Lack of depth problem

Can someone please give me suggestions on how I can improve the sound depth of my system? I recently upgraded my speakers to Focal JMLabs Alto Utopia, but they still lack of depth. They have wide and tall sound stage though.

The room is about 15' wide by 9' tall, and 23' long. The speakers are 5' from their rear wall and the seating area is 17' from that wall. The room is lightly treated with sound panels.

Thanks in advance.
Do you have sound panels on the wall behind the speakers? Sometimes overly damped front or side walls can reduce the perception of depth, since you might get very little ambient information.
When I have had problems with soundstaging, I usually start by changing the positioning of the speakers. The formulas never quite got it right, only laborious trial and error. For me, 1/2 inch here or there, and 1 degree more or less of toe-in can make a huge difference. Have fun!
I get the best results by beginning with positioning the speakers facing straight ahead and to the nearest mm from the front wall (the wall behind the speakers that you face). Then incrementally toeing them inward to get focus without losing the width of staging. There is a sweet spot.

I should add that both my Thiels and Vandersteens are faced straight ahead; I have always found they sound best that way.
A thought, beyond the set up issues and choice of electronics both of which play a great role in creating a good sense of front to rear depth of image and which we cannot comment on because of a lack of specific information. (BTW what are you using for electronics and how far are your speakers apart and how far from side walls, what have you done to reduce/eliminate first point reflections which are killers for good depth of image.

Are the sources you are listening to recorded properly so that the depth of image is present in the recording. Most are not so it is not unusual for absolute depth of image to be missing. Like trying to get blood out of a stone.
What are you driving them with? There are a lot of amps that allow no sound stage depth(few SS amps will). My Cary monoblocks will, and that depth increases dramically with the right driver tubes. There are more variables than just the speakers. Lots of things get in the way of ambience recovery(amp/pre/source/tubes/cables). Your room dimensions sound really nice for audio. Is there anything between the speakers? How far apart are they? Did you have much depth with the system before changing the speakers? This CD contains some tracks that are excellent diagnostic tools for setting up your system: (
I'm not a proponent of the parallel to the wall camp.

Generally speaking, and that is not carved in stone, I find most speakers sound best when they are toed in so the inside surface is barely visible from the listening position.

Different dispersion patterns and listening preferences will, of course, be the final determinants.
Agree with Newbee. Check out the Cardas site. Use simple (one/few performers, acoustic instruments, NOT multitracked heavily mixed rock), analog recordings (NOT digital) for optimizing. A good starting point for your speakers should be between 5'-9" and 7'-8" from the wall behind the speakers. Try to have as much room between the speakers as possible leaving a few feet on either sides (your room is narrow). Using a string make sure the distance from both speaker to your listening position is equal. Do not toe-in the speakers initially. Simply start at one distance from the back wall and move them 1" at a time until you have optimised the location. Once there, use smaller increments. Use minimal toe-in until the image "snaps" into focus. Always try one position and compare the sound with the previous position. Listen to the "accuracy" of the bass, naturalness of vocals, and other instruments.

This is a long, tedius process and can take several months to get right. Enjoy.
On what basis are you making the judgment that your setup lacks image depth? What are you listening to that you know images deeper, but isn't happening on your current system?
I should have mentioned in my previous post that there are two tests that will aid you specifically in the placement of your speakers(on the Chesky disc). The LEDR, explained here: ( and the "Acoustic Soundstage (Depth) Test".

Besides the speakers, did you make any other chages to the system? What type of speakers did you have before?

Lets start very simply - perhaps your speakers are too far apart?
Let me state my setup more and start with electronics first.

CD: ModWright Denon 3910 player with Bendix 6900s and Mullard Blackburn 5AR4
Preamp: BAT VK-3iX with Sixpak and Superpak upgrades
Power amp: Counterpoint NP100 hybrid power amp and voiced to SET amp sonics

The speakers are about 9' apart center-to-center, and 2 3/4' to the side walls (from center of each speaker).

One speaker has a big tall bookcase full of books behind it. The other speaker has a thick area rug hanging on the wall behind it and a bass trap panel on the corner behind that speaker.

One side of wall has a large area rug hanging on the wall and a sound panel hanging at the corner (of ceiling and side wall). The other side has three 3'X5' windows covered with wood blinds. It also has a sound panel hanging at the wall/ceiling corner. All sound panels are RealTraps.

The floor has thick carpet throughout. Chairs also have thick fabric.

I am starting to think the problem may be the 61" rear projection TV in the center of wall behind speakers. I have covered the screen with blanket though.

My previous speakers are Acoustic Zen Adagio and JAS Orsus. They both lacked depth too, in my setup at least.

The sound image is very good and crisp. Two of my audiophile friends came over and both observed the same things.

I went to their listening rooms in the past. Their setups have more depth than mine.

If the problem is indeed my TV, what can I do about it? Other than removing it... LOL....

Thanks all for the advices!
You need to invest in a quality amp that has a large overbuilt power supply in relationship to its output power. Speaker positioning can help but good depth has to be present to bring it out.
The speakers are about 9' apart center-to-center, and 2 3/4' to the side walls (from center of each speaker).

Can you move each speaker 1 foot in and place them 7 feet apart. It will not throw quite as wide soundstage but it will give you more depth.

Alternatively, as Bill suggests - try toeing them in quite heavily.
Shadorne that could be a very good alternative but personaly if I had to sacrafice soundstaging for depth, that would be unacceptable. By the way what I said about amps also applies to preamps. The argument for toeing in speakers is considered by many to be a bad move.
Vett93- You mention having your Counterpoint "voiced". Was it converted to 6SN7 drivers? If not: what 6922 type drivers do you have in it? Do you know anyone that would loan you a tubed amplifier for an audition?
Given the information provided, the first thing to do is correct spkr positioning by following Shadorne's advice to bring them closer together. 6,5' or 7' apart are good starting points.

There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with your electronics (unless you have severe hi frequency cut-off which is unlikely).

As I mentioned before and based on your last response, the room IMO seems over-damped! That can definitely reduce depth and create an acoustic environment that is too dead (i.e. no ambiance). Just try removing a couple of those thick blankets and sound panels. You might err on a too live environment, but in any case you can determine if soundstage depth returns.
Vet, Looks like you have pretty decent stuff, a decent sized room and dimensions, as well as appropriate damping, for a good sense of depth of image. BUT, in considering advise (and giving it) we should be mindful of how YOU define depth of image.

Some feel great imaging has a sense of airness, like looking at the stars at night. Very clearly defined bright spots of light against a dark background BUT I would see that as closer to 2 dimensional.

What I call 'depth of image' is more holographic, a sense of being at the event, a sense that you could walk in amoungst the players. Front to back depth of image, with the front plane being just slightly behind the speakers and the depth extending backwards from there and the performers/instruments have a sense of body. Hard to imagine sometimes until you have actually heard it (and you do need that on the recording!).

Assuming that you would like to have the second type of imaging that I described, I would suggest that you simply move your listening chair forward until your ears are between 9 and 10 feet from the speakers (inches make a difference, BTW). I would also suggest you fiddle with toe in as you fiddle with listening distance. Its the combo you're looking for. Different speakers have different radiation patterns so its hard to predict, but a couple of my favorite toe in set ups, depending on speakers, sidewalls, and ceilings, are with the axis of the speaker crossing just in front of the listener position or with the axis crossing just behind the speaker head. Doing this creates a, sort of, near field experience with pin point imaging, and while it may not get you to absolute holography due to other considerations, it would probably help a lot with a sense of front to back depth.

Hope that helps a bit.

Your JMLabs tend to have a dip in the upper midrange off axis - if you trust these measurements - so this region will be particularly weak from your seated position: well back where you likely get quite a lot of reflected energy of which a lot less will arrive from the upper mid range.

A vocalist (normally placed out front in a mix) may appear more distant becuase of this feature. Conversely percussion may jump out at you because your speaker is quite strong in the 5K to 10K region (where you get the "slap" as stick hits skin). Since drummers are normally placed further back in a mix then this may bring the drummer perceptively forward. Drummer forward and singer backward = might mean perceptively less soundstage depth on most mixes.

Reverb is the other aspect of depth perception - if too much side wall refelctions are interefering with you hearing the reverb off the recording then this might be a factor in reducing depth.
Vett93, You should also make sure you eliminate ground loops in your system. This is a typical reason to have less than optimum depth. Try grounding just your preamp and floating all other components.
toe in and loose the sound pannels. these are great speakers, and should give a pretty balanced presentation without much fuss.
Given the full range of the speakers, you might want to try bass traps in the corners behind the speakers. If you use ASC, point the seam kitty corner (45 degree angle). If you stack them, do NOT point the second trap in quite as far: you will kill the sense of ambience even as you tighten the bass.
First reflection points, but also floor (I have 2 half rounds on the floor in front of the speakers, reflective side TOWARDS the speakers). Also, try the "clap" test in your room. Simply walk from one end to the other and see if you have slap echo. If you do, damp it. You can put up anything, but preferably something with folds in it (this is per Alton Everst, in the Master Handbook of Acoustics: Mr. Everest posits that sound is damped better in folds than something without folds). I don't know if you can do this in your room.
I recently put a half round on the ceiling and found the effect rather...effective. I had 2" fiberglass on the ceiling (it's still there), but the shape of the half round scatters reflections considerably better. It also increases height and the sensation of the harmonics drifting upwards.
I also have Real Traps, but find the tuning of the Tube Traps easier, as you can turn a trap to absorb some bass and reflect at the same time.
The room you have sounds great, dimension-wise, but unless you've done something to it that you haven't mentioned, you'd be surprised how too much upper-bass can murk up the sense of depth. What room treatment DO you have??
Thanks all again. Let me talk about my room first, then to my electronics, and then speaker placement.

I think my room is damped just about right. The clap test shows just a tiny bit of echo. I have invited two high-end audio store owners to my house in the past. Both of them liked my room. They didn't like my TV being in the center though.

I also think my amp and preamp have sufficient power supplies. The amp has a 400VA Plitron transformer, which should be sufficient for a 100WX2 amp. Note that this Counterpoint NP100 amp is all brand new. The old one is called SA100. Basically, I sent my SA100 to Mike Elliott and he replaced everything inside. The preamp has the Superpak upgrade which doubled the capacitors.

This NP100 has 6SN7 tubes. I use a pair of Sylvania VT-231s. I do have a tube power amp, a pair of KT88 monoblocks. They are for my bedroom. Will tube power amps increase depth?

I like wide sound stage though. So it is not a good trade to me. But I moved them forward about 8" and toe in towards my ears. I would say 30 degrees toe-in. This seems improves the depth somewhat. However, I do hear vocal moved to the back and drummer to the front as Shardone pointed out. Good catch!

I also hear a hump in the upper bass. I used a Rives Test CD to do a low freq sweep and found a hump around 100Hz. The height of the room is 9', which explains it. Hanging some bass traps on the ceiling may help. But it will look real ugly!

What else is in the room? It has two 15" subwoofers and other electronics for the home theater.

Did I miss anything?
Hello Vett93: I've used the VT-231(IF it's the bottom getter tube from the 40's), and it is an excellent tube with regard to clarity, imaging, dynamics, etc. Actually I'm saving them for back-ups now. I did find more depth of stage with the Sylvania 6SN7W(tall bottle), but the champ for depth is the TungSol JAN CTL/6SN7GT(round plate). The back wall seems to receed about 4-5ft further with that than the VT231(in my modded Carys). All three of those tubes possess the same clarity/slam/imaging/extension/definition/lack of any grain or colorations. If the MOS-FETs of your amp were replaced with bi-polars, that could also affect your depth negatively, as they don't seem to pass ambience info as well(and much less than tubed outputs do). How long ago was the amp modded, and with what caps? Is it completely "burned in"(some caps, ie: V-Caps, take much longer to adjust themselves than others)? Any chance of borrowing a tubed output amp for a sound stage experiment? I would also say(from a distance) that your room is fine, all except for the TV between the speakers. I would, however, be certain to set up the speakers in such a way as to place your listening position a distance equal to(or just slightly greater than) the distance of the speakers, one to another. Then aim the tweeters just outboard of directly at you ears.
Better make those "your" ears!
However, I do hear vocal moved to the back and drummer to the front as Shardone pointed out. Good catch!

Then you can do several things.

1. Speakers closer together and away from side walls.
2. Sit much closer to the speakers (or bring the speakers closer to you)
3. Toe them in as you have done (this reduces reflections and increases primary signal)
4) Use a PEQ or tone control to cut or roll off slightly from 5K upwards (this will place percussion further back)
5) Heavy room treatments to absorb more high frequencies.
6) If none of this is suitable then you may need to change the speakers (although JMLabs are exceptional - so this is not an easy task) - but basically it is possible that these speakers do not suit your room/listening/far-field placement. Look for speakers with a very even horizontal dispersion right across the entire frequency range (no dip in the upper midrange) - these will most likely give you more of the depth that is actually intended on the recording. You can see this on the speaker dispersion plots. I suggest a three way with one or two small 3 inch midrange woofers would work best for your far-field listening setup.

FYI: All large 6 inch woofers are simply not suitable for far-field listening as they all roll off around 1 Khz - well before a dome tweeter can take over. Some manufacturers use a phase plug to help improve dispersion. ATC get round this problem by grafting a midrange dome onto a 6" woofer for their two ways. Others will crossover the tweeter very low but this usually results in compression at high output levels needed for farfield. Others go to a horn design on the tweeter to get more output (which tends to narrow dispersion also).
they all roll off around 1 Khz - well before a dome tweeter can take over

What I meant to say is that the horizontal dispersion rolls off. (this is caused by beaming)

Another way round this is to use cones that flex allowing the centre part of the cone to decouple from the outer edge - this is called controlled breakup and you can see it on some woofers with "rings" although you do not have to have rings to exploit cone flexure - it has drawbacks in temrms of added distortion and an uneven frequency response.
I had a similar problem. I had given up and concluded that my speakers were incapable of producing depth. On a lark I purchased a DIY power cable from VH-Audio - Flavor 4 with the Furutech connectors. I wasn't looking for a fix here, just curiosity and was hopeful for even greater spatial cues and detail. After inserting said power cable everything changed. My speakers took on a character they NEVER possessed. This was especially true in soundstage depth. Just a thought..
I don't think you need tube traps on the ceiling, Vett. I just like to experiment, having had tube traps since 1988 and still find them great for absorbing bass.
If you have any "jogs" in the room, bass does tend to pile up there. That jog in my room from 13' to 12'8" was piling up quite a bit, something I didn't realize for many, many months. Otherwise, just a couple in whichever corners you can put them in should smooth out any humps in the bass. It's also helpful (but only it it's not overly expensive) to have a height of 6' on the traps, which means 2 of them. I have found that the closer to the ceiling you get, the more the sound improves. I put a box in between my bottom and top trap just to see if it improved,and it seems that higher up is better! You can always try the Real Traps, but it sounds as though you have enough damping for higher frequencies, which are, as I recall, pretty short. I think a 1khz wave is 1" long -- or shorter, so I wouldn't worry about that too much. One could have a tall ficus tree to break up those wavelengths. It's the upper bass that I find haunts most rooms of normal size.
Speaking of bass: depending on where those subwoofers are in relation to the mains- a time shift can screw up your sound stage also. There's a lot a ambience info in the bottom octaves. Try moving them into alignment with the mains as an experiment.
The coupling caps in the NP100 are Jensen oil caps and have been there for 6 months. So I think they should have broken in already. V-caps do take a long time to break in. I have a pair of V-caps in my 300B SET amp and they took 400 hours to break in. The first 200 hours were simply horrible....

I'll test my other tube amp over the weekend. One subwoofer is at an right angle to a speaker. I'll adjust it too and see (or hear) how it sounds.

I'll also keep moving the speakers forward and increasing the toe in.

The power cord for my NP100 is already a VH Flavor-4 PC! It is a fine power cord. It replaced a Shunyata Copperhead PC, which rolled off on the highs. Maybe I should put it back as a PEQ that Shadorne suggested?

This high-end audio hobby is expensive but interesting. There are so many things to learn! I built my first radio more than 30 years ago and built many amps as a teenager. At that time, I played violin, guitar, and trumpet. So I have pretty good ears for music. Then I went to college and got all my degrees in EE. But I am still learning many new things. Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences.
What a useful and interesting thread, a lot of info here for us all. I would only add, that in my experience, amps and source are very important. Specifically, digital lacks depth except from the best players. That for me is partly why it lacks musicality. Vinyl has great depth, particularly on good recordings. I have some Wagner where the chorus sounds like it is in the next street. For me also, as others have said, good tube amps with good output transformers, also have depth. Again, for me, that is partly why I prefer them.
I have some Wagner where the chorus sounds like it is in the next street

good tube amps with good output transformers, also have depth.

Good point - the output transformer coupled with speaker impedance variation with frequency will generally have a marked audible impact on the SPL with frequency - this can change the soundstage depth much in the way the mix engineer applies EQ to individual instruments to get a desired depth. Bear in mind that the mix engineer will also play with reverb - stuff that is placed far back will have more reverb added and highs cut - stuff that is forward in the mix will have no reverb (like vocalist or lead guitar) and an upper midrange/treble boost.
Vett93, FWIW, in my set up the location of the listening chair is every bit as critical as the location of the speakers. I note you are moving your speakers about but you haven't mentioned moving your chair. Don't miss the opportunity to try this if you can do so. You might also get a little reduction in the 100hz hump as well. Might.
Hi Vett93
Last reponse was dd May 08, I was a bit to late to join in.

I made hewewith 2 portions of comments, may be biased with my own opinion, but I would like to share them with you :-

(1) I am addicted with audiophile for over 25 years. I had been using focal JM Lab Mezzo Utopia 2003-2004 with
tube pre- and power-amps. (A) I 've found "Utopia"'s are
typically not suitable for tube-amp's (may be there are exceptions )
I found them requiring More powerful and " fast" sold-state
amp to control. (B) the Mid's are too strong Vs the high
and low, sounding average more "upfront"and more " mingling" if the amp is not controlling tight. I had tried
to cope with these by tube-rolling, inter-connects, power cable changing. But not changing to sold-state amp as I
prefer the WE 300B tubes most. so finally I changed to
Verity Audio Parsifal Encore in 2004 , not to awiat for
breaking-in, the first hour I was relaxed and relieved
with joy. But with this message, I am not convincing you
to change speaker ( because of me ).
(2) The 2nd Part ( some theories now , more than opinion )
If you know something about the Fibonacci Formulae
(the Gold Ratio - which studies proved it applies to
financial, human mentality, physically too many
aspects of this Earth, or Universe ). It is true for the reflection of sound wave. Many Manufacturers' manual expressing the same ratio. may or may not knowing why, perhaps they only tried by repeated experiments.

use the golden ratio of 0.328 /0.500/0.618/1.618
(A) if you net ceiling height is 100 inches, the best distance from rear wall ( from the moving membrance of Mid range/ tweeter ) should be 61 inches , if this is diffcult
try 50-51 inches, 0.328x H for rear is not a good choice
unless it is a must, or it is a smaller 2-way speakers with
less low's carrying. If your ears and gears are "golden"
you may try the difference if H x 0.45 compared to Hx0.618 or 0.50 and you will see the reflection is different.

(B) Many manuals had use more often this formula to suggest
the distance to side wall, some are using
distance of 2 speakers apart (D ), side wall to centre of speaker ( actually sh be centre of tweeter - moving film ) D x 0.328
Some are using the total distance of two side Walls (D2 ), the the speaker is D2 x 0.328 to side wall.

If Alto Utopia is similar to the Mezzo Utopai I used before
Even with the ratio in my head, I still found some problem
at that year, as I cannot try 61 inches in my old house
( which I think may be the better ). If the rear wall distance can not help, try something to improve the "air-feeling", "more silent-background" . sorry Chinese is my only mother languge, I cannot use better words to explain. " more air " will make you feel the vocalist, instruments standing
a bit more part and distinguished from each other, like
"more depth in the sound stage " one could feel.

I had dedicated A/C Powers from the house Main, RGPC to reduce noise, CSE sine-Wave reformer providing better current to my Wadia 861 CD, and the Synergistic Research
Power Cell as the main Power-strip for the other gears.
try to see any of such kinds can help you.

Don't give up, as trying to upgrade ( within what's in
hand ) is more fun than to just to pay.
Thanks all. I did more research, upgrade, and experiments. I like my current setup now. :-)

The following are the changes:

1. I moved speakers forward and they are 9 feet to the rear wall. I also moved them closer to the side walls, about 2 1/2 ft away. The toe-in is in the middle between beaming straight and directly towards ears.

2. I sent my amp back to the designer for more upgrades. He upgrades all the resistors to "naked" Vishay and some caps to Blackgates. It is faster and more punchy than before.

I found my Alto Utopias are not easy speakers to drive. Even though they are 91dB and 8 ohm nominal resistance. They drop to 3.2ohms for lower frequencies. My other amp, a pair of KT88 monoblocks at 50Wpc, did not work well with them.

By moving the speakers forward, they are away from the TV. I can hear more sound behind the speakers. So the depth is improved!
congratulaiton !!Nice to learn that you 've overcome your
speakers problem.

Since you have a spacious room, 15W x 23D
Previously your problem may be the wrong ratio used :-
5 ft Vs 18 ft ( rear / front )
or 5 Vs 23 ( rear / total )

Now 9 Vs 14 = 0.642 ( +/- other room furniture/book shelves
etc , cannot make the exact clcualtion herewith )
The more closer to 0.618 the more it becomes improved.

The H Vs Rear 1.0 is of no bad-effect .

Best reuslt can be implemented by standing Panels ( which
I am using ) if the room cannot cope with such ratio's.
I think you will find that you would see a better result by aligning the speakers along the length rather than the width of the room if you can do that, because 2.5 ft from the side walls sounds awfully close to me. In my experience soundstage is dramatically affected by side wall reflections. I have Virgo 111s set up along the length of my room, about 7 ft out from the sidewalls, with amazing soundstage. Hope that helps.
I second opinion of Robert1897

Speakers along the longer wall will definitely increase
the clarity whilst the other way will be with increased
low's. But increasing the degree of toe-in will help to
reduce the low's.

Depth is improved and more felt with a deep soundstage
as it is against the 15ft shorter side.
Judge with your own ears / preference.
as well as you have so many vibration-absorbing objects
in the room, actual hearing is the only way.

If you are approx 10 ft from speakers, try the " longer Triangle method ; try them as 8 ft apart ( less toe-in than
10 ft apart ) it may also sound good.
Yes, 2.5ft is indeed very close to the side walls. I had boomy bass first. Then I put a bass trap panel along the long side of the wall next to one speaker. The bass is clean now.

Regarding Mezzo vs. Alto Utopia, I think JMlab upgraded the tweeters to BE tweeters. The highs are mega powerful!

The only problem I see in my setup is that my rear wall should have been more reflective. Then I will get a more spacious sound stage.

Roberts, how far away are your speakers to the rear wall and to you?
My speakers are out about 4 ft from the rear wall. I have my speakers on spike pads that allows me to slide them out into position when I'm listening to them and slide them back out of the way when I'm not. Very handy, as otherwise they would be stuck in the middle of the room.
I recommend you to go to the Audio Physic website. It gives you a very comprehensive guide to speaker setup that is applicable to all speakers. Their approach makes a lot of sense from an acoustic perspective.