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Topic: soundstage (Read 1698 times) previous topic - next topic
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Is "soundstage" an audiophile myth? I've been an audiophile for fifty years. I have never in my life heard a soundstage from a home stereo system. I have made a concerted effort to hear one. But the best I've ever been able to do is imagine one. And it has never seemed real. Audio forums speak of it often. Especially the most subjective forums. It is difficult to understand how home speakers could accomplish this. Maybe I just don't know how to listen for this. Can anyone here help me? Even more incomprehensibly "high end" audio forums speak of one amplifier creating a better "soundstage" than a less expensive amplifier. Specifically how would this be possible?  An amp?  I have become increasingly skeptical of anything I read on subjective forums. Price seems to determine sound quality. My system is: OPPO UDP, Schiit Vadar amp, Yamaha AVR (used as a pre) Magnepan LRS speakers. I have owned many speakers in the past. But again, I have never heard a soundstage from any of them.

Re: soundstage

Reply #1
I don't hear it either.   

I wouldn't call  it a myth but it's obviously an illusion, as-is the phantom center in a 2-channel stereo recording.    The center is always rather vague to my ears too.  

I assume there are many factors, including the listener, the recording, speakers, and room acoustics (not the amplifier or the DAC).

You read about soundstage with headphones all the time but a survey on the ASR forum indicates that very few people experience an accurate soundstage with headphones.   

I knew it was an illusion that I wasn't experiencing but with all the talk about it, I though I was an exception.

Since the Magnepan's radiate from the rear and you have a higher proportion of reflected sound, I would assume the room has a bigger influence, and I would expect a more "spacious" sound with the various instruments & vocals positioned less-precisely.

Re: soundstage

Reply #2
The sound stage depends on the recording, the room, the speakers the speaker placement, and the listening position. I’ve almost never heard even a hint of separate placement of parts of any recording in other people’s homes but then almost no one, in my experience, even has the slightest idea what stereo is. They have two speakers but they place them together or in different parts of the room where they fit into the furniture easily, often pointing away from each other, without any consideration about how sound is effected.

My quality speakers were relinquished almost two years ago when I had to move and didn’t have the room, or the means, to take everything with me. However, for 25 years or more they produced a good sound field from recordings that supported one. Small jazz ensembles were best, the four or five instruments seemed to definitely occupy different places in the room. A single instrument, such as a piano, or a single vocalist, frequently presented itself discreetly in space. A full orchestra or a noisy rock band could rarely produce much directionally from its different parts and many modern recordings, with the post recording manipulation of multiple sound tracks, which too often switch positions constantly, especially their highly over emphasized bass lines, makes a realistic sound field impossible.

I had to find the right places for my speakers, which was not especially convenient from any other viewpoint, such as furniture placement, cleaning, straight line navigation through the room, etc. My listening chair had to be in exactly the right place for best results. Some recordings sounded quite different if I slid from the chair to the floor in front of the chair.

Some unrealistic sound fields could also be created with a little effort. By rotating the speaker cabinets inward towards each other a little, and lying on my back in between them in just the right place, some recordings produced parts around me. I remember one old jazz piano LP that, under these conditions sounded like it was a piano twice as large as life, with me lying just under the edge opposite the keyboard. Under my ‘normal’ listening conditions it just a good piano in the middle space between the speakers.

On my king sized bed, also no longer mine, I had bolted a pair of good quality computer speakers to the headboard, pointed directly towards each other. The ‘sub woofer’ was under the bed. Some recordings produced extreme sound fields when I was lying directly in the middle of the bed. I have a couple of thunder storm recordings that, as long as I kept my eyes closed, seemed to be happening all around me, including beyond the room walls. Some thunderclaps sounded as though they were coming from miles behind my head.

Re: soundstage

Reply #3
I reckon soundstage is primarily determined by the listener's state of mind.

I have heard a rock-solid, "holographic", "walk in and touch the musicians" soundstage just once in my life, over 30 years ago. And it was from a vinyl LP (hardly a high definition medium) played through speakers that are well known for their lack of imaging capability (Linn Isobariks).

I tried many times to replicate it, playing the same LP on the same system in the same room, but it never happened again. Which is a shame because it was a fabulous listening experience.

My conclusion is that it only happened because I was in the right frame of mind to construct the image in my brain.

Re: soundstage

Reply #4
My recordings that produced a good sound stage did so consistently -- when the room plan wasn't disturbed. It was a delicate, but very real, thing.

While it was mainly my own listening experiences, I did have a guest one day whom I wanted to listen to a particular recording. This was not about sound stage but the rather exquisite musical quality. That guest was literally open mouth amazed about the sound emanating not from the speakers but spread out in the space between them, something he had never experienced before. The sound stage was not an aspect I hadn't considered in selecting the recording.

Re: soundstage

Reply #5
It would be interesting to be able to recreate the experience and then exchange the David Hafler speakers I had for some others considered good, to see if the sound stage depended on the speakers. But then again, it might have depended on the relationship between the speakers and the room. But since I now have neither speakers or room, nor funds to set up a new system here. answers are not likely to be forthcoming.

I do have plans to put a headboard on my new, much smaller, bed. Playing certain kinds of recordings can help me get to sleep. Since that setup also produced a significant sound stage, I should be able to experience it again -- I hope.

Re: soundstage

Reply #6
I agree with much of what AndyH-ha has said. The soundstage is an illusion which our ears / brain create, but it is nevertheless very satisfying to hear the soundstage. I believe it is 'real' insofaras others listening should be able to hear it. It is not an illusion purely for the benefit of audiophile goldenears.

In my experience the recording is most important. It can capture spatial information to recreate a soundstage or it may not. I generally find that classical recordings yield good results. The speakers have to be positioned correctly (which is away from room boundary walls, and floor. The room needs to be inert such that any sound wave reflections do not interfere too much with the direct sound thereby mangling the soundstage. Some speakers work better than others. I believe the amplifier is much less a factor for good soundstaging than the recording, the room, the speakers, and the positioning of speakers and listener(s) within the room.

When everything is set up well for soundstage creation the speakers will 'vanish' and the sound will seem to emanate from all around the speakers rather than from them. A most enjoyable experience.