When I arrived at a slightly diagonal speaker placement for the sake of smoother bass in my room it seemed I'd given up some of the precise imaging I had enjoyed with the more linear arrangement. C'est la vie, I thought; audio is full of compromises and I'd rather have spectral accuracy.\r\n\r\nWell, I fixed it a few days ago and now all is bliss. How? Simple! But I coudn't have done it with any number of very expensive "high-end" preamps.\r\n\r\nSee, when I was listening to a mono recording recently (Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos, re-released on EMI's 'Great Recordings of the Century' series with the composer at one of the pianos - very nice, and very listenable even in 1950's mono) it seemed skewed to the left speaker. So I simply turned the balance control (that unfashionable device) on my ancient preamp a bit to the right. It fixed that immediate problem but lo! when I listened to stereo recordings...all was right with the world again! It seems my speaker arrangement somehow slightly emphasised the left channel via some sort of room interaction but I didn't recognize it as such in stereo. Or maybe it was something else. Whatever.\r\n\r\nWhich brings me, willy-nilly, to High-End Audio Idiocy #1246: leaving off things like balance controls and tone controls (simple, useful devices for correcting or at least ameliorating any number of problems) on preamps and integrated amps on the baseless grounds that they somehow "degrade" the signal. You know, the same signal that's traveled thru miles of cabling, PCB tracks, and innumberable passive and active components between the microphone and one's golden ears. Especially when this "design feature" is found on tube equipment and other supposedly "musical sounding" high-end multikilobuck gear that likely uses elevated second harmonic disortion and non-linear frequency response in the form of a high frequency roll-off (a fixed, non-controllable tone control) for that "musical" effect -- signal degradations, in other words.\r\n\r\nThere, I feel better.