It comes with a balance knob?!?! I'll take it!

...said no one ever! I've been researching new gear and it hit me. Why, just why, do pieces have a balance knob? The only time in my life I can remember using said knob was to mess with the music and irritate my friends. You know, because it was cool to make every song sound like that classic Led Zep track. I think it was the 80's and on my Sanyo "boom box".

What is the point? To look retro? Do people actually use it and why?

Thought this might be fun to discuss and learn something new.


It's just like tone control, you don't need it, until you do. 


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Perhaps as correction for an odd shaped listening space. Otherwise, it does not make sense to me.  Some rooms and seating arrangements may be problematic from an aesthetics point of view.  Most of us have dedicated listening spaces so this is not an issue. 

I would not live without balance, and I love remote balance via my chase Remote Line Controller RLC-1 which gives remote mute, volume, balance, and tone controls.

The better your system is at imaging, the better it reveals any imbalance: I occasionally find tracks, especially compilation discs with many engineers involved, benefit a LOT from a VERY SMALL balance tweak. 

All center, all imaging is Phantom, all engineers equipment, hearing, specific day's performance is perfect or a bit less than perfect.

Your system, tubes, connections, move something, disturb something else, a slight imbalance can occur, easily resolved until you go thru and re-check everything.

Imperfect space, best compromise, yes indeed.

Lots of people with an imbalance in their hearing. Let’s not make gear that only 20 somethings can use well.  Speaker positioning is another reason.  You may need to put your speakers in less than an ideal situation and the balance knob will help.

I for one am really happy to have balance, loudness and tone controls. 

Typically the better the equipment the less adjustments there are as each has a negative sonic impact. Balance is something nearly all high end equipment has. As @erik_squires pointed out the speakers could have on confined space on one side and open on another, so to have the soundstage centered balance control is needed. Also for people with differential hearing. That is the only control on audiophile gear… the designs to put sound quality first will not have tone controls.

I think all Lamm pre-amplifiers come with "balance" adjustment, in the form of a volume knob for the left channel, and a completely separate volume knob for the right channel. 

My old pre had one, my new one does not.

Interesting, when I had one, and utilized it, (rarely), I did so to figure out what was wrong with my set-up, in order to sound correct back to 'equal'. Well, now I don't have one, but really do the same. Set-up, set-up, cables, a speck of dust on the stylus, whatever, is usually the problem.

That said, yes, I have known those that had a set-up that really couldn't be changed for one reason or another, and in their case, they used it to 'balance' their imbalanced set-up or more importantly, room. So, for those instances it is probably nice to have.

I find it difficult as heck to find a balance control on a PC.

Does that make it audiophile grade??

I had an ARC Reference 1 and Reference 3, both of which had balance controls. Despite symmetrical set up, the sound in my room pulls slightly to the left. The balance control worked exactly as it should and was very useful. 

If you ever had a multi tubed preamp or integrated, you would find out very quickly as to why a balance control can be so important. 

I damaged my right ear drum at a Hot Tuna concert back in the '70's when  "The Wall of Sound" was popular (so why only the right ear you ask? It was at the Rutgers College Basketball arena and I was sitting on the right side with my right ear up against the speakers on that side) Anyway, it sometimes helps to make the right channel just slightly louder then the left. It's also the reason I like having defeatable tone controls. It may not be "pure", but it's all about the enjoying the music. 

I make a headphone amp with a balance  control. I had one customer ask for it just because he thought he needed it, and another that has a hearing problem in one ear. Depending on what he's listening to he has to adjust balance. 

Turned out to be a bit of a selling point.



Balance control makes sense even if hardly ever used in my case. It is God sent for hard of hearing in one ear, and may even be advantageous for normal hearing folks to better center the sound on some questionable recordings. More options is always a plus.

My main rig has no balance control. I only use it for critical listening and I sit in the sweet spot.  I don’t need a balance control for this.  I have a second system in the room that I use for casual listening and am always sitting somewhere other than the sweet spot.  The balance control on that one is critical.

Like many here, my hearing is less acute in one ear than the other. Without a balance control the stereo image is always naggingly off center to me.

My Conrad Johnson Classic 2se has no Balance , it was the first component I've owned without....never needed it sitting in the middle.   My Zesto Leto has it ,  only used it while troubleshooting a noise.....    The Zesto Leto Ultra did away with Balance altogether.     My DAC has Balance , again only used it during troubleshooting separate level controls qualify, or is that even more 'retro' or 'sota' sorta' ?  

Is it possible to have too many?  Pre-, post-, even at the amps?

Lol, I remember my first high end pre amp ... it had just a few knobs, as was the trend, but it still had a balance knob. I was used to balance knobs that would ’move’ the sound from full left to full right. This one didn’t. I thought I heard a teenie tiny difference on my Magnepan speakers between full left or full right, but I couldn’t even tell for sure.

Not that I planned on using the balance knob, but with new equipment I wanted things to work and not be broken. I called the dealer. He called the manufacturer. I sent the unit in for measurement, under guarantee. It was gone 6 weeks. It came back with a measurement report ... all was well ... the difference was 2 dB, as intended!

2 dB ... the border of what is humanly detectable ... lol ... that's what I call 'fine tuning'. Why not leave that knob off? I has been in the middle ... for 30 years now ... the amp is still perfectly balanced.

Summarising, balance adjustment is useful to correct

*hearing deficiencies

*room deficiencies

*small output differences in phone cartridges

*speaker placement issues

*tube/valve output differences

*adjusting position of sweet spot

*channel verification


Balance control need not degrade sound any more than a volume pot if the amp is configured dual mono with a knob for each channel.


Story ends.


Well, I, and I imagine others have said the inverse of the OP's statement:. "There's no balance control?  I'll pass.". Many recordings are not made with perfect L-R balance ( poor mastering, faulty studio monitoring equipment, etc.).  I find my balance control, on my remote, to be indispensable.  An off-center center stage is like fingernails on a chalkboard for me.  One reason I sold my CJ PV-11 was the limited range of balance adjustment.  Of course, separate left and right volume pots also work, but not having any means of adjusting channel balance rules out a preamp for me.  One major rag reviewer refers to the balance control as his soundstage control.  Horses for courses.

What an education so far!

  • Never purchase concert seats where one of my ears face the speaker stack
  • Never setup my system in an awkwardly shaped space
  • Avoid tube solutions
  • Avoid poorly recorded tracks with off-center imaging
  • Make sure my pre or integrated remote has balance control in case any of the above happen!

Balance on a remote is something I've never seen but probably the best thing I've learned from this post because I have run into tracks where the vocalist is off center and am now curious if a balance adjustment does "fix" this without killing the overall presentation?

Over the past 3 years i’ve been doing a bunch of research and then design on a new method for remote-driven volume. Since its inherently dual mono, balance is there.


Unless you have a dedicated listening room with one chair, the combination is a revelation. I have real music room. But i also spend 70% of y listening time and much of the social listening in my living/great/common room, where there is no center seat. Seated in an off-center chair, reading or whatever, its awesome to move the balance db by db and suddenly have the image lock in.


Just sayin’ Maybe no one asks, but they know not what they are missing. Caveat - if you have to get up, move sit down, rinse and repeat, the magic is lost.


Oh, and with modern methods, there is no noise/distortion penalty to having balance (with traditional series designs there is)

hey eric - joke aside its right there int he sound control panel.


Cleverly labeled 'balance" at least in MacOS 12

My pre has dual Amtrans selector switch  dual transformer based volume control. I found this invaluable in extracting  a stable, consistent center image that no longer requires balance adjustments. Whenever I hear off center image now know due to recording or ear wax buildup.

Room geometry & acoustics.

Balance control & loudness/tone controls are absolutely necessary.

Look at your birthday & Fletcher Munson curves if you do not agree.


@izjjzi Yes, a balance control can center a vocalist within the soundstage.  I do it all the time.  Sometimes, the vocals are panned to the left or right intentionally.  In these cases, centering the vocals will produce a lopsided sound stage.  Not only can you center most vocals, but I find that vocal transients coming at me from the left or right can sound harsh, but this harshness lessens or vanishes when the vocals and transients are centered.

Went for an Arcam a49 when I last splurged out 5 yrs back.

Was considering separate amp pre amp at the ttime but if I remember right balance controls werent typical for separate preamps.

As it happens my listening space isnt ideal and also I have a mild hearing deficiency in one ear.

Since both the ear and the most problematic parts of room acoustically are on the same side (my left) the balance control is necessary for me from time to time.

AS I commented i another post Im moving my tv out of the room as its placement was interfering with the soundstage so it maybe with that done I might find the balance control unnecessary-we shall see.

Even so good to have in case of need and if not needed it wont be engaged so no downside near as I can tell


Lately, I have been using a sort of balance control (dual mono block set up with sensitivity at each input) for a reason not so good. In short, the right speaker in my system has apparently suffered damage from my stupidity. Bottom line, it needs more volume to compensate for its injury. I know, I am ordering a new driver in the next few days. Just glad to have had a fix in the meantime.

I had impacted wax in one ear.  I adjusted the balance until after my ENT appointment.

If the best speaker arrangement (sonically and soundstage-wise) in your room was asymmetrical, you wouldn't even be asking that question.  With no balance control on my primary preamp, I have to handle it via bias settings.