No offense taken. Everyone is an expert on the internet anyway, and I realize that goes both ways.
I have had (and seen) the opposite experience as you with dumbbells. To each their own I guess. I would love to see what you're doing differently, but unless you live in the northeast part of the country, that's not likely to happen. Let me know if you are near Southern Maine/New Hampshire.
Balanced? LOL! I'm a powerlifter, and don't worry too much about balance from an aesthetic point of view. Functionally... yes, for injury prevention and performance, but you know how that goes with your history.
FWIW, I consider 3 years of training if not a beginner, fresh into intermediate. Ha, 3 years in I don't think I was even at a 200 lb bench yet and thought of 315 as territory of the gods, lol. Beginner, intermediate, advanced... that's just semantics and it doesn't matter, however, it was only because of this classification that I pigeon holed him into what I did, I would not recommend the same for someone with, say, 10+ years of training experience.
Seems like you have plenty of valid experience. I get the feeling that if we were talking in person we may agree more than disagree. Most of the successful body builders, strength coaches, and powerlifters that I've spoken with or know all tend to believe fairly similar things. Regardless, to each their own.