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Apple Notebooks Apple's notebook computers including MacBook Pro, MacBook, MacBook Air, PowerBook, and iBook.

MacBook - Speaker Imbalance towards the right

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Member Since: Nov 02, 2008
Posts: 28
Calcium is on a distinguished road
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Anyone notice that sound coming from the new macbook is unbalanced towards the right side? Noticed it today when I was listening to my favorite song, Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits on YouTube. Playing with the left and right balance slider in the sound preferences, you can notice that the sound sounds tiny and centered on the "left" setting, while the "right" setting is clearly on the right and clearer.
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Member Since: Oct 15, 2008
Location: England, UK
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I must admit I have not noticed that problem with my new Macbook. Have you tried a MP3 or a CD rather then streaming it from youtube?

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Member Since: Oct 26, 2008
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I'm deaf in my right ear, so everything heard is heavily sided to the left! :-)
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Member Since: Nov 02, 2008
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It's true for any sound, whether it be from youtube or a music cd. I went into system preferences and moved the left right slider around, and the left does sound a bit less robust then the right side.

After searching a bit through google, apparently the subwoofer is on the right side, which causes this imbalance to the hearing-acute. Just was wondering if anyone did NOT have this problem after listening carefully, which would warrant another return to apple.

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Member Since: Nov 21, 2008
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I noticed the same thing. In fact the reason I found your post was because I was looking for more info on it.

New MB (2.4Ghz Aluminum body), played a few songs from itunes. I noticed that the sound was quite obviously weighted towards the right side of the laptop (I was sitting at arms length away).

Both speakers appear to work when I played around with the L/R balance to trouble shoot.

But from what you said about subwoofer, I guess that could be the explanation. But I actually suspect the L and R speakers are not positioned symetrically on each side.
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Member Since: Nov 02, 2008
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Asked a few people on this forum, and they're experiencing the same thing. I found that the speakers are positioned strangely: the "left" speaker is centered, while the right speaker is placed where the CD drive is. Coupled with the fact that the right speaker is also where the subwoofer is, it creates the feeling that the sound projects mostly from the right side of the laptop.

It's not noticeable for certain songs that are less bass-heavy. For example, try listening to John Legend - Ordinary People. It will sound relatively centered. Quite strange indeed.

Regardless, I doubt I'm going to return the laptop. I think this can be fixed with some sort of software update in the future.
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Member Since: Dec 30, 2008
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I have the same issue. So I took it apart and saw that its nether a hardware or software issue. Its an acoustic issue.

The speakers are not acoustically placed to create a balanced sound. The right side which is louder has its "subwoofer" located there. Usually subwoofer placement isnt an issue. Anything lower than 150-ish hz isnt ever stereo anyway, its mono. Thats why you can place your home theater sub any where and it doesnt cause an issue with the stereo sound field. But I highly doubt this little woofer gets down to 150hz. I havent looked at the frequency range this has, but maybe this is why the sound is louder on the right side, cause of this "sub" woofer. If sound is being filtered to the sub at a higher frequency like 300hz or more than it will begin to cause the right side to be loader. Does anyone know the frequency range on these speakers?

Why apple did this, I dont know, unless things just got too cramped to create a better placement. Ive have a Bachelors in Recording Technology and have set up a lot of studios and speaker placement and for sound balance Apple did a bad job here. Apple could create a software patch on this laptop that only increases volume on the left side for the on board speakers while leaving the head phones as they are.

But the only problem with increasing volume on one side is that the bass will increase proportionally as the Flecher Munsion curve theory states, so Apple will have to decrease bass proportionally to comply with that. Though since these speakers are so small the bass issue may be irrelevant. Still this kind of a software patch is silly for a bad acoustic design.
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Rocc (Jamaica)

Member Since: Feb 22, 2009
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Hey folks:

I too have noticed the Right Side Imbalance of the sound, when you put the balance all the way to right it completlely blocks out the left channel/speaker which it should. But when you put the balance all the way to the left, you can still hear sound coming out of the right channel/speaker.

I went into the Audio/Midi Setup section, and decided to experiment. I reversed the Audio Channels, making left/right and right/left. Curiously, the sound changed where the majority of the sound was now coming from the Left Speaker.

I wonder if is could be a driver problem? Because using the software I was able to reverse it.

Has anyone else tried this?

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Rocc (Jamaica)

Member Since: Feb 22, 2009
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Member Since: Mar 13, 2009
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There is definitely an issue with my MacBook Pro's internal speakers. When shifting the balance control hard to the left there is still sound present at the right speaker. Additionally, the signal on the left speaker sounds as if it is polarity reversed. This is not a source issue. You can confirm this by plugging in a pair of headphone/earphones to the headphone output. You will find the sound to be normal and that the balance control functions as you would expect. This seems to be a design or fabrication flaw. And I find the internal speakers unlistenable. Since my machine is new I am contacting Apple to see if they have a response.
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Member Since: May 16, 2009
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I have got the same issue: the right speaker sounds are louder than the left side.
Has someone found a solution?
Did someone contact Apple?

(new macbook 13' aluminium body)
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True Bassist

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It's not something that can be solved without taking the MB apart and moving the speakers (which is probably impossible).
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James Oliver

Member Since: Jul 17, 2009
Location: London, England
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I'm glad I found this thread. I have exactly the issue described. I guess I must be what Calcium calls 'hearing-acute'. I noticed it as soon as I played some music (Philip Glass) and find it extremely irritating. After playing around with preferences and taking it round to an Mac-owning friend for confirmation, I was resolved to return it to Apple (it's only 2 days old) thinking it was a one-off.

I am not happy I found this fault but happy I found this forum and thanks for the informed comments on this issue.
I must say I am seriously NOT impressed with Apple on this. This is my first Mac. I find the sound imbalance very noticeable. I want to hear music in proper balanced stereo not skewed off to one side. This is shoddy. It doesn't sound very stereo, quite mono in fact. Why hasn't this issue cropped up in reviews?

My only comfort is that I am not alone. Also, I don't have to face the prospect of taking it back to the Regent St Apple Store and arguing the toss with them to change it for another one. It would be impossible to demonstrate there because the whole store is so noisy ( I told you I have sensitive ears )

Is the sound imbalance a deal breaker? (I've only had the MBP for 2 days and Apple say I have 2 weeks to return it for a full refund.) Well it's not just the sound. There's also the matter of the stupidly reflective screen (why don't offer a matt screen with the 13" Pro) and the measly two USB ports together with lack of a pair of headset ports for Skype etc.

There are things I like about the MBP, especially the long battery time and multi-function trackpad. However since I am only occasionally a 'power user' I am contemplating getting my shekels back and getting the Samsung NC20 netbook (349, smaller and lighter than the 13" Macs, XP Home, 1Gb Ram, 160Gb hard drive, THREE USB ports, 5/6 hours wireless on battery and balanced sound...) I can open the lid easier on the Samsung and won't be paranoid about taking it everywhere with me.
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Member Since: Nov 03, 2009
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I wanted to comment on this thread as well. As I have searched extensively online for this issue, it seems to be a general design issue with the 15" macbook pro. I just bought mine, and it has the imbalance as well. Especially with heavy bass sounds.

Thread still active, and others willing to share their experience?
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Member Since: Nov 24, 2009
Location: Fullerton, CA
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Mac Specs: Macbook Pro 15" unibody 4gb ram 500gb hd, matte screen.

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I have had this happen twice now. The last time, it seemed like it was right after an update to macos. I restarted my system (macbook pro 15" unibody, brand new a month back) and it went away. Its doing it again now, which is why I found this thread. I've had an uptime of 10 days (of heavy use, developing apps and installing stuff.. gotta love it..) and I am about to reset now to see if this goes away.
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