Seeking more 3d imaging, deeper/wider soundstage

I'm considering replacing either my amp or my pre. My system is profiled in my system link. Which do you think would improve soundstage/imaging more:
Replace the P3? I'd consider used McCormack, or a passive line stage, but my amp clips at 5v, which is what my DAC puts out when using the XLR outputs, and I'd like to try those someday...not sure a passive is a good fit for my system? Plus I require a remote. That's a deal breaker.
Replace the Rotel RB-1080? I'd consider parasound (a21 is a bit too pricey for me), used McCormack, odyssey, maybe even older krell or classe. I want XLR inputs tho.
Budget is $900-$1200 for either. Music spans the full gamut, excluding hip hop and country. Room is small, 12x12x8. I'm going to throw up some affordable foam acoustic absorption this summer (foam factory). Thnx in advance.
Hello! I have a similar sized, small room, and I can assure you that some affordable acoustic panels would be my first concern towards improving soundstage and imaging. Without them, you will never know how good things can sound in there. The foam you mentioned is cheap, but not very attractive. I would suggest some cloth covered, 24" x 48" panels such as the ones from Acousticmac for around $40 each, or some DIY ones for much less is you have some free time. The next thing I would do would be to pull your speakers out into the room a bit more...They appear to be too close to the rear walls, and you should not need them that close seeing that you have a powered sub to enhance the bass. You might also try getting your sub out of the left corner and moving it somewhere between your speakers.
Once you try those affordable "tweaks", then consider upgrading your amp or pre-amp. The RB-1080 is a strong amp, but not well known for it's soundstage or imaging abilities. Keep an eye open for a JOB 225 amp on the used market if you can stretch your budget around 15-20%....Great amp! Enjoy!
I'd experiment with moving speakers further out from front wall and also at least a few feet from side walls as well.

Try to get sound reflected from primary reflection points on walls based on your main listening position to travel as close to twice the distance as direct sound, in order to get timing of reflected sound correct and also avoid early reflections from being too close to the walls.

That should improve imaging.

Then experiment with positions closer to walls from there but no closer than a couple feet or so to avoid early reflections that smear soundstage and imaging.

Wall treatments might not be needed once the best location for soundstage and imaging is determined. Or if positions closer to walls is needed from there, absorbing wall panels at primary reflection points can help.

Bass levels may lower unfortunately with less proximity to walls for re-inforcement. Optimizing for bass levels and soundstage can be hard to achieve together sometimes. FUrther tweaking of location relative to walls might help, or a sub or subs can be added to add bass extension, if needed.
With those speakers, in a small room like that (I have a room same size practically that I have dealt with but more densely furnished and less bare walls which helps, see my supplemental system photos), bass levels/extension is probably not a problem, so need for subs is unlikely.

A couple feet or so from walls to avoid early reflections may be all that is needed for better results.
All the above is great advice. Start with maximizing speaker placement. Looking at your system pics, I am not surprised by the lack of soundstage depth. The sub may need more placement tweaking too. After maximizing placement, only then would I start down the path of room treatments - which you very well could still need.

Here is a good place to start:

Be patient and do everything in a step wise process ALWAYS listening to your preferred reference track between each move. Good luck - I know you will find the soundstage depth and width you want!
What great responses...kudos to everyone for not immediately jumping on the "buy this new amp!" bandwagon. I completely have a fantastic grouping of components, you should be very proud. Before I'd spend a penny on any electronics replacements, I'd do exactly what everyone recommends and experiment with getting those Quads out into the room, maybe 2-3 feet from all walls if possible. You really do have nice components, nice speakers (have always liked those Quads), I have high expectations that you are probably no more than some placement tweaking and/or wall treatments away from audio heaven.
try filtering your ac, borrow form a dealer to see if that also helps. Nothing fancy, try something cheap.
Great answers, obviously the consensus is to first move the speakers forward. I'll just add to adjust toe-in in small increments; it will affect your soundstaging.

Even when manufacturers or dealers say "no toe-in on these speakers," every room and system is different.
Thanks Bigkidz. Could you be specific? I don't know much about these plug in power things. Is that filtering needed or conditioning or creating new power? Or all the aforementioned? I think I am at the point I could do something about my power to the components. Thanks for the help.
Power conditioning may likely help as well but not so much until early reflections are eliminated via at least a couple feet or so to walls. I'd do that first. Its free and easy. Then see what some power conditioning can add.
I sold Rotel for over 6 years of time. It is a 2 dimensional brand, it can create maximum 1 metre of depth. Instruments and voices are on one line togheter.
Agree with Bo on lack of depth. And my system pics are out of date regarding speaker placement, I now have them on a different wall and set out from the back wall quite a bit. My equipment list is correct, but not the layout of the room. I'll upload some new pics tonight. I did follow some rules of thumb for distances from back and side walls.
Placing the sub between the speakers would be difficult, the room isn't that large and the sub would be too close to listening position IMHO.
Haven't done room treatments yet, but sitting position is very close to back wall, so need treatment at first reflection points and back wall.
Bo1972, what other amp brands have you sold that outpace Rotel?
These days I only sell 3 dimensional sound.

Onkyo is the cheapest brand I know to date which can create a wide an deep stage.

The other brands I use are: Primare and Pass labs.

You can look for a used Primare A30.2 or A33.2

Most brands are 2 dimensional: Marantz, Cambridge, Denon, Yamaha, NAD, Harman Kardon are all 2 dimensional.

* You have to understand that all parts of a set need to be able to give depth. In my tests I have proven that a 2 dimensional brand always will F....up the 3 dimensional stage. For example: a 2 dimensional source will F...up Always a 3D stage.

I call 2 dimensional audio Standard Audio. Because a simple amp of 100 dollar will build the stage the same way.
Have you considered tubes? Something like a Rogue Cronus integrated or their Atlas amp. (Neither have XLR connections, which are rare on affordable tube gear.). Rogue's tube gear is easy to maintain.
Your speakers are not that easy to drive. Maybe you can make a combination with Primare poweramp and Tube pre amp.

It can give you the drive and controle and tube sound togheter with your speakers.
yes I have considered tubes in the pre. I don't think my speakers would work with a tube amp. I have been toying with the idea of picking up a set of Focals someday, the tube amp might follow that.
I updated my system pics to show the new location for the rack and speakers.
Read the article " Room with no boundaries" and if that peak your interests, Master Handbook of Room Acoustics.

Early reflection from nearby boundaries arrive early in time and high in intensity. Those are the clues that we are in a small space.

Use diffusors to spread out the 1st reflection over time and reduce the peak intensity. By having some component of the 1st reflection arriving later in time and lower in intensity, your ears are fooled into thinking that you are in a bigger space, where the reflections arrive later and softer in intensity.

Bass traps or absorption would not create a larger stage. It will create a more focused soundstage.

Using non absorptive diffusor to the side or behind the speakers can create sound source broadening but do this with care as soundstage can lose focus.

Use absorptive diffusor at the 1st reflection point of the contralateral speaker, this would cut your crosstalk (eg. reflection of the right speaker off the left wall into your left ear), and help with widening soundstage.

Cables, electronics, AC regeneration or conditioning may help but will not overcome the bottle neck in room acoustics.

Resonators may also help but but that would be a mean a second sound source and can alter spectral balance.
I'm not familiar with the specifics on the Quads, but 89dB and 6 Ohm nominal does not sound like a difficult load for, say, a 100 Watt push-pull tube amp (using the 4 Ohm tap). Do the Quads have some wild impedance swings that make them unsuited even for push-pull amps?
It is not extrme difficult to drive, but it is not that high either. It is not the fastest in response. That is why you need speed to get a more controlled low freq.
Two things I would suggest.

Spread the speakers a little further apart, you have more real estate there to play with.

Consider the purchase of a good tube amp. This alone will give you more body and 3 dimensional sound over the Rotel amp.

Shakeydeal wrote,

"Two things I would suggest.

Spread the speakers a little further apart, you have more real estate there to play with."

Actually, moving the speakers closer together frequently works better. I think it's audiophile nature to assume wider speaker positions equals better soundstage. Start with 4 feet and move out until you hit the sweet spot.

"Consider the purchase of a good tube amp. This alone will give you more body and 3 dimensional sound over the Rotel amp."

Now, that I agree with.
Don't know about Rotel but the brands Bo identified are certainly NOT all inherently 2-dimensional as indicated. I have heard otherwise.
Because your room is square, standing waves will *always* be a problem as long as you place the speakers "conventionally" along either wall. If I were you, I would experiment with placing the speakers diagonally in the room, where the speakers would flank a room corner.

And you might consider toeing the speakers in the same direction so as to be firing the sound to the right as you look at the speakers. Doing so will help to eliminate early reflection points which tend to "smear" the sound and reduce the 3D effect.

Bass traps in the corners would also probably be a good idea. This will help you eliminate bass frequencies that tend to load up in the corners...
One thing I forgot to mention is that you would certainly benefit from removing the electronics stack that is currently placed in between the speakers. *Anything* placed between the speakers will be subject to early reflection points and will tend to smear the sound. Try moving the electronics to a place behind your listening position or in the corner opposite the speakers....
Glai, so you suggest diffusing at the 1st reflection points? I always thought we want absorption??? I am also in a small space (10x11) so in my case should I use absorption or diffusion?
There are many things to create a more 3 dimensional stage. I think it would be a good thing to mention in an article how to make it more 3D.

At the end you Always will lsiten to all different parts togheter including the acoustic of your room.

An amp with a poor 3D image will not give a huge stage when you will change the reflections of your room.

I have been several times in room with many bass traps ( they spend a lot of money on it) and still have a poor sound.

The brands I did mention I sold for many years and compared to others to know whether it is 2 or 3 dimensional.
In my case v-link192 linked via aes/ebu to bryston bda-1 widened soundstage
I have looked at prima Luna's self-biasing amps, these have 4ohm taps and I think would push the quads better than some other tube products. But I am worried about a tube amp's ability to push my speakers. 6ohm nominal, 89db sensitivity.
I said it before: buy a used Primare 30.2 or 33.2 and buy a tube pre amp. You will get a combi which is able to give you control, sharp individual focus and a wide and deep stage. And an involving sound.
I have the same speakers paired to a Marantz PM8004. They sit 2.25 feet from the side wall and 3 feet from the back walls. I have them toed in 20 degrees so that they aim right at my seating area. I get very good 3-d imaging as a result. My room is 10x13x10 but is it also heavily damped with carpet, draperies, and cd shelves. The Quads really work well with smaller rooms like ours.
Magico is a very well made product and very good in this regard based on personal past auditions. Used prices here I have seen recently are coming down as well to the point where Magico used is more realistically competitive on price with other options as well.
With all due respect to those here more knowledgeable than myself , I would not throw out that Rotel amp ! I have used
one for a few years and achieved some really wide and deep sound staging with sometimes spooky imaging ! I don't think that your amp is the culprit here .
I have also been in a square room and was unable to achieve any decent effects at all other than just left , right and
center .
While using the Rotel amp , I tried three different sources and they made the biggest difference for imaging . Of course if it isn't in the recording it won't come out !
From my experiences , I think that your small square room is causing the most problems .
I have also tried the diagonal speaker placement , while in a small 10'X11' room , mentioned above . While the tone was better it really didn't do much for imaging . The speakers aimed to the right , as mentioned above , does sound interesting though . I had never heard of that one .
I would definitely play around with the speakers in different locations and get the equipment away from them as well . While using the Rotel amp , I pulled the speakers out into the room more and away from the equipment that was between them . The soundstage increased emensily , now this was in a larger room at this time . But the Rotel amp was not limiting the sound stage or the imaging , it was the placement of things that did .
Depending on the source and the recording using my Rotel amp , I was able to place the band in my backyard and singer in my attic ! I could put the drums outside to the left in my lanai and Robert Plant behind my listening position ! This with a rather inexpensive Nad CD player and JM Lab speakers and a Rotel prepro .
Changing nothing else except the CD player changed the whole sound stage and imaging effects !
I have heard one of the respondents system , who contributed above . They did not have any better of a soundstage than I did in my small room and he demoed two different tube amps with different topologies .
Just my 2 cents worth based on my own experiences .

Good luck
Don't expect 3d imaging from hip hop...rap or most pop just isn't there. Try some nicely recorded live jazz or classical to determine what your systems baseline is.....of course the above recommendation with set up and room treatment will need to be done first.....but if the source recording is not 3d..your playback will never be.
You need real instruments played in real space and recorded correctly for ultimate 3d playback. The rest is, at best, smoke and mirrors.
Trust me when I tell you that I have hundreds of well-recorded, spatially deep and wide recordings in many different genres. I don't listen to hip hop. It's not the source. I do get a wide soundstage with detailed imaging, just want to make it better.
My comment was not meant as being judgmental of musical taste, but rather as a recording engineer with 33 years of experience meant to reinforce the fact that real 3d sonics, or something that can best approach that is both system and source sensitive. I can create a very interesting sonic picture via multi track but it will never approach what I can create using purest micing techniques of real instruments in real space.

Use this type of recording for set up and you'll have a very good set up for other types of recordings.....within reason, at least.
Even a cheap system should image and play depth. More has to do with setup (not just placement of the speakers in the room) than anything else. Many speakers won't play depth right if they are too close to the wall behind them. So you will have to play with them to get depth (if you don't, no amount of equipment swapping will get it for you).

Once you achieve that then you might consider changing components to get more nuance. I am an advocate of tubes (and your speakers are not a difficult load for any tube amp that also has the power to drive them in your room) but despite my preferences you've got some good advice on this thread that will cost you nothing but a little time experimenting.
All things being equal I still believe that tubes provide a deeper soundstage with greater depth. As always YMM
"Even a cheap system should image and play depth. More has to do with setup (not just placement of the speakers in the room) than anything else"

When I read this nonsense you don't understand audio.

I have done thousend of tests in more than 16 years of time I do this work. Differences in depth between speakers, amps, pre amps, sources, cables and even conditioners are huge.

I can create a lot of depth even when speakers are placed near the wall. Stuppid remark again. When you use an amp and speakers which can give a wide and deep stage you also can create a deep stage. Roomcorrection makes the stage also deeper, it gives you more accuracy.

Every single tool I test for what kind of image it gives. These differences in depth are big.

When you use those brands which can create more depth, you make it yourself a lot more easy.

Ofcourse when you put speakers more of the wall you get moe depth. But when an amp is poor in depth, you never get a deep stage.

And yes tubes are a great example which often can create a nice deep sound.

At the end there are different ways to create a deep stage. Don't forget that at most shows many demos are flat and are often 2 dimensional.
I almost spit out my morning coffee when I read Bo's latest above. He obviously has no idea who he is spurting off to. I could never imagine Bo attempting to school this gentleman. But wait a minute...I just did.

Another self dug hole from village's favorite...well you know what.
First off I totally agree with Raymonda, 3d sound must be on the recording to hear it at home on an audio system. I also agree with him, at least concerning most studio rock recordings that there is little 3D effect on these recordings. Live recordings are a different matter, it can readily be heard if the system is properly set-up.

There are many very good points and advice given. First and foremost IME is speaker placement relative to room boundaries. Your room is small so options are limited. Most speakers are designed for placement away from room boundaries but will vary depending on design. In any case I would focus first on all matter of placement before changing out components. There is no easy solution that can necessarily resolve your particular issue if the problem persists beyond speaker placement. But I would consider source component and amplifier choice next in line to consider.

Bo one thing you said above which I totally agree with is the often overlooked importance of "speed" in an amplifier design in revealing spacial and time relationships of instruments and voices on a recording. I think this is VERY important, after placement in realizing a more complete picture of what is on the recording and fully realizing a vital element of the 3-D illusion. What you may not realize is that Atma-sphere makes some of the "fastest" amplifiers that can realize this and has for more than 30 years. I suppose you haven't heard an OTL amplifier or you would probably be familiar at least with his designs?
I am familiar with OTL. I owned tube amps as well. I sold a lot tube amps as well.

I am always for the best option possible. I love the sound of tube. But I do not want limitations.

That is why I love the sound of Pass Labs. The new .8 series even come closer to tube sound. But the speed and drive are better.

I am always focussed on a sound what is complete as possible. I love classical music. I want all the timbre to be heard of a violin of Cello.

I love the class A sound of Pass Labs. They also can give a wide and deep stage. This space give me the freedom to create the intimate stage within the wide and deep stage. They also are stunning in speed and drive. This is what it makes it more complete. This gives me more quality what I want and need in my sound.

Because a deep and wide stage without an intimate stage is useless.

So what is a 3D sound?

In the past shows with a wide and deep stage often did not convince me. Because I did not get inside the music. Because when instruments and voices are played too big in proportion it is gone.

Even when you have a wide and deep stage with instruments and voices played in realistic proportion you are still not there.

Instruments and voices need to be what I call 'round' This is the air around instruments and voices what make them become round.

The difference is black is huge when you compare old highend cables from the past with the best new ones.

For those who are not familiar with blacks. Blacks is the space between voices and instruments on a recording. It makes instruments and voices more physical apparent.

At this moment I play with 2 pair of Audioquest Wel Signatures. One still needs to be burned in. 500 hours for each cable. I never auditioned a cable which had such big differences in sound and image during the burning in period.

It sets 3D sound to a higher and new level what is even new for me. I will write a review when the 2nd one is burned in. Differences in heights and place where an instruments or voice is standing on the recording give a different harmonic sound/timbre. Listening with these cables influence the emotion a lot. It is a higher level in 3D sound.

A the end there are many parts to create a better 3D sound. One thing I know for sure is that people prefer 3d sound far over 2d sound.
Dear Bo,

Your tone of voice in your posts and your positioning of yourself as an expert of monumental proportions just suffered a severe blow. The way you rudely and summarily dismissed Atmasphere's comment is at once shocking and yet very telling.

While I have never owned any Atmasphere amplifier nor do I know Ralph beyond his input on these forums, I, like many here, have learned a great deal from his sincere and thoughtful input on a wide variety of subjects. He builds world class products and knows what he is talking about and your cavalier dismissal of his post and additionally, the complete and utter arrogance you demostrated while doing so is simply mind boggling!

At least for my 2 cent interpretation of your actions, I will chalk it up to the observation that English is likely your 3rd or 4th language and that audio is the only hobby that is conducive with living in your parent's basement. Any other explanation from you should probably come with a mea culpa for your comments toward Ralph and the hyperbole you incorrectly asserted toward his very accurate input is at least worthy of an apology. Peace.
Thanks for all the comments. My speakers are multiple feet
away from both the back and side walls. I have also toed
them in toward my seating position. Have also tried crossing
them in front of seating position, I don't like that as
I have acoustical foam on order, simple wall coverings from
the foam factory. They are not up yet, but I have
experimented for months with speaker placement. I have the
system sounding as good as it can in the room, IMHO. Now I
want to get to the next level, which means ... *updating
components* ... I should have an opportunity to make a
purchase in a couple of months.
I have read the recommendations for tube amps, VTL and Rogue
are the only brands I have seen mentioned. I suggested Prima
Luna, but no response to this, is Prima Luna not a good
brand? I can get these amps serviced locally. and what about
"tube biasing?" what is that and how often must I
do it, and how much does it cost? Tube amps sound like they
need maintenance, one reason why I have not gotten into
them. Plus tubes wear out...
Can we shift the discussion to the following:
tube amps vs full class A solid state like older Classe or
older Krell?
anyone who has my speakers and is getting fantastic 3D
imaging, what gear do you use?
OR...***possible speaker upgrade***...?!? (if my Rotel is
sufficient...) I might audition the new focal Aria line...
It is as it is. Maybe it sounds hard, it is not rude. Words can be read differently.

The older Classe amp ( sold them for a long time) have a musical sound and can give a deep and wide stage. The limitation is that individual focus of instruments and voices is not that sharp.

The problem with Krell is that some amps sound really awesome and others sound harsh and more analytical. You need to know the good and bad ones

Pathos make some amps which are not that expensive on the used market. They also have good drive and speed. And they can give a very good 3D stage.

Next thing would be to experiment with a few simple 2'X2' or larger wall panels starting with side wall main reflection points initially, adding rear and maybe others in small increments from there if needed. Need not cost a fortune, look on Amazon for well reviewed products, need not cost much at all if you shop carefully.

Your room is not large, right? If you listen fairly close to speakers, the distance between drivers on the floorstanding Quads could work against you for best imaging and soundstage. Monitors with simple crossover and closely spaced or even coaxial drivers, like KEF for example, will work in your favor. OHM Walsh would be another more radical omni design that could work well. Or other floorstanders again with simple crossover and more closely spaced drivers, like Totem Arro or slightly larger, for example.

Then I woudl also add some basic good quality power conditioning for pre-amp and source gear. THis will stay with you no matter what from there.

I'd look at tube-preamp next after that, if any further need. Cannot go wrong with ARC for that.

Tube amp is the last thing I would go for, unless you are just hell bent on going all tubes from here on out and then let the cards fall anew from there.
I have also found Classe is a very good option for SS gear that is very transparent sounding and images well. THen there is also the good stuff from Krell as well.
Dear Bo,

I actually didn't expect further arrogance from such an indefensible position but from your above quote: "It is as it is. Maybe it sounds hard, it is not rude. Words can be read differently." It appears you just may not know any better!

Here is the original comment from Atmasphere: "Even a cheap system should image and play depth. More has to do with setup (not just placement of the speakers in the room) than anything else."

Followed by your reply: "When I read this nonsense you don't understand audio."

Now Bo, I'm not a master of the English language but I understand it reasonably well for an American, LOL. Your reply to Atmashpere was rude and dumb. Period. You seem to enjoy an absolute position on issues rather than taking a more defensible position.

Google Ralph Karsten and Atma Sphere Amplifiers and his almost 40 years of designing world class tube electronics trumps you being a dealer for Onkyo or Primare or any other brand desperate enough to allow you to stock their wares, IMHO. I'm also a fan of Pass Labs gear although I do not presently own any but I am 100% positive if you called Nelson Pass personally, provided he would take your call, he would tell you that Ralph knows his stuff. As a dealer, I can imagine that a stop into your store (provided it is a store and not in your parent's basement) would involve an IMMENSE AMOUNT of hearing you talk, which I personally would find less than desirable.

I doubt that Ralph will chime in further because he wisely steers away from controversy. He was just trying to give some free advice to the original poster based on his decades of REAL experience. You, on the other hand appear to have this intense desire to be viewed as the absolute authority on any subject without the requisite skills to back it up. I'm not saying I'm an authority on anything, especially audio, I just happen to enjoy it. I am reasonably experienced though at spotting bullies, ingrates, idiots, morons and other undesirables and you sir are beginning to check off some of those boxes. I am sure though, after reading up on Ralph's accomplishments and his extraordinary experience, you will publicly soften your position and stabilize what little is left of your waning credibility.

In the meantime, and until such time as you rethink your offensive stance, I would advise others to take your unsolicited "professional" advice and file it away with the old newspapers and used tissues.
Thanks for all the comments. My speakers are multiple feet away from both the back and side walls. I have also toed them in toward my seating position. Have also tried crossing them in front of seating position, I don't like that as much.

Sounds here like you may have already done the setup and experimentation that can make the difference between a hifi and a really good musical system. If you are satisfied that the speaker placement is as good as you can get it, it may well be time to look into component upgrades.

Now by my math given your room and your speakers, 60 watts in a tube amp should give you plenty of power. Tubes are well-known for improved imaging, smoother and more detailed sound. But you should consider that what a tube brings to an amplifier, it also brings to a preamplifier. If OTOH the preamp is loosing detail for any reason, there is nothing you can do to recover it downstream no matter the amp or speaker. So you might want to consider a tube preamp first rather than the amplifier.

Naturally while a tube preamp can bring a lot of benefit, if you are driving a solid state amp I don't think you will hear everything its doing. But at least it will let you know if you are heading in the right direction, and tube preamps are much less service oriented IMO/IME.

Of course if it were me I would consider both. I just like tube equipment better :)

Check input impedance of your current amp before going with a tube pre-amp. IF not 30k-50Kohm or higher, it might not be the best match. Not all SS amps handle higher output impedance of tube pre-amps equally well. 50-60K amp input impedance is a pretty safe bet in most cases.

If amp is not a good match, you might end up with tube amp and pre-amp sooner rather than later in any case.