Volume Pot issue?

Model: Monolith Liquid Spark

I just got this Liquid Spark and I am hearing drastic L/R balance changes especially between 9 to 10 positions. Example: the balance is slightly left starting out and then around 9:15 the right side kicks in. Is this likely the volume pot or possibly something else? Something that would likely not go away? This is my first amp and thinking of returning it.

Focal Clears

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Hello and welcome @FatElvis. Great username. :wink:

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Sounds like a faulty volume pot.

Though ALL small potentiometers tend to have some level of channel imbalance.

If you’re using the amp on its low gain setting and it’s still a problem, then I’d get it swapped.

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It probably is the pot, but also check the wiring or test another set of headphones. I’ve had issues when a plug is not fully seated, or when using a TRRS tip in a TRS jack.

Thanks for responding. I hadn’t thought to try a different headphone so i just did and it has the same issue at the same place when turning up the volume. I can try some different rca cables tomorrow morning but it is probably the POT. I guess i will have to look up the difference between TRRS and TRS also. Does anyone have experience with the Liquid Spark or the Magni 3 pots? I am up for returning this one but not excited about the POTential for this being an issue with the replacement. I am considering the Magni3+ unless people think that Schiit have bad knobs. My new headphones are Focal Clears - they are new-to-me but i dont hear any issues. the others i just tested with are my out-going HD598s.

TRRS = Tip, Ring, Ring, Shaft
TRS = Tip, Ring, Shaft

This means how many silver parts there are on the headphone plug (two rings in the middle or just one). The TRRS system allows remote control and other features, but is not compatible with some TRS jacks.

I don’t have experience with the Liquid Spark, but am not a fan of the Magni 3. The new/current Magni 3+ and Heresy are different Schiit products in the same price range.

It’s not really a case of one manufacturer using good pots vs bad. ALL small two-channel rotary log-taper pots (i.e. what is typically used for volume controls) tend to exhibit some level of channel imbalance. This will vary between individual pots of the same type even within a single batch.

The more sensitive your headphones and the louder your source, the more likely it is to be audible, as the imbalance is most pronounced at the lowest volume (highest resistance) setting. In most cases, with full size headphones, using “low” gain will usually mean it is no longer audible by the time the volume is as a suitable listening level.

But you can still find that such will be audible with, say, a Fostex TH-X00 and not be with a Sennheiser HD6XX simply because you’ll have to turn the volume part past the point where the imbalance is audible with the Sennheisers.


I had no audible channel imbalance with the Schiit Vali 2, Magni 3, 3+ or Heresy, nor the JDS Labs Atom or Liquid Spark units I’ve had. I did with a recent Geshelli Labs Archel 2 Pro, and I’ve had it with the much more expensive iFi Micro iDSD Black Label but it wasn’t apparent from their much cheaper iFi Nano iDSD Black Label.

Schiit use customized Alps pots in their Magni line, which as good as you’re going to find at this price point. I don’t know what’s in the Liquid Spark.


What headphones are you using?

What source?

How loud do you listen?

Torq, My current headphones which are new-to-me (got for less than $600) are the Focal Clears for which I bought this Liquid Spark. I don’t like to turn them up as loud as my previous headphones. These Clears are way more present and narrow than the Sennheiser’s and I don’t like to turn them up too loud. I usually listen to Spotify or music I have downloaded from my library which is at 256Kbs. My headphone experience since around 2002 is HD590 –> K550 –> HD598. I still use the K550s at work as they are closed. I have the Liquid Spark on Low Gain for the Clears. I did try at High Gain but didn’t get any help there. For anyone who cares, I considered the Liquid Spark and the Magni 3/3+ because they are on Amazon and I get a lot of gift certificates for Amazon so I kinda have money there. I had looked at the JDS Labs and also a Geshelli but they are not on Amazon. If people think I might have better luck returning the one I got for either a different Liquid Spark or a Magni 3+, ill go that way. I’m also looking at the Topping D10 DAC. I can just turn down the vol on my PC and turn up the AMP past 10 and be out of range of the imbalance but don’t know if adding a DAC will mess with that work-around. Thanks again.

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Yep, that would definitely make the issue you’re having worse.

There’s no way to know for sure. Since ALL these little pots have some level of channel imbalance, it’s really just the luck of the draw as to if you’ll wind up with one that’s audible with the cans you use or not. And the Clear are both relatively low-impedance and high-sensitivity, so they’re more prone to show the issue with a pot that’s got more imbalance.

You could get once that’s better, worse, or no different.

Well, it won’t stop you being able to turn down the volume on the DAC (from your PC), but that’s not really the best way to do things.

Ideally you want the DAC setup with NO volume control on the PC both to get the OS mixer out of the equation, and to get fixed level output from the DAC. But then that would prevent you lowering the volume prior to the amp.

Thanks Torq. per the DAC, I’ve never had one and so i didn’t know if using the USB connection to the DAC would be like a Line-Out connection where there was no volume control from the source and so all volume control would be at the amp. Like i said, no experience at all with external DACs and nobody i know personally is into audio. right now i have everything on my PC turned up to 100% so i know the output level and then work from there at the amp but i also have to work around this weirdness at 9:30 on the amp’s pot. the right channel is only there about 40% until 9:30/10 and then everything is fine but that is in the middle of my listening level. i think i will return this one. thanks for your consideration and response.

USB to the DAC can, for PCM content, be volume-controlled from the PC. It uses the Windows or Core Audio (macOS) mixer to change the bit-level data and reduce its volume prior to sending to the DAC. This is generally not desirable.

100% output from the analog output on a PC is likely to be louder than from an external DAC, which may be exacerbating your issue.

But what your describing regarding one channel being much quieter than the other until 9:30/10:00 on the dial is not at all uncommon with small pots. On the iFi Micro iDSD BL I had, when driving Fostex TH-X00, the left-channel would be playing and the right completely silent until 9:00 or so, and it wasn’t until 10:00 or so that both channels were at similar levels … which was already into “this is a quite loud” territory.

Hope the replacement fairs better!

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Get some Caig DeOxit. Get it in the needle applicator. Infuse a small amount inside the pot’s and see if that does the trick. :slight_smile:

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