Some advice for anyone with a channel imbalance.

Discussion in 'General Audio Gear Discussion' started by svperstar, Dec 29, 2016.

  1. svperstar

    svperstar Rando

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    So my left ear hears better then my right ear. I have got solved this by dropping the left channel volume in windows to 90% and this seems to even it up.

    However if you use something like WASAPI this ignores windows balance controls necessitating using your player's balance control. I wanted a hardware device to do this that would take software out of the picture.

    I did some googling and found this cheap thing on Amazon:
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002J226O/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    Only $9. The reviews are all over the place.

    It got here today. I set windows back to the default, and ran that through the left RCA of my Modi Multibit -> Asgard 2.

    I turned the volume all the way up on my Asgard 2 and dead silence. No audible anything.

    Listened to some music and I hear nothing cept my louder left ear I am used too at this point.

    I slowly turned the volume pot down on that thing till my soundstage was in the center of my head instead of off to the left.

    Not a bad little thing for $9. Does as advertised.
     

  2. murray

    murray Friend

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    Good to hear (pun not intended) that you found a solution and sorted the matter out.
     
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  3. a44100Hz

    a44100Hz Friend

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    I'm also left eared, but right handed. The injustice!! Anyway, thanks for this.
     
  4. Arok

    Arok Rando

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    Oh my... the left hear problem.. I'm also a victim of this thing. Unfortunately in my case testing with sweeps and sines i have not only a prevalent left hear preference, but unfortunately it is more so at some frequencies, while some other are better heard right... so when i listen to a sweeps, it seems as if it has drank a little to much the evening before, because it goes like left left right left left right... Very annoying, cause then your mind start playing games and you ask yourself if you are hearing correct panning of various instruments in music.

    This imho is a thing better sorted in software than hardware if your source is a pc or a phone; loss of quality is non existent anyway if you use something like jriver, neutron or some other player that has 64 bit internal processing.

    Solutions i've found:

    On windows, depending on the player you use, you probably have a balance control. In jriver you can use either the parametric eq or the channel volume feature in the room correction. If you have only a total spectrum imbalance this will sort it.

    If you have particular frequencies imbalances then you have to eq. Fabfilter pro q 2 works well for this, find the problem frequency, correct it in L or R mode, then duplicate the band with the split function and make it specular (for example if you need - 4 at 8000hz R, you make two bands, -2 8000 R, + 2 8000 L. This preserve the overall volume at that frequency as intended, otherwise it can become weird sounding); easy peasy.

    Want better quality? Do this in pro Q, then copy all your setting in DMG equilibrium. Dmq equilibrium interface is a bitch for doing things like this, while you can do the correction really fast on pro q interface. But pro Q utilize a 1024 taps impulse response lenght, while equilibrium defaults at 65000 something, which is more transparent. Remember to use linear phase when adjusting for stereo coherency otherwise you can run in weird phase imbalances between channels. Oh, another important thing, if you use crossfeed, eq for coherency goes always after the crossfeed.

    In android phones, use neutron music player. There is a channel balance feature buried deep in the settings. I have not played much with specific frequencies imbalances here, but i suppose you can make an impulse response of your equalizer and run it into the neutron convolutor.

    Hope this helps, cause this problem drove me mad for the good part of a month! I know the software mentioned isn't inexpensive, but if you have to spend big $ on the rest of the chain only to hear everything shifted to the left or the right, or worse something that should be a little left becoming hard panned left... Well my priority would be to spend something on a good eq before buying further hardware. YMMV
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2017
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  5. beemerphile

    beemerphile Friend

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    I accidentally landed upon a high-quality solution to channel imbalance. I bought a dual mono 48 step attenuator from Khozmo Akustyk in Poland with the idea of using it ahead of a speaker amp for my HE-6 chain, but I went a different direction with that. So, here sat the rather nice box with no role. So, I stuck it inline between the Yggy and the Cavalli LG that I use with my HD-800 phones and found it quite useful. Getting the balance JUST RIGHT has a great impact on setting the sound stage. In addition to a bad left ear, there is often volume pot imbalance to deal with at low listening levels. What I was surprised to find was that with each new album, there was often a need to tweak one channel's volume up or down to gel the sound stage. The differences were small, but the impact of getting it exactly right was not.

    It looks like it may retain a place in the signal chain..

    [​IMG]
     
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  6. Dino

    Dino Friend

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  7. beemerphile

    beemerphile Friend

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    When the bill came on PayPal it was processed as Hattor Audio. This seems to be the same electronics in a simpler chassis. Works quite well and I have been surprised how much it adds to the listening experience to get the balance spot on. Einstein said once that "a thing should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." I think we might have over-simplified pre-amps in the name of signal purity and left off some meaningful controls.
     
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  8. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    First they took away the tone controls, now it seems that we have even lost the balance control.

    I can see why, in a mythical every-audiophile-has-perfect-ears world, it might be seen as unnecessary for headphones, but for a speaker amp, almost all of which are installed in unbalanced rooms? Crazy.

    Of course, what the manufacturers take away with one hand, they give back with the other... at an inflated price. Which is not to say that. when I was using powered speakers on my desk, I didn't look at some rather "nice" volume/balance control boxes. In fact, I ended up spending as much as the khozmo price on a used, elderly pre-amp that had been very expensive in its youth. (NB, I wanted source switching as well as volume/balance control: a pre-amp was the obvious solution)

    All hail to those who find low-cost solutions to these problems. I'm currently using an integrated+passive desktop solution. The lowest cost option, especially for us Linux cheapskates, is software.

    I would not go dual mono. I'm not going to take time to listen to an in-the-centre test tone every time I want to change volume. Yes, of course, it could be part of a chain, but I am still enough of an audiophile to feel, justified or not, that chains should have the minimum number of components and connectors.
     
  9. beemerphile

    beemerphile Friend

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    The dithering of the signal for software volume control is more destructive than a properly deigned hardware pad.

    A hardware volume control is two attenuators on a common shaft. From a circuit standpoint there is no difference between that and dual mono - minus the ability to adjust. I do not listen to test tones, the practice has become to tweak the balance if and as necessary when a new album starts. Everything isn't mastered well. I still have and use the combined volume pot for volume changes and use the dual mono for balancing. In the "things we wish existed" thread I mentioned a type of volume control that I have seen in the past which was two attenuators on concentric shafts with a frictional connection with them. Both shafts went up and down together, but you could twist them against each other for balance adjustment. Best of both worlds.

    I did not anticipate that the ability to adjust this would be as beneficial as it has been. If the stepped attenuators are adding any distortion, I cannot detect it.
     
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  10. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    I swallowed the digital-volume-control-is-bad thing ages ago, and have not got around to rethinking it. These days we have more bits; I suspect that makes it less bad. And I'm doing EQ for my ears anyway, so bit-perfect is out of my vocabulary. And, I have this nice analogue volume control just a little further away than the mouse. (and a remote, for when I don't want to move even that far!)
    Quite. It was the two knobs difference that I referred to, rather than any electrical difference. Hmmm... how about a rubber-band link! Except, right... you have a volume knob too.
    I don't remember if I responded to that, but this is a thing that definitely did exist! I do not remember where I've seen it: might even have been on something lowfi, but for sure I have seen it.
     
  11. wormcycle

    wormcycle Facebook Friend

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    I have the same problem, right ear preference. Luckily for me Bryston BHA-1 has a channel balance knob that works for both headphone and preamp out.
    Initially I thought it was the amp problem but after checking with two of my friends it looks like it's me.
    Another solution may be something like Nuforce HA-200 monoblocks.
     
  12. Dino

    Dino Friend

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    This thread reminds me of visiting a hi-fi shop, years ago, thinking that I might be in the market for a new pre-amplifier. They were a small shop with 2 owners: 1 nice guy and 1 jerk. (Even if I started with the normal one, I would end up with the jerk.) He was showing me their selection of pre-amps, none of which had balance controls. I kind of thought out loud "I wonder why everyone is doing away with balance controls." He said "Less in the signal path for a purer sound." I responded "Yeah. I am familiar with that line of thought. But, I like to fine tune the balance on a few of my LPs, usually on budget labels. I'd be surprised if I am the only one." He started screaming "How would I know! Maybe they are all deaf!!".

    I wondered how to respond to such an extreme response to what was a calm, mostly rhetorical question. I came up with "I've got to get going".:)

    (Turned out that I didn't really want a new pre-amp. It was just a passing desire.)
     
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  13. beemerphile

    beemerphile Friend

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    For all the shortages that come and go, wouldn't it be nice one day to have an asshole shortage?;)
     
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  14. Grahad2

    Grahad2 Friend

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    I think one of the very few recent integrated's (haven't been looking at pre-amps that much) that have balance controls is from Yamaha.
     
  15. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    I would like to see some numbers/measurements on this. I'm sure there are both good and bad implementations of both analog and digital volume control. You worry about dither and fiddly bit "purity" on one hand. You worry about noise and contact surfaces on the other.
     
  16. Grahad2

    Grahad2 Friend

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    Measurements is one thing, but mental acceptance and subjective impressions is another though! Some links to measurements (1 CA on Mytek) (2 Stereophile on Wadia) (3 Benchmark marketing (no figures, but some points)). Can't seem to find anything from Archimago.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2017
  17. Joe Bloggs

    Joe Bloggs Rando

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    Great advice here, as I've found that mirroring the required adjustment between the two channels not only eliminates any overall volume change, but also gives the same overall phase delay to the two channels (in the case of a minimum phase filter), avoiding any channel imbalance that could result from phase mismatch rather than frequency-magnitude mismatch.
     
  18. Cspirou

    Cspirou Friend

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    Ti Kan at AMB has made a preamp with stepped attenuation and the Gamma3 DAC which has digital volume control. In his forum he said that there was no need to add a pre for volume control since he couldn't tell the difference with the digital control.

    Of course this is a DAC level implementation and not at the software level.
     
  19. beemerphile

    beemerphile Friend

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    Accepting that there are both good and bad examples of each, it would follow that the comparison and conclusions would only be good for specific pairings. I have one system with a Mytek DAC where I can employ DSP volume in the JRiver player; a choice of digital, analog, or bypassed volume control in the DAC; an Emotiva ControlFreak inline balanced pot; and the Khomo stepped attenuator. Granting that the differences are minor, my testing with my time and abuse degraded Mark 1 human ears ranks these specific implementations from best to worst sound quality as: 1) stepped attenuator; 2) analog pot; 3) DAC analog; 4) DAC digital; 5) JRiver.

    The difference is small enough that there is little practical difference which one I choose to use. But I have never met a practical audio hobbyist and I am not one either. So, I use the method that seems to be (as well as I can determine) the most correct from the choices available. Since the passive attenuator was moved from my speaker system to my HP system, the "best" choice is the inline analog pot, and that is what I use.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2017
  20. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    Interesting that the Emotiva Control Freak ranked so highly. I've heard generally that it was "good but not great".
     

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