A silly but serious problem
Oct 4, 2009 at 1:26 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 5

seraphjei

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A few days ago my Aune DAC/Amp broke which resulted in the left ear having slightly less volume the right ear. The culprit was the headphone jack and I recently returned the product so I can get a replacement. It really enjoyed it, and was my first DAC, so of course I fell in love with it.

However much afterward, I began to notice that the problem still persisted even after listening to music straight from my headphone jack. I now had a sneaking suspicion that my headphones were the one at fault, so I began to do some experimenting. I tried all my headphones, and it still felt like the left ear had less volume than the right. I tried different sources, by using an ipod. The result was more or less the same.

I began to worry somewhat considering the possibility of damage in my left ear. So I tried several songs I am quite familiar with and listened to them in mono and did a blind ear test by randomly placing the headphone over my ears, and found that if I did this that at times my left ear would indeed be louder than the right. So I ruled out the possibility of it being ear damage.

So the question of course became is this psychological? Am I just imagining that my right ear is louder than the left? Is this because I am trying far too hard to listen to my music and trying to evaluate every detail?

Before there was some kind of balance while listening to music, now it seems like much of the focus is placed on the front right of the soundstage, and very little is coming from the left. The difference is NOT that great however, but for someone like me who is an analytical listener, it is very disheartening.

A few of my friends plan on doing some tests, that way I can finally see whether it is a problem with the headphones or me.

*note* I noticed that recently I am able to distinguish between the two channels much better than before in terms of instrument seperation, however, vocals still sound stronger in my right ear. Correct me if I'm wrong, but when recording and mastering songs, vocals are usually placed close to the center of the soundstage unless it is a love recording right?

This is pretty worrying to be honest, but yes, I can only imagine how silly my problem sounds.

A little more detail on how things sound to me at the moment:

Computer -> Alessandro MS2i: Worst out of any combination. It sounds like all the volume is comming out of the right ear, with very little on the left. Bass seems to be SOMEWHAT evenly distributed, there is definitely less impact and punch on the left, but the bass is about as deep on both sides. The vocals are something like 10% off, with more emphasis on the right. Drums are the same as vocals. If I balance my earphones using my soundcard and raise the volume on my left ear by 10, it sounds like everything is balanced. Of course, this is according to me, a very questionable source. However, when it comes to insturment seperation, the MS2i is the best by far. Of course, that's more attributed to the quality of the cans less than my ears.

iPod -> Audio Technica CKS70 : More or less the same problem as the MS2i, however, the Audio Technica appears to have less bass in the left ear compared to the right. The left ear actually sounds a tad bit bloated, it's harder to hear the drums through the muddy bass and the guitars lack detail and refinement. The CKS70, had these problems beforehand, but not to this extreme. It sounded at least half decent before.

Computer -> Beyerdynamic DT700: The best out of the three, sounds the most balanced, but there is maybe a 5-10 percent difference in both ears again. Worst sounding out of the 3 though, but once again, I think this is attributed to the nature of the headphones rather than my ears.
 
Oct 4, 2009 at 1:08 PM Post #2 of 5

Shike

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I have four ideas:

It could just be the cans to some extent. Generally they are built within a certain tolerance, but that leaves some drift between drivers.

You could also suffer from allergies which will drive quite a few audiophiles nuts if they have the least bit of congestion, and even worse it can take just moments to days to change between the two ears.

The recordings aren't as balanced as you think they are. Some suffer from large stereo separation issues. Consider looking into a crossfeed solution if you don't mind deviating from the 'purist' ideal.

Lastly, it could obviously be psychological.


Hope this has given you some ideas to look into
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Oct 25, 2009 at 4:20 PM Post #4 of 5

Steve999

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Quote:

Originally Posted by seraphjei /img/forum/go_quote.gif
A few days ago my Aune DAC/Amp broke which resulted in the left ear having slightly less volume the right ear. The culprit was the headphone jack and I recently returned the product so I can get a replacement. It really enjoyed it, and was my first DAC, so of course I fell in love with it.

However much afterward, I began to notice that the problem still persisted even after listening to music straight from my headphone jack. I now had a sneaking suspicion that my headphones were the one at fault, so I began to do some experimenting...

I began to worry somewhat considering the possibility of damage in my left ear...

So the question of course became is this psychological?...

The difference is NOT that great however, but for someone like me who is an analytical listener, it is very disheartening...

*note* I noticed that recently I am able to distinguish between the two channels much better than before in terms of instrument seperation, however, vocals still sound stronger in my right ear...

This is pretty worrying to be honest, but yes, I can only imagine how silly my problem sounds.

A little more detail on how things sound to me at the moment:

Computer -> Alessandro MS2i.. Worst out of any combination.



That sort of thing drives me absolutely insane and I sympathize with you. You will run into it from time to time if audio is a hobby and it just drives me nuts. I am obsessive about eradicating these types of problems.

I'd start by getting a sound level meter, maybe from Radio Shack, send a mono signal through your headphones, and measure to make sure the same level of sound is coming out of both earcups. Try it with difference sources or amps, and do it at real-life listening volumes for you.

In my view a primary suspect is your Alessadros, as the Grado/Alessandro line has a well-documented (at head-fi anyway) history of occasionally letting headphones with very badly matched drivers slip through the production line. Play a mono recording from CD and using a sound level meter check that the volume level is the same on each side. If it's the headphones it will be a problem with any combination of source/amplifier with those headphones.

Also listening with one part of your playback chain being set to a very low volume can be a source of channel imbalance, as at very low volumes the channels can come out at unequal volumes.

Ear infections or middle ear inflammation or fluid build-up or hearing loss in one ear or the other can be a complicating factor.

Not all stereo recordings are evenly balanced. Use mono recordings while sorting this out.

If it's more than one of these variables, start with the headphones and get make sure you are using a well-balanced pair of headphones, and you can work from there. It's very nice to have a pair of Sony MDR-V6s or MDR-V7506s (same phone, consumer and pro models) for these types of diagnostic things. As long as you have audio as a hobby they are great for testing out new equipment for noise, channel balance, etc.

It could just be that you have a pair of headphones that is off and now it's playing mind-games on you. Could be an amp potentiometer (volume adjustment knob), could be your ears, could be a mind-boggling combination of several of the above, could even be something else.

When I've run into such problems it's always been a problem with a new receiver or amplifier. I'd measure your headphones with a mono signal with a sound meter as a first step though. If you have access to a steady white or pink noise signal all the better to sort this out.

This is important to enjoying your equipment and channel balance is something you have a right to expect as part of the basic functioning of your gear.
 
Oct 26, 2009 at 4:29 AM Post #5 of 5

ford2

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I have 1 pair of phones that sound exactly the same as yours.
By adjusting the left channel volume on my SC to get an even sound I end up with .8 db difference,not much but very audible.
Looks like not all drivers were created equal.
 

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