Purely personal opinion and may be controversial:
Depth and layering means you need coherence.
Full range speakers with no crossovers will give you that.
They wont play loud, no deep bass, no top end, but they convey space.
Other than that you'd be looking at speakers from YG acoustics, Avalon, or to a certain extent Wilson.
JM Lab Utopia Be's will do it too, but crossover mods necessary.
Tis is the most desirable feature for me to enjoy the sound. without it any others features do not turn me on. unfortunatley not many speakers would do this(and definately not Focal utopia Be it have depth but not layered IMHO, they shine in other areas however)
Some Kharma models would do.
I also find that some speakers that uses serial type filters(95% have paralel type) have this sonic feature.
IMO this domain is ruled by panel speakers.
I think were missing it, because were not just listening to speakers. Sure some speakers are more capable than others, but! As I have auditioned different amps, preamps, and cables I have been amazed at how each of them has affected the soundstage, spacing between instruments and front to back placement. I had a home audition of some raved about, relatively expensive speaker cable a couple weeks ago that totally collapsed the soundstage. System synergy is more important than one component.
Same as mentioned above and from my experience, Avalon for depth, layering, spaciousness of music, although I like Kharma quite a bit too...
Small ProAc speakers in the Response series, and the tablettes. Set up and synergy must be right, but they can certainly do it
Nothing IME can touch the MBL 101. If they come down in price $50K or $60K, I'm all over a pair.
I have a pair of Avalon Avatars that do this very well.
This speaker is their smallest floor stander - a two way.
I did own Apogee Mini Grands. I liked them better than any conventional point source speaker I've heard.
Think about this:
A point source speaker like the Grand Slamm or Utopia still uses a small tweeter, (sometimes in multiples).
An Apogee panel uses a tweeter ribbon measured in feet. Even their entry level Stage can suspend disbelief, on many dynamic recordings.
For the Avalon and the Apogee:
These do need room to breathe, and the better the gear upstream , the better they sound.
In my experience Avalon speakers are exceptional ... "unique" ... in this aspect.
I second Johnsonwu's observation re: a widebander, for it's coherence. It doesn't have to be just a widebander-it can be augmented with a supertweeter and a sub (built in or not). So many variables here.
The best and really, only time I heard jaw dropping, 3-D sound with that layering you allude to was with some entry level Unity Audio speakers a couple of decades ago. Most of it was due to some very high quality tube equipment and room placement/design. I've never heard it that good again. Ever.
mbl if you have a suitable room.
dynaudio contour 1.3mkii in smaller rooms.
also ohm walsh properly matched to room.
as you can tell, integration of speaker into room is key to get good imaging depth imho.
Sounds like someones been smoking those left handed cigarettes .
"Width and openness is one thing, but depth with layering and space from front to back is much rarer."
It's not rare at all with electrostatic speakers.
I'm wondering how much electronics like the Mcintosh amp was contributing to this effect.
I thought about this more and a soundstage that starts at the speakers and then presents back from the plane of the speakers is part of what I was hearing. Also, very focused and not a huge soundstage (as in not super wide or forward) seems to contribute to this 'focused, layering effect.
Besides the PSBs, I have heard this with Audio Physic Caldera (albeit set up in the AP prescribed position) and Innersound Kaya, but both of those are very exceptional in their design and set up technique and have a one foot square sweet spot.
I don't think it's JUST speakers that determine this. It is the interface between all of the components that will ultimately determine how well the system images. IOW changes in the front end could potentially have an effect. The interface between speakers and amp could have an effect. Etc.
That said, I've found simpler designs with minimal or no crossover...single driver, and monitors, for instance, both excel at soundstaging depth. SET amps paired up with the right speakers are world-class at creating a holographic stage, but they don't serve as wide a variety of program material as well. OTL also do quite good paired up with the right speakers and are more versatile than SET. But it's not just the speakers.
I have heard many systems with great depth and imaging; Avalon, Kharma, Wilson, Apogees, Magnepan, Genesis, Thiel, Conicident and Aerial serving as transducer....but a recent demonstration of the Vandersteen 7 entertained a whole new realness to depth and layering. I am unable to put into words. I just have not experienced this quality in reproduced audio. Please, keep in mind this was a system in a well designed listening space.
As an addendum to my post above, probably one of the best imaging systems I've ever heard contradicts pretty much everything I said there, so go figure. I'd still stand by those observations. The best I've heard was an all MBL system set up in a very large space at one of the shows (RMAF or CES, can't recall which). I'd heard it since not sounding this good so they must've just hit it right with the room and the synergy, but it left me speechless. It had the holography and natural presence of a SET system with the drive, dynamics and energy of the very best SS (it was entirely SS). Not sure which models, but it was basically their all-out-assault system at the time. It was the same system, or very close to it, that didn't move me nearly as much in a different room at a different show, going to show you that it's not just one aspect of any system (in this case I think it was the room that really was the make or break factor, but who knows).
I am a Vandersteen guy as well, however, I must add that your room has to support all the good stuff. I dare say that the room can easily destroy a large percentage of the goodness that the best speaker can deliver...even Vandersteens
MBL and Sound Labs are two that, for my taste are undeniably layered, and textured.
One person's layers and textures SHOULD BE everyones, but it's amazing to me how many times have I toured CES with someone else listening to loudspeakers only to shake my head, wondering why we hear differently.
Kevin Hayes, Jim Thiel, are two people I've been in Vegas with, who I find myself agreening with--and not so strangly, whose gear I respect, admire and enjoy.
A pair of USED CS5's would/could be a terrific bargain--THIEL'S best ever, for my taste, loudspeaker.
AND speaking of Kevin--his electronics personify textures and layers, much more so, IMHO than Mac--and I am a McMasters attendee, have enormous respect for it--but can't for the most part place it in the same league as VAC, for example. AGAIN, IMHO.
Good luck in your search.
Tubes are generally required for highly dimensional sound. I am surprised that has been mentioned mainly as an aside. I don't discount the value of good speakers I use JM Lab Focal Electra 936s in my main rig .
When I switched to tube power amps (later I added a great inexpensive tube pre) the sound became magical, halographic, layered, textured, airy, crystalline, very deep and wide. My audio buddies kept saying how good my speakers sounded now. What did I do to them they wondered? I said the speakers are exactly the same. The amps made the difference. And for the umpteenth time I will repeat you must use tube power amps to get this effect. I was given this advice from my old pal Trelja. He could'nt have been more correct.
SOUNDLABS. Buy some and you search has ended.
ProAc and Wilson, though with completely different perspectives. Wilson is like sitting in the front 5 rows and the ProAcs more like sitting from the center.
Is Kevin Hayes VAC - I don't know this name.
It seems that getting the midrange really uncolored, neutral and resolving is part of the key to getting the depth and layers to come out and being able to hear the space between performers and instrument/vocal lines.
In response to Mechans observations, the Vandersteen 7's were driven by an all solid state system. Huge Audio Research tube mono-blocks were on the floor, but the shop owner wished to display the speaker's ability with a moderate priced amp.
Panels in general, time & phase coherent, 1sr order xover speakers like Thiel and Vandersteen, and most two-way speakers including my Merlin VSMs seems to be good at this sort of thing, and tube amps do seem to somewhow do this better than SS, at least for the most part.
I've tried many of the ones mentioned and heard others mentioned. My vote for depth (including separation of instruments, soundstage, balance) is Verity Parsifals.
I have tube traps in the corner behind the speakers, almost everyone (non-audiophile) who hear music in my room ask if the traps are "speakers, too?"
The Parsifals can be used in rear firing configuration, which is how I use them.
Kevin Hayes is the owner-designer of VAC amps.
I have owned a pair of Phi70 monos since 2005.
Not the most musical amp I have had to date (strange for a 300B) but it does have lots of air and does the space and depth thing right.
In addition to "midrange really uncolored, neutral" you also need to consider "sound-floor". Lookup Arthur Salvatore and read his rantings about this.
If your MBL reference was to the Stereophile show near LAX 7 or 8 years back, we're on the same page. That demo was also the basis on which I made my comment and the most convincing display of imaging/staging that I've ever heard from any system. OTOH, the 101 has generally been very, very good in this regard on each of the subsequent ocassions on which I've heard it. Maybe not as good as at LAX, but very, very good, nonetheless.
Vivid Audio speakers B1 - one of the very best speakers, particularly exceling in depth, layering, and soundtage. Haven for classical music and jazz. I used to own Avalon, Wilson, and MBL and by far these are better. I do not like the Magico (nothing special about this speaker, good only for shows).
Roy, why'd you go with B1s, rather than K1s... room size?
Do you know if Vivid will demo the B1 at the Show in Vegas?
Have you ever heard the Vivid V 1.5?
I like the B1 but price is too high for me and I doubt a used one would ever show up!
I like the Merlins for the very characteristics you describe.
I agree with Dan_ed - horns. Pretty much any horn system will have those characteristics in spades. Among the dynamic speakers listed here, I also agree with the ProAc suggestion. I was about to purchase a pair of those at one point.
Didn't see this question until just now...
Yes, Kevin Hayes is the owner AND designer of Valve Amplification Company, VAC.
He's a terrific designer, as well as a great human being.
His equipment is terrifically musical AND neutral.
If you haven't experienced it do so.