Stereo Imagery - vs Balance

This is a post which is years in the making. Over many years I have noticed how the Stereo Image or Balance of a recording could seem ‘off’ - as in offset or off centre. OK its possible the recording is actually like that (Deep Purple fans - Made in Japan IS actually reversed, Left to Right, on the original vinyl…!). Or maybe some recording just ‘image’ much better than others do…?

Generally, Vinyl seems to do 'better - maybe because it has less L to R separation, naturally - and so gives a better Stereo image…?

Contrary to that, I find some modern recording on CD to image absolutely spot on - without fail.

These comments are for a slightly off centre seating position, but ‘within’ the speakers, if that makes sense… :crazy_face:

Thoughts… Examples of good or bad imaging recordings… anything allowed… lols.

I have noticed a number of recordings with an odd balance and I think it’s intentional , for example a cd of Del Amitri Twisted has some odd pan potted stereo effects with the vocal to one side.

It could also be that with vinyl playback the bias may be have been slightly out so affecting the balance a little.

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There are some very odd Stereo mixes from the 60’s and 70’s - which to a degree was intentional. Again, Deep Purple were guilty with the title track of Fireball.

You can also get what I call ‘Narrow Stereo’ where the whole image is well inside the speakers. And in contrast some recordings deliberately ‘potted’ instruments ‘hard’ left or right - which can make them appear outside the speakers. Early ish Genesis. Queen, and others.

I have even found the imagery/balance can change from track to track. Some tracks being rock soid, others being very off…


Recently I played some Joni Mitchell and James Taylor cd’s and fancied that in both cases the voices were off to the left a little. I adjusted the balance a notch to the right and bingo, the voices centred. Adjusting the balance may be a little neglected, certainly on my part. It can do its bit in improving difficult room conditions. I have a bookcase near the right speaker, and the room opens out into a hall near the left speaker, so not ideal.

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Cutting engineer springs to mind ? Some are legendary but others less well known , maybe little careless in the cutting ?

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@christov - Maybe… I think its all down to the actual recording…

I do find Vinyl just does this ‘better’. Maybe some A-B trials are needed…

I have never found Arm/Cart bias to make much difference, TBH…

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OK, so… as I happen to have a copy of this Naim True Stereo CD…
(a Naim factory visit freebie… thanks Steve…!!)

And… surprise surprise… Stereo imaging is spot on - exactly as shown in the booklet…!!

So… I conclude - its the recordings…!!! Good ones, will ‘image’ well…


I just ordered a copy on Ebay…should at the least be interesting! The only artist I know on it is Charlie Haden…

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Who is he…??? :crazy_face:

Seriously, its all very well recorded - with little diagrams to show you the Stereo image.

Well recorded music, that you don’t really like, can still work…

Bad music… is just bad…

PS. Am now hunting for Naim Label CD’s over on… D… oopps… Nothing to see… lalala…

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There was quite a few on E…a little while ago!

CH appears to be a very ‘busy’ Bass player, of the Jazz persuasion…
Bit like Jack Bruce but… more…?

So… you have reduced their stock levels then…???

Plenty more on D place thing… :astonished:

Try CH’s Duets - some lovely playing by Charlie on that. My favourite is his duet with Alice Coltrane (cos I love her, but Haden’s great with her too).

Dunno about deplete… I’ve only bought the one, so far!

@steviebee - Umm… Not really… at all into ‘Jazz’ here…

Any ‘non-Jazz’ Naim label recommendations, from the Panel on here…?

Whoops, sorry Ian!
I thought your “who’s he?” was a joke about me not knowing the others, what with the


Yeah, Charlie probably won’t be your thing at all, lol.

I’ve only seen Naim comps like the True Stereo one, and some chamber music so far. I’d think there’ll be a fair bit of non-Jazz also. Good hunting.

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No apology - You were right… lols. I was claiming not to know who CH was… I do… but he would not be my ‘thing’… I know that…!!

Hunt is on going… Thea Gilmore looks promising…

Scary looking cover pic… !!

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There are lots of well known albums originally released as mono. Then later rereleased in stereo.

A favourite of mine. Country joe and the fish Electric… I have a well worn original mono pressing. Also a vamped up remastered anniversary cd reissue featuring both mono and stereo versions.
The remastered mono is a revelation yet the stereo just seems wrong with the placing of its parts. Too much separation of things hard left and right and a sterile distant middle much missing boogie.
I think this is down to the album being originally mixed down for a mono release and doing such s great job with it.


I believe The Beatles Sgt Pepper was one of the first LP’s which was originally mixed for Stereo. Anything before that, Stereo was an afterthought. And probably for a lot around that time (and a while after), the Stereo mix wasn’t great. You do certainly get a lot of ‘gimmicky’ Stereo mixes from then. With unrealistic, more sound effects style of imaging.

Things have improved though… But - I find that getting the vocals actually in the middle and to stay there, is still a challenge, even now…!

Here is a very modern example, which - IMO - images very well - and the music is great too…

[I had not one but two power cuts during writing this msg (hence the edits). Tech has improved - so that Windows & Chrome just recovered as if nothing happened… No words were lost… amazing…]

When Pepper was rereleased a couple of years ago with a new stereo mix by Giles Martin the publicity made a big point of telling us that all the care had gone into making the mono mix as good as possible for the original release, and that the stereo mix was in comparison a bit of a rush job with in hindsight too many gimmicks.

Stereo then was out of a radiogram, which was effectively a 3 foot wide wooden cabinet with a speaker at each end, and the way to show stereo effects for most households was to use that quaint extreme left & right panning of vocals & instruments.


You make a good point regarding “popular” recordings around this time but it’s interesting that many 60’s classical recordings are exceptionally good with sophisticated use of stereo.

In some ways the best recordings from the 60’s are as good as any for stereo/imagery and it’s disappointing that our “better” technology can’t generally improve SQ.