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What happened to the balance knob?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by old tech, May 25, 2018.
  1. old tech
    Just wondering why very few stereos, software or amps have a balance control these days. I found this function very useful when constrained to an off centred listening position. The loudness knob seems to have gone in the same way as the loudness button. I know the latter is despised by purists but I liked using the loudness function when listening to music in the background or at low levels.
  2. fianbarr
    "Thou shalt remain as faithful to the hallowed original as possible."

    I think it was one of the commandments that didn't make the first ten.
  3. bigshot
    My amp has both a balance control and a loudness button. Treble and bass too. But you have to access them with the remote.
  4. old tech
    My older 90s Yammy pre amp has both too. None of my more modern gear has it.

    On the Yammy, the loudness control is not a button but a knob that allows the contour to be adjusted.
  5. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Chances are amp manufacturers saw the trend of source units moving towards computers, and software balance control is more precise and isn't another hardware that can break (and they have to spend on).
  6. bigshot
    My Yamaha has a button that applies loudness dynamically
  7. Glmoneydawg
    The yamaha amp in our shop has a an adjustable knob for loudness....works great for lower volume listening at work :)
    Last edited: May 26, 2018
  8. NorCal
    When I was 14, I bought a Sony STR-7055 stereo receiver. It had a balance lever under the volume control, and also a loudness switch, and a muting switch for turntable rumble. One thing that I think is cool was that the bass and treble knobs had both the left and right channels controlled by a split setup so they could be adjusted individually. My bedroom was symmetrical, so I didn't utilize this feature, but I can see the usefulness for some setups. [There's a small diagram on the front panel, between the bass and treble controls, that shows this feature]. https://classicreceivers.com/sony-str-7055


    My current DAC, [Cambridge DacMagic+], when used in preamp mode, or as a HP amp, has a balance control, but it's not real obvious. It isn't shown in the owner's manual, but is included in DacMagic Plus Addendum.pdf
    I guess it would be simple enough if used often.

    upload_2018-5-26_18-10-11.png .
    Last edited: May 26, 2018
  9. old tech
    Interesting about the DacMagic. I only just realised that I have a balance control in the software that controls my streamer but like yours, it is somewhat hidden and requires a couple of steps to access it.

    Another button which seems to be disappearing on amps is the subsonic filter on the phono circuit to deal with rumble and other low frequency artefacts. Many vinylphiles go on about the extended high frequency of records compared to CDs but seem to ignore the other end of the frequency scale where deep bass does actually affect perception by shaking things within and around us.
  10. Steve999
    I think the balance knob and the rumble filter were extremely useful in the LP days. Just about all cartridges were a decibel or two or three off in balance and if you had a nice enough turntable so there was no low-frequency rumble well good for you, but most of us didn't. I have digital recordings of my LPs that I can't get on CD but I was very careful to set the balance to compensate for the one or two decibel error in balance of my cartridge, and with software you can visibly see the noise floor and the rumble and digital filters do an incredible job of getting it out of the recordings. I still like the sound of old LPs--they were mastered within tight constraints and the bass was limited by the cartridge and LP technology and it seems that often a lot of care and taste was used--the sound can be really nice. One thing is, two things that DO make an easily audible difference in sound are headphones (and speakers) and phono cartridges, and two more things the DO make an easily audible difference in sound are a balance knob and a rumble filter. : )
    old tech likes this.
  11. bigshot
    Digital filters are the best thing that ever happened for LPs. I have the two Burwen noise reduction boxes, but compared to what my computer can do, they're straight out of the stone age.
  12. old tech
    Is it the advances in digital filtering that has obviated the need for subsonic filters for LP playback? The subsonic function on phono circuits has largely disappeared even from high end amps and given the market they cater to, I find it hard to believe that phobics like analogsurvivor would accept anything digital in an analog chain.
  13. Steve999
    That’s an interesting question. I just looked at my Onkyo receiver. . . No phono input, and of course no rumble or subsonic filter. I would think if you wanted to go straight analog you would want a subsonic filter more than ever. A mono button is nice too to make sure everything is wired in [Edit--the correct POLARITY. Thanks SonicTruth.] That would be nice. Fortunately my Onkyo as an all channel mono option.

    The best improvement to the fidelity of my system was to add a low-end SVS subwoofer. It gave me an extra octave or two on the bottom end. I absolutely love it. But I would imagine now if I hooked a turntable up straight analog I would hear and feel every last ounce of turntable rumble.

    As I think of it, it would be nice just to hook up my turntable and enjoy one of my old LPs. My approach with LPs that I can’t find in CD has been to get it into the digital realm and clean up the rumble and clicks and pops and fine-tune the balance that way. . . Better than the original LP. It’s a decent amount of effort though.

    You know what, now I am getting irritated! I just want to play a fricking LP like the old days! What about that Onkyo? Huh? I do have a balance control on the receiver though, accessible both on the receiver and the remote. But I have no use for it. I would have a use for the balance control if I could hook up my turntable and just play a fricking LP though! Now I am getting irrititated again!

    Last edited: Jun 2, 2018
  14. old tech
    If your reciever doesn't have a phono input it is unlikely to be suitable for a TT, unless you have another device for the impedance and RIAA equalisation.
  15. TheSonicTruth
    Stereo/Mono switches and balance controls should be mandatory on home stereo equipment. They started disappearing from boomboxes in the mid-1990s. I used to get a kick out of moving the balance control to one side only while playing that widely panned sixties stereo stuff, like Sgt. Pepper, or Buffalo Springfield's 'For What It's Worth', and watching the reactions on peoples' faces! lol

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