Balancing headphone volume

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Reader Dan G. finds listening to his MP3 player an unsatisfying experience due to variable hearing loss. He writes:

You’ve told a reader who’s deaf in one ear how to rip his tunes in mono, but I’ve never been able to find a solution to my partial—and variable—loss of hearing in one ear. I don’t want to rip my music off-balance. Is there some kind of an inline balance control I can plug into my earbuds cable? I’ve never found an MP3 player with a balance control so I’m stuck listening to my laptop. You ever try jogging with a laptop?

Doing so would require that I jog at all, and I try to leave that kind of dangerous (and ungeekish) activity to Adam Engst, so let’s just amble along at a reasonable pace, shall we?

First, I’d like to update the “rip as mono” advice. If you’re using an iPhone 3GS, a third-generation iPod touch, or an iPad, you can ask these devices to play all audio in mono. To do so, plug one of these devices into your Mac, fire up iTunes, select the device in iTunes’ Source list, and in the resulting Summary pane click the Configure Universal Access button. In the Universal Access window that appears, enable the Use Mono Audio option and click OK.

This advice doesn’t apply to you because you hope to change the balance of the audio so one side of the stereo signal is louder than the other. An inline balance control will do that for you. Sennheiser makes just such a thing with its $40 (around $27 at Amazon) HZR 62 Universal Inline Volume Control.

This is a passive control (meaning it won’t boost the volume beyond the volume of the device it’s plugged into). It also has a very long cable—3.5 meters—so you’ll want to be sure to bundle up the extra cable with a rubber band to help ensure you don’t trip over it while you and Adam sprint into the distance.

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