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How to Fix Unbalanced Headphones for both Windows PCs and Android

What if you’re listening to your headphones, and one side sounds louder than the other? The first reaction would be to jiggle the audio jack, unplug it and replug it back in, and even tap on your headphones in case something is loose.

It’s an incredibly frustrating situation to find yourself in. One side producing crisp, clean audio, and the other soft or even silent. But before you rush out to replace these faulty headphones, check out my suggestions on how to fix unbalanced headphones. I have put together things to try for both Windows PCs and Android before you waste some hard-earned cash unnecessarily.

How Do Headphones Become Unbalanced?

Headphones Become Unbalanced

The most common reason why headphones become unbalanced has to do with the audio channels. Each set of headphones has two channels, with one delivering audio to the left earpiece, and the other to the right.

If the signal in one of these channels is being disrupted, then this is going to cause your headphones to become unbalanced. It is important to note that there is a difference between the use of the word ‘unbalanced’ when referring to headphones, or to audio cables.

Headphones or cables

When referring to unbalanced headphones, this means that there is a variation between the left and right audio signals. The output from your audio source is a “balanced” signal, meaning a single cable splits the audio signal into two separate channels.

Some audio devices offer a “balanced” output, which means that both the left and right channels require their own individual signals within the cable. Each channel can then be controlled independently from the audio source.

Mono and stereo

Audio outputs are usually either mono or stereo. Mono means “one,” resulting in the audio signal being sent on a single channel. Stereo outputs use two channels, creating a separate audio signal split into left and right.

Audio recorded in mono can be output through a stereo audio device. This means that the sound heard through the left and right sides of the headphones will be identical. If the audio source only has a mono output, though, then you will only hear sound through the left side, even if it has been recorded in stereo.

Common stereo channel issues

If the audio device you’re using has a stereo output, then there are a few reasons why a stereo audio signal is unbalanced. Sometimes the EQ (Equalizer) settings might have been altered. Most equalizers have a balance setting that allows the user to control the level of audio directed to each channel.

Another common issue is with the sound card on your computer. Most sound cards offer some form of effects, which could be affecting your audio signal. This can usually be controlled through the software.

One less common problem is connecting your headphones to the incorrect output. Most newer equipment can detect what has been plugged in and adapt, so this issue is usually only found when using older audio equipment.

How to Fix Unbalanced Headphones on a Windows PC

Headphones on a Windows PC

On a Windows PC, there are numerous settings built into the software that allows users to control sound outputs. This gives access to some of the functions performed by your sound card, which is the audio source on your PC.

Three common issues affect the balance of your headphones, and we will explore each one. The issues are checking the balance within the equalizer settings, disabling any sound effects, and making sure you aren’t using a mono output port.

Checking the balance settings on the equalizer…

It is possible to control both the left and right channels of your headphones through the audio settings within the control panel. I have put together step-by-step instructions on how to check headphone audio settings on a Windows PC.

  • Click on the [Windows] icon in the bottom left corner of your screen.
  • Within the text box on the taskbar, type in [Control Panel] and click on the App.
  • In the window that opens, click on the heading [Hardware and Sound].
  • Next, click on the heading that reads [Sound].
  • In the new window right click on your headphones and select [Properties].
  • Another new window will open. Click on the [Levels] tab towards the top.
  • Click on the box labeled [Balance], and another small window will open.
  • You can then adjust the left and right channels individually.

Disable any special effects

If your settings are correct for both the left and right channels, the next thing to check is if any special effects are active. Windows can create some sound-enhancing features that might not be compatible with your headphones. This is how to control these features.

  • Click on the [Windows] icon in the bottom left corner of your screen.
  • Within the text box on the taskbar, type in [Control Panel] and click on the App.
  • In the window that opens, click on the heading [Hardware and Sound].
  • Next, click on the heading that reads [Sound].
  • In the new window right click on your headphones and select [Properties].
  • Another new window will open. Click on the [Enhancements] tab.
  • Ensure the checkbox contains a tick next to [Disable all sound effects].

Check if the Output Port is Mono

As mentioned earlier, if you plug your headphones into a mono output port, then you’ll only receive sound on the left channel. While most modern computers will only be equipped with stereo ports, some older models might still have both a mono and stereo port.

Some older models of both laptop and desktop PCs contain a separate port for headphones and microphones. Usually, there will be a green port for use with headphones and a pink port for use with microphones.

Headphones and microphones

On much older PC models, the pink or microphone port will only operate as an input. This means if you plug headphones into this port, you won’t hear any sound at all. If it also performs as an output, then it will only be a mono signal.

The green or headphones port will provide a stereo signal, and will also operate primarily as an output. Make sure that if your PC has two ports that you are plugged into the green port. Newer PCs contain what’s known as a combination port that can be used for all purposes.

Fixing Unbalanced Headphones on an Android Device

Headphones on an Android Device

Just like on a PC, some internal software settings could be affecting the performance of your headphones. It is possible to adjust the balance, or set your Android device to output either mono or stereo audio.

Not all Android devices are identical; therefore, not all features are the same. You might discover that one of these features isn’t available on your device, or the menu might differ slightly. Here is a guide to checking audio settings on Android devices.

  • Open the [Settings] on your Android device.
  • Within the settings menu, scroll down and select [Accessibility].
  • Tap on the option that reads [Hearing enhancements].
  • You can then adjust the left and right balance for the audio output.

Mono audio output

If accessing the balance settings on your Android device isn’t available, toggling between mono or stereo should be. Here is the guide to accessing the mono or stereo output settings.

  • Open the [Settings] on your Android device.
  • Within the settings menu, scroll down and select [Accessibility].
  • Tap on the option that reads [Hearing enhancements].
  • There you will find a toggle switch for [Mono Audio].

Try toggling the switch on or off and see if that resolves the balancing issue.

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How to Fix Unbalanced Headphones – Conclusion

You should now be listening to a balanced sound from both the left and right sides of your headphones. No matter if you’re listening to music, watching a movie, or enjoying an audiobook, that experience should be of the highest quality possible.

You should also have learned something new about your device, and your confidence has grown in exploring the settings. Becoming familiar with all the settings and options your device has available can open up an entirely new world of opportunities.

Hopefully, this guide saved a perfectly fine pair of headphones from being discarded and also saved you some money.

Until next time, happy listening.

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About Jennifer Bell

Jennifer is a freelance writer from Montana. She holds a BA in Creative Writing and English, as well as an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Games and Simulation Design.

Her passions include guitar, bass, ukulele, and piano, as well as a range of classical instruments she has been playing since at school. She also enjoys reading fantasy and sci-fi novels, yoga, eating well, and spending time with her two cats, Rocky and Jasper.

Jennifer enjoys writing articles on all types of musical instruments and is always extending her understanding and appreciation of music. She also writes science fiction and fantasy short stories for various websites and hopes to get her first book published in the very near future.

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