Speakers that can reveal orchestral instruments' positions

Can you tell the positions of instruments in orchestra from your favorite orchestral music CD/SACD/LP/...?
For example, horns and percussion from the back and strings from the front?
Telling the left and right positions are not that hard, but the front and back? 
If your answer is convincing yes, could you tell me about your speakers/amps/source/cartridge and the recording?
I could feel a little bit of 3D imaging on my Apogee Diva, but not as much as I could when I listen to orchestral music from live concerts. I feel far less from my Harbeth C7es and Tyler Linbrook signature systems. 

Vandersteen, imaging champs !

i have a pair of Apogee Stage that do fairly well for depth. Check your setup and rigidity, Sound anchors help.

Many speakers can do this quite well IF it is in the recording in the first place (and it usually ain't) and IF your speakers are properly set up (often not).

There is a consequence, however, in focusing on getting an exacting stereo image. It takes control of your soul and you no longer listen to the music, just the imaging.  :-)
IF your photo moniker is your setup, try moving the cone floor standers away ( and shorting them w jumpers ) and moving audio rack to the side. Big changes but worth doing IMO
jim smiths excellent book on getting better sound also advised.
best to you
Yes most good speakers set up well can do it to some extent if it is in the recording to start with but omnidirectional speakers set up well are suited for it best due to the more lifelike sound dispersion pattern with omnis.

The best Example I have ever heard was with Mbl 111 speakers at old now defunct United Home Audio showroom in Annapolis Junction MD several years back. The showroom design and system setup was very optimized for the Omni mbls with a good 10’ or more of tapered and treated room space behind the speakers.

Using a high quality master reel to reel tape as a source you could identify player locations in that area from front to back and side to side exactly as if they were set up in that space behind the speakers.  Nothing else I have ever heard comes close. 

Same setup later at a local show: not so much.

My Ohm Walsh pseudo-Omni speakers at home do a good job with this but not nearly to the extent of that mbl setup which was the best I have ever heard at that by a very wide margin. Ohm Walsh are designed to allow placement fairly close to walls which fits most people’s needs better.

Yes, it depends much more on the quality of the recording than on the capabilities of the speaker (though that obviously too is a factor).  I have an extensive collection of classical CDs, and through the same system the soundstaging sounds anything from excellent to non-existent.
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<<<I feel far less from my Tyler Linbrook signiture's>>> please explain.
Tyler, now defunct, used the famous SEAS Excel drivers in that system, same as my SEAS Thor MTM's
I only listen to all styles of classical and have no issues at all with SEAS voicing CM.
Not sure what you are talking about?
I can say, only i update my preamp and Defy 7, I will hear more sound stage in CM. 
= the potential is there in the SEAS, you just have to upgrade all your components with correct mods. Such as Mundorf caps.
The M caps allow sonics to sparkle.
There are quite a few techs who claim new caps are snakeoil, anda  complete total absolute waste of  money.
I just had to prove them all wrong. 
and I did.
Prove that group witha faulty judgement,,,sure they'll say,,,<< lets look at the specs on a  screen,,,ahhh exactly same specs as the Real caps>>> fact is , a  lab can only tell numbers,,,the nuances ofa  superior cap, can not be measured on a  screen.
Bottom line, you can get a  broader sonic sound stage  on a  speaker with new caps in all your components. 

Mozartfan wrote:

"Tyler, now defunct..."

Tyler Acoustics is still in business. I just exchanged e-mails with Ty Lashbrook less than five minutes ago.

Tyler Acoustics is not only very much still in business, they are among the few high-end home audio companies that are also successful in the professional recording studio market:


Not many designers have the chops to compete successfully in both markets. Tipping my virtual hat to Ty Lashbrook.

Both my Wilsons and Vandersteens are champs at imaging, side to side, fore, afte and height.
I just changed to Emerald Physics EP3.8, with concentric mid/tweeters-- the orchestral spatial imaging is very, very good, side to side and in depth; I'm still working on best subwoofer placement for them. Played the EP3.8s with PASS XA25, McIntosh 128, and Akitika G120, and all three of these amps image well with these speakers. Also, with this system DSDs played on an OPPO BDP-205 are so very fine. I expect that some might say that the EP3.8s are bright, but if you can appreciate a great oboe concerto you should try listening on these speakers. 
Big sound labs are very 3 dimentional  for big Loudspeakers as well. As         MBL 101D when setup properly and plenty of quality amplification.
Totem Acoustics speakers are excellent at imaging in three dimensions. I have Totem Sky Towers, which are a small, 33 1/2" tall, two-way design.  I can place instruments left and right and front to back on orchestral pieces. They are also capable of being placed fairly close to a rear wall.  On jazz recordings they provide vertical placement of a standing vocalist in front of a piano trio.

I listen to a lot of orchestral music, and I also find that the most important aspect of achieving proper imaging and soundstage is how the recording was made, as in where the mics were set-up. I believe the most important aspect of recording an orchestra is having the mics record at a proper distance, not too close, thus the depth of the instruments will reflect that in playback. I have a few recordings where the mics were too close to the various positions, and there is little you can do in ‘repairing’ the actual stage placement of the instruments.

I am very picky about imaging, but more picky about proper instrument placement within the recording, both in width and depth. Especially with orchestral performances where in most cases there is a standard on where these placements would be in ‘real life’. Granted, there are times when the double bass are on the right, and sometimes on the left, as example, which is basically up to to the composer and conductor to get right.

I have Vandersteen 2CE Sigs, a Belles 400A amp, an old PS Audio DAC when playing digital (streaming and CD’s), and a very modest Pro-Ject Carbon TT with a Grado Red cartridge. Pretty basic stuff, but if the speakers are not placed correctly, it matters little, and the Vandy’s are very picky when it comes to placement. But once you get the Vandy’s placed and set-up ‘right’, the imaging and soundstage width and depth is incredibly pleasing; but still all dependent on the recording.

Interesting, I had to send one of my acoustic couplers to Bill at Millersound to get rebuilt. Got it back, put the Vandy back together, and decided to take a fresh approach to my speaker placement. Taking all the Vandersteen recommendations, again, and trying to find the new ‘magical spot’ for them, I thought I had it right, spread wider than before, but wasn’t sure. So, put on my Ray Brown Soular Energy CD. A good jazz trio can be a wonderful benchmark, and that particular album I know was well recorded and engineered. Listening, I could tell Gene Harris and the piano was on the right side, Gerryck King’s drums to the rear, and slightly to the right as well. But what bothered me was Ray and his bass was also mixing into the right/middle area ‘somewhere’, but ‘fuzzy’. That didn’t seem right. So, I moved both speakers closer together by, maybe 4-6” total. Immediately, Ray and his bass were clearly on the left side now and well defined, Harris and his piano to the right of the stage, and King and his drums well placed to the rear and more centered. I sat back quite amazed on how much the imaging and soundstage changed so dramatically just by moving the speakers the little I did (yes, I know 4-6” is not a little), and once I did, everyone was in their proper place. So, I kept using that CD until all was tweaked-in until it was was ‘right’, because I figured so would my orchestral recordings.

So, speaker placement can make a huge difference, along with some room acoustical treatment (very important). And once that is done, the rest of the components can shine to their abilities. And although a modest system, I can be very pleased with the results I am able to achieve. You can have a $1,000,000 system, but if not set-up right, can be worthless in this regard.

But still, the engineering of recording itself is incredibly important as well. Perhaps the most important. BS in, BS out.

Magneplanars, of course, but your ROOM is more important than any speaker.  

Work with your dealer, assuming you have a REAL dealer, to ensure that your room is set for the best sound.  THEN try all the speakers you want. 

If you have good electronics, listen to the Maggies last.

Then pick whatever speakers YOU like best.  FYI, when Jim invented these speakers back in the 1970's, one of his main goals was to be able to do what you are asking, so...

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Thanks for all replies.
Tvad, you are right. I don't get lucky most times to have a mid center seat in concerts. Newbee, you are right. I should just enjoy music, rather than thinking about instruments position.
Mozartfan, I like my Tyler, and I had pretty much enjoyed its sound. But I was still not quite satisfied with full orchestration classical music. Then, I bought Diva from my friend, and there was no comparison to Apogee Diva in terms of sound stage and true color of acoustic instruments and human vocals. I like my Harbeth too, and it does pretty good on acoustic instruments, jazz and vocals, but still it lacks much in sound stage and details of full orchestration music compared to Diva.
Well, it may not be a fair comparison because Diva is in a different league. 
Sadly I sold my Diva due to occasional buzz and it was just too big, and then I started missing Diva.
My main gears are Plinius SA102, M16, Esoteric UZ1 SACD player, Garrard 301 with Ortofon RMG 309 and SPU gold ref cartridge.
My Audio Physic speakers image better than my Bache Tribeca speakers as far as instrument placement. However the wider dispersion from the Bache’s sounds more natural to me when I’m listening to orchestral music. 
Source is everything, ie, same story as is often true...garbage in, garbage out. I have many recordings that are crap, but some, same system, are wonderful , in regards to width and depth...check out the decades old “Omnidisc” from Telarc...terrific demonstration of this...
Hard to go wrong with most Telarc recordings.

I just received the Debussy Complete Orchestral Works on NAXOS, Orchestre National de Lyon, Jun Markl conductor. 9 CD set.

Exquisitely recorded.

I am also partial to DECCA/London, and Philips typically does a nice job. And the older Columbia, sometimes. Sony actually did a pretty good job remastering some of the old Columbia recordings.

Deutsche Grammaphon I find incredibly erratic in terms of their recording quality.
This is a subject close to my heart.  I obsess about soundstage.  My first point is a bit annoying but I have to say the source and the amplifiction are contributors.  As for speakers: in my opinion they contribute the most.  Here is my 'Profound Statement':   Directionality is overwhelmingly  a function of treble.  So high quality speakers with tweeters that do 20 khz comfortably are a must.  Tweeters beyond the theoretical limit are (in my humble opinion and  contrary to others) a benefit.  My current position is that the overtones of instruments beyond 30Khz is relevant to directionality.  So in theory and my practical hearing means I try to buy between on 48 khz and 96 khz.  44.1 khz is fine. Vinyl is fine too.

All this from a pettifogger.  I have Matrix Audio DAC, EMM Pre, Pass Power, Magico Squeakers.
Electrostatics are known for their imaging qualities. Audition a pair of Martin Logans and see/hear for yourself 
Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Philadelphia Orchestra, Deutsche Grammophon, Hi-Res FLA download (24 bit, 96kHz).

In dynamic transient passages, like the subito fff in Spring Rounds, the timpani, bass drum and gong have a really 3D effect. 

Shostakovich Symphony No. 8, Andre Previn, London Symphony, Angel, on vinyl. Xylophone is very distinct, in imaging. 

Equipment: Thorens TD145, Benz Micro Wood SL, Benz Micro PP-1 MC photo preamp, Audio Experience Symphonies Tube Preamp, Nikki Alpha II power amp, handmade planar speakers. I've been playing a lot of records on an old Dual idler 1009 turntable. Amazing.
I have a new pair of X series Spatial Audio speakers that just stun me with their realism.  Great OB speakers created by the research of Clayton Shaw.  Best value and best representation of OB speakers on the market today.  Of course, your other components make it happen also.  I have a Don Sachs pre, Carver tube amp, all fed by a tube DAC.  Finest system I've had.  I spend a lot of my time listening to music lately.
I think omnidirectional speakers generally have very large soundspaces but may be a bit less detailed in their 3d. Try to see if you like this or a more focused 3d from a conventional speaker.

I heard the Bacch SP processor at an audio show. It alters the signal to make the left-right separation even clearer. Very interesting but pretty expensive. I don't know if they affect the depth also, might or might not. See if you have any dealer around you that can demo them.

I recently heard the Spatial Audio M3 Sapphire speakers at the Florida Audio Expo and was stunned by the SQ for such an affordable speaker. They just seemed to get all the notes correct without any exaggeration of bass, mids or treble. Congrats on your X Series decision.

I recently upgraded my pre-amp and power amp to a used Anthem AVM 20 pre ($200) and classDaudio Studio power ($700).  These significantly improved the clarity of my 1989 Martin Logan CLS ii's, which I've had for 31 years.
I've purchased two used Anthem AVM 20's for $200 and $300 (new they were $4,000).  I'm using the "2 Ch z Anlg-DSP Main" and "All chan Stereo" playback mode on the Anthem.

I'm streaming all music from a Dell pc, using VLC for audio playback.  I'm also using commercial xlr interconnect cables.
By improved clarity, I'm hearing much more of the backing musicians in performances and improved sound stage in better recordings.  I recently got a "City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra" recording "the essential James Bond".  Yeah, but it is the best orchestra recording I've found yet.  Stunning performance, dynamic audio, no spot mics, and the fullest soundstage I've heard.  Even the original movie soundtracks sound compressed compared to this recording.
Re-listening everything I've got, I find even mundane pop/rock hits from the 60's/70's with stunning audio quality, composition, and performances.  Songs with "spacing" that allow you to hear the details of the performance.

The Dramatics "What you see is what you get"
The Undisputed Truth "Smiling Faces Sometimes Don't Tell the Truth"Friends of Distinction "Grazing In The Grass"
Herb Albert "A Taste of Honey"Carly Simon "The Right Thing To Do"Peter, Paul and Mary "A'soalin","Gone The Rainbow", "Bamboo", "Sorrow", "500 Miles"Mamas & Papas "Go Where You Wanna Go"
Speaker placement for my CLS's has been the 1/3  rule at most places.  Speakers 1/3 distance from front wall, listening position 1/3 from back wall.  CLS's separation about the same as the distance from CLS's to listening position.
Just a thought.

Keep trying to get a live concert in your listening room, good luck with that, other that that do what janewyman suggested & drop some acid.
First, two speakers cannot image "height". You have two variables, when the sound arrives at each each, and how loud the sound is for each air. There is no way to derive "height" from that, so don’t bother trying .... though you may convince yourself it is there and/or your room acoustics may give an impression based on inconsistent frequency response w.r.t. direction (which is not a good thing).

I get a good laugh when I read people saying they made some minor change and the "soundstage doubled", or some other superlative. As pointed out, most of the soundstage is in the recording, so it comes down to how it is recorded and mixed. Remember, only two variables w.r.t. imaging, when the music gets to each ear, and relative volume.

After that, it is a complex interaction of your speakers and room. If either one is bad, you lose your imaging. On the speaker front, it comes down to the same things always discussed, smooth on-axis frequency response, and smooth decaying off-axis response. If you don’t have smooth on-axis and smooth decaying off axis response, then the volume balance between instruments gets messed up due to frequency response variations. So when you do research, look for products that either publish good on/off axis frequency response and/or where you can find tests on the web. "Trust your ears" it not always the best advice. Speakers will sound much different at home versus in a demo room. You are listening to the room as much as the speakers, and a purpose built demo room can hide problems that you may not be able to avoid at home.

If you aren’t willing to work on room treatments, then forget about good imaging. This comes back to timing. If you have strong reflections, your brain doesn’t know what arrived first and it needs to be able to clearly identify the same signal reaching both ears. This also plays into the importance of smoothly decaying off-axis frequency response. First reflections and strong reflections are all bad. Side walls in front of the speaker, behind the speaker, and often forgotten is behind the listener, but also the floor and the ceiling. You don’t want to eliminate all reflections as then you loose that nice artificial sense of "space".
Actually, speakers image height real well unless you have system issues OR you system is not optimized, I.e, isolated, etc. Everybody should know by now there are three physical dimensions involved, depth, width and height, let’s call them x, y and z, that are captured on a recording. The more resolved a system becomes the more apparent all the various dimensions of the soundstage become, including height. A lot of the spatial information contained on the recording, or at least should be contained, involves first and second reflection, reverberant decay, echo, and similar acoustic parameters. Space and time, that’s a total of four dimensions. 🤗
To be able to hear what you describe depends on many things. It is a trinomial of: Recording, Position of the speakers and the minimum treatment of the room (if you have nothing to control the room very hard you can hardly hear what you want).
In my case with the recording in SACD of:
Rossini: Famous Overtures, by Neville Marriner: Academy Of St. Martin In The Fields, with the Overture of Il Barbiere Di Siviglia.
Audiophisycs speakers, Rotel preamplifier and Rotel amplifier.
The room treated with bass trap and obsocation in the first reflections and diffusion in the back. When I have taken my system or recording to other rooms with friends, it is essential to remove the speakers from the walls and control the first reflections.
In this way, the person in the sweet spot will feel that the members of the orchestra occupy a place in space, both in length and depth. Without these three things it is not possible to obtain what you require, that three-dimensionality.
This recording is so good that by closed eye you will be able to describe where the first violins, second violins, oboe, clarinet, violas, cello, bass, etc. are even heard as the pages of the music sheets are moved.
In order of importance, without a doubt the recording, if it is not recorded and / or mastered to obtain this three-dimensionality, you can never obtain it.
Secondly the position of the speakers in the room and have some control of them.
Finally, the sound equipment, I have verified this in many cases, modest but well positioned teams manage to obtain very good results, obviously with an excellent equipment you will maximize the result but without the other two points mentioned you can never get what you are looking for.
If the goal is to get a live concert in your room Ohm Walsh speakers are the ticket. Even with poorer quality and mono recordings and also the setup is relatively easy compared to most.
My answer to the original question is YES.  However the degree to which one can hear specific locations within a soundstage is dependent on the quality and synergy of equipment used.

I hear width, depth and height from my system, in my room.

My reference is a Jazz Quartet.   Can I close my eyes and point to the location of each musician ?    Does the soundstage allow me to see the drummer moving brushes along a cymbal ?  Is transient response good enough to hear the initial strike of a cymbal or drum head, then the sound of the material struck, then the decay of the note ?  Do I hear each drum head in distinct space ?   Does the image project brass notes as distinct notes, or blended together without much distinction ?   Does a vocalist move their head around the microphone ?

I have experienced pinpoint imaging, and answered YES to the above questions using the following speakers:

Triangle Titus 202
Rogers 15ohm LS3/5a

The KEF are a recent acquisition and I am still tweaking location to achieve best performance.  Currently, they are about 6 ft apart, about 3ft from side walls and about 4ft from the back wall, and I sit about 6.5 ft way from the center line.  The cabinets are toed in slightly.  Imaging is superb (pinpoint again), along with frequency extension.  But I hear some upper bass/low midrange emphasis that affects vocals.  I understand that careful positioning can largely remove this issue.

The ability to hear pinpoint imaging was improved by changing to a Triode TRV-P845SE as my main amplifier.  I have also used recently restored MAC 225 and 240 to good effect.  I heard the Triode amp at several audio shows, and at each show the room it was in was among the best I heard.  I waited patiently, and finally acquired one at an attractive price.

Preamps have a significant impact on the image one hears.  I thought I was doing well using a Conrad Johnson PV5.  Then I acquired an Audible Illusions M3 preamp, which was a significant improvement.   A few years later, I upgraded to an Audio Research SP10-MKII.  WOW !  Not only pinpoint imaging across the space in front of me, but I could hear depth and height !   I could hear fingers moving up and down the neck of a standing bass.   I could hear the relative locations of a trumpet bell, and the mouth of a tenor saxophone.  Each occupied distinct space that could be identified as they played in unison.   More recently, I picked up an Audible Illusions M3B (current model). This pre retains the virtues of the ARC SP10, but has a silent background and better transient response. 

Equipment:   Linn LP12 ITTOK LVII / Denon 103D SS Ruby rebuild / Cinemag 3440 SUT   -or-  Technics SP25  AT1503 MKIII arm / Ortophon CG25DI MKIII MONO cartridge
geoffkait:  "Actually, speakers image height real well unless you have system issues OR you system is not optimized"

No, that is just not the case. I know many want to believe this, but it is physically impossible. It is impossible to encode this information on 2 channels of audio. If the different frequency drivers you are using are spaced far out on your speakers, or have significantly different vertical dispersion, then an artificial illusion of height that bears no resemblance to the original performance, or even what the engineer thinks they are recording is possible, but that will come with it all kinds of other issues. Being an artificial illusion, it is not "imaged", as that would imply a level of accuracy.
iopscrl:  "Not only pinpoint imaging across the space in front of me, but I could hear depth and height !  I could hear fingers moving up and down the neck of a standing bass.  I could hear the relative locations of a trumpet bell, and the mouth of a tenor saxophone. Each occupied distinct space that could be identified as they played in unison. "

That perception of fingers moving up and down the neck of the bass would be your brain filling in information that does not exist. Your brain knows enough about how that bass is played to translate audio clues into a perception of what is happening. Our brains can do a lot to fill in information that we don't have based on prior knowledge. It does work better when we get rid of the other chafe.
I would agree that the most important factor is the recording quality. From my collection, The Power of the Orchestra, Moussorgsky, A night ..., Pictures ... (LP, reissue) images much better than most. Definitely I can hear the depth. The problem is, not many recordings are that good.

My room is not treated. I might try to improve the room treatment.
@ihcho As I posted above, YES, your ROOM is the most important element of any sound system.

Of course the quality of the recording is important.  Direct-to-Disc recordings from Sheffield Labs and others are about as good as it gets.  Decca as well, and some above mention many others.

I stand by my suggestion: adjust your room, get some good recordings, and then try Magneplanars last.

This is a heavy duty topic. Icho, I also at one time owned Divas. You loved them because they were dipole linear arrays. But, you were right to get rid of them. They were very fragile and hard on amplifiers. But there are good examples available today. Magnepans on the less expensive side and Sound Labs at the higher end. The Sound Labs are IMHO the best speaker made today. 
Dipole linear arrays image better then any other types of loudspeaker for several reasons. Because of their radiation pattern they in part take the room out of the equation. They produce a more realistically sized sound stage and project power better. Sound Labs are one way ESLs. No crossover, less distortion and better transient response. They capture detail like no other loudspeaker. 
Getting the very best imaging out of any system is a difficult proposition.
The problem is that speakers of the same model will have slightly different frequency response curves. It is impossible to make them identical. Then they occupy different positions in the room which increases these variations. We locate sounds by phase and volume. If certain frequencies vary from one side to the other you smear the image.
This is where digital room control comes in. You test the frequency response of each loudspeaker at the listening position. The computer then calculates mirror image filters for each speaker bringing everything to dead flat. Then you can overlay any frequency response curve you like. A set of corrected ESLs is a thing to behold. It also makes you want to murder a bunch of recording engineers. Older classical music is usually wonderfully recorded. Studio popular music is usually a disaster.
Live recordings are generally better but they are taken off the soundboard and are subject to human fiddling. Jazz is generally better again live recordings rule. Pop and Rock recordings you simply have to accept the fact that they are more like works of art rather than duplicating a live performance. It comes down to whether or not you like the experience not whether or not you feel as if you are at a live performance. It is interesting that when you watch a great concert video the sonic image does not matter as much. Vision always rules.