what is a good sound stage suppose to sound like?

In the proceses of doing my weekly house cleaning, I pulled my speakers about 2 ft. out further from the wall so I could vacuum. For no other reason then curiosity, I decided to play some Eric Clapton "Unplugged". It sounded like a whole new album. I only play music in my limited 2 ch. mode which is a dbx DX-5 CD player plugged directly into my dbx BX3 power amp. So there I was, totally amazed at the sound that was coming out of my Polk Audio RT-800i's. I decided to stop cleaning, pour myself a crown and coke and do some serious listening. While sitting there, I had to ask myself if this is what a good sound stage is suppose to sound like? Since I've never heard a hi end system with a supposed good sound stage other the what's in Ultimate electronic's, were the seat is about six feet away from the speakers and the room is acousticly treated.My room is about 20x25 with me sitting at the opposite end of the room from my speakers. I've never had the opportunity to hear a hi end system in someones home, which I would assume sounds somewhat different then in a store. What exactly makes up a good/great sound stage? How do you know when your there? Here's what I noticed when listening to Claptons "Unplugged".When I focussed on individual sounds, Claptons guitar and drums seemed to come from the left speaker, claptons voice was always in the center alone with any piano, the right speaker had the other guitar's and backup singer's voices.By the second crown & coke I couldn't make out individual sounds anymore, so I just kicked back and enjoyed the music. In a good sound stage would or would you not be able to distinguish the different instruments and voices coming from the left, right, and center like I was able to, or should everything come at you all at once kind of blended together. I'll watch a dvd next to see how that sounds with the speakers pulled out, unfortunatly I'll have to move them back because the wife said so. Thanks for any info in helping me get some kind of referrence to gauge my sytem by.
Think soundstage is suspension of musicians and vocalists away from the transducers. The equipment falls away and leaves the experience as if you were in a club or in front of that large stage.
With a well recorded soundstage you'll be able to localize sounds coming from lots of different places between and behind your speakers. For example, with a drum solo the high hat may seem somewhere in the right quadrant and the floor toms somewhere in the left, as if you're watching the drummer from the front. With solo piano, it may seem the whole soundboard is spread across the speakers, as if you're viewing the performer from behind. Your room is way bigger than mine. Have fun experimenting with speaker placement.
Speaker placement is critical to obtaining any sound stage. Many people are willing to give up any hope for soundstage because they do not want speakers intruding on their room. With speakers against the wall the listener will hear increased bass, but less sound stage. Pulling speakers out into the room will increase sound stage, but surrender a little bass. This is where the happy medium must be found!

A good sound stage provides an aural picture of a concert. Regardless of what kind of music is being played there should be a presentation of seperate individuals playing intruments in space. There should be height, width, and depth to the stage.

The location of the distinctive sounds should have little relation to where the speakers are located. I mean that the soundstage should be wider, taller, and have more front-to-back dimension than the actual cabinet from which the sound is eminating. With the listeners eyes closed they should not be able to locate the where the speakers were placed on the floor.

It is impossible to obtain any real sound stage in 5.1 or 7.1 surround modes since music was not recorded to be listened to in these bastardized modes.

Two channel stereo is the only way to really get a good musical presentation right now! Perhaps when people learn how to use the multi-channel modes in the future and good recordings are made that way things will be different, but right now these formats are useless for music.

The only real use I can see for multi-channel recordings is to add room ambiance to the presentation. I have no interest in sitting in with the band, I want to be in the audience.

Sit back, close your eyes, and let the music be presented the way it should be heard. Big, tall, and deep just like the stage at your favorite music venue.

Check out http://www.rivesaudio.com they can provide some basics for locating speakers to the greatest benefit with their site, or for a cost can help design and/or build one to suit your needs.
Like real people on a real stage. However close you can get to this ideal is what good sound staging is suppose to be.
All of the above is helpful, to get a good step by step plan visist the Cardas website. George Cardas has put together a basic instructional guidlines to proper speaker placement which deals with dividing the room into thirds.
Good luck
There are some sites that do give very detailed specs as to speaker postitioning and distance...even has a mathmatical equation. I was addicted to achieving that 'perfect equation' but then found all room interactions are different and no equations can account for them all. Plus the influence gear has on sound is such a huge variable with no real explanation as to why amp a gives better soundstage over amp b. It sounds as though you have found what i found...ya just gotta play and see what happens.

As to what should sound stage sound like? Well I think you heard it when you were cleaning. At least that's what I think soundstage should sound like. I was also amazed with the '3-D' sound when watching a dvd through my 2-channel setup. I don't miss HT at all. Try rotating the speakers a little (toe in) to see if you can expand the sweet spot a little.

I also think you found the other secret...a little liquor (or is it just being relaxed?) that makes it all a little better.
On this subject, your ears must be up-to-spec to hear good soundstaging. Through various trauma, my right ear doesn't hear much high frequency information. This definitely affects imaging and soundstaging.
Real people on the real stage fully depend on room acoustics. Very often it turns out that speakers can only help to bring it to more descent level for the stage.
I have a very good soundstage between, in front of, and behind the speakers. But, I don't seem to get much outside of the speakers except on a certain few recordings. My speakers are about three feet out from the wall but to bring them out more would reduce the already small 7 feet between the speakers. Is some kind of diffusor the only answer?
Thank's to everyone for the great examples of what to listen for in a good sound stage. I think that I'll ticker with my system like this more on cleaning day's. That way my wife won't get to upset since I'm still cleaning. I'll probably have to put my speakers on roller (joke) since I won't be able to keep them pulled out from the wall that far. I have some old 15ft. runs of some speaker cable, I wonder what they'd sound like in the middle of the room. Happy listening to all. Rick
Tall,deep,and wide....
I have a Primare 302 CD player with a Cairn 70wpc amp, and a set of Spendor S3/5's. I heard the Primare against the Cairn Fog, and the soundstage was WAY bigger, even though it's an older model. I always liked the idea of meaty electonics with a small speaker, but yet a simple set up. So I went for a soundstage+++ system, disregarding bass response, etc. and got those disappearing Spendors. I don't have much bass, no tube electronics, but notes are all over the room - and somtimes in the bathroom. Some sounds such as dry vocals, are right on your nose. But like I said, I have comprised in order to get the soundstage that I wanted...