Obvious Epiphany

I don't have golden ears and am relatively inexperienced when it comes to being an audiophile. Things like pace, rhythm and timing, jitter and other such things are pretty meaningless to me (and I'm fine with that). But my one audiophile super power is speaker position as it relates to sound stage. I actually think it is less of a super power and more of a sensitivity....or deficiency....that is probably based on the fact that the hearing in my left ear is worse than my right and both of them are 60 years old.

In any case, for a number of years it has seemed to me that most music seems to be weighted to the right channel, particularly vocals. I have three systems; one is relatively high end, the other is semi high end and the third is mid-fi at best. All three seem right channel heavy depending on the song (there are notable exceptions between songs, some of which seem left channel predominant). I chalked this up to the difference in my hearing. And that is probably the case.

I experiment a lot with minor changes in speaker position within the confines of my room parameters. This mostly involves degrees of toe-in, distance between speakers and distance from listening position (which is pretty room limited with my main system). But, in all these experiments, all of which render subtle differences, I always kept my listening position equidistant from the two speakers. In other words at the point of an isosceles triangle. I don't know why.

In any case I was recently listening to my midfi system, which ironically has the best room situation of the three and the right channel predominance was getting on my nerves and I just slid my listening position to the left about two feet or so. Bingo. Sound stage centered up nicely. The songs that I know to have more of a left channel predominance stayed about the same and were not more heavily left weighted.

I know this sounds like a 'duh' moment. But for those with imperfect ears, imperfect rooms or imperfect systems this might be worth a try if your sound stage is skewed to one side or the other. I guess the take home message is to try everything. Even if the classic speaker position diagrams say otherwise.

(I have less leeway with listening position with my main system but moving further less has made a big difference there as well.)



I’ve got a similar issue in reverse the left was louder than the right.  I’ve found that sometimes room treatments can help balance things out.  In one instance, a half-round piece about 5’ tall against the wall between the speakers did the trick and may be worth a try.  I fortunately have a balance control on my preamp so I could even things out that way.  If room treatments aren’t possible or don’t work for your main system, I’d search out a preamp with a transparent balance control and fix it that way.  Moving your chair may help with balance, but it’s gotta have some negative effects on imaging/soundstage so using a balance control may be preferable.  Life’s too short.  Just my $0.02 FWIW.

What direction the sound appears to be coming from, including the phantom cener image, is dependent on two cues—the relative loudness of the sound and the ‘timing” cue—how much how much sooner one signal arrives vs. the other.  By moving closer to one speaker you increased both the loudness cue and the timing cue of the speaker to shift the image in that direction.  As others have mentioned, you could just change the loudness cue with a balance control.

In my set up, if I move only two inches one way or the other, I get a substantial image change.  I hear the same magnitude of change when listening to almost all systems when moving my position more than a few inches (less so with omni-directional speakers like the MBLs).  

My ancient VAC Cla1 MK III pre amp has two volume controls, one for each channel. It's easy to make adjustments if needed.

Why not just move the left speaker forward of the right speaker or the right speaker back? I've found the Sumiko setup to be the optimal way to place speakers and they often end up uneven with each other. They're your ears, not the person's who made the diagram. Go with what sounds best to you and your room.

Sumiko Setup

I don’t have much leeway for moving the speakers of my main system much at all.

Somewhat the same situation in my other so-so system. Just easier to move the listening position.

I have used balance on the NAD integrated in my mid-fi system. I use my so-so system with a Sonos amp and it has balance control through the app. Not sure of the pros and cons of that.

My main system is relatively old. Proceed (Levinson) amp, Audio Research tube preamp with no balance control. No loudness option.

Which brings me to a mini-rant. It seems like doing away with balance control and loudness was a mistake based on some sort of misguided vanity. In my opinion no system is good enough to overcome every room issue (or listener issue) on its own and very few systems are great at low volume without a loudness option. Shoot, a good system should give you a range of loudness algorithms to choose from.

Man, as I said before life is too short to deal with stuff like this, so again I’d recommend another preamp that has a transparent balance control — some things are just worth paying for, like pure enjoyment and sanity. I know the Atmasphere MP3 and Linear Tube Audio MicroZOTL offer well-implemented balance controls, but I’m sure there are several others. Best of luck.

I've found that the right side bias is often the recording itself and not a hearing imbalance. Many times when playing a new recording I've leapt from my chair and grabbed the Stereophile test CD thinking I have a problem with my left side speaker only to happily find out all is well with the world and all I have to do is use the balance control. Those designers who thought a balance control on an amp or preamp was not desirable were doing a disservice to the audio world.

Good post.


Another thing that comes to mind is having non symmetrical toe in (less toe on the “good” ear) could also help. Also if the speakers are equidistant from the side walls thick (7” bass trap type panels) at first reflections points will help balanced the room acoustically. Simple fix would be a pre amp with a balanced.

@soix Agree in principle but buying new equipment is not really my bag and currently this simple solution is doing the job.

@mazian Totally agree that a lot of recordings are right channel heavy. Not sure why but this is often obvious despite any hearing issues.

@james633 Prior to this just changing toe in and not my listening position did have an effect but not as much as moving my listening position. So far with this change in listening position I have left the toe-in as I typically have it which was both speakers angled so they are dead on facing me. So when I move my position to the left the right speaker is effectively less toed in so that may come into play.

A non-centered soundstage is like fingernails on a chalkboard for me.  I don't even read preamp reviews if the subject doesn't have a balance control or left and right volume pots.  My McIntosh preamp has a huge range of balance adjustment in very fine increments, and is available from the remote control.  


Let's not kid ourselves: In addition to uneven room acoustics that skew the soundstage, I have found that many recordings and source components, and even wires aren't always perfectly balanced.  

Wow, you have tapped into several of my ’pet peeves’

1. equipment without balance controls, and

2. speakers without level controls for the individual drivers (typically volume up/dn relative to the woofer).

3. angle of dispersion, both vertically and horizontally

4. toe-in ease of adjustability regarding one centered or two listeners, each slightly off center


  1. equipment without balance controls

REMOTE BALANCE is the real deal!!!! (for ANY system).

When my system is ’correct’, i.e. EVERYTHING (matched tubes, tube socket contacts, equipment guts, both ends of every cable connection, both ends of both speaker’s connections, cartridge/cables, ...everything) co-operating to produce a near perfect phantom center result (and all the imaging that comes with that) verified with mic at ear level centered listening position and test tones CD (not LP).


ALL correct: there are MANY individual tracks that are not quite balanced/centered that benefit a good bit from a small tweak of the balance control, a bit left or a bit right. I have not experienced a ‘generally right’ or ‘generally left’ imbalance.

System ‘not quite correct: any tube/connection/resistor/capacitor ... in your system on any given day/hour may lead (temporarily or generally) to a less than perfect balance from a perfectly balanced source. Mess with a cable, another cable’s contact may be disrupted from it’s perfect contact (why I changed to Locking RCA connectors, or a nice benefit of XLR connectors). Check, straighten, inadvertently ‘tilt’ a tube, varying that sides’ output a speck …

This is the kind of thing whereby EVERYTHING might be off center to either left or right, thus every source needs a balance adjustment until the system becomes ‘correct’ (which may not be possible without substantial investigation and/or expense.).

The room may contribute to a semi-permanent or permanent l/r imbalance. It may exist for only a certain frequency range, contributing to wander, i.e. Cassandra Wilson or any vocalist/instrument wandering off center at only some frequencies.

Your hearing, more than likely not perfectly balanced, but it is not just a simple ‘volume’ difference, your right ear might be more sensitive generally, but have a notch at a certain frequency range, above/in/below typical vocal frequencies relative to your other side.

Remote Volume/Balance Features: Missing on so much equipment today, while some current equipment provides specific physical controls, some bury the balance feature in the Menu, some don’t even show their remote control, you need to download the manual to get answers.

Vintage Equipment: I often recommend the Chase RLC-1 Remote Line Controller which adds remote volume, remote balance, and other features.

Here’s one with the remote control, 30 day return (you MUST have the remote, no controls on the unit).


Install it directly or thru a tape/processor loop, you will discover you get all the features with zero degradation of the sound.

My main system: sources to preamp, preamp to chase, chase to amp. Remote Balance it’s primary purpose, and mute. Amp’s or Chase’s volume control.

Office System: remote power only, I leave my Little Luxman’s physical power button depressed, all sources to the Luxman which has remote volume and mute.

Garage/Shop system: optionally thru tape loop, when in used for remote volume and mute when the wifey sticks her head into the project area.

CD, then compare LP


Have same content: CD, and LP, good way to assess if your Vinyl system is ‘right on’, or adjust the Vinyl system as needed. My favorite imaging test is Friday Night in San Francisco, side 2, tracks 2 and 3 when all 3 guitarists are playing.






  1. speakers without level controls

for the individual drivers (typically each driver’s volume up/dn relative to the woofer, then relative to each other).

‘In the Beginning’ even MONO, speakers came with level controls to adjust for the individual listening space, your hearing, your preference. Move to another space, readjust, … sell to another person, they adjust ……

Stereo added a bigger challenge to balance individual speaker’s driver’s frequency response, then balance L/R, IN THAT SPACE. Move them, start again!

When younger, I used to adjust the level controls (Brillance, Presence) of my vintage 4 way electro-voice speaker’s drivers by ear. Next, multiband equalizer by ear, next an acoustic engineer friend would bring his sophisticated sound meter, we would ‘get it right’.

Now: SPL meters readily affordable, a terrific test tone CD (not LP), and a LOT of patience gives the ability to adjust in the space, then, after you adjust for the mic/space you adjust for a preference, hearing imbalance, lack of symmetry, OR a global age related insensitivity to highs, etc.

Last time, after installing new 16 ohm L-Pads, it took me 1-1/2 days to ‘get it right’, with those tools and help from a neighbor/friend audio engineer/producer. It’s not easy, but the results are wonderful, far beyond simple tone control adjustments.


  1. Angle of Dispersion

Room Reflections (especially early reflections).

Any space I have had, any speaker I have had (either speaker’s slanted front face, or tilting speaker cabinet) has benefitted by an upward slant: altering the angle of reflection off floor/ceiling/side walls, and the resulting rear wall reflections. Combined with Toe-In.

  1. Toe-In:
  1. Tweeter’s Narrow Dispersion both horizontally and vertically.

Because of the rapid off-axis volume drop off of tweeters, it is recommended to aim the speaker so that the tweeter is directed at the listener horizontally, and aimed vertically at seated ear height. Listening space/hearing ability/preferences come into play separately.

  1. Adjustable Toe-In

I recommend 3 wheels for heavy speakers, (3: more weight per wheel and no leveling issue when moved) and three ‘slip’ pads for lighter speakers (again 3 because …), enough resistance to stay put, but with some effort the ability to alter toe-in (without nightmare difficulties like spikes, …)

  1. Alternate Toe-In: Two Off-Center Listeners, Home Theater Front L/R

Cross Pattern Toe-In. Aim the right speaker directly at the left chair; left speaker at the right chair. This gives very acceptable l/r listening, preserves imaging to some extent, rather than opposite speaker/center/imaging lost.

You are physically closer to the speaker on your side i.e. volume, but in the direct path of the opposite speaker, i.e. on axis volume: yields a wide center image.

This is important for Home Theater front speakers also, I am surprised more speakers are not designed for wide imaging, like these vintage DBX Soundfield 100’s, great sound for two people at opposite ends of a sofa, or 3 people on the sofa, any off-center seating arrangement. Center speakers, definitely needed for Dolby content, do not involve any directional or off-center content. Use the system in 'direct' or 2 channel stereo, center channel speaker is cut out. Much content sounds better in 2 channel, much 'direct' is 2 channel, so much is pseudo surround it's ridiculous.




Yes, balance control is a necessity.  Remote volume control is a necessity—even small changes, and track-to-track changes are helpful, and you will never really know when volume is just right if you have to constantly jump up to make changes.  But, most important of all is speaker controls.  There is NO speaker that is at its best in all rooms and all circumstances.  Controls make a dramatic change in the sound.  It would take ridiculously good luck for the fixed balance of a pair of speakers to be optimized right out of the box.  The industry is just crazy in not providing suitable L-pads for adjusting driver balance.

@elliottbnewcombjr Thanks for the additional info. Agree that speakers need to easier to move. The speakers in my main system weigh 130 pounds with base attached. I had them on spiked feet for a while but that made them very hard to move. Now they just rest on flat bases directly on the carpet. How that affects sound quality I don’t know or much care since it makes speaker positioning so much easier.

I had them on spiked feet for a while but that made them very hard to move. Now they just rest on flat bases directly on the carpet. How that affects sound quality I don’t know or much care since it makes speaker positioning so much easier.

You might want to consider these Gliders from Herbie’s. Not only do they make it easy to move/level your speakers and avoid floor damage, but many people report they improve sound and only cost around $72 — a mere pittance in audiophile terms.


I am estimating my speakers are around the same130 lb weight.


These dual wheel casters are surface mounted. I got the bug to upgrade the wheels, but it backfired. I found my furniture grade Dual Wheel caster’s axel does not wobble like single wheel casters. My JSE Model 2’s came with 4 wheels like this, I changed to 3 wheels.


I put a 2x4 flat in the front of the current speakers, within the apron,which tilts the speaker’s back/tweeter aimed at seated ear height. If they try to tip over on the single centered rear wheel, the skirt stops them from tipping.

When I changed my JSE’s (sloped face/flat bottom) from 4 wheels to 3 wheels, there was no skirt to prevent them from falling over when moving. I made rear corner blocks, just a bit above the floor. Speaker try’s to fall left or right, the corner blocks hit the floor preventing them from tipping over.

Amazingly, slightly sloped top, full of Donna’s stuff, nothing vibrates/moves, no vibration of the sides, even without internal bracing.

I messed with spikes, no improvement, just limited movement. Gave them to my friend, he is unable to move his speakers,

I've said before here on Audiogon, that whenever I think my speakers are "stale", that instead of buying new, I rearrange my listening room. I think this last adjustment put my ancient rear ported KRIX Euphonix in just the right spot. 

even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then

I don’t know why I’m obsessing about sound stage lately. Its not normally my fetish.

However, I’ve noticed on my main system the sound stage sounds low related to my head position. I don’t know why it bothers me but now that I’ve noticed it......

Anyway, moving my listening position closer pretty much solves the problem. I know my listening position is too far away but it is what it is as they say. Moving stuff out of the way so I can move my large chair closer is not something I’m going to do on a regular basis.

Slumping down in my chair helps, naturally. Not very comfortable.

I haven’t done it yet but I wonder if slightly tilting the speakers upward would help? This would be fairly easy to do.

The second question would be if there would be a downside? I’m assuming the main issue would be with where the tweeters would end up being pointed.

I may experiment.


…and I just slid my listening position to the left about two feet or so.

So, is the moral of the story is if one moves their butt a little, sometimes great things can happen? :)

@n80 I would absolutely try tilting the speakers up a little. Also, consider stands or footers that would increase the height of the speakers, with or without tilting them. Sound Anchors makes great, custom fitted speaker stands at reasonable prices. My system projects height really well, with sound beginning at ear level and rising to the ceiling. My speakers, Ohm Walsh 2000s, are quasi omni, and the drivers sit proud of the cabinets on top. Wonderful sound staging!  I have three point spiked bases from Sound Anchors under them.

@kennyc Yes, but...as others and I have said, there are factors that will affect the sound stage that are not static.  So, if you can't adjust channel balance, you might find yourself moving your chair over and over.  Too much exercise for most audiopiles!