Use of Balance Control feature

I have noticed that some pre-amps and integrateds omit the balance control. Do many people out there use their balance control under normal circumstances? Does biasing sound towards one side degrade 3D soundstage, or have any other negative effect?......Sam
I've never been able to use a balance control satisfactorily and wish high end equipment would omit them. If you room's wrong, you should fix it, and if the recording's wrong, it's been my experience that you can't fix it. These controls put more solder joints and more switch contacts in the signal path, which can't be good. If you're building your own preamp, active or passive, you get all the benefits (?) of a balance control, and no signal path complications, by having dual mono volume controls. But in explicit answer to your question, a balance control can hardly not degrade.
Tom is right that adding circuitry always degrades the signal. Thus a unit that includes the control will sound wors than a unit without the control if they are otherwise identical. HOWEVER, if you are asking whether USING the control will degrade the signal, then probably not much. I have to agree with Tom that those things need to be forgotten on any gear over $1000 as that price level means you should be fixing the room placement instead.
While I'm sure the above posts are theorhetically/sonically correct, I would not buy a pre-amp that did not have some provision for balance control. I have an SF Line 2, and in my situation, I use the balance control much of the time. It in no way affects imaging or soundstaging. In fact, I would say both are improved because of the ability to center everything. To me this is particularly valuable as I have 3 ASC tubes centered between and behind my speakers (to correct for big window problems), and the primary image needs to be centered on these tubes. My previous pre-amp had a "direct" input, and in a blind test, I really couldn't tell it from the input with select, balance etc. Cheers. Craig.
Graig, are you using balance control because your point of focus is not centered between speakers, or are you adjusting each time for every different recording you play to make up for some recording imbalance? Also how far apart are your speakers currently......thanks Sam
Sam; my listening position is very slightly off center and I mostly use balance control to correct for this. The correction is typically about 3 dB right (the SF Line pre-amps have a relative dB readout to .5 dB). My Vand. 3Asigs are 80" apart center to center. Of course there are also some CDs that need balance correction. Cheers. Craig
I agree with the others that if all recordings are favoring one side then you should correct your speaker placement or room. I do think that balance control is valuable when it comes to listening to recordings that aren't balanced to begin with or for example a jazz trio stereo miked where the 2nd and 3rd player seem to be originating on the right and the first is on the left. Sometimes adjusting the balance a few db to the left can make the diffrence between sitting back and ejoying the recording and thinking about the recording wondering why to much is coming out of the right speaker. It may not be a purist audiophile thing but distraction certainly isn't musical.
A lot of preamps with a balance defeat switch or as in some Conrad Johnson equipment the balance is out of the circuit in the center position. I find that some Vinyl LPs are not in balance do to the pressing or even the recording itself. So it is worth having for these and other similar situations.