SN3 channel balance at low volume

I have had my SN3 for a few weeks now with my NDX2 and Neat SX1 speakers. The difference between the same system with SN2 is a great improvement. The timing and transients sound better.

One thing that I have noticed is that at very low volumes, perhaps <5 on a volume scale of 1 to 100 is that the right hand channel is louder than the left. Once the volume gets above ‘5’ or so, the sound evens out and normal channel balance is resumed.

Obviously most listening is done where the balance is in normal (10+) range so it is not a problem. However, is this usual behaviour for the amp to be unbalanced at extremely low levels?

One more bit of information, the balance control does not appear to be exact. The central position (at normal listening levels) is biased very slightly to the right. The central (sonic) position occurs very slightly after 12 o’clock on the balance dial. When turned fully left and right, the light appears at the 6 o’clock position to the right but approx 7o’clock to the left which explains why the central position (sonically) relates to to slightly after 12 o’clock. I am happy with this as I know where to set the balance centrally and that I could also take the balance dial off and reposition it to get the central point at 12 o’clock. I won’t do this as the unit is obviously under warranty.

For clarity, the situation described above about the dial is not applicable to the low level sound being biased to the right.

I never noticed this on my SN2.

Sounds like they are still using Alps Blue volume pots on the SN3, then! It does seem that there has been some variability in them. If you feel that it affects the use or performance of your amp, I would talk to your dealer about it, as Naim should be able to fix this for you.

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Can I change the title to ‘SN3 channel imbalance at low volume’?

I’ve changed the title for you.

And yes, this is quite normal on an analogue pot like the ALPS Blue used by Naim. The advantage is that it’s one of the best sounding volume pots, but the disadvantage is that at the very start of its travel there can be an imbalance. Of course, unless you are using a source with an excessively high output, it’s not a practical issue as it shouldn’t affect the normal range where listening is done.

The balance control works with the volume control and can be used to even out any sense of imbalance, whether down to room acoustics, source, or even in the recording itself.

Well, your room might create imbalance and that’s what the balance pot is there for meaning if your room does not put the image in center then you adjust it to where it is.

The imbalance that the OP is hearing is only at very low volumes, and it’s a known issue with Alps volume pots that they sometimes do this. So I don’t think his room is anything to do with it.

I was on the verge of talking to my dealer about this,being new to Naim,I’ve also found that the left channel is not as full a sound unless the balance control is used,I’m finding I have to adjust it so it sits at roughly ‘5mins ‘to the hour,other than that really pleased with performance!

it would be worth reversing speaker cables at back of amp to rule out any possible issues with cables, connectors or speakers themselves

Hi @Hollow, yes I did swap the cables and also swapped my speakers over in case the imbalance was elsewhere.

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Hi @ChrisSU, thank you for your responses. So the Alps pot tends to do this? I didn’t have the same problem on my SN2 so maybe it is random.

Is it possible to have it corrected?

At normal listening levels the balance is even. yes I had to adjust the balance slightly away from the centre position but I think that is due to the fact that the knob is not fitted exactly centrally - an easy ‘problem’ to live with!

Yes @Lorro1, I am very impressed with the amp and although I do listen at very low levels sometimes, I rarely listen as low as where the problem manifests itself. If I did listen this low then I could obviously adjust the balance to correct it and then change again when I listen at a higher volume level.

My dealer will obviously take it back and have it checked or swap for a new unit but I am just trying to gauge is it worth it.

A fantastic amp in every other way.

Thanks for changing the title @Richard.Dane, much appreciated.

So it is not a ‘fault’ rather a characteristic of the amp? Yes it is at the beginning of the travel and corrects itself as the volume is increased, certainly by time it reaches my usual low volume listening level.

Should I have it checked/swapped? Would it be worth it? Would another unit just behave in a fairly similar manner?

I have been running this in for just over 3 weeks and am very pleased with the amp so I don’t want to mess about unnecessarily. Equally, I don’t want to take no action if it is indeed faulty.

If it would just be a lottery with a new unit then it is not worth changing.

I will appreciate your advice.

There is of course a tolerance of variance from one pot to the next, so you may get one that’s slightly better or one that’s slightly worse - however, it should only ever be in the very first bit of travel, beyond which at a normal low listening level it should be fine. If you’re really worried then have a chat with your supplying dealer who I’m sure will be happy to have a listen and let you know what they think.

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Thanks for speaker cable switch tip,have tried this afternoon,no different,so guess it’s as discussed,will still get dealer to check it out just in case there’s a real problem,thanks all,love this forum!

If you turn the balance control fully to the right then the green light should be just a bit more than ‘25 past the hour’. Fully to the left it should be just less than ‘25 to the hour’. Having to set yours at ‘5 to the hour’ suggests that fully to the left your green light would be at ‘30 past the hour’ and fully right probably ‘20 past the hour’. If at ‘25 to’ and ‘25 past’ then perhaps your need to turn the control to the left compensates for a room interaction.

In any case it is not a problem. I believe that the balance knob can be removed and put on again slightly more to the right to get the light at 12 o’clock instead of ‘5 to the hour’ if my first half of the reply (‘25 past’ and ‘25 to’) is correct.

It would be interesting to know your findings if you decide to see where the light stops at fully right and left.

If I could ask a favour, or indeed anyone with an SN3, could you please turn the volume fully off and raise gently observing which channel ‘starts’ first or if both channels are exactly the same level?

Many thanks.

Hi Bjm,yes your right,I used the term 5 to the hour,but your correct,fully either way ends up as 25 past or 25 to the hour.By adjusting as I said before,I do get the right balance,speakers are well away from side walls,and are placed identically from the rear wall.So my conclusion is as others have said with regard to SN3,or quite possibly as you have suggested,room layout.I will try the slow volume increase,but am overruled at moment,better half watching TV! Will report findings later ,cheers.

Hi Bjm,just did trial as you requested,with balance at centre,both channels came together, but right channel had more ‘body’ to it,so does that mean,having already proven the cables,that either there’s a problem with the amp,speaker,or is it down to speaker placement ? England are already losing to Kosovo,so further investigation will have to wait until tomorrow!

Ha ha, as an Ireland fan I only sympathise with your Naim predicament!! :joy:

On a serious note, have you tried swapping the left speaker with the right one?

Yes, it’s something Steve Sells refers to in his interview about the SN3, coming soon in the new issue of HiFiCritic :wink:

Thanks @andreweverard, I look forward to the review.