Violin Moves All Over the Sound Stage

I have a beautiful digital recording of Isaac Stern and the NY Philharmonic playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto in D Major.  The solo violin sounds sometimes in the center, sometimes from the left speaker and sometimes like two different violins in two different locations.  What is wrong?
If you're having this issue with more than just the one recording something may be wired out of phase check your speaker connections.
The 1987, Great performances recording? For me the violin stays center left... but it seems the frequency determines the exact location. Sometimes far left and sometimes center left. Does this sound similar to what you observed?
Okay so the real question, when things move around like this how to tell if it is the recording or your system setup?

We get our sense of imaging from arrival times and also relative volume. When speakers are too close to reflective surfaces the reflected sound can reach us soon enough and with enough volume to make us think it came from the reflection not the source. Different speakers have different dispersion characteristics at different frequencies, and so do our room surfaces. Sorry it is such a big mess all we can do is explain, hopefully with enough detail you are able to find the answer yourself.

Pretend for a moment no one has this one recording but you. How would you know? One way is to listen for clues. If the recording has it there then it will be there with palpable presence. Every aspect of the instrument will appear to be there. Not just the high notes but the whole body of the instrument.

But what if your system isn’t up to that level of resolution? Well the next thing you can do is listen to the same recording in mono. This way you will know for certain everything should be front and center. Anything at all moves off to one side or another you will know it has to be due to setup. If you can’t play this one in mono there is always the XLO Test CD that has Michael Ruff playing Poor Boy in mono. Although honestly any mono record will do the trick. In mono everything should be all together in a sort of sphere. Anything moves around you know you got problems.

Out of phase is another similar test. With mono everything should seem to come from one location. Out of phase everything should seem to come from everywhere, and nowhere. Out of phase is crazy spooky weird with a really nicely setup system, the sound really does seem to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once. By everywhere I mean including inside your head. Just the most mind-blowing thing. But again, only when really nicely setup! Anything out of sorts, anything at all, the sound will appear to be coming from somewhere and totally blow the effect.

Since you are able to hear the violin in certain definite locations then clearly it is not an out of phase situation. But it does seem to move around when probably it shouldn’t. So most likely you just need to review speaker setup paying close attention to absolute symmetry. Experiment with toe in. Having a lot of toe in is probably the easiest most likely fix. This will also improve whatever imaging you now have. Speakers pointed pretty much straight ahead are an open invitation to this kind of problem.   

But maybe they already are toed in a lot, or more toe in doesn’t eliminate it. Then it is most likely a room reflection. Sound is probably coming off one speaker bouncing off a wall or something on its way to your ears. Look at the first reflection angles, try moving reflective things around or covering them up. All you can do. Situation normal, by the way. Happens all the time. Great systems never just appear by accident. Takes a lot of work just like this to make it happen.
Try the same recording with headphones, see if it happens.

Cheers George
I’m listening to it, and for the most part, Stern is within the center or left-center (which would be correct), but at times, he ‘shows up’ on the edge of the right channel. I would not classify it as ‘moving all over the stage’ though not consistent…..but….

Keep in mind, this performance was originally released in 1959, in mono, so all stereo releases were re-engineered for stereo. I think that is where the problem lies, and it was re-released in stereo many many times.
Does anyone know which version of this performance is the best engineered recording?
I would go to Discogs, find that album, and see what has received the highest user ratings for the various releases. No guarantee, but it is a start.

I streamed the Great Performance version, that wasn’t too bad actually, I enjoyed it. There is another by Columbia from the 60’s, and my guess is it could be pretty darn good. I’m not sure it’s available in digital/CD format though.

I purchase a lot of period classical LP’s, have 22 arriving tomorrow, and you can’t go wrong with a Columbia Masterworks release, typically. The Great Performance series were actually Columbia releases by CBS. When Sony took over Columbia/CBS, they put out some really nice remastered old classical recordings, but limited. I highly doubt they remastered that album.
He is supposed to stay at center-left but through some pressings I have heard similar panning “movement,” which I suspect is due to warps in the groove or imperfections in the master tape stereo transfer back in the day. Might help to listen only in mono. 
Does anyone know which version of this performance is the best engineered recording? 
Depends. The original recording is by definition the best engineered. All anyone can do from that point on is monkey around with that master tape. A really good engineer might be able to remaster the master and have it sound better. But not likely. Because this is a very old recording. You get into the whole thing of the original master tape quality.   

This is why almost always the best you will ever get of these is to play the vinyl. Almost always the original vinyl pressings were made with the best tape source available at the time. Usually the master tape. This was before music got to be such big business the suits started making them make a copy of the master and lock it away, so everything is a copy of a copy. Back in the day everyone was actually concerned with fidelity. This was a big deal. I know. What a concept. Crazy thing, crept into all kinds of other areas too, musicianship, songwriting, lyrics. Sinatra, Torme, those guys could actually sing.   

Where was I? Oh yeah. So you come along today asking what version of this performance was the best engineered? The question literally makes no sense. First, there is only one performance on tape. There are no other versions of this performance. The performance is by definition one of a kind. Never to be repeated.  

Possibly you mean what is the best performance of this piece of music? Which is fine. But also completely different than recording, which is different than engineering.  

We were talking about this piece of music being reissued, and mastered from mono to stereo. So a lot of different things going on and hard to tell which of them you are talking about.

Might help to listen only in mono.

Yep, have many mono LP’s, and enjoy them.


Find a newer release/performance of this piece. But, I don’t think you will find the Stern/Bernstein/NY version that fixes the issue in digital. I think only a couple were released.
My bet is your system is totally fine. (But some good advice from others.) Actually, hearing what you're hearing, means you system is actually playing VERY nicely. 

So, that stereo version (which is on Amazon Music) has the violin playing INVERTED, out of phase--in other words it plays the violin, all around you, coming from no distinct spot AND it plays the violin in phase. It is a re-mastering issue. 

Playing a mono version will stop the floating violin. 

It's an amazing piece. Beethoven's only violin concerto. 

Heifetz was the king, but his inherently fast pace did not bring out the poetry of this great work. Of course my opinion only.
It could be that the recording has two violin players on it but it could be a setup issue with phasing or speaker placement, the speakers too far apart from one another.
There certainly won't be two violinists in the Beethoven Concerto.
Nonsense like that may turn up in today's gimmick-ridden world but not in this classic performance from 1959.
For those after an historic performance the BBC Music Magazine Vol 20, No 4 features Yehudi Menuhin live at the Edinburgh Festival on the 29 August 1948 with the BBC Scottish Orchestra - played this just the other day !!. Coupled with Dona nobis pacem conducted by the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, recorded November 1936. This is quite a moving performance. RVW seems to be the "go to"  composer for several conductors/orchestras, with many excellent releases recently.
Since Stern was 81 when he died in 2001, I wonder if the recording is digital, or if you just have a digitized copy.  BUT!  He might be moving around the Microphone.
    Isaac Stern  sometimes thinks he's Ian Anderson 
maybe that's the answer