Sound stage of studio recordings

I have felt that in live recordings it is easy to pin point the location of musical instruments. However for other recordings it is a hit and miss. Also for vocal solo with some instruments, the center imaging is also a hit and miss. In some songs the vocals appear to be in center. In other cases, it feels like coming from both speakers and circling around etc. 


Anyone though about this topic.. 


On most recordings for me the voice is dead center. Some older rock like early Jethro Tull and Moody Blues have certain songs in which the voice is pushed halfway between the center and one speaker, but that is rare.

Are you certain that your cables and interconnects are in the correct phase?

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So many live recordings are multi-mic'd just like many studio recordings that I find the imaging is often just as bad.

This is why many people like preamps with a balance control and phase inversion switch.



So many live recordings are multi-mic’d just like many studio recordings that I find the imaging is often just as bad.

Agreed! With multiple microphones the the end result can be all over the map (Figuratively and literally).



this somewhat depends on the era of the recording. and the musical genre.

prior to the mid 60's most studio recording processes were more simple, and it's more likely that performers are where the recording places them, and that minimal or no manipulation is done. going forward from then, most jazz or small combo classical continues to be recorded more simply, with minimal manipulation. but studio pop is almost always assembled from multi track recording any result is possible. or it's recorded in someone's basement from pieces recorded at different times.

hifi systems also have a contribution to the degree of imaging and the perception of the sound coming directly from the speakers. non musical distortion locates the sound directly from the driver, as opposed to the music which is located in the soundfield.


I really like simple trios, quartets. When you go to a live show and the piano is here, the bass is five feet to the left and the drums are in the middle. But like you said, when they mike every cymbal and drum, the mix usually has the drum kit appearing  to be as wide as the stage. Or if they use several mikes or a stereo mike on the piano, it’s the same thing.  The piano sounds like it’s as wide as the stage.

The decisions of the recording engineer and producer determine how the soundstage is reproduced.  That is why you state that “on some recordings it is hit or miss”.  Decisions on the venue, microphone placement, recording equipment, phasing, and mixing all impact soundstage reproduction.  IMHO, and realize I am speaking in broad generalities, single or minimally miked recordings from companies like Linn, Wilson, Stockfish, Maple Shade, Chesky, Reference Recordings, Naxos, Proprius, Etc. produce naturally wide and deep staging.  The old multi miked recordings from RCA, Decca, and Mercury from the 50s and 60s also produce excellent staging where engineering decisions such as close miking a drum kit or a piano in the middle of the sound board are also evident.  Offerings from 2L are multi miked with excellent results as well.  Most modern pop is studio produced with isolation booths.  Mixing determines soundstage placement.  A vocal can be dead center or off center.  When you hear instruments around you (think Waters, Amused to Death) is usually a decision to record out of phase.  Therefore, the differences you hear are the artistic decisions of the recording engineer and producer, with input from the performer. I have attached a good review article.  


The hype (which I guess I buy into) about the (DDD) recordings of The Cowboy Junkies Whites Off Earth Now and then The Trinity Sessions was all about the great job that was done of single miking them.

The simple answer is that mixing boards have pan pots. You mic something and the panning allows you to place it wherever you want in the stereo image. Live mixing keeps everything mostly in mono so the audience all hears the same thing. When doing live concert mixing I often put a small amount of stereo reverb in the mix to fool people into thinking they're having more fun than they actually are, and a recorded feed from the board can be multi tracked to mix it later.

Trinity was done with an Ambisonic ( array ) microphone…. and with speakers that don’t destroy the subtle time and phase information… can be shocking…


@tomic601 ....I’d forgotten Ambisonics.....wonder what that’d go down with a surround Walsh or Ohm array.....🤔🙄😏😎

Oh, great....another tangent to go off on....Thanks, maybe....*L*

It can vary with each recording and how the engineer mixed the recording. This can be especially true with older jazz and other recordings etc from the fifties and sixties when stereo recordings were just starting. Intentional separation of vocals and instruments were the norm to highlight the new format. The same was true for mono recordings that were later mixed to stereo. It really can be all over the map so @soix is correct in stating the benefit of preamp controls to correct some of these issues that can sometimes be annoying.

There is no 'live is, studio is, ... it is each individual track.

The more revealing your system is, the more you hear how good or bad the whole chain of recording, follow up engineering decisions. The space, proper mic type for each voice/instrument/position begins with those fundamentals and goes thru an assembly line after that.

My friends and I often remark to each other, 'These guys knew what they were doing". Old recordings, new, current.

A compilation album has tracks from various engineers, they tell you a lot.

Many examples, this one instantly comes to mind

Ray Bryant DVD, Montreux 1977

This DVD, from a 1977 performance, Video not HD by any means. I started it, I thought, oh crap, it's gonna be lousy sound. Nope, it's a delight.

Huge Bosendorfer piano, 5 mics, and after a few songs, they sneak on stage and change Ray's vocal mic. "These guys knew what they were doing".

It varies a lot. Usually, it's not my equipment. 

Ever go to a live show and notice that if you close your eyes, the staging is really not that great? It happens all the time. But the other elements are great-- tonality, pacing, sheer impact.

Personally, I've become less obsessed with sound staging. There are other factors more important to the content of the music, and I remind myself that I'm not setting up a home-theater system, but something to bring me into the music.

Try Gary Karr adagio albiinoni album, the sound stage of this album should fill your room, front to back, side to side. Up and down.

$300 on Impex! I had the pleasure of hearing it on the Acora Acoustics SRC1

Gary Karr adagio albiinoni