Soundstage, Imaging, Detail & Presence??

Ok, please define what these term actually mean when I'm listening to a speaker.
Detail is when you can hear mosquito's fart
Imaging when speakers dissapear.
Presence is opposite of absence.
Detail= Low level resolution, meaning, not at a low volume, but that background details, which are at a lower dynamic, are presented with the same clairity as foreground info. But that's only the beginning...great detail also gives information without that overly etched sound, which IMHO can be fatiguing. It's 'all' apparently there...with great focus, like taking that lens on the camera and making the final tweak, to bring everything together in perfect focus.
Imaging=Change audio into the visual medium and ask yourself can I visualize what I'm hearing...does it 'paint a vivid picture', that being orchestra, locations of instruments, juxtaposition of instruments in a jazz combo, and the distances between being rendered in what you think to be accurate proportions.
Presence=Think halographic...'Help me Obi Wan you're my only hope'..a female vocalist is standing before you in a time and place in space. Shockingly so....sometimes great, great tubes render this for me, better than anything else--the effect is stunning and keeps me comming back for more every time.

Good luck and good listening...

Larry offers good definitions
Adding that soundstage is the area that one can hear/sense the image of the music in.
The soundstage can be small, large, actually wider than the speakers, foreshortened, or deep. With the balance off the soundstage can be tilted to one side.
Stereo comes from the Greek word, stereos, meaning 'solid'.
Hopefully, if detail, imaging and presence gives one the illusion of a live event or at least, of something real happening in front of you, then Bob's your uncle; you're not in Kansas anymore.
These are things most audiophiles never find.
Nice post! your description of presence mirrors my experiences, this is what triggered my transition from solid state systems to push-pull tubes and finally to SET tube amplifiers. The sense of live 3D performers and the ability to recreate the original venue is powerful and addictive. Once experienced I could`nt go back to lesser presentations anymore.
I remember my first 'tube' experience.
I had opened a high end audio store in Louisville, KY.
Bill Conrad kept calling, trying to get me to sell cj products. He's such a sweet guy, how could anyone object to doing business with him?
Anyway, when I got a PV-5 in, 'circa 1983'...I noticed the extreme heat and smell of the tubes...then I was thunderstruck by the 'space', 'space within space' and the overall presentation being on a whole different planet in terms of low level resolution...that, and the overall 'smoothness'...I was hooked...still am.

As I tell fledgling audiophiles, 'Tubes is great'! lol.

Lrsky, Amen brother.
Lrsky nailed it.

The first time I heard tubed cj products was the very late 70's at a great dealer in upstate NY.

Totally convinced me that tubes are IT.
03-22-11: Lrsky
"Presence=Think halographic...'Help me Obi Wan you're my only hope'..a female vocalist is standing before you in a time and place in space."

I always think of the Star Trek transporter - Like this thing just appears before you, it doesn't play AT you. But the Obi Wan thing works, too. This is what I get from my SET that I was not able to get from other types of systems. (Not saying you can't, just saying I couldn't)
I suspect the speakers and acoustic environment of the room have far more to do with presence than tubes v. solid state. I've often wondered how fundamentalism survives scientific explanation, but the controversy over analog v. digital whether it be tubes v solid state or vinyl v. disc suggests that a need for mysticism may be part of the human experience.

No need for mysticism, many wise listeners have learned to trust their precious god given ears. Much of audio and acoustics can`t adequately be explained by science amd measurements(yet). Fortunately we have are ears which have evolved and developed over millions of years to show us the way. Scientific explanations often lag far behind what people experience in many endeavours and daily living(examples are to numerous to list). As of now our ears are the best tools we have when it comes to determing sound quality.
03-23-11: Dbphd
"I suspect the speakers and acoustic environment of the room have far more to do with presence than tubes v. solid state"

I agree, but I also agree with Charles1. It all needs to work together and listening trumps measurement or theory.
btw: Neither tubes nor SS are digital.
I'll take a crack at it...

1. Imaging: The perception of individual instruments/voices in physical space, including their position, boundaries, and size.

2. Soundstaging: The perception of the overall layout of instruments/voices in physical space, including the spatial dimensions and ambient characteristics of the recording space.

3. Presence: The perception of "realism" or "lifelikeness" of instruments/voices, whether in the form of "they are here" or in the form of "you are there."

4. Detail: The perception of resolution, whether real or apparent.

As I have defined them, imaging and soundstaging are interrelated, and presence and detail are interrelated.

We all speak the same language...don't we?

Soundstage: The illusion of looking at an actual stage, some are wide or deep, some may me very small, but your system should duplicate the actual stage.
Imaging: A systems ability to let you see where singers, instruments, etc are within the soundstage. Up close, far back, a bit to the left and so forth.

Detail: To hear the resonance on a violin bow, not just hearing the violin, to hear the air moving through a saxaphone and real detail is hearing going through the sax . Also very define edges on where placement of instruments are on stage, these all show detail.

Presence: To feel that what you are listening to is in your room, or if you can close your eyes and imagine your presence there. Presence is Realism.
Someones examples should click with you.....If not, time for some new gear.
Charles your post is full of contradiction,
No need for mysticism
god given ears
Doesn't the idea of god invoke mysticism?
Then you go on to suggest that our ears have evolved. Weren't they given to us by god? Or maybe the ears that god gave us millions of years ago were less than perfect and have improved through evolution.
Sorry I couldn't help myself!

One day Larry had a room and a SS amp, speakers, a sources, cables, power conditoners and whatever else. Then a sales rep shows up in his room with a tube amp. The amps are swapped, and the "presence" is improved as perceived by Larry. On this basis, the room does not come into question, nor do any of the other components of the system.

The problem is not that "Science" can't measure the subtle differences, the problem as I see it is that there are so many factors at play that are interelated that it becomes extremely difficult to setup an experiment or model that can test the effects of each and every factor in relation to all the others given all the possible permutations and combinations.

In the end Charles I agree with you it comes down to using your ears (the god given ones or the evolved ones) to determine your personal preference through a process more a kin to art than pure science.
Sebrof, in rereading my previous post I realize my verbiage was a bit confusing. What I had intended to convey is that there seems to be two camps. What I might call the the analog camp favors tubes and vinyl; the digital camp, along with those who don't give a damn, favor solid state and discs.

One can argue the merits of tubes/solid state or vinyl/discs as they perceive them, but the fact is that auditory memory for detail is quite poor; we're much better at auditory classification. That makes sense, because the prime purpose of our hearing throughout its development has been to distinguish between the sounds of organisms we might eat and those that might eat us. Music, on the evolutionary scheme is very new.

Nick, the simple point is our ears are great and can perceive the many nuances and subtle characteristics in music that as of yet can`t be quantified with measurements. These characteristics are what attract us to music and evoke the emotional responses that are so enjoyable. I`ll leave the creation/evolution debate to you, as it`s irrelavant to this thread.
Best Regards,
That sentence, beautifully constructed,"...the simple point is our ears are great and can perceive the many nuances and subtle characteristics in music that as of yet can`t be quantified with measurements." so true as to be the crux of many disagreements.
Back in the day, I used to ask Jim Thiel why he didn't use better caps and air core inductors, resisters, etc, in his crossovers. He would coyly say, 'Because they measure as they do with the components I'm using.'

That was all well and good--but then the next day, I'd be talking to Bill Conrad of cj, and he'd be waxing poetically about the caps they were having made to their specs and how they spent hours deciding which cap goes where and so on. I was confused and frustrated with Jim, one of my icons.

Many years later, I realized that the 'pragmatic' business side of Jim was simply winning the battle for saving the world from bad audio, and keeping THIEL Audio in business.
Every, we'll call it 'additional' penny(s) a manufacturer spends on internal parts, is a penny that doesn't come back as profits. So, if a $.58 piece of stuff works, why spend $4.35?

It wasn't until the twilight of Jim's life that he publically changed that position by making the CS2.4SE. As you may know, it offered upgraded parts in the crossovers.
When interviewed, Jim said, 'Well, there are some things that can't be measured, but exist in audio.' I'm paraphrasing, but that's the intent of the comments.
These speakers came out AFTER my LSA Statements hit the streets, AND after Sherry Graham (formerly of THIEL and new owner of LSA speakers) came to work for LSA. There may have been NO correllation, but anyone who's heard the LSA1 or LSA2 Standard/Signature/Statements can easily attest to the differences, the ENORMOUS differences that higher quality parts can make in circuitry.
Hell, two carefully chose Amprex 6dj8 tubes Circa 1962 in my Statement LSA Amp, even using the ridiculously expensive parts we use, 'transform' that amp into another realm.

There was a transmission commercial on TV years ago, touting the quality of parts that a company used...the 'stupid guy' trying to make the opposite point, says, 'Parts is Parts'! That always resonated with me.
Great comment Charles1dad.

Larry, thanks for the kind comments and for sharing such an insightful experience you had with the late Jim Thiel.I have much respect for engineers and scientists, but when it comes to audio there`s still so much that has yet to be explained or understood completely.Those who rely "exclusively" on the measurables and down play what we can clearly "hear" are in a state of denial IMO.
In many recordings, those terms are artificial and imaginary. In some good live recordings, a bit less so. It's not that multi-microphone, multi-track can't recreate an audience perspective, but it's recreated. "Don't look behind the curtain". Stereo IS subtle deception.

In the reproduction chain, various equalization, distortion, room interaction and time smearing can enhance or detract from ambience and all those terms.

You can't always trust your ears but what else are you going to suspend of disbelieve.
"These are things most audiophiles never find"

Actually Buconero 117 this is not true, if you follow the tube path to find them. I'm not sure it can be realized with ss, at least I haven't heard it but then again I expect it would be extremely pricey if it does exist going that road.

Paraphrasing someone telling me a long time ago that "when you can connect to the music with your poor recordings as well as the great ones you have arrived.
Forget those terms, and RUN while you still can !

Why? Because over the years,for me, those terms had become like a vacuum, sucking me into ANALYZING the sound instead of ENJOYING the artists reproduced through my system.

While the usual audio terms do define specific things, and are used and promoted greatly by the ''reviewers'' in audio rags, which have a tendency to describe $ 3,000 speaker cables and $ 20,000 amplifiers as ''affordable'' and as if they were actual people,(they are not, our families and friends are) I think there is only ONE term that should be used most of the time with anything regarding our audio systems.

That would be the word ''Enjoyment''

As in, am I enyoying this or not ?

Think about it...
Have to agree...these are largely rhetoric perpetuated by audio mags...remember when PRAT was a buzzword not too long ago? When equipment and terminology become more important than quality music its game over....
As much as I agree with Soniqmike and Phasecorrect that the sound is soooo much more important than those terms, I can still appreciate the op wanting to be able to sit in on discussions of the strengths and weaknesses of different equipment where these terms are mandatory.
Ngjockey...sometimes I get caught up in the 'comment' side of this, that I fail to 'carefully' read...then analyze the intent and deep meanings of the well written posts.
Its not that his post is Zen-like, its simply that what he says, captures the essence of this topic.
When I ascribed my adjectives to this, I meant it as part of the 'total listening experience' in which we try to, (if you're a good audiophile) close our eyes and 'pretend' that we're 'there', not 'here'.
Studio recordings, if well done, place the singer (Renee Olstead) in the, at least, close center, out a bit in using volume and the old 50/50% in each speaker, allowing our ears/brain to do the rest.
Then to lesser degrees, % of volume and such, others are placed in the sound stage. It's fun, but to use Ngjocky's words which are elegant and simple (and perfect for this) 'artificial and imaginary'.
This past Sunday, I was invited to a concert that a friend was conducting, a 40 piece 'BAND' strings.
During it, of course, I closed my eyes, pretending it was home stereo, (how 'bout that for full circle irony).
What was missing was pretty amazing.
Very little of the instrument specificity, (that may be something we simply 'apply' in orchestral works)in terms of location.
The MAIN thing missing (at home) is dynamic contrast. The zero to 115+db (and more) was startling. That, and the scaling of the various instruments and how different they are in that dynamic contrasting...piccalos are really, really dynamic, at least, they 'cut through', (no doubt a function of their place on the pitch scale and the human hearing 'curve') all the other instruments. Nature's way of allowing the piccalo to say, 'Here I am', even if I am a fraction the size of a Tuba!

All in all, it was a reminder of what Ngjockey said, AND how important it is to hear, (for me at least) accoustic music played. Moreover, it may, may have been a really good commercial for Horn Speakers--at least the dynamics made it a reminder.

Good listening,