Improving 2- Channel Soundstage

I don't know if I'm asking my question in the right topic area but I figured folks with HT experience may be able to help. It may also sound like an odd/stupid question so please bear with me. I'm a 2-channel/stereo audio guy and I'm trying to improve the soundstage in my listening experience. Has anyone tried a set up where you put another pair of (smaller) speakers between the (front) 2-channel speakers, closer together and pushed further back behind the two main speakers, sort of like deeper into the soundstage. I suppose using a "center" speaker/channel is another option. Now, would using the main speakers as front and the two behind them as rear/surround or cenetr speakers and apply an EQ such as "Hall" or "Concert" help with creating a deeper soundstage? This is of course assuming the source material is just 2-channel audio and the EQ choices are based on what the HT receiver can offer. Thanks.   

There’s three things to try

  • Electronics
  • Acoustically
  • Speaker adjustment.

I think acoustics and speaker placement is where you should go first. I find that if your imaging is lacking you need to add acoustic damping in that dimension. For instance, if you don’t feel your images are deep enough, add panels behind the speakers. Not wide enough? Add to the sides. Not tall enough? Add carpets and panels above. Best place to go is GIK Acoustics. They give great advice and products are all effective and affordable.

The acoustic method is the best sounding and will yield many results besides just center fill. You’ll get smoother frequency response, better bass, etc.

Of course, speaker placement width and toe-in matter a great deal. Start with your speakers firing at 90 degrees, then experiment increasing toe-in, so that at first they cross behind you, then at your listening location, and finally in front of you. I use a laser level to get the angles precise, as well as ensure the speakers are not tilting left to right.  What I normally find, given good room acoustics and appropriate spacing between the speakers and listener is that you'll discover 3 different states:

  • Distinct L and R with no center
  • Distinct L and R, and Center, but nothing in between
  • Indistinct L and R, with a stage that extends smoothly between the speakers.

Electronically the center channel option is most supported. Neo6 and Dolby have "music" modes that will help you fill out the center. My Oppo BluRay supports Neo6 and it’s pretty convincing, but you would need a receiver or processor that supports that. I really think this is your least beneficial direction unless you want to start incorporating movie watching, and then you get into a whole new realm of listening and evaluating a market flooded with cheap sounding crap. Not that the "high end" 2 channel gear is that much better, but at least you have less variables when buying.


Erik - Thanks. I've tried the speaker placement approach and did get some improvements and will play some more with room acoustics. I was just trying to see if there was a way to cheat Abdul get even deeper soundstage by using an HT receiver. Regarding panel locations, does your advice also apply to bipolar type speakers like ML or only dynamic designs?
Properly set up electrostatics throw a huge sound field. There's no reason at all you should be forced to supplement them with an extra speaker.

The advice is still solid, but you should need less of it to the sides and above/below. Behind however, where you are complaining about, that can be a real mess, especially if they are close to the rear walls.

I'd talk to GIK still, they may recommend diffusers as a better alternative than absorption.

In terms of speaker placement, the further away from the rear walls the better you'll be.

If you want to know how good those speakers can image, put them 2' in front of your chair. :) The difference between that and what you are hearing now is room acoustics.

One last thing, while ML's are known for fantastic imaging, and mid-range transparency what they usually are not is smooth across the frequency spectrum. After assessing placement and room acoustics I'd consider some sort of EQ solution. Either from a receiver with it built in, or an after market solution from miniDSP.


You might consider trying the Live End / Dead End approach to room treatments the electrostatic master, Dr. Roger West of Sound Lab recommends. See the setup tips page on their website. 

To Eric's point, with electrostatics, they interact with side walls(and to some extent ceilings and floors) far less than dynamic speakers, but their rear-facing sound must be firmly dealt with.

If your MLs have dynamic woofer like more of their models do, then you're likely to want bass traps in the front corners to smooth out bass peaks that will smear the details that provide you with the clear soundstage you seek. Cheers,
Thanks. Sorry if I'm asking the obvious, but by front corners I assume you mean the corners behind the speakers not the corners near or on the sides of the listening position. By the way, I'm also having the same (soundstage) challenge with my Def. Tech. bipolar speakers in a different room and will also try the corner bass traps.
 Bass traps are great, but one step at a time. :)

I really think you should reach out to GIK Acoustics. You can send htem pictures and drawings and they'll give you excellent advice.

Can you give more detail about your equipment, cables, etc. and also your room dimensions and setup?  And no, putting another pair of speakers behind your front pair to achieve depth of stage or anything else is not a good idea.  It would be an absolute mess. 

By the way, having a lively debate in AA about Neo 6 and using a center channel for music. I't snot a bad idea, but ML's should have great soundstages by themselves, so I wouldn't go that route until that's improved. :)


@kalali Yes, bass traps in the corners behind the speakers. 

Check out Ethan Winer's writings on AA for good explanation of why bass traps are helpful in many(I might argue MOST) rooms. Cheers,