Soundstaging and Imaging: Not an Illusion


A recent topic Soundstaging and Imaging: The Delusion about The Illusion
https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/soundstaging-and-imaging-the-delusion-about-the-illusion asked
"Yet, is a recording’s soundstage and imaging of individual participants, whether musicians or vocalists, things that one can truly perceive or are they merely illusions that we all are imagining as some sort of delusion?"

It is no more an illusion than is playback in general.

An engineer may close mic, adding mix effects to simulate room acoustics. Or may use a microphone technique to capture the correct proportion of direct to reflected sound to accurately delineate the recording space on a capable playback system. Each has its advantages. The first allows control after the event enabling wart removal. The latter requires at least movement perfection. It is almost impossible to edit live performances seamlessly, albeit easier with today’s digital tools than with times past razor blade.

On a capable playback system there is no mistaking Carnegie, Albert, La Scala acoustic for digital wizardry. It is effortless to upscale the 3m x2m inter-speaker dimension to La Scala’s 16.15m d x 20.4m w x 26m h stage. It is similarly effortless for any acoustic space, artificial or otherwise. Badly done material is properly presented as a mish-mash of one-dimensional sources floating in conflicting spaces.

When upon first hearing a system, musicians and live acoustic music listeners are instantly beguiled and comment on the liveness, spaciousness, realism of the presentation, making comments like "It’s just like Joe Pass is sitting there" or "Who needs to go to concerts?" or "I can ’see’ the whole orchestra and every section in it!", it is unlikely they are all deluded.

It is my belief that those familiar with live, acoustic music, when presented with enough clues of the space acoustics have no problem fleshing it out and transporting them. On systems with poor or confused clue presentation, the brain gives up trying.

In a system which presents clues well, a component swap may alter the presentation, but is unlikely to destroy it unless the piece is egregiously awful. In an incapable system, either by design or setup, offhand changes may make a difference, but are not likely to effect a transformation. One has to start from first principles with components and setup < read ROOM > that can be proven to be capable of presenting a realistic soundstage from any source. Dimensionless material MUST be presented so. If it isn’t, there is zero chance of it presenting anything properly!

Too often, store demos present an expansive blur that properly should be presented as a cardboard cutout. The customer falsely equates $K with accuracy and thus the circle begins anew.

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.” - Richard Feynmann, 1974
0899b98f 2bdb 4d32 8a57 57d7646e10d5ieales
The key to a realistic sound stage and imaging is to work to lower the noise floor. Particular attention has to be paid to a myriad of things to get there. 

First, concentrate on micro-vibrations. Everything vibrates ... tubes, caps, resistors, turntables, equipment racks and each individual electrical component, including the chassis. 

Second, treat the room. Do you have hardwood floors that look like bowling lanes? Get some nice carpets and lay them on the floor. There are tons of products and tweaks that deal with rooms. Tube Traps, Shakti Holographs, SR HFT's are just a few, and they have a profound effect in controlling room anomalies.

Third, Speaker placement. Precise measurements need to be done to assure proper placement. Each speaker should be the same distance from the listening chair. Tow-in of the speaker is important. Moving the speakers out into the room, instead of having them flush against the wall is important.

Fourth, Explore various tweaks that lower the noise floor. Getting to the micro-vibrations as stated above will really help here, but there is plenty of help to be gained by tweaks, such as the Perfect Path Technologies products, all designed to do one thing ... lowering the electronic noise and hash coming through the system via the electrical power lines.  SR's aftermarket Black and Blue fuses also lower noise. A good power conditioner is another option. 

Once all of the above is taken care of, and only then, should one consider upgrading to more expensive equipment, including cables. Take care of the basics, and you just may find that there is no need at all to upgrade your electronics.

Frank 
I would put speaker placement first. Other than that, what he said.
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 I agree with the OP regarding acoustic music. For realistic imaging and soundstaging it begins at the the source; recording the instruments and venue properly. With proper mic placement and recording techniques, the location of instruments in space and the ambience of the hall will playback with a realistic 3D image if the home system is set up properly.

If you listen to an orchestra or jazz combo from the back of an empty venue, you hear the dimension and ambience of the hall.


As confirmation in regard to how far room treatment can go, I had a problem that couldn't be solved no matter what I did; the right channel was louder than the left. Now this was the way it sounded from my listening chair.

All equipment plus speakers were putting out equal volume; that took a lot of hard work to confirm. I just gave up and began to turn the left volume sky high, but that wasn't right either. Finally I began following others suggestions on room treatment, and started getting results. The problem was a sliding glass door on the left wall, when I insulated it over, the problem was solved and I had holographic sound without changing a component or moving a speaker.
The same applies to recording jazz or classical in a studio. It’s easy to tell when close mic techniques are applied and recording the instruments separately is done. Adding reverb and post effects can’t simulate the ambience of a band playing together in the same room.

This this the starting point for a reproducing realistic imaging and soundstaging.
As always, the listening room must be treated and equipment must be up to the task of reproducing what's on the recording.
Whenever imaging or soundstage are mentioned, I like to remind people about these resources: 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. (https://www.audiocheck.net/audiotests_ledr.php) and (https://www.amazon.com/Chesky-Records-Sampler-Audiophile-Compact/dp/B000003GF3) The shape of your ears’ pinnae is also a variable, regarding your ability to perceive images/locate sounds. A Stereophile article, that explains the LEDR test: http://www.stereophile.com/features/772/

These are great threads, not so much because the methods are agreed upon but that the ingredients to great staging are being talked about.

Here's a biggie

"First, concentrate on micro-vibrations. Everything vibrates ... tubes, caps, resistors, turntables, equipment racks and each individual electrical component, including the chassis."

Learning how variable these parts and pieces are is major.

mg

The only good vibration is a dead vibration. 

🤗
I can name many speaker brands where I agree with Mr Kait ... something never anticipated

I didn't mean to give the impression that all you have to do in order to get holographic sound is to treat the room; that was after 30 years of hard labor in the high end arena.

I'm more of a beach boy on this one.

"I'm picking up good vibrations"

mg

I am in complete disagreement with the OP.
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Glad I listen in a holographic, High-Def, 3D world. I’ve always found cardboard ships, on cardboard seas, BORRRRING! My stuff’s more like going to a play, than a slide-show.
@viridian
I am in complete disagreement with the OP.
I made several points. Do you disagree with everything?
Does everything sound the same on all systems?
Do no recordings ever present any sense of depth?
Do all/no systems present depth?

@ kosst_amojan
Since there’s no such thing as "soundstaging"
Perhaps I should have titled it "Soundstage and Depth"?
Does that mean that you only hear X or X&Y with never any Z dimension?

@rodman99999
Glad I listen in a holographic, High-Def, 3D world.
Some people are colorblind. Perhaps some are incapable, either through defect or injury, of hearing the aural clues to a 3D presentation. That could go a long way towards explaining how some hear no difference in electronics and cables.
As an admitted interloper to this thread, I would suggest having detailed recording studio notes for every recording. I would then calibrate my audio system in accordance of those notes so that I maximize the potential from each recording on reproduction. 
But I agree with lowering the noise floor of the audio system, including the induced vibrations created by the audio system. Kudos to those who posted similar comments. 
Yes, I disagree with all of it, from my perspective. And that is not to say that your perspective is not equally, or more valid. We each tune our systems the way we want and if you wish to hear images more power to you.

I am not an audiophile, just a music lover, but I go to the concert hall with some regularity. I don’t hear the pinpoint imaging, and depth and the rest of it, even in the first row.

But Marty, the system is just accurately revealing the artifacts captured at the mike positions that’s there on the recording! Scarlet, I don’t give a damn. I don’t want accuracy to the recording I want a generalized experience of the concert hall. Which is why I listen in mono. Audiophiles sometimes confuse artifacts of the recording process with music. They are not music, though for some, they may enhance the musical experience. Not me.

Since you are the arbiter of what a capable system is you say that one should be able to tell Carnegie from Avery Fisher to name two halls that I grew up listening in. I find this a forrest for the trees concept. I have heard many of these finely imaging systems where it is quite hard to tell a clarinet from an oboe. The dynamic envelopes are not correctly rendered, tone truncated. In my world, telling a clarinet from an oboe is a hallmark of a fine system, for me. I would not be so presumptuous as to tell others what will satisfy them.

And I really lay it at the feet of the audio magazines, in the 1970s when they started focusing on all of this imaging stuff to the exclusion of tone, dynamics and touch. It is a highly personal thing, but when you listen to the best speakers of the 1960s, and then the best speakers of the late 1970s you quickly understand how the Hifi mags actually changed the sound of loudspeakers. Yes, they imaged like crazy, but much was given up in the process. Clearly, most bought in to the flavor of the new spread, which leaves me an outlier.

The whole thing is an illusion. If there are actual dead musicians playing in your house, kindly bury them before they start to smell. It is a parlor trick. Though a most enjoyable one.


"Did somebody say Beach Boys?! "

https://youtu.be/uVlSVkzbJDA


yeah man, excellent!!

Great clip Michael, thanks for that!

This is great!! We're seeing some serious "soundstagers" coming up and posting. What a difference when you enter that world, a whole different hobby appears. And there's no going back.

I don't know how it is for anyone else but when I read someone doing the real deal it makes a mental note in my head "they're one of the cool kids". it's like an instant click and then from then on you can relate to where they're at when they talk about music.

I get to live in that world all day long every day all over the world and it's a blast. We do soundstage referencing, way cool.

Great thread and great posting!

mg

Hi viridian

Geoff share that, very good stuff!

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The MG share of The Beach Boys recording pretty much proves my point about needing recording notes (in that case, about the sound mixing board final cut). How can one interpret a reproduced recording absent that info?

I am in agreement with much of @viridian’s above-stated opinions regarding imaging/soundstaging. That aspect of reproduced music has never been a high priority more me, and I found Harry Pearson’s (and the rest of the original TAS reviewers) obsession with it way out of proportion in terms of it’s musical significance and importance.

In spite of that, I must say that when I heard the sound Michael Greene got in his room at a mid-90’s CES (or was it a Stereophile Show?), my standard for what was possible in that regard was seriously elevated. MG had located his loudspeaker pair and listening position way out in the room, well away from any and all walls. He also positioned the speakers further apart than common, in a roughly equilateral triangle instead of the isosceles more commonly seen, and located the listening chair somewhat closer to the speakers than do most. He then installed his Room Tune acoustic products at various locations in the room.

The result was not only the best imaging I’d ever heard from a hi-fi system, but also instruments and voices more palpable and full fleshed-out than I had ever before heard reproduced. Each instrument and voice had a size and presence to it, each image with a 3-D "roundness", full and weighty. Now that I DO consider musically significant and important! I have ever since setup my loudspeakers in an equilateral triangle, and sit about 8’ from them.

costco_emoji
I don’t indulge in snake oil and tweaks like isolation and crazy power cords or special racks so I know that crap makes no difference. Well placed competent speakers in a thoughtfully treated room gets the job done from my chair. No hocus pocus gizmos or formulas.

>>>>Spot the logical fallacy. If you never tried snake oil and tweaks like isolation and crazy power cords or special racks how do you know that crap makes no difference. Are you listening to yourself? 😃
Oops, Green not Greene!
celander1,091 posts03-20-2019 1:54amThe MG share of The Beach Boys recording pretty much proves my point about needing recording notes (in that case, about the sound mixing board final cut). How can one interpret a reproduced recording absent that info?

>>>>>You’re welcome. 

Hey bdp24

What did we listen to, do you remember? Was it during hours or after hours?

wasn't that a blast, had so much fun at those shows back then. everyone was so cool

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I go to the concert hall with some regularity. I don’t hear the pinpoint imaging, and depth and the rest of it, even in the first row.
Ditto on the concert hall, tonight in fact. Imaging is not pinpoint, but depth? Surely you don't mean the oboe is sonically sitting atop the tympani?

telling a clarinet from an oboe is a hallmark of a fine system
Any system that doesn't distinguish between them is LoFi and not worthy of our time. Any system worth listening has no problem delineating Cor Anglais and Oboe or Clarinet and Basset Clarinet. A decent system can resolve the different between a Telefunken C12 and Neumann U47 on the same vocalist in the same studio. None of this has anything to do with imaging.

It's all imaging to me.
Of course it is. However, a great many very expensive systems have very little Y and no Z whatsoever. I could walk blindfolded and touch every driver in the box in those systems. "Imaging" is the complete disappearance of the transducers and the illusion  that I could walk around the vocalist, back into the band and tweak the mic on the hi-hat to get just a tad less stick. In an orchestra there should be daylight between the tympani, bass drum and percussion and the 2nd violins or horns in front of them. They should probably be in a shallow arc at the back of the image and about 5-10m back behind my media room wall. They must not move when dynamics change from ppp to ffff. The image should scale appropriately from soloist through quartet, 30, 40 to Mahler's 8th. 

I found Harry Pearson’s ... obsession with it way out of proportion in terms of it’s musical significance and importance
Taken to its logical conclusion, nothing matters at all. The better a systems resolves, the easier it is to be transported. It is far less effort to listen when the imaging is correct. For multi-mono, artificial ambience pop, it's probably irrelevant. However, great pop engineers - Geoff Emerick, Roger Nichols, Alan Parsons, Ken Scott,  - created sonic dioramas to compliment the music.
kosst_amojan2,129 posts03-20-2019 11:36am@geoffkait

If I can get the results I get without using the crap some people claim I need that crap to get without using that crap, then their claims about that crap are clearly fiction. There’s no logical fallacy there at all. It’s the exact opposite. It’s pure logic.

>>>>It’s not only a logical fallacy. It’s also a Narcissus complex. I never met an audiophile yet who didn’t think his system was the greatest. But I’ll be the judge of that. 
Forget about silly alleged "micro vibrations" and pseudo science remedies, own some furniture and rugs, move the speakers and maybe a sub or two around until they sound good, and relax and listen to some music. 
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geoffkait14,385 posts03-20-2019 4:30amcostco_emoji
I don’t indulge in snake oil and tweaks like isolation and crazy power cords or special racks so I know that crap makes no difference. Well placed competent speakers in a thoughtfully treated room gets the job done from my chair. No hocus pocus gizmos or formulas.

>>>>Spot the logical fallacy. If you never tried snake oil and tweaks like isolation and crazy power cords or special racks how do you know that crap makes no difference. Are you listening to yourself? 😃

Thanks for the humor geoff. Ha ha ha That’s exactly what I though when I read that. I am glad that comment and his follow up comments make sense to him.
@marqmike -     +1



























































Geoff, thanks for sharing the BB Youtube video clip. Got the attribution wrong. 
rodman9999, -1 for wasting all that white space.



















































































































I don't know about vibrations, but there is one recording that tells me straight away that it was recorded correctly and whether the Audio System itself can produce depth in soundstage (and dynamics) and that is Symphony Fantastique, Berlioz's March to the Scaffold.  This same recording I heard on various systems, on systems where there is no depth in soundstage it can sound very flat, repititive and boring. On systems that can do depth in soundstage the same piece of music comes alive, full of tension and drama; a small thriller in music.

I presume this thread is about recordings, as I was thinking how do we perceive as an audience in a live Classical concert the image and soundstage?  Are the recording engineers trying to replicate the  above mentioned live sound or trying to create the best image and soundstage that an audio system can present to the listener at home comfortable in his or her armchair?
Think of micro-vibrations like germs. You can’t see them but they’re everywhere. Skepticism is oft laziness’ ugly sister. What’s required is a plan, a long term approach to suppress, constrain, absorb, dissipate, destroy by any means available all micro-vibrations in the system and the room. The walls, floor, wall outlets, cables, printed circuit boards, capacitors, CD transport mechanism, windows, what have you. The only good vibration is a dead vibration. 💀 Or at least a seriously wounded vibration. 🤕 Otherwise, you can never escape and get out of the noise floor. If LIGO didn’t get rid of micro-vibrations they would never have been able to detect gravity waves that have frequencies between 0 and 100 Hz and amplitudes on the order of an atomic nucleus.
geoffkait,

"I never met an audiophile yet who didn’t think his system was the greatest."
Get out, meet people. If you met a few who come around here, you would need to rethink your statement. Of course, you could always say we are not audiophiles. Which is almost a compliment.

(Was that "yet" placed there for rhyme?)
Is Gk off his meds again today?

I’ve started this thread

http://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/vibratory-or-not

I hope you guys will visit it and give your thoughts. I’ve reintroduced this thought a few times here and see it being talked about often but it still needs clarity. Basically if the audio performance of a component changes anywhere along the chain how is this done without a vibratory interaction?

ieales said:

It is my belief that those familiar with live, acoustic music, when presented with enough clues of the space acoustics have no problem fleshing it out and transporting them. On systems with poor or confused clue presentation, the brain gives up trying

This has been my experience also,even with orchestral music on some recordings,mono or stereo.It's very easy to hear on very old live recordings of two or three musicians in a studio or on stage.The lower the noise floor became as my system evolved over the years,the more palpable the presentation became.
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