Why do preamps have a balance control?
Why do preamps have a balance control?
To allow one to adjust the level from each speaker. Many rooms are not totally symmetrical and the stereo image can be pulled to one side without correction.
Mainly it’s to try to compensate for acoustics that can sometimes slightly shift the central balance one way or another. It also allows you to compensate for any imbalance in the source material, or in a source that can suffer from wear (which can create a slight imbalance over time) such as a tape machine.
Also it’s useful with traditional Naim pre-amps where the balance pot works with the volume pot and can help to correct any slight imbalance through the initial part of the volume pot travel.
Not all preamps have balance controls. Neither of the ones I had (Musical Fidelity and Tag McLaren) had them, and nor have the DAC outputs that I’ve used direct into power amps, so I haven’t had one in my system in the last 30 years. However, on occasion I have wished there had been one when a recording has been skewed to one side. A friend had a system in an awkwardly shaped room and best sound was with speakers in unconventional position, which wouldn’t have worked if his preamp didn’t have a balance control.
Only realised last week that my 202 had a balance control but to be fare only had it for 18months
My speakers aren’t equal distant from my listening position so I love the balance control
The reason for my question regarding volume pots and the need. I have had Naim preamps from NA 12 to 252, never used the volume pot.
Surely if removed from the signal path would be improved sound as a result
I take it you mean the balance pot here, rather than the volume pot? A pre-amp without volume control is not a great idea…
It would be stretching the term “minimalist”
Not sure that would necessarily be the case, being just a linked variable resistor on each channel, effectively a pair of volume controls with one connected backwards, though of course it depends on the quality of those and as I mentioned not all preamps include it, though Naim’s volume control losing balance accuracy at the bottom of its range could well be an over-riding technical reason for Naim keeping it. However perhaps that may be changing: the Statement, Uniti range and new NSC222 don’t have one, nor did the 272. I think what these all have in common (though not necessarily identical) is a different type of volume control using ladders of resistors and so don’t suffer the problems at the bottom of the range. I’m guessing that future preamp releases might follow suit, though this is entirely my speculation - however if that is the demise of the balance control in Naim products it would have a negative impact in the situations various contributors have described, so would not be a desirable change for all.
The 222 does have a balance control, it is operated through the App.
There are a few on here who do use a touch of balance for speaker position reasons, room interaction or some hearing loss for example.
I think there may be people who would benefit from a correctly balanced soundstage but refuse to move the knob from its centre position
Not that I’m in the market but a pre without a balance control would be a “no thanks”.
I’m obsessed with the balance knob being absolutely central. Luckily that’s perfect in my environment and it isn’t required at all. I just know it would annoy me even if it were needed.
Thanks for the correction. I waponder if that is the case also with the Unitis?
Very rarely touch the balance control. Just about all sources are really OK and don’t need any adjustment.
If you get wax in one ear then you might need to twiddle the balance control till your ear is vacuumed out.
Here’s a bit more detail on the NSC balance control
Sounds like a perfect balancing solution - though having to use an app not twiddle a knob…
Well, it is on the Atom, so presumably also on the Star and Nova.
A friend of mine once built an amp that had a switch instead, “off” and “loud”
I can’t recall ever moving the balance control from the central position, other than to check special effects on some LPs (Jimi Hendrix messing about in the studio on ‘Electric Ladyland’) or listening to a musical phrase being tossed back and forth between first and second violins in complex passages in orchestral works (last movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in Kleiber’s unmatched Vienna recording). (When you think about those two pieces of music, you realise that Ludwig and Jimi were going for precisely the same effect, although neither knew the other’s music.)
Otherwise, if Naim had offered a lower sale price for the NAC52 with the balance knob removed, I’d have been tempted.