Voice and instrument image bunched in the middle??

Playing with speaker placement in hopes of improving focus and image placement etc etc along the width of the soundstage. Voices and instruments seem to be all bunched up in the middle of the soundstage. At wits end...can't seem to get an improvement. Too close to side walls? Too much or too little toe in? Speakers too near or far apart?

Any suggestions?
Of course this kind of thing is very dependent on how material is recorded and will vary widely from recording to recording. Hopefully you have a frame of reference for how the recordings you are testing with should sound? If not, getting the right reference recordings to test with would be step 1.
There are so many things wrong with everything it almost defies description. I refer you to my new article, "What's Wrong with CDs and Why do they Sound So Horrible?"

Then too, is this CD or LP.
If LP, cartridge set-up could be the issue.
(1) Agree with Mapman .... Quality of the recording itself will impact your enjoyment.

(2) Which leads me into the next obvious factor: the performance / resolution capabilities of your system, particularly your source , may be an equal or greater contributing factor ... both good and bad perspective.
- The "bad" is intuitive.... Limitation or compromises on resolution on what's there in the recording
- The potential "good" aspect manifests itself wherein a superior source and accompanying system highlights the poor resolution / mastering / other limitations in the recordings re: Point #1 above.
It sounds like you are listening to a mono recording. If the recordings are old this may very well be the case. One thing you may want to try is to reverse the speaker cables on the binging posts of just 1 speaker and see how that sounds. If you are biwiring, switch both, but just on 1 speaker. Listing your equipment would also be a good idea.
You do not describe your equipment so it is hard to understand what is going on. It can be a tweak for speaker placement, changing a capacitor in the preamp, etc. Have you heard the same recordings in a different system that had different results?
Make certain that your speaker cables are each going to the correct speaker. That has often been the cause of the problem for me.
Once you have tried all the above suggestions to no avail, take into account the effect your room has on sound. Room treatments such as absorption and /or diffusion may help.

Using center panels on the wall behind your system often can improve focus and image. Absorption in corners behind speakers may tighten bass. Panels at first reflection points and rear wall will absorb standing waves.
But first you need a good reference recording.
If all of your connections are proper, try the Sumiko Master Set Method of speaker placement. Works with any system and in any room.
Having no idea what your system consists of I would say that it could be your system.
Equipment info would be helpful.
As previous posters mentioned, you may have mono recording or simply mono switch on preamp.
Hi Everyone,

Thanks for all your suggestions. Have been trying to improve my system's SQ for a few months. Right now going the speaker repositioning/room treatment route. My system is as follows:

Hyperion 938
Hyperion HT 88 (18 watt mono)
Resolution Audio Opus 21 Cdp
Grover Huffman interconnects (latest version)
Supra 3.4 Ply

Trying to get my system to image better...tighter focus. Seeking pointers on speaker repositioning.
It will help troubleshoot if you could provide more details on current speaker's positioning/in relation to room/listening position.. Rake? Toe-in?
For everyone's info, the OP indicated in another thread that the room is only 10 x 14 x 10, and the walls are concrete. Also, the Hyperion 938 speakers are certainly substantial in size.
Voices and instruments seem to be all bunched up in the middle of the soundstage....

Trying to get my system to image better...tighter focus.
These two statements seem somewhat contradictory. Imaging that is unfocused (i.e., vague, diffuse, hard to localize) suggests that the speakers are connected out of phase relative to each other (i.e., with + and - reversed on ONE speaker). Imaging that is tightly bunched up in the center suggests that the connections are correct, but that your left ear is hearing too much sound from the right speaker, and your right ear is hearing too much sound from the left speaker. Given your room configuration, that is undoubtedly being contributed to by room reflections, and possibly also by listening from too great a distance relative to the distance between the speakers.

Assuming that your connections are correct, and that the issues are not due to the particular recordings you are listening to, it could be that the only satisfactory solutions would be either treating the room very heavily, or changing to different (and most likely smaller) speakers.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al
Pcv123v, Hyperions 938 deliver excellent imaging in my room. My room is roughy 16'x 24'with speakers on long wall. Perhaps you need to defeat reflections in you room. Try placing something fuzzy on side walls. Use mirror on the wall to pinpoint exact position where you can see the speaker from listening position. It is also possible that speakers are too large for the room, as Al suggested, but it would be a loss to get rid of speakers that are known for excellent imaging (not to mention wonderful midrange).
Please describe your room dimensions H,W,D and measurements of your layout. Measure from side and rear walls and to each other using the tweeter location as your measuring point. Advise where your equipment is placed. Also any room treatment or major features. If you provide the info this Audiogon gang will help you.
Hi Guys,

Thanks for your help everyone. @Ptss...here goes. Tweeter(all measurements taken from front of speaker) distance from side wall...24 inches. Tweeter distance from front wall...45 inches. Very slight toe-in...around 1 inch. 24" x 48" corner bass traps in front wall corners. Temporary placement of 2 inch foam cushions...approx 24" x 60" on each side of side walls (1st reflection points). Drapes (not thick)...front wall covering windows (3 windows). It's a bedroom...10W x 14D x 10H. Speakers on short wall. Equipment on a 2 tier rack between speakers. Single bed flushed against back wall. Speakers approx 6' apart (measured from tweeter to tweeter)...same distance from listening position. Small desk flushed against the right side wall (after listening position).

@Almarg...eg...if a recording has the voice in the center...piano on the right and guitar on the left of the stage. My speakers will throw a soundstage with all 3 images around the center. Images are not razor sharp but it's good enough for me at the moment.

@Kijanki...are your 938s on outriggers? Have you heard them with the Hyperion HT-88 monos?

Thanks again!
@Kijanki...do you find image size on the 938s are somewhat on the small side?
Pc123v, My 938s are standing on standard factory brass pins. Image depends on the record played. On some CDs it is narrow but on the others image goes outside of speakers. On average it stretches almost tweeter to tweeter. They are pointing at center/me (pointing at respective ears). Setting them firing straight increases image size a little but imaging accuracy gets worse and sweet spot is very narrow. I drive the with Rowland 102, a class D amp. I've never heard them with H-88s.
"Playing with speaker placement in hopes of improving focus and image placement etc etc along the width of the soundstage. Voices and instruments seem to be all bunched up in the middle of the soundstage. At wits end...can't seem to get an improvement. Too close to side walls? Too much or too little toe in? Speakers too near or far apart?"

I think problems arise mostly from what there are on your front wall..

-Drapes create strong pull of images (absorptive), whilst window's (behind it) reflection likely causing the poor focus.. iow. Images all mostly pulled to centre but lack the precision. I suggest possibly place diffraction panels in front of windows, behind drapes--to tame the wild reflections.

-Racks in middle (depending on height) affect image specificity too. However a two tier still sounds acceptable.

-Re width of soundstage--Take out those 2"foam (it totally kill first reflection) hence expansiveness of soundstage width is severely restricted--replace them with diffusive panels instead. These will take care of first reflection problems whilst enhancing stage width, ambience, and instruments specificity at sides.

IMO, start with the above, then play with toe-in/out to dial in further.
As seems like not much else positioning you can play with speakers, if these don't help, probably as some has suggested, get smaller speakers (2-way on stand perhaps) where you can play around more with placements. My 2c

Try crossing the speakers to intersect in front of the listening position approx 40 degrees toed in.
Alternative ideas, try without the bass traps on the front wall (too dead) at that end of a small room. Try moving the listening position.
Any chance a mono button is inadvertently engaged?
Is the problem new or always been that way?
The easiest way to check if the problem is coming from the room, is to just try the system in different room and see if you get the same results. Then you'll know for sure. If it does sound the same, I would try swapping out your components one at a time. If your problem is with one of your components, you're likely to find the one causing the problem.

If you still feel it may be the room, rotate your system 45 degrees. (Your listening chair will be pointed directly at a corner.)
@Kijanki... Thanks for the pointer regarding toe-in and image size. If you have any tweaks that would improve the SQ of 938s please do let me know...:)

@Bvdiman...thanks for your advise. Yeah...toying with the idea of getting some diffusers for a few months now.

@Rhljazz...it's not a new problem...small image size also. But havent been paying much attention to speaker placement til lately.

@Zd542...can't rotate system unfortunately...bed and desk would be in a funky position...:)
Just a couple of thoughts to add to what has been said:

1)A contributor to the lack of focus, especially if it primarily has a vertical orientation, may simply be that the six foot listening distance is not enough for the drivers to blend properly. As you indicated, though, that is not the major issue at present.

2)I would give serious consideration to the possibility that rear wall reflections are the major contributor to the lack of image width. As an experiment, it might be worth temporarily moving the foam cushions to the rear wall (above the bed), and the bass traps to the rear corners (moving the desk if necessary).

Before placing the cushions and traps in the rear, though, you would want to first re-assess the imaging and sonics with them not placed anywhere, to eliminate possible ambiguity as to whether the differences that are perceived result from removing the cushions and traps from one location or installing them at another.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al
"1)A contributor to the lack of focus, especially if it primarily has a vertical orientation, may simply be that the six foot listening distance is not enough for the drivers to blend properly. As you indicated, though, that is not the major issue at present."

I didn't think of that. When you sit too close to the speakers, they start to sound like headphones.
Hello Pc (my initials too :-). I don't understand how you want a "tighter focus" if all images are "bunched in the center"?? (but your statement makes sense if your polarities are screwed up) I think you should start at the very basics. Buy a "polarity tester", max $15.00. Check polarity at your wall outlet. Fix it if necessary as reverse polarity will have unpredictable-but negative- effects on sound.(It's interesting how everything needs to be correct to get the best out of a system.) Do your components have modern plugs with one prong wider than the other? If not experiment with reversing your plug(s) orientation in the wall socket and listen to which orientation gives you the "cleanest" sound--the ability to hear the attack & trailing edge of notes-perhaps try some simple guitar discs. You need to use a guitar disc that you have confirmed is itself in "correct absolute polarity". Your positioning is ok altho in this extreme case I would toe in the speakers so the center focus of the tweeter is just on each ear. All speakers measure flatest on the center of the tweeter--so hopefully that at least gives you the best stereo match. Perhaps call your preamp manufacturer and ask them if your unit emits "phase correct" or "phase inverted". I would call them if I were you. Discuss your problem. Let us know please.
"Perhaps call your preamp manufacturer and ask them if your unit emits "phase correct" or "phase inverted"."

That's not the problem here. First, the difference is very subtle. Even if you have a preamp or source that allows you to change absolute phase, its very hard to hear differences on a consistent basis. Second, about half of the recordings released are absolute phase correct, and the other half are not. So even though the OP can't change this, he still has a 50% chance of hearing the recordings properly in phase.
@Ptss and Everyone,

Thank you so much for all your advise. I really appreciate it. Gonna look at testing the polarity of my wall outlet, get 2 or 4 proper absorber panels (to treat 1st reflection points) and play with speaker repositioning. Will let you guys in on my progress soon...:)
Deal with the incredible reflections of small hard wall room will improve image dramatically. That "first reflection" from the side walls next to the speaker is bounced to your ears at a different length of time as the direct sound, partially canceling information and destroying the image. The later reflections (from the other end of the room) bouncing back to your ear at a different length will change speaker response dramatically as well. No speaker, no cable, no electronics can fix this.

In a small room, this is the #1 problem as there is so much energy confined to small space, so many reflections and if there is no soft surfaces at all, the energy never dies. Small rooms always have bass problems, for they are too small a dimension for the bass to "develop" (length of the bass waves is longer than the room dimension). So small rooms always have large acoustic issues messing up the best of speakers.

Absorption is your friend! At low frequency absorption is bass traps. At mid and high frequency its acoustic panels. These things are absolutely necessary to smooth out room issues changing the speaker response in a BIG way. Small spaces will never be ideal. The only way to sort of sort it out is lower the energy in the room (reduce level), sit closer to the speakers (the triangle of you and the speakers must be smaller) and get the spacers as far away from the side walls as possible. A larger space is needed to get ideal bass response.

Highly reflective surfaces like concrete, tile, wall board, glass- anything that is super hard or "rings" when you knock on it with your knuckle-make it impossible to get a good sound if a lot of energy is reflected, bounced or pointed at them. So even in a large space, speakers close to such surfaces are death to proper response and image.

To prove to yourself the dramatic effect of your room, take your speakers outside where there are no reflections and listen there. You won't believe it.