Ok to adjust balance to achieve center vocal image?

I have an all analog tube vinyl system and don’t remember having to adjust my balance setting in order to achieve a center vocal image. I do now though. I’m getting a left leaning vocal image with the balance set to zero. Is there a good way to see if this can be fixed so I don’t need to balance adjust to achieve a center vocal image? Could it be a preamp tube going out? Something else? Any harm in just continuing to adjust the balance - meaning am I experiencing any signal loss doing so? 
Thanks! Paul
First thing I would do is check the tubes. Swap right channel for left channel, etc.
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@tvad i only have a turntable so I’d have to find a test record to verify. Thanks
Your system is weighted towards one side. There are a host of things that could be doing this. This is what a balance control is for. So adjust it until you get the image you like. I have to make minor adjustments all the time
just because the program is weighted towards one side or the other.
You can try adjusting the anti-skate and see if the vocal image moves to the center!

When perfectly calibrated your stylus rests perfectly in the groove of your records ensuring that you have the proper channel balance for your left and right channels.
NO!  It is NEVER acceptable to change the balance, and if you have a tone control, you need to re-wire to by-pass it.  In certain, rare, circumstances, it is OK to use a volume control, but most of us never do.
Clearaudio Satisfy or Verify?? Makes me think of a tonearm run without enough anti-skating or a turntable that’s altered its levelness.

Exactly yogiboy!
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I have the same problem. Have a Rogue Metis preamp. It’s different album to album but always right side is stronger than the left. I just use the balance to compensate tried find the problem but gave up. Just use the control and enjoy the music.
Also, some older jazz vocals were actually originally recorded in mono and then later electronically converted to produce a stereo LP.  In the process, some engineers seem to have placed the vocalist mostly on one channel, typically the left in my experience, and then they placed the rhythm section, at least the bass and drums, on the right.  It's folly to try to fix that particular situation with a balance control.  Best to live with it.
Tone arm is the stock magnetic bearing one. I’ll check the setup there. 

Hmmmm. I probably just stick to adjusting the balance control if its not an easy fix like a couple have suggested.

Thanks guys!
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What about simply tweaking the toe in of the right speaker so it’s in more, or slightly less toe in on the left speaker?
One common mistake with speaker setup is the assumption that everything should be set up symmetrically -- as judged by the eye. But what if there's a wall beside one speaker and a bookshelf beside another? Or a hallway at one reflection point and a window near the other? That will un-balance the sound. The solution is either with treatments or, more simply, to understand the acoustics happening and adjust the speakers so that they match *aurally.* Maybe that's not your issue, but it seemed worth mentioning.
For such a simple tonearm, the Concept/Verify magnetic tonearm can be a bit tricky!

Its vertical tracking force can vary wildly with vertical motion, increasing in pressure/force as the arm is raised. This is why Clearaudio supplied a super low-profile balance beam to be placed directly on the platter when setting VTF.

Any VTF reading taken above the record playing surface will be artificially high. When cueing the tonearm manually by hand, you may be able to notice the weight of the tonearm feels heavier as it's lifted. Also, optimally set up and playing, this tonearm tube really begs to be parallel to the record in order for its flat supporting magnets to be parallel to each other at the fulcrum.

After the turntable is leveled, Anti-Skating is a simple adjustment underneath the tonearm mount consisting of twisting the knob which is the anchor of the tonearm's supporting braided-wire. Typically these are best left at their factory position, usually marked with a black sharpie line and optimized for 2~2.5 gram tracking weights. When viewing the adjustment knob from underneath the tonearm, clockwise increases Anti-Skate, placing more pressure on the right channel outer groove wall & counter-clockwise would be vice versa.

Hello paulgardner,

     An imbalance could come from numerous sources, it may be best to use a process of elimination to narrow down the root cause of the problem.  Here's some suggestions:

1. speaker cables- with the amp off, swap the left speaker cable with the right speaker cable. Turn the amp back on, set the balance control to the center position and try it out.
      If the center image pulls to the opposite side, it's your amp.  If it still pulls to the same side, suspect the speakers, the cables/wire or your room.  You can verify your speaker cables are fully functional with a continuity check using a multimeter yourself or just bring them to an electrical repair shop and have them verify they're good for you.

2. speakers- with the amp off, switch your left and right speakers and connect them with speaker cables you've verified as fully functional. Turn the amp back on, set the balance to center and try it out again.
     If the center image moves to the other side, it's your speakers. 

Best wishes,
Yes indeed. Trouble shooting could begin on either end of your system.

On the front end, see what happens when you swap right & left phono inputs. You may or may not find the answer there . . .
As Tim described, you can do switching starting at either the front end and working down the line, or the other way (from speaker back to source).  This will allow you to isolate the source of the problem (assuming it is in the component stream and not the room or your own ears).  This switching also involves moving tubes from one side to the other to determine if the weakness is in one pair of tubes.

Right now, I have a substantial imbalance that I've isolated to my linestage, and it is not the tubes.  Because I don't have any other obvious problem with the sound, I have been utilizing the balance control to compensate.  At some point I will bother to have this looked into by someone more competent than myself.

I think balance control is an essential feature.  There is always some some imbalance, particularly with phono cartridges.  It is amazing how small an imbalance is actually audible.  When I had a Levinson No. 32 linestage in my system, I could change volume and balance by as small an increment as .1 db.  While a whole db of volume change when playing music is not reliably audible, a change of as little as .2 db in channel balance IS audible.  That is why I had the builder of my tube linestage include balance control (I also insisted on remote volume control, something he was not normally inclined to include in his designs).

     Yes, thank you toothroyd.  A faulty interconnect cable could also be a possible root cause just as improper stylus tracking in the groove could be a root cause. The process of elimination should enable you to narrow down the possible root causes. 

Lots of ideas here.  If it were me, easily my first theory — especially since you said it was not previously doing this, presumably in the same room and with the same/similar gear — would be that my azimuth had fallen into a leaning position and the stylus was favoring one channel by a smidge.  Lots of ways to check and adjust that, depending on your gear.  Worth a few minutes on googling “turntable ... azimuth.”  My second theory would be what someone above said: my room is such that I need to bring the weak side speaker an inch or two closer to the listening spot.  This can be such an easy fix that it feels like cheating.  
Wayward imagery can be caused many things that may drive mad someone. I would include the following for checking,
Use a cd player to confirm that image is center.
All Recordings are not the same, check with a test record for center voiceNot matched tubes in phono stage, swap tubes L/R to check that image is the same or not.
Align correctly your cartridge, overhung, hta, antiskating (use low), azimuth.....
In most of cases your answer is there.
Speaker positioning, toe in-out, same tweeter axis, moving front to back as rooms are not perfect.Swap L/R cabling.


Lots of great ideas here to try by process of elimination. I will get to work with swapping cables, speakers, tubes and adjusting VTA and cartridge set up. Thank you all for the ideas. Much appreciated!!
Tubes are a fast wearable item compared to caps. The Rouge preamps have an elaborate balance system. I would think it is for this purpose. Besides, who says you cannot listen the way you prefer to listen. I have a Shiit Loki equalizer for changing the sound on our “remastered” or bastardized recordings. What’s next, people saying power cables make an audible difference? They definitely do unless you bought your system at a truck stop. If it sounds good to you that is all that matters. 
Azimuth will not affect channel  balance, it will affect tracking and record wear but not balance.  Nor will VTA, but never hurts to double check cart alignment especailly if you haven’t in a while for overall sonics.  I would check all cable connections including your cartridge pins and obviously tubes.

But do not be afraid to use your balance control, and adjust speaker toe in and distance from the front wall where the balance is off.   Annoying I know! 

The OP states that he has a "left leaning" vocal image.  Is everything leaning left or just the vocals?  My experience is that many recordings have the vocal image where it should be in space which is not necessarily dead center.

Second question is: When did this change or when did you become aware of it? 

@barts I would say it’s not necessarily just the vocals that are left leaning but the vocals are the most noticeable meaning the loudest element. 

I first noticed it a month ago or so but nothing has changed in the system for 6 months or more. 
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A bit better than using a CDP to check for system balance is to use a mono LP, because the signal then traverses the phono section of your preamp and any problems in channel balance that emanate downstream from the record player but in the phono stage will be revealed.  With a mono LP, if all is perfect, the image should be dead center. Then, if you sense channel imbalance, you could use a CDP to ascertain whether the phono system is to blame or not.  I do not mean to step on any comments related to room effects, which I agree certainly can be responsible for an aurally apparent system imbalance.  I honestly do not think that anti-skate, unless it is wildly off in magnitude, makes much difference to channel balance; distortion in one or the other channel would become apparent before imbalance is perceived, in my experience.

Boothroyd, You wrote, "For such a simple tonearm, the Concept/Verify magnetic tonearm can be a bit tricky! Its vertical tracking force can vary wildly with vertical motion, increasing in pressure/force as the arm is raised."  By this I assume you are referring to raising the arm at the pivot. Because later in the same post you seem to be saying that VTF goes up when the cartridge rides up on a warp.  That would not be the case.  VTF should go momentarily down as the cartridge traverses the up-side of a warp or even rides up in the groove, because the center of mass of the cartridge/headshell/tonearm would be shifted rearward toward the pivot.  But changes in VTF seem to be negligible for all but major changes in VTA where the tonearm pivot is raised (or lowered) significantly. (In the context of a prevous thread, several of us measured VTF for various levels of VTA.)
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Are the cantilever and stylus still straight? I had a 17d2 do this after using it for rather too long and probably will poorly adjusted bias. The cantilever was pointing a bit off straight ahead and had twisted in its damper. You can’t bend a diamond cantilever so it was all in the cantilever mount.
I tend to agree with the potential of hearing loss.  When is the last time you had your hearing checked.  Could be as simple as that.  If that isn't the case them change out our tubes.  Having a digital system, I have not had to face the tube issue.  That just might be one argument in favor of electronic components.  Just out of curiosity, can tubes create the brisk highs electronic systems can produce.  I do think tubes create a warmer sound, but do you sacrifice hearing the highs?
Balance controls can solve things, but it is best to find the source. Especially if your stylus is not riding the center of your grooves.

I actively refine balance from my listening chair (for errant tracks) using my Chase RLC-1 Remote Line Controler



Before you start swapping tubes, cables, ... do a basic check to isolate your TT from the system.

Hook up any digital device temporarily, stream, tv, bluray, anything that presents digital dots.

If not balanced, the LP system is ok, i.e. not the problem. If digital source is balanced, it's the LP system.

Go from there


I just changed 5 things at once yesterday, doing focused listening:

I heard all CD's centered, all LP's a bit weak on left. Checked using a Test LP with a full range pink noise test, yes, left side weak

Only LP? I re-checked, too much anti-skate, reduced, test, now equal center balance.

But it was fine when I started???

I think I bumped the dangling weight while changing things, the nylon string jumped out of a groove, slid forward to the next groove, thus too much outward pull.

Like I said, a small change in anti-skate would not affect channel balance, in my own experience, but your mileage does vary.
Mono is the key. Either a mono record or even better, if your phono has a mono button just toggle between stereo and mono and you'll be able to identify the source of the problem. If it's upstream of the phono stage, pressing the mono button will immediately refocus the sound. If pressing the mono button doesn't do anything, then the issue is downstream from the phono stage, i.e. amplifier / speakers / room / hearing and associated cables. 
Might be worth checking whether the stereo image moves when you adjust the volume. If your volume control is a log potentiometer the left/right matching is awful at lower settings.