Center image is driving me crazy!

I missed this thread completely until now, but the lesson I learned is I would not listen to that John Mellencamp album. It could ruin my system!


I think you’re doing a lot of work for nothing. It makes no sense that the issue is intermittent and that it hasn’t happened before.
Try listening to a new batch of recordings and see if it happens. It sounds like it’s the recording.

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I just played this via Roon/Qobuz. Those guitar licks at around 30 seconds are entirely out of my left speaker. In fact, they almost sound left of the left speaker, but that’s probably my room having an effect.

Clearly they didn’t mix that to sound like it was being played live, in the vicinity of the other performers.

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Same here. Guitar very forward left speaker. Probably close mic on the guitar amp.

But definitely the recording.

Sleep well…


It’s not easy sometimes being an OCD audiophile.


I listened to most of Freedom’s Road and did not experience any guitar to be overly tethered to the left speaker. Distinctly left of center and near to left speaker placement, but not dead on.


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Thank you @scotte1 here the track other members above were referring to.

Tomorrow (today here) I’ll go play more music from Qobuz and LPs to try different sources again. During last week I had this issue intermittent since I started my personal battle to fix it. Never had or noticed before. You are right anyway it started when I first played Mellencamp albums (almost 6 different records from Qobuz) I used to listen to as LPs from TT. The odd thing is that a few tracks sounded ok some evenings and not others. Then I started to move speakers and bass traps, here I’ve lost the right sound from the left side of the room and mental health from the left side of my brain for hours and hours.
Swapping cables and speakers did not solved the problem. Swapping tubes on BHK Pre just mitigated it. The most important effect I was able to get has been from working on set up of the speakers. So at the end of the day I’m again exactly where I was started.

Tomorrow is another day… and I sincerely hope not only to have fixed the problem but mainly to be able to understand and to control what is causing it. Room, speakers, recordings, my ears? For sure it was frustrating and it made me hear unpleasant sound.

Thank you again and thanks to all members who posted on the forum, I felt less alone in my trouble.

@luca.pelliccioli - Since you like Mellencamp, you might find this interesting:



I LIKED Mellencamp! Thank you Vince, I’ll play it this evening.


Even Jack and Diane had their moments.


Got it!

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@luca.pelliccioli interesting you mention it is a streaming issue and you didn’t have that problem from vinyl. Did I understand you correctly? I have experienced plenty of streaming and CD masters that did not image as well as the LP I owned. I checked out the Mellancamp track and see what you mean about the guitar being locked to the speaker. I think this is a mastering issue sometimes.
I have a playlist of favourite things to play as “tests” and some are completely free of the speakers and others have a wonderful centre image AND instruments locked to the speakers. I think of a lot of recordings sound great and a few don’t, it’s mastering not your system.
I played the first version of that Mellancamp song that came up on Qobuz - it’s hot! Not much stage depth and everything is super bright and shiny!

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Thank you Michael, I’m going to play more music this evening to compare same albums between streaming and LPs. I’ll keep you informed.
Yesterday I reached a good compromise, maybe a little more tweaks in set up (tilting) can help my final result. I hope…

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Tweaking. It’s the best.

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Luca, I find your issue fascinating, partly because I have a system that will sound different on different sessions. You’ve decided that it’s not a tweeter issue but after lots of playing around you still feel it sounds different on different evenings.

Here in the UK we have flat topped mains which is calculated to result in 3% distortion that a regenerator needs to compensate for.

I’ve some questions and suggest possible causes:

  • do you leave everything in standby during the day or do you power it off thereby restarting from cold?

  • does it seem different at weekends compared to weekdays - here in the UK I feel my system sounds worse at weekends because of the incoming mains (even though incoming distortion reads the same as during weekdays).

  • does the system sound different if you run the ‘clean’ function for several minutes - I start mine from cold and run at least four minutes of cleaning (P10). If I were to leave my system in standby rather than powering off after each session it reaches a state where the clean function seems to have little effect (however I prefer the sound starting from cold)

  • I know nothing about Qobuz but I do have a first generation Melco server that when I rip a CD refers to Melco’s access of Gracenote (I’ve also used iTunes which also uses Gracenote - Melco and iTunes can result in different info being returned from their Gracenote access!). I suspect that each Melco server might access a different copy of Gracenote and I suspect that not all copies of Gracenote have identical databases, so, if at the start of a session your system can connect to different Qobuz servers you could be getting different data back from Qobuz (obviously Gracenote and streamer servers ought to have identical copies of data but it could be that certain tracks are different in rare cases)

One final suggestion. If Qobuz lets you buy the John Mellencamp albums that you refer to and you can thereby store a copy, I suggest you buy a copy and see whether playing the copy is consistent from one night to another.

Good luck, Dan.

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Thank you Dan,

my P20 shows a 2-2.5% THD in and 0.1% out, so a goo job!

happy to give you some info requested:

I leave always all units in stand by mode.

My system usually sounded the same, thanks to a dedicated line and the P20, almost all days and hours. Maybe some evenings a little bit engaging but I tend to relate this to my mood more than other technical reasons.

I usually run the clean function on P20 each time before starting a listening session and 1 or 2 times during the evening. Yes I can hear an improvement sometimes subtle sometimes more audible.

Good observation. No I’m afraid I never heard any difference listening to the same album in different moments from Qobuz. Almost until my issue appeared last week, that is the reason why I started this hard work (and thread). My aim is to investigate more comparing streaming to analogue during next days. When occasionally tried to compare downloaded files vs streamed versions I had different results related to different albums. I mean, at the same resolution. While I usually preferred the SQ playing CDs vs Qobuz, finding that this gap is remarkably reduced after I introduced Innuos stuff in my system (ZENith MK 3 + PhoenixNET + PhoenixUSB).

In any case what I normally observed about SQ in general never affected the balance of the image or the specific prevalence of the left speaker in high frequencies. Better or worse the sound never gave me unpleasant presence from one speaker only, like if a single instrument was not really detached from the speaker behind it. I can understand a wrong image that needs some set up correction but this time I had voices, chorus, acoustic guitars in the right position and just electrical guitars in front of the soundstage on the left side.

Thank you.

Luca, further comments:

  • I don’t think you have a problem as you say that things always sound the same from the same source. I just think you’ve got a good system that is capable of revealing the differences between different recordings and the same recording mastered in different ways. That of course confilcts with you saying that some evenings the system sounds different from other evenings, either it sounds different or it doesn’t (I think others have come to that same conclusion so are confused as I am). There are vast differences in different masterings and vast differences in recorded volume levels.

  • you say that you can sometimes hear a difference after running the P20’s clean function. You’d be surprised at how many people say they never hear a difference. Because I start my system from cold, or because I’ve been listening for over about an hour I find that after a clean of a minute or two the difference isn’t that noticeable, but, if I run it again for another couple of minutes it can make a difference. If after a run you don’t hear a difference maybe run it again.


Thank you Dan,

Sorry if I generated confusion.

My problem suddenly happened last week, never had the issue above described (bad guitars sound from left side of the soundstage) before. I was frustrated since last week getting different sound in different evenings from the same source and album, apparently without a reason. So during last days I tried to face it and in this thread I mentioned what I’ve done to fix it during those recent hours. I would be happy to come back to my previous situation and focusing on set up yesterday night I finally had success (I hope, let me check again this evening).
My answers to your questions are referring to my usual (and I hope future) experiences.
Thank you again. I’ll try the clean function for longer time for sure.

Good to hear you got it sorted out. Thanks much for sharing. I’m obsessed with soundstage. What you learned adds another layer of understanding to the importance of source details.

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What a stupid man I am! I’ve found the culprit and solved the problem!

It’s embarrassing to admit but I want to share my error with all of you who helped me and with all members that in future might find this wrong experience useful reading what happened to me.

3 inches, just 3 inches can make the difference, that’s all.

I often scrupulously take measurements of the position of the speakers and I stick a piece of tape on the floor when I experiment some adjustments.
What happened? Last week, listening to some album of John Mellencamp I noticed something wrong from the left speaker (the same electric guitar presence many of you are hearing - see above the record and track I mentioned).
I need to really thank Mr.Mellencamp because his guitar let me find an imperfection.

So I started moving my left speaker a little bit, toe-in and out, tilt forward and backward. As usual I put a stick of tape on the floor to find again the original position.

Well that position was wrong (not totally wrong, just a little bit) and I discovered it thanks to a trial and error process. The distance of the left speaker from the front wall I found out can change the way I can hear that electrical guitar.

3 inches backwards to the front was clearly terrible, so I re-moved the left speaker to the original position 3 inches forward. In between these 3 inches the total distance from the front wall always sounded good (in my mind), it was my reference position, with my piece of tape on the floor I was so sure of that. Until Mr.Mellencamp entered my room! Due to this particular recording (maybe not really a perfect one) I heard for the first time an unpleasant sound, not related to bass or voices or acoustic guitars, no what really seemed wrong to my ears was only an electric guitar.

Long story short, pulling the left speaker away from the front wall more than my usual point marked with the tape (old habits are harder to die), more than those legendary 3 inches, made the sound of that guitar detaching from the speaker behind it. Thank you to members that confirmed to hear in this track the guitar prevalent or far left to the left speaker I realized what to do. Really really thank you guys!

The conclusion: set up matters also a few inches can make the difference.

3 inches backwards, the image is wrong. Not a sensational discovery.
In between those 3 inches. I was thinking my ideal position (before I played Mr.Mellencamp tracks) but I discovered voices and some instruments may sound good while others not.
Just a bit forward that borderline of that 3 inches, a new territory for my speaker, I always avoided before convinced to have the speaker too much close to my listening position. This distance is optimal, almost is a good new point to start for finding a better balance also for higher frequencies.

What can I say? I’m so stupid and so happy. From this moment on I’ll go compare digital and analogue and other music to fine tune more the sound and the system.

How can I hear now that Cuttin’ Head album? I still don’t like how the electric guitar sounds and it still happens with other Mellencamp albums I’m playing, both from Qobuz and LPs.

I spent a few hours with Paul’s SACD The Audiophile Guide and it sounds correct, following for the zillion time each instruction and track.

PS: thank you Vince, I’m playing now Ondara’s album, simply enjoying music, it’s engaging and so passionate! Both behind the left and right speaker with the same colorful joy and peace.

What a terrible hobby, what a wonderful hobby!