Shocking 3D sound in 2 channel

I've had it happen a few times where my brain actually thought the center image was real. Somehow the imaging lined up so well that my brain sensed physical objects in front of me - not just a believable illusion.

Can all speakers do this if set up right? Are there some that do this without fail? Was I just imagining it?
Not all speakers can do this (although, I'd be willing to bet there are more speakers out there that can do this than most of us may suppose...and yet, also, I'd bet that most people tend to (mistakenly, IMHO) assume that this is somehow primarily (if not solely) a function of the speakers themselves. I've never run across any speakers that could do this "without fail" and don't really expect that I ever will. But, it's the particular electronics that the speakers are mated with that more often seem to me to be the determining factor and, just as with most speakers, this ability doesn't seem to be simply a function of price. I doubt you'll ever hear this sort of thing in any mid-fi setup, but it has been demonstrated even in some fairly minimal, but somewhat inexpensive, rigs (say, $4-$6k). Most sources these days seem to be ok for this, if your spending, say, $1k and up (although, with vinyl you may need to consider the cart, at some point). Some amps definitely seem to be better at the whole 3D thing than others - as a class, SET's come to mind, but this may be one of the few categories of any equipment that is, overall, singularly regarded as having this trait...although, you might also want to investigate any crossoverless speaker designs out there. Otherwise, results may vary widely and you may end up having to 'luck up' a bit on having a good combination of components for this (or you may run across someone else who has). It does not seem to happen that way all the time, but sometimes it does. Some preamps are better at it than others, too. A pre should be either of very good quality or better, or perhaps not in the signal chain at all (stepped attenuators and the like). There are plenty of other factors that can have a direct bearing, but I view speaker placement, wiring choices, successful levels of power conditioning and etc as simply things that can occlude the 3D effect if not done well, but after having addressed ALL of those things, they may not in and of themselves alone result in true 3D realism - much harder to get there without them, yes, but the underlying key to me seems to be hitting on both the right electronics AND the speakers themselves, as well as the quality of the match the speakers provide to the electronics...and even Then, that doesn't Always produce the desired effect, but it still looks to me like the best shot we generally have.
"Can all speakers do this if set up right? Are there some that do this without fail? Was I just imagining it?"

Not all speakers can do that. Some are better than others. However, all the other components in a system contribute to the quality of imaging. You have to get everything right, not just the speakers.
I agree, to get this kind of presentation you need to have everything in the process working towards this goal.

That means a good source recording, amplification, speakers, speaker placement, and appropriate speaker-room interaction.

It's not just the speakers, although I think some speakers can do it with a higher probability and be more forgiving about the electronics to achieve it.

The system I listened to that best exemplified the 3-D, perfectly holographic sound consisted of a Music Hall CD-25, Jolida 302b, and Totem Arro's. The system was placed near a corner, and everything I played on it at the stereo shop sounded incredibly lifelike and, for lack of a better term, holographic. I think Joe (the person who was with me at the time) described it as "very forward".

Interestingly, I had nearly this exact system several years later, and although it sounded great, it never quite matched the 3D magic of that system at the stereo shop. Maybe we were using different tubes, or perhaps my not having it in the corner of the room, or something about the geometry of the room. I'll never know, but that's the closest to a 3D guarantee that I've come across (and it's quite a modest system, especially by Audiogon standards).

If the illusion of imaging is important to you, perhaps you should look more into tubes or digital surround/processing modes, as these can sometimes help with that effect.

Some recordings do not contain what you describe so he recording is an important factor.
I once had a friend come over when I had my Dyn C1 Signatures and he stood in front of them asking me where the center channel speaker was. I had them set up about 6 - 7ft apart with only about a 5 degree toe-in. AND there was/is a 32" tube TV in between them. Now that I have the Raidho D1's I'm trying to get him back over to really hear some separation LOL. The D1's are about 8ft apart with about a 40 degree toe-in. For me I know I will get a more 3D sound when I get rid of that tube TV.
It is not the speakers, its the room.

Well the speakers and room working together. The greatest speakers that overwhelm the room will not produce 3D imaging, whereas mediocre speakers set up correctly within a room can produce a 3D image, mind you the tone may be completely off.
Only once in my Audiophile life have I experienced this phenomenon with such striking clarity. This was at an audio store in Dallas back in the late 80s. The speakers were Dalquist DQ12. The amp and preamp were Adcom. Not sure of the CD player. The music was the Broadway cast recording of Phantom of the Opera. It was spooky how realistically the performers were placed in the sound stage. It was the three dimensional quality of this placement that made the effect so stunning. While I have since been able to get very close to that experience I have never heard the three dimensional, holographic effect like I did that day in Dallas on that relatively modest setup.
Phantom of the Opera sounds fantastic on just about everything.
Avalon speakers are known for this.

There was even a system that was put together with MIT cables/spectral amps/Avalon speakers called the 2C3D (two channel 3D). I got to hear that system, it was insane how 3D it was.

The store owner hooked up a very expensive LD player and put on a Star Wars disc for me (just sound no screen). It was insane how real it was, it was like I was in the forest, it wrapped all the way around me. Lasers came from 8 feet from the top left back of me and shot down to the front stage. Animals and birds chirped all around me. She put on that roger waters CD also where the TV came from behind me.

With that being said sometimes it can be a little dry.
Speakers can also have varying degrees of depth, hight, and surround if set up correctly and they are time aligned. Try Roger Waters....Amused to Death.
Accurately recording the ambient information of an actual venue and music event, takes careful mic placement and is the most fragile(easiest lost)of what is contained in your audio signal. Your entire playback chain, source to ear, is responsible for it's preservation. On the other hand; Amused to Death, and quite a few other albums, were mixed/recorded using a system called QSound, which(via an algorithm) enables even a simple and inexpensive system to throw images that can amaze and entertain: (
BTW: I've heard crappy pressings of the Amused to Death CD(exact same Columbia UPC 074644712728) that miserably failed to reproduce 3D effects, when compared with a good disc, on a system that performed wonderfully. SO- If you do try the Roger Waters, and it doesn't perform as expected; it may not be your system.
Rodman...having said that, if they do try the vinyl version of "Amused to Death" they are more likely to be seriously impressed than not. ;)

A friend lent me his $400 dollar acquisition and it was unbelievably good. (I was also flattered that he trusted me so much because I only found out about the price later(!)) :D
They are right, of course. It is a combination of speaker behaviour, room acoustics and T/T+phonostage attributes. Try Martin Logan electrostats at varying degrees of tilt, or even alter the arrangement of the soft furnishings along with your listening position and you will see/hear what I mean.

Personally, I'm not a room acoustics purist so I fully enjoy wraparound sound featuring tall images which can even appear standing right next to the listener's chair at full height.

A good example of this was a well known female artist who was singing front and centre while her other "selves" were harmonising/rapping in the L+R channels. With a particular turntable (an LP12), rather than residing at the loudspeakers, her other selves appeared standing on either side of my listening chair - 6 feet tall and so real I could touch them. (Try this trick with a CD and you'll be out of luck... ;)

Some turntables accentuate the vividness and reality of these "phase effects", effectively causing sounds to appear from the rear corners of the room. :)
Again it is very much recording dependent.
It is a fun hobby :)
All the best,
Mr Moon- An easy case to make, in general(ambiance recovery/vinyl vs CD). I'm guessing your friend has quite a record collection? Would they be interested in adopting a new son?
He does indeed and I've discovered more than one or 2 newer bands/artists thanks to his generous nature. ;^)

All the best m8,
I really only have had this phenomena happen a few times. I have Maggies 1.7, Dyn C1 sigs, Harbeth SHL5 as well as tube and SS amps. I love them all and I love the hobby. However, this ultra real 3D has only happened with my Harbeths (on Exposure amplification). Harbeths are said to be easy to place but I found them to be ultra critical. Anyway, not trying to open a Harbeth can of worms - just pointing out that they do this for me and they are not know as resolution champs.

The other system that does this for me is at my grimy computer desk in my garage. The speakers are $40 Altec Lansing 2.1 computer speakers playing off my computer. The weak link in the chain is every link in the chain! There is nothing in the path that I would say is admirable. Also, the speakers are positioned almost at my sides (more like a 20 degree angle. I think this case is lust me sitting conveniently in a good spot between the two channels, however marginal their quality.
With my system it happens with every use does not sound like there on or sound emanating from loudspeaker just a sound stage wall to wall front to back image in center clear as a bell. One issue with conventional dynamic designs or dipoles is the room interaction this obscures imaging. Also improper time alignments can cause image to blur. I even get foley effects behind head or have image spin intact behind listener.
If I can't get a solid, centered image from a mono source or an intended center solo voice in a stereo mix, the speakers aren't set up correctly and/or there's a phase problem.

If I can't get the speakers to sonically disappear, I don't want them. just might be your room.
Dear JohnK,
Good points :)
The outlook for dipoles is not too bleak though. :)
I've found that dipoles "drive" my room more sympathetically than dynamic designs I've owned. The front wave has narrow dispersion and I beam much of this through a wide archway into an adjoining room. The rear wave is mostly absorbed (at most frequencies) by curtains positioned symmetrically behind the speakers.

There are 2 listening positions I use : nearfield - (8 feet away)which gives massive detail and a very intimate sound and farfield (18 feet away in a secondary "sweetspot") in which images tend to coalesce more coherently but are understandably not so "up close and personal", while remaining very detailed.
(Please note I use the term "nearfield" very loosely as true nearfield must be far closer than this :^)
"The other system that does this for me is at my grimy computer desk in my garage. The speakers are $40 Altec Lansing 2.1 computer speakers playing off my computer. The weak link in the chain is every link in the chain! There is nothing in the path that I would say is admirable. Also, the speakers are positioned almost at my sides (more like a 20 degree angle. I think this case is just me sitting conveniently in a good spot between the two channels, however marginal their quality." you're REALLY scaring us :D :D
In this situation it sounds like you might benefit from really good headphones and a Meridian "Prime" which is purported to "externalise" the soundstage in the manner of full blown loudspeakers response in-room :D
Best regards...
Happens all of the time when the moon,earth, and sun are all aligned with your temporal state of mind. In all seriousness, the elements of a 3D presentation are easily achieved once all of the factors mentioned above coalesce to form a soundscape which is perceived to be holographic. After I align the speakers, adjust the listening chair, and measure the room environment and add room treatments; the holographic experience happens as soon as I drop the needle on the record player.

I have successfully been able to recreate this feeling in various sized rooms. In my experiences, it seems that tube equipment and vinyl add to this experience more so than solid state components, again, my experience and also my listening experience. The exception to this was the DCS stack playing on all ultra high end equipment which sounded analog like and provided the 3D holography described above.

My newly acquired Mcintosh MVP 891 SACD player seems to come close to the sound of that DCS stack I heard about 5 years ago, therefore I listen to SACD 2 channel and surround audio about one third of the time now compared to records, which, for now, is still my favorite source medium. Technology advances are really helping us as a community to achieve outstanding results with a variety of sources and mediums.

Just sit back and listen to the music, you have reached nirvana. Congratulations.
Yes, I WAS scared by the little Altecs. They are a single driver design and provide a very supple, smooth sound. I use them for background music, electronic lounge music. However, they really create an amazing soundfield and once in a while hit me with some 3D notes out of left field. However, they aren't going near my main system so don't worry!

12-31-13: Stringreen just might be your room.

Which one? I would say the beginning of this for me goes back to when I worked at a mid-fi/high end store in 1975, where the manager set up some Dahlquist DQ-10s with a pre-amp capable of depth layering. From then on, with 11 different sets of speakers in over a dozen different listening rooms driven by countless combinations of electronics on both coasts and in between, I have set up my system to get a strong center channel presence when on the source.

There are certain characteristics a speaker must have for this to happen, including fast transient response, good in-room power response without dramatic dips in the dispersion pattern, crossover design that keeps the waves pretty much in phase, etc. For example, phase-coherent speakers (e.g., Dahlquist, Thiel, Vandersteen) do this well, as do well-set-up planars. For dynamic speakers, a narrow front baffle helps.

Basically you need speakers that don't anchor the sound to themselves. Factors that call attention to the speakers include narrow dispersion, enclosure resonances, and wide baffles that smear the initial waves that come off the drivers. You also have to pay attention to how far the speakers are relative to the room and your listening position and also toe-in. Sometimes you need it, sometimes not.
The following provide tests, with which one may determine whether their system actually images, or reproduces a soundstage, as recorded. ie: On the Chesky sampler/test CD; David explains in detail, his position on the stage and distance from the mics, as he strikes a tambourine(Depth Test). The LEDR test tells what to expect, if your system performs well, before each segment. The Chesky CD contains a number of tests, in addition to the LEDR. ( ( BTW; The shape of your ears' pinnae is also a variable, regarding your ability to perceive images/locate sounds.
I have had 3D imaging with different six foot Magnepans since the 70's.

Room, amplification, source, positioning, and good recordings are essential.

I believe Panel speakers like Magneplanar and electrostatics work best at 3D.

If you do not get 3D, you do not have High End system, properly setup, in a decent room!

Buy Jim Smith's book "Get Better Sound".

Have not heard it too often in stores.
Yes, this happens in my system all the time. KEF Reference 203's and good music. I love to put the pre on "Stereo", have someone sit in the sweet spot and tell them to listen to the center channel... Then I tell them it's not on, that everything is coming from only the the 2 L/R front speakers. I had to disconnect the wires to the center channel on one occasion to prove it to an unbelieving friend.
Here’s an interesting example of audio geometry, courtesy of the album “Moving waves” by the Dutch band “Focus”.
If you have a copy of this album, tune in to the long track called “Eruption” (Side B of the LP). If you are using the CD, at counter reading 9 mins 18 secs.
(The panels in question are Martin Logan Vantages BTW).

Jan Akkerman’s guitar –
- Starts in the R channel, approx. 3 ft above the floor, centred within the panel.
- It slowly pans horizontally to centre stage where it pauses briefly.
- It then continues at this steady height to the L channel where it pauses again.
- Then, surprisingly, it climbs upwards to the very top of the panel (5ft) and pauses again.
- The guitar then pans at this new height of 5 ft to centre stage.
- It continues onwards to the R channel and pauses.
- Once there it slowly descends until it reaches its original start point.
- This completes a perfect rectangle, in the vertical axis, at the speaker plane.

Generally we are aware of a room’s tendency to height presentation but I don’t often hear elements quite as mathematically specific as this.
Once the mastering engineer adds a bit of reverb to an electric instrument the game changes.
The instrument leaves the confines of the speaker altogether and behaves pretty much like an acoustic instrument occupying its own space.
It helps when one is as easily amused as I am… ;)