My Lyra Titan i does the rear of the soundstage very well and you can follow each instrument in it's own space, but I am not sure it gives the full bloom of the orchestra as well as other top cartridges.
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Rsrex and Johnss: I'm currently using a Benz L2 cartridge, SME IV.Vi tonearm, VPI HW-19 Mk III table with specially made brass/aluminum tonearm board. EAR 88PB phono preamp is run directly to Air Tight ATM-3 monoblocks (with Tesla E34Ls, Ei Yugo 12ax7s and Mullard 12au7 "box plates"). Speakers are Dunlavy SC4s. I've adjusted the Dunlavys several times, and have the soundstaging/imaging where I want it. Interconnects: Ridge Street Poiema 3 and Synergistic Tesla Accelerator; phono cable is Audio Horizons Dimension; speaker cables AH Dimension and original Siltech LS-88 Classic bi-wired; power cords are Poiema Ridge Street Signature and Wegrzyn Copper Slam.
Rsrex is correct in that back of hall imaging is usually a function of the speakers and room acoustics. Although of course if this information was not in the original signal, it would not be possible to reproduce it.
The other area which you need to look into, and perhaps should do first before investing in another component, is to make sure that the TT, phono/pre, power and speakers are rigidly supported. Also that your cables are elevated/isolated from ground borne vibrations.
Regardless of the extent to which recordings reflect reality, IME, sound stage depth is an enjoyable consequence of recording technique, and the ability of a system to reproduce it through high resolution fidelity to the source and speaker set up, not phase problems, and is worthy, IMHO, of pursuit.
Re: soundstage depth and speaker placement, IMHO, many experienced audiophiles are missing out by putting their speakers to close to the backwall. If you haven't experienced speakers halfway into the room you'll be amazed at the natural depth. I put mine halfway into the room, fairly close to the side walls to regain bass support, but towed in to point at the sweet spot located at the apex of a right triangle. This somewhat unusual orientation will give a VERY deep wide soundstage with centerfill being optimized for each recording by moving forward or back. Stereo miked recordings benefit from surprisingly forward position, mimicking headphones, limited only by the upper midrange frequency beaming of the woofers whereas those frequencies will loose focus if you move too far forward. Conversely, multi miked recordings will gain focus from a position further back.
First, I agree 100% with Stringreen when he says, "Go to a concert, close your eyes and listen for depth...It's not going to be there." I have heard various component systems produce thoroughly unrealistic depth numerous times. To me it is excessive and completely unsatisfying. It sounds as if portions of the orchestra are miles away. The sense of involvement is close to nonexistent. Yet, at other times, I have heard imaging/soundstaging presented in way that at least more closely resembles the real life experience. In doing this, it makes in home listening both rewarding and fulfilling. Rsrex: My listening room does do and has done depth. The issue here is not really depth per se, but how much presence/detail is emanating from the instruments or instrumentalists in the back area of the orchestra. It's more about a sense of you-are-there. Are all instruments present and accounted for or are some of them so reticent that it sounds as if one has turned down the volume too much on them ? By the way, I do use room treatments. The Benz L2 is generally acknowledged as having an easier, more laid back personality. Notwithstanding, to my ears, it is a lovely sounding, musical cartridge. But I might need something that offers a more direct, illuminating kind of sound, albeit retaining a nice measure of musicality. We seem to be well aware of the fact that different sound systems often produce different results with individual components. Should the Benz in my system "...resolve the back of the hall without problems ?" Maybe not.
Go to a concert, close your eyes and listen for depth...It's not going to be there.
I don't think you can conclusively say that all concert halls sound like this. This really depends on how the back wall of the concert hall was designed. Some which have lots of absorbing materials behind the players do not have this - mostly modern concert halls. OTOH there are those like the Vienna PO, Kingsway Hall (used in many older Decca pressings), where the hall acoustics are clearly audible and do give the sense of the venue.
Which is better? Well that's up to you. I find that some newer halls, with too much absorption, rob the performance of its dynamics and really kill the performance.
IMO the Benz cart should be able to reproduce these acoustic cues, so a better tubed phono should help. I also feel that a unipivot arm would serve you better in getting that detail, unfortunately that could blow your budget.
My reference to depth not being there refers to the kind of artificial depth so typically heard in component systems that reproduce music. At a live concert I hear rear row instruments with nearly the same measure of presence as those playing in closer proximity. With recordings, the difference in presence levels between instruments closer and instruments farther away not infrequently sounds like night and day. Of course, because one group of components does a better job of approximating reality than another group doesn't mean it is necessarily better, the reason being some listeners will actually prefer the sound of the less accurate system. Multi-miking can also offer its contribution to attractive (or unattractive) sound. We're dealing with what illusion appeals most to whom. Otherwise, yes, I take well your point about the influences on sound associated with a hall's architecture. Stage layout, temperature and humidity also play a role. These kinds of factors and more even render implausible in real life the notion there is an "absolute" sound. Reproduced music renders yet more complex the "bag of tricks" that conspires against such a realization, what with wires, switches and levers, capacitors, resistors, etc. In the final analysis, we listeners always return to what illusion we like best. That's one of the reasons we change and tweak components. In closing, I don't necessarily agree with your statement that a unipvot arm would serve me better in geting the kind of detail I seek. Why would it necessarily be a better choice than a fixed pivot arm ?
My experience on the concert stage for 30 years has indicated each and every time that from the audience or from the stage itself, that the illusion of depth is only an artifact. I agree completely that it sounds nice, but I am just saying that in reality it just ain't there. It CAN be manufactured - and that is done all the time in the studio. You can listen to a pop singer like DIDO or Enya who sing in small recording studios, but whose sonic manipulations sound like they are singing in a huge venue. I understand that some cartridges can decode this space better than others...I'm simply saying that in reality, on a stage, there is very little of that. By the way - I have a Benz cartridge, and it may not be to everyone's liking, but there are times when the walls and speakers disappear completely, and Dido, and Enya are in their huge worlds.
I have not had Stringreen's direct long term exposure with the concert hall, but based even on my less involved experiences there, I must again agree with him. There is a significant (and very fascinating) difference between what is conveyed in the hall live and what is served up by reproduced music in one's listening room. The matter of depth is only one, but certainly an important, aspect of the overall picture at hand. A fine component system can give much satisfaction, but a good seat at the live event can make for a special and long remembered experience.