MATLAB Function Reference    

Diagonal scaling to improve eigenvalue accuracy



[T,B] = balance(A) returns a similarity transformation T such that B = T\A*T, and B has approximately equal row and column norms. T is a permutation of a diagonal matrix whose elements are integer powers of two to prevent the introduction of round-off error. If A is symmetric, then B == A and T is the identity matrix.

B = balance(A) returns just the balanced matrix B.


Nonsymmetric matrices can have poorly conditioned eigenvalues. Small perturbations in the matrix, such as roundoff errors, can lead to large perturbations in the eigenvalues. The condition number of the eigenvector matrix,


relates the size of the matrix perturbation to the size of the eigenvalue perturbation. Note that the condition number of A itself is irrelevant to the eigenvalue problem.

Balancing is an attempt to concentrate any ill conditioning of the eigenvector matrix into a diagonal scaling. Balancing usually cannot turn a nonsymmetric matrix into a symmetric matrix; it only attempts to make the norm of each row equal to the norm of the corresponding column.


This example shows the basic idea. The matrix A has large elements in the upper right and small elements in the lower left. It is far from being symmetric.

Balancing produces a diagonal matrix T with elements that are powers of two and a balanced matrix B that is closer to symmetric than A.

To see the effect on eigenvectors, first compute the eigenvectors of A, shown here as the columns of V.

Note that all three vectors have the first component the largest. This indicates V is badly conditioned; in fact cond(V) is 8.7766e+003. Next, look at the eigenvectors of B.

Now the eigenvectors are well behaved and cond(V) is 1.4421. The ill conditioning is concentrated in the scaling matrix; cond(T) is 8192.

This example is small and not really badly scaled, so the computed eigenvalues of A and B agree within roundoff error; balancing has little effect on the computed results.


balance uses LAPACK routines DGEBAL (real) and ZGEBAL (complex). If you request the output T, it also uses the LAPACK routines DGEBAK (real) and ZGEBAK (complex).


Balancing can destroy the properties of certain matrices; use it with some care. If a matrix contains small elements that are due to roundoff error, balancing may scale them up to make them as significant as the other elements of the original matrix.

See Also



[1]  Anderson, E., Z. Bai, C. Bischof, S. Blackford, J. Demmel, J. Dongarra, J. Du Croz, A. Greenbaum, S. Hammarling, A. McKenney, and D. Sorensen, LAPACK User's Guide (, Third Edition, SIAM, Philadelphia, 1999.

  axis bar, barh