cool record player)

FM built into Preamp, thus also goes to Chase VCR Input.

Cassette and 8 Track (rare, but ....) spliced into Y, then to Chase AUX (skip preamp)

................................

Thus my Preamp on for TT or it’s FM only. Everything else, Preamp OFF, Chase direct to Amp.
You might send everything to your preamp, then to Chase, then to amp.
...............................

VOLUME. Important to get right to properly benefit from Chase’s ’loudness’ circuit.

Chase, default turn on volume, leave there, no loudness is engaged.

Preamp/Amp/Receiver, adjust it’s volume ’ONCE’, for your normal listening volume. Leave it there forever!

Volume Up, use Chase Remote Volume, no loudness involved.

Volume Back Down to ’default’ volume (2 lights), no loudness involved

LOW Volume, down from default, as you lower the volume below your normal, LOUDNESS circuit begins, progressively engaged as you lower.

Primary benefit is to boost bass progressively, i.e. Jazz Bassist. That is what maintains involvement for me, keeps my attention and enjoyment even at low levels. It also boosts the highs, I don’t even think about that, if I want to appreciate highs, I’ll be listening for real.

I wouldn’t live without one.
....................................

Verify it has zero noise, zero detriment to your system. Plug CD direct to amp (skip your preamp, skip chase. Listen. Now CD direct to chase (skip your preamp), chase to amp. Listen. I and my friends hear absolutely no change.

If you do, it you hate it, return it! I’ll bet money you keep it.


Thank you, Elliot. I really appreciate this.
Angling the speakers differently combined with adjusting the balance works wonders sometimes.

m669326,

I apologize if I missed it, but what have you been listening to when you have been trying to balance the left/right image in your system?  Has it been pink noise (or some sort of test signal) or specific music tracks?
Larry, I've been using various familiar tracks. Are there specific tests? How would noise help?
I improved things by eliminating toe-out and playing around with the dimensions of everything until the soundstage extended most of the way on the short end without wrecking the center. It's not perfect, but I'm happy with it. The room is so ridiculous, i can't expect perfection.