Speaker disappearing act?


There's new $25k per pair speaker, that according to everyone who matters, disappears? I've heard this disappearing act before, but what, if any does it have to do with the quality of the sound? If you're blind, or close your eyes when you listen to music, does that eliminate the need for a total disappearing act? I know what they mean by speakers "disappearing" but can it be overkill in the descriptive sense, considering there are oodles of other factors that are important in describing a speaker/quality of sound. Have you ever listened to a pair of speakers that are drop dead amazing, but when you open your eyes they may not be the purest "disappearing" act you thought? Does that matter?
warrenh
It's another audiophile term that could me nothing. When I hear speakers that disappear, I don't hear speakers at all. I simply recognize that there is music in the room that sounds very good, but don't think about speakers.

A speaker that "disappears" is a very good one in my book. One of the highest compliments I personally could give a speaker.
Cables, amps and sources also contribute to the invisible speaker! It is result of great imaging and a large soundstage.
I think it all boils down to personal taste. Everything in life is a compromise and when there is something good, there is something bad that comes along with it. If the bad is one of your personal favorites, then the good may not be worth it to you. Love what you love and be done with it. peace.

Arthur
I had some very well regarded speakers with mid-fi equipment . The speakers did indeed disappear . The soundstage was the best that I have heard . Every musician had their own place and space , they were all over my back and side walls . If the software provided that , it was like sitting in the 5th row .
But , I did not like the sound of the system as it did not have any heart !
My current system sounds wonderful but , I think due to the setup , does not have anywhere near the soundstage of the other one .
I have to agree with Aball on this one .
Most audiophiles mean "speaker disappearing" in a virtual sense, however, as I will explain, there is actually a way to make speakers REALLY disappear. If you are interested to learn how to do this then read on...

The sense you have of speaker location is very often a combined effect of baffle edge diffraction and driver dispersion. Consider that the acoustic wave will fold around the edge of the speaker box and at this point will produce some diffraction; imagine a wave flowing along a river that empties into a larger harbour => the wave suddenly loses energy as it spreads out around the mouth. An acoustic wave does the same as it goes from a "half-space", the space in front of the speaker baffle, to "whole-space' as it encounters unrestricted space beyond the edges of the speaker box.

Generally a very small box or tall narrow speaker will disappear better than a larger box speaker because the diffraction, although severe in this case, will occur very close to the primary sound and becomes less distinguishable. (Bose cube speakers use this technique to good effect, as does Gallo) A triangular shaped baffle can sometimes help in a big box speaker, furthermore, big box speakers can have the mid and tweeter drivers placed off centre in order to reduce the audibility of edge diffraction. The worst cases of edge diffraction leave one with a "claustrophobic" impression of the sound....a good design will sound "open" sometimes described as the "disappearing act".

Assuming good high end speakers all have drivers with excellent dispersion then the box shape, size and smoothness of corners etc. becomes the most significant factor. (Although a less dispersive driver can reduce edge diffraction effects by focussing more energy straight in front, this creates other serious problems such as a very narrow sweet spot and a rather unnatural sound - generally narrow dispersion speakers are rare at the high end...although Dunlavvy SC IVs are a famous example)

The big problem with using very small or narrow "disappearing" speakers is that they employ small drivers => the trade off is higher distortion (particularly in the bass and lower mid), poor dynamics, and poor performance at higher (live music) volume levels. However, for nearfield listening at close range (most domestic situations) this design is clearly the most popular in the industry today.

Fortunately there is a solution to "disappearing act" in a big box speaker => soffit mount the big speakers in to a wall. This completely eliminates the edge diffraction problem altogether (note that even small narrow speakers still have edge diffraction problems even if these are not as intrusive as with their bigger bretheren). To understand this you probably need to experience it first hand and unfortunately this is not something you will find on a Hi-FI show room floor. However, a web search and perusal of almost any high end studio's main monitor installations will confirm that soffit mounting is a popular solution for big box speaker installations. (Pros want the best dynamics and best accuracy at live music levels but without any edge diffraction problems.) To see that this is true you only need to think about it. A soffit mounted speaker has physically DISAPPEARED, as there is only a wall left with drivers in it! A soffit mount is no imitation of the speaker "disappearing act" through careful baffle/box design....it simply is no speaker at all or an "infinite speaker" if you like. Only the diffraction and dispersion of the drivers themselves remains.
I agree wit S7horton, and I think it applies to all audio components. The best ones are the ones you "don't hear", and you know it when you hear it. If you know what I mean :-)
My speakers not only disappear they are also very holographic. The down side is that when playing a very fine LP things can get out of hand. The other night I was playing the new Allison Krauss Live LP. Not only did the speakers disappear but the whole stereo system as well. Then the band started to take shape in the room, it was if I was at a live concert. It was great for awhile, then the album ended and the band drank all my beer! I had a real chore cleaning the place up the next morning as well. I'm going to have to change cables or something to keep these people out of my house or I'm going to go bankrupt, musicians drink a lot of beer.
I think that for many of us, the goal we set for our equipment is to have it sound as little like equipment as possible. A speaker calling attention to itself by saying "Yo, I'm right here, dummy" will surely be perceived as a mechanical piece of audio equipment and will not further the "deception" that we're after.

Gotta agree w/ S7
Certainly one does not have to spend $25K on speakers to get this disappearing act to happen. Many fine manufacturers design and make speakers that sell for far less, particularly those made by Thiel and Vandersteen.
Davt- I hear that Jerry Douglas can really knock back a few...
Warren,

You should know what a disappearing speaker is. My Caravelle's completely disappear when I have them set up correctly. I just sit there wondering why I have these two boxes sitting there in the middle of my soundstage.

Chuck
I have fairly big conventional box speakers, and find that if I place my wife directly behind either the left or right speaker, I can get HER to disappear for a while. This may not work with a larger wife though - unless you have planar speakers.
It's like magic (not magico) and that's part of the appeal.
"The big problem with using very small or narrow "disappearing" speakers is that they employ small drivers => the trade off is higher distortion (particularly in the bass and lower mid), poor dynamics, and poor performance at higher (live music) volume levels. However, for nearfield listening at close range (most domestic situations) this design is clearly the most popular in the industry today."

The Dynaudio S3.4 comes to mind, as it is only 7.5 inches wide, and has two 17 cm (6.5 in) woofers...anyway this is a very remarkable, serious high end loud speaker. It can fully "dissapper" in the sense that when you look at the speakers during play, they seem like they have nothing to do with the enveloping soundfield all around you, and they can play loud as hell with very deep well defined bass. They are very thoughtfully designed/manufactured and have to be one of the best values capturing modern speaker design, available. And this at 9-10 feet from them, not what I call near field for 1st order designs.

I happen to have their little brothers, the contour 1.8 MK II's, that also image well, but do not go as deep or as unrestrained during super loud passages.

AGain, both of these are fine examples that one need not spend 25K on speakers to get the dissapearing act. Sure you can do it, but your speakers are not the only things dissapearing at that point (savings account balance anyone ;) )

Happy Holidays All
each to his own. i don't care where the music comes from. if an instrument sounds real, its sound can come from the left speaker. i think the disappearing act is over rated.

it is not important to me. neither is soundstage. its not real and doesn't represent a real-life musical experience.

get the timbre right and all else is unimportant. gotta have that timbre !
I think I agree with just about everything you guys are saying. I did a post a while back trying to ask other members to describe their soundstage. Granted that is hard to do, but also so very interesting to hear about. I once stuck an old Luxman receiver in my system. The soundstage moved back and sort of outside my window. Interesting. Davt, I also bought the Krause Live LP set. One terrific recording and incredibly talented band. Do you also have the New Favorite CD, and where is the banjo player if you do? My speakers disappear based on the quality of the recording, is what I experience.
I heard all about speaker disappearing while listening.One time i did not listen to my wife to closed the back sliding door when i came home everything dissapear all stolen."Just joking guy's " CHEERS..CHEERS!!!Just to greet you all .
*********HAPPY HOLIDAYS********
Question of the day?
at any price, an exageration
get the timbre right and all else is unimportant. gotta have that timbre !

I agree with the last part of this statement. Correct timbre is a much higher priority than a disappearing speaker. However, I am not sure that everything other than timbre is unimportant. Distortion, dispersion, dynamic range, frequency response, transient response are also important, just to name a few.
"Have you ever listened to a pair of speakers that are drop dead amazing, but when you open your eyes they may not be the purest "disappearing" act you thought? Does that matter?"
-Warrenh

"Everything in life is a compromise and when there is something good, there is something bad that comes along with it."
Arthur
My (admittedly subjective) experience has been very different: Tonal and timbral accuracy have generally correlated rather closely with superior soundstaging capabilities. There may be some speakers that shine more brightly in one area than the other, but GREAT speakers have tended to do EVERYTHING very well.
i've had some nice speakers over the years; they all imaged pretty well, but admittedly none of them performed at the level where i couldn't tell where in the room they were located. BUT, they all excelled at bringing out the textures of instruments/voices. now i could have, with the help of some friends, tried moving the speakers around inch by inch and perhaps gotten better results in getting them to disappear, but a decent stereo image has somehow been "enough" for me, especially considering the burden of moving 100-200 lbs. of speaker around.
NOW, usually it happens at the local wilson audio dealer that, regardless of the "wilson sound" good or bad, they can usually position them where i REALLY CANNOT TELL where they are. i just do not feel this alone is the last word in motivating a loudspeaker purchase. it certainly is uncanny, no doubt about it.
I disagree with people who say speakers can't disappear. I have a set of Hornshoppe Horns and I challenge anyone who is six feet away form them to point out where they are blindfolded. OK, you can tell they are in front of you more than in back. They image incredibly well.

On the other hand, crank up a pair of Anthony Gallo Micro's and I challenge you to find them uless you are with 2 - 3 feet (except for that front position thing). They are amazing.

Set up a home theater with Gallos and you simply cannot tell where they are. They are as close to point-sources as I have heard. Of course, they don't work well under about 100Hz - and if you drive them with an unfiltered signal with any low frequency, they will 'go-boom' rather rapidly...
Interesting question as I am struggling with this very issue my setup. For me, diasappearing means that I do not hear anything directly from the speakers. In my friend's setup, the soundstage is taller than his speakers. Because of this, I am able to hear things behind and to the sides of the speakers, giving a great sense of depth and width. Rarely do i hear anything from the speakers themselves. Conversely, in my setup, my soundstage is right at the tweeter height. Because of this, I never hear anything that is deeper or behind the speakers. I am not sure why my soundstage is so low. I know my speakers are capable of a higher soundstage since I heard them at my dealer. Anyway, disappearing speakers do add a lot to the sense of dimensionality.
Tboooe,

It may be your room layout and seating position etc... Your gear seems more than competent. I will admit to expecting to see far lesser gear when you stated your issue. After living with Gallo 3.1's, those things get out of the way without being overly particular regarding pinpoint placement. My Omega's are also very good in this regard, although more sensitive to placement than Gallo's.

I will say that many speakers I've tried when setup in the same spot in my room, display similiar general dispersion characteristics, more alike than different (as it should be IMO.) My Mirage omni series speakers also perform a stellar vanishing act (at the expense of accuracy.) My soundstage height is pretty much consistently at about 5 1/2 - 6 ft high (observed from my listening position.) Speakers currently 4 1/2 ft out from the front wall and pretty much everything falls behind the speakers except for hard L/R pans. If my speakers didn't vanish (to a large degree), it would bother me since I've heard this done pretty much as a matter of fact in my own systems and other better systems I've heard.
launche, thanks for the reply. I totally agree with you its my room. I just dont know what else I can do. I have fiddled with speaeker and seating position. Nothing seems to help my soundstage height issue. The one thing I want to try is some absoprtive material on the back wall behind the speakers. In my friends setup, he has a large curtain but no other room treatments. The otherr difference is that his speakers are at least 3-4 feet further away from the back wall than mine. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
In my friend's setup, the soundstage is taller than his speakers.

What speakers does your friend have?

As I described earlier on this thread, you simply can't expect a large 3 way BE-10 to disappear as well as Crowbar describes the Gallo Micro. However the Gallo Micro won't produce the timbre, dynamics or anywhere near the accuracy, range or SPL of the BE-10. I'd take the BE-10 any day.
Shadorne, my friend has the Avalon Ceramique speakers, smaller but no necessarily small speakers. I am convinced it is my room.
What are the dimensions of your room and your relative seating position? Are they any additional room treatments besides what's shown in your photo. I have not heard your speakers but am puzzled as to why your soundstage/imaging is as subpar as you state. Has anyone else notice what you notice?
Launche, yes my friends have noticed that while the sound is great, the soundstage seems low and not very deep. In amost every system I have heard, the soundstage is a few feet above the speakers. The only other think I can think about is that my components have not broken in yet. The amps and speakers are only a few months old with not too many hours on them.

As for my room, the width is about 14 ft (my speakers are along this wall). The lenght is about 20 ft. The speakers are about 6 ft apart and I can sit anywhere from 0 ft to 15 ft away. The speakers are about 4 ft from the back wall (measured from the front baffle). I do not have any room treatments other than the 8th Nerve pieces you see in the corners.

To be honest I do not believe its an issue with room treatments. I dont think treatments can help my soundstage but maybe I am wrong.

Any input would be greatly appreciated!
To be honest I do not believe its an issue with room treatments. I dont think treatments can help my soundstage but maybe I am wrong.

Room treatments can do a lot for the sound stage...heavy broadband treatment of the rear wall behind the listening position can deepen the sound stage significantly - vocals will become more articulate and tangible too. Perhaps you need to re-examine some of your beliefs and experiment with some broadband absorbers to reduce reverberations. G'luck.
I disagree about big speakers not being able to disappear. I've owned some pretty large speakers...and when everything is right, they will vanish right in front of you with your eyes wide open. The sound is right on the "stage" in front of you with everyone in the band in their proper places. The speakers just seem to be on the sides of the "stage" as pillars. I don't think size matters if it's done right.
Big speakers will absolutely disappear. Mitch4t is exactly right..."When everything is right they vanish...". Mine do and it really is amazing. Even when I stare right at them while playing, it seems like they have no purpose in the room! By the way, 240zracer, on Alison Krauss's "New Favorite" the banjo is just about dead center but back a few feet from her vocal image except for track #4 where there are 2 banjos: one as described and the other way far over at stage right (or so it seems on my system). How about yours? BTW this is another excellent recording of hers.
I'd agree with Lissnr & Mitch...I have Snell Type A's, which I think fill the definition of a large speaker, and they often completely disappear. This isn't the case with every recording, but more often than not. I still have some speaker-placement optimization to do. I don't have a wall behind me...just a vaulted ceiling about 8 feet back & above the great room (system is on a loft).
I have Snell Type A's, which I think fill the definition of a large speaker, and they often completely disappear

....the smooth rounded front baffle of this speaker makes it unusual compared to most "box" shaped designs with a flat front baffle face....this complex baffle shape will no doubt reduce edge diffraction significantly.
SPICA TC-50s do a great disappearing act, perhaps better than any other "box" speaker. Given their limitations, of course. Quad - 57s/63's do well, too. Haven't heard their new stuff. MJR
Artemis eos speakers did this very well.Very neutral in every way.some say the best speaker ever...