Want to Blow Up My Stereo

If anyone has ideas as to the culprit of my issue I'd sure love to hear it.

For I don't know how long I've had an issue with my stereo putting the center of the image just inside the right speaker. This week I decided to "fix" the issue, and began trying everything I could think of. I had previously tried all the usual suspects: swapping the left and right interconnects, swapping the speakers, changing speaker positions. I've added a preamp (no effect on this issue), changed CD players, interconnects, and speaker cables. I thought for the longest the issue was the 24" dropoff in depth of the back wall, as the sound "pools" just inside that dropoff. But this week I've tried even putting the stereo on the flat, long wall instead of the short wall. I've also tried reversing the polarity of the interconnects and the phase on the preamp. (As an aside, reversing the polarity of only the interconnects from CDP to preamp resulted in a mirror image of the image shift, but the sound was very diffuse with no bass at all, and inverting the phase on the preamp had very little effect on the sound.) I've tried moving my room treatments (GIK absorption panels and Echo Busters diffusers) with very little if any effect. I tried moving the speakers completely against the side walls, very close together, and with the left speaker 3 feet closer to the side wall than the right. The image doesn't move. I just want to take a sledgehammer to my entire system. I haven't built a (I don't even want to think about how much money) ridiculously expensive system by sane person's standards (just ask my wife) to have some stupid issue like this that doesn't exist with my "normal" investment home theater.

And if you had any idea how many times I've had to edit this post to remove foul language and inappropriate phrases I think you'd feel my pain a bit more...or maybe not.

At any rate, please help.

Link to system: http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?vdone&1258245716&view
This may be obvious, but have you had your hearing checked? Sometimes a wax buildup in one ear causes a very noticeable shift. You said you're not having the problem in your lesser system, so maybe that indicates it isn't a hearing problem, but who knows?
Have you checked the ouput of the left and right channels? Tried a balance control?
If this has been a problem regardless of equipment swaps, then that rules out equipment as the source, IMO.

I'd venture to guess that it's a speaker placement issue. I had a similar problem in my room (although mine wasn't as extreme as your seems to be). I solved the problem by adjusting speaker placement using the Sumiko (or Iron Chef) method. It resulted in one speaker being a bit farther out into the room than the other speaker, and the toe-in angles being slightly different as well. Correct speaker placement is often asymmetrical.

Now, you could always cheat by using some attenuators like these EVS Ultimate Attenuators at the amps as balance controls...

Good luck.

Couldn't the EVS attenuators be used to balance the output of two different amps in a biamp arrangement. My thought would be to use them on the bass amps with SS to balance my tubes on the mid/tweet. Cost effective?
Maybe ask your speaker manufacturer for placement advice? Could help.
01-08-10: Mtrspt5

Couldn't the EVS attenuators be used to balance the output of two different amps in a biamp arrangement.
Perhaps. I haven't tried it myself. You should probably pose this question to Rick Shultz of EVS.

I believe the recommended method for your application is to use an external crossover.
The most important thing one of my mentors had said to me:the visual center and acoustical center may occur in different places.Think of setting up the speakers,as three different "planes" (not aero).Left,center,right.Left will control that occuring L-speaker outward.Same with right and the center is summed L+R (adj for image focus and proper weighting in the bass).One speaker will anchor the soundstage.Then finding the appropriate "other" may be easier.The final set-up may not be symetrical (as mentioned above)IE:toe-in,distance from back wall.
Try starting out with no absorption-this can lead to shorter image height or pooling of the sound.Any absorbative material should be up in the corners-if a must.
Where are you located?? As I'm sure a fellow member would be willing to lend assistance.Tom
How is it possible to reverse the polarity of the interconnects from the CDP to the Pre? You should only be able to swap channels, not polarity, and if swapping channels did indeed move the imbalance to the other channel there must be a problem with the CDP. I have a test disc that plays image positions for: center, left center, left speaker, and far left. This is repeated for the right channel. I could look up the title and number if you are interested.
Sounds likje you tried everything. It almost sounds like the balance is deliberately favoring one channel. Do you even have a balance control? Are you sure that all of the speaker drivers are working properly. Maybe you can try a different pair of speakers just to see if you get the same result.
Don't do it.

If you do, be sure to use audiophile grade dynamite.

Just kidding.

Seriously, I suspect room acoustics. Sonic center often does not equate to visual center as someone above noted, especially with speakers that throw a big holographic soundstage. I have the same issue with my L shaped room where my OHM f5s reside.

Did you get exact same imaging results placing the speakers along the alternate flat wall in regards to center of image or did it move somewhat?

One solution: if everything else sounds fine but the sonic center is shifted slightly, so what? Train yourself to ignore speaker location an just listen to what you system and room is giving you.

Attenuaters in-line on one channel is another option I would think. I have and have used attenuaters but never to affect channels differently.

Toe in of the speaker farthest from sonic center for more direct exposure at your listening position (or toe out of the other for less) is another option to shift the sonic center.
Have you ever not had this problem with these speakers?

I can't formulate a theory that fits all of the facts that you have stated, but I'm wondering if one of the speakers might have the connections to one of its drivers or one of its crossover elements reversed. Since the crossover is nominally at 1700Hz, with third-order rolloff, a miswire resulting in partial cancellation of frequencies in the crossover region could pull the image toward the other speaker, since it is mid-range frequencies that would be affected.
As an aside, reversing the polarity of only the interconnects from CDP to preamp resulted in a mirror image of the image shift, but the sound was very diffuse with no bass at all, and inverting the phase on the preamp had very little effect on the sound.
A diffuse image combined with attenuated bass is an almost certain indication that the two channels are out of phase relative to one another. When you say you reversed the polarity of the interconnects from cdp to preamp (and I assume you were using balanced interconnects), do you mean that you interchanged xlr pins 2 and 3 simultaneously on the cables for BOTH channels?

If not, and only one channel was reversed (either inadvertently or intentionally), that would certainly explain the diffuse image and attenuated bass. On the other hand, if you truly reversed the phase on both channels, and the result was that the image moved to the opposite speaker, and simultaneously became diffuse with attenuated bass, perhaps (and I'm just guessing here) there are two inter-related problems present, such as a miswire in a speaker combining with asymmetrical room effects, resulting in confusing symptoms.

BTW, the polarity switch on the preamp is undoubtedly an absolute phase reversal function, which would invert both channels simultaneously. That would result in effects which were either very subtle or non-existent, depending on the recording. I can't explain, though, why flipping that switch gave different results than interchanging pins 2 and 3 on both interconnects, unless I've misinterpreted something in your post or you inadvertently had pins 2 and 3 interchanged on only one channel.

Hope that is of some help.

-- Al
Send your system to me. I will make certain that every little-bitty piece of it is totally beaten, crushed, mangled, stomped on, spit on, and twisted beyond recognition.. THEN blown to bits. (I enjoy destroying things) (8^Q...
I will send a few remaining bits of scortched and broken stuff back to you in a trophy case with the "Image right and die" or what ever slogan you want, along with a video of the complete process.
I await delivery.
(PS I haven't a clue as to what could cause the problem if you have done all the stuff you say.. A great mystery.)
Aggielaw - You mentioned swapping speakers. Did you physically swapped speakers or just swapped amps channels. Did you do both? There is still chance that one amp's channel might be weaker. Could you play 1kHz test tone and measure it on the speakers with DVM?
Blowing up a stereo...isn't that what Brilliant Pebbles are for? http://www.machinadynamica.com/machina31.htm

Get a test disc from stereophile or somewhere else to test polarity, etc.
Headphones: Try a pair. That will tell you if you are crazy or really do have an issue...
I would start with the speaker stands. If the horizontal planes aren't matching degrees and heights the speakers will fire at different points (angles). The right stand may be pointing it's tweeter and mid driver more directly at your ear. To effectively check I used a Husky Digital Level($36) this is key it reads out to 0.00 and something straight bridging the stands. Next I would place the speakers on the stands and check the degrees on the speaker faces. When the angles match move on to the heights of the tweeters center to center with the 8' straight edge.
Move the position of your chair forward until the imaging become to "soft" less defined. Check distance from nose to tweeter with string. Now move your chair away until you get sharper images that you like. Recheck distances with string. If the image is still to the right move your head side to side to see if this moves image towards center. If it does move chair and and mark.

Hope something here helps.
As you might be able to tell I've done some chasing/hair pulling/Hell time too.


Do you have insurance?
Elevick has a point. Listen to the same music on your system and phones. Compare.
Hollow point bullets, slow moving ones, so I would say a Thompson SubMachine gun. They are normally chambered for .45 ACP rounds, so those should work. If you place all the equipment close together it will be more fun.

Also, if you take it to a local gun range, you could charge some of the local lunatics and they will pay you, and use their own ammo, to shoot your expensive audio gear.

You may actually make enough to get a new system started.
Don't let Homeland Security hear of you wanting to blow something up.You'll find yourself in a dark interrogation room on a remote island somewhere.
Perhaps the room itself is skewing what and when you hear things??? Is your listening position such that the sound travels symmetrically to your ears from each speaker?

I like Tvad's solution of experimenting with speaker placement.

Are you kidding me?!
The way Homeland Security is being run these days, you'd have to show up at their doorstep with bomb in hand before they'd notice anything!
(And even then, nine out of ten of them would probably merely notice the ticking clock, and ask you what time it was!)

Now, if you told the IRS you weren't going to pay that $5 in back taxes that you owed, well they'd have you in the cooler before you whistle Dixie! (Oh, and by the way, whistling Dixie is no longer allowed, as it is not P.C.! You'd get thrown in jail for that too!)
Guys, you helped me get back to some obvious stuff I hadn't done. I have a list out in the car to address the various recommendations, which I'll post later.

But the initial test was revealing. I got out my Radio Shack digital sound meter, and grabbed one of the 6 test CDs I own - as if one wasn't enough - and played a 1Khz tone track. Measured the left and right speakers, and got about a 6dB difference, with the right being louder.

Then I swapped the the output channels on the amp by connecting the right speaker to the left output terminal and the right speaker to the left output terminal. Voila! 6dB difference with left speaker louder.

So the amplifier has been indicted, but not found guilty quite yet. Two more things to do tonight: first, going to swap the output tubes in the Ayon CD-2 to see if the tubes are the culprit, although they shouldn't be because I remember I had this issue with my Cary 303/300. If swapping the tubes doesn't work, I'll get out the RA Opus 21 I have sitting in its crate ready to sell and see if I have the same issue using that CDP. If I do, the amp heads in for a checkup! :-)

Thanks a million for all the help you guys have offered! If I had asked for help on this 18 months ago I could've saved myself literally 50 hours of work!
Before you swap tubes, you might swap the output channels from your preamp to see if the 6dB difference follows the swap.

If the 6dB follows the preamp IC swap, then the problem is not with the amp, but with the preamp or your source.

Then, swap the output ICs from your source. If the 6dB difference follows, then it's your source. If not, then it's the preamp.
Tvad offers sound advise.
Is someone going to be knocking on my door because I clicked on the live-leak link above and watched some videos of binary explosives? I couldn't watch just one.
Interesting stuff and scary too.
Tom6897 Knock Knock anyone home? We are keeping an eye on you!
you guys are complicating this, no need for explosives, a 90 year old fully automatic submachine gun will work fine
Assuming you are using balanced interconnects, a 6db channel imbalance is highly suggestive of one of the interconnect cables on the side with the lower volume having an open connection on one of the two signal wires it contains.

-- Al
Not to fuel your aggravation, but unless you have a seriously weird room, I must admit that if the visual and sonic center of my stereo were not the same, I would also want to blow up my system.

Having wrestled inch by inch with the placement of several different sets of Magneplanars and mini monitors over the years in many different rooms, lining up the visual and sonic centers has always been one of my key tests in getting everything to come into focus.

What about your amps?
Had imbalance problem for several months, had to twist balance control all over, then realized that the time I rolled drivers in the tube monoblocks, I had put a 5751 in one of them instead of a 12AX7. Very nearly had my 9-pin licence revoked.
You know, I had a similar problem with my phono stage for a short time, and I was going to send the Pre back to Cary when I too realized I had rolled the wrong tube into the wrong slot on the phono section. I had the 12ax7's on one side in the 12au7 slot, changed them back and it sounded perfect again.

I'm not familiar with your preamp from looking at your system, but could that be it? Is it a tube pre? If so, try uninstalling and re-installing all of the tubes.
OK, now looking at all of the gear and researching it a bit, with all of the modded gear you have, could it be a problem with one of the outputs to that channel, either on the preamp or the amp side (although this is easily checked and I'm sure you did that). Maybe the pre needs to go back to the place that modded it to be checked.
Howdy, guys. Here's the update. I did as Tvad suggested, and connected the left preamp output to the right amp input and vice versa. The sound shifted left of center. Replaced the cables to proper connection, and the image shifted right of center. Did the same with the CDP output to preamp input, with same results - image shifted left of center when cables sent to opposite channel inputs, and went back to right of center when connected properly.

The pre and amp are both SS, but the Ayon CD-2 uses 4 6H30 tubes, 2 per channel. I'm going to assume it's the tubes and try at least 2 of the other 3 sets of tubes I have for it. If the issue isn't fixed with any of the tubes I'll pull out the Opus 21 and make sure the problem is the CDP. If the issue exists with the Opus as well I'm going to be flat mind-boggled.

Again, thanks to everyone for their thoughts on this!
I'd suggest installing the non-tubed Opus 21 (into the same inputs you use for the Ayon) and try the IC swap before you mess with the tubes in the Ayon...but that's me.

Also, if you're using balanced ICs from the Ayon to the pre, you might try swapping the left and the right ICs (not criss-crossing them) and then listening for the channel balance anomaly. As Almarg mentioned, it could be due to a faulty interconnect.

Good luck!
Update: it was a tube imbalance. I unpacked the Opus 21, and the image is dead center.

Thanks to all who contributed!

Now to figure out how to fix the tube imbalance... :-|