What is Imaging?

Sorry for the basic question but I'm curious if we all mean the same thing.
When you can pick out/imaagine in space where each sound is apparently coming from. Say a massed choir.. You can hear each voice occupying a separate position in the space between/around/squeezed, wider, narrower, all mushed to Hell... etc. Vaguely from somewhere between the speakers.. maybe?
That is imaging. Good or bad.

Since it is difficult to pick out individual voices from a massed choir at a live concert I think this may be difficult to reproduce in a stereo system. Imaging of a single voice, or of a duet, is a different matter. IMO.
According to this audio glossary:

Imaging - The sense that a voice or instrument is in a particular place in the room.
Tricks, illusion and deception. Convincing and convenient perception.
Imaging is the ability of your system to convey stable, believable images. Or, as Elizabeth pointed out, a messy one. Either way it's imaging. :-)

All the best,
Go to your local Magnepan dealer. Have them set up a pair of 1.7s or 3.7s and position them for ideal setup. Sit in the sweet spot and have them play your favorite music. Listen and observe. It should become very obvious what imaging is, as you will hear a sonic hologram of the performance--where every voice and instrument is positioned in space, and the interrelations among them all.

Sorry, I'm a new convert. Just brought a pair of Magneplanar 1.7s home Saturday and it quickly became my aural virtual reality machine. I sit in the sweet spot and an transported to the performance. You don't so much listen to Maggies as hear *through* them.
I like the word soundscape, but the others aside from the Magneplanar enthusiast have explained it very well and are miraculously in agreement.
So, it is just location and separation, not depth/realism?
"So, it is just location and separation, not depth/realism?"

Sure it's depth and realism and dimensionality too. Sometimes you hear systems with great spacing between the performers laterally and back and forth, with quiet spaces between the instruments but the images just sound flat. I think it was HP who used to say "painted images on a painted sea." You want those images to have body and dimensionality as well. When you are sitting in your chair, you want to not only be able to point to that saxophone, but you want to be able to feel like you could get up and walk around it because it's so dimensional sounding. It's all part of imaging.
I would recommend Chesky's Ultimate Demonstration Disk as it gives the meaning of associated terms used in audio and then plays a track to represent each.
11-21-13: Michaelkingdom
So, it is just location and separation, not depth/realism?
Well, doesn't location & separation include depth? if you determine that the artist is in front of the stage or at the back of the stage, you have depth perception, no? Similarly, location also implies soundstage width - the artist could be on the left or the right or the extreme right or extreme left or just right of center, or just left of center, etc. So, you get a perception of width.

Realism comes from the tonal & timbral accuracy of your speakers.
But, not only the speakers but also the electronics play an very important part. And, so does the listening room. It's a tangle web....
Actually you often though not always CAN pick out individual voices in a large choir both live and recorded. Some voices stand out and are more readily identified than others IME. On smaller choral ensembles it is much easier to identify individual voices and their location.
Say what!!
Very predominantly an artifact of recording, engineering, and playback. Hearing live music in a typical location in a typical venue, there is a sense of spaciousness, but very little localization of instruments, even left to right, let alone back to front. Moreover, a good deal of what there is likely owes to the processing of visual cues. This varies with the size and ambiance of venue and of course with the number and arrangement of musicians and kinds of instruments, as well as whether and how they are amplified. But in my view, when audiophiles speak of imaging, they are referring to a phenomenon that is pretty much different in kind and extremely different in degree from what would be required (or permitted!) in recreating the live experience. That's not a knock on imaging. I love it, and want my system to be able to extract as much of it from the grooves and bits as possible. But I am under no illusion that imaging enhances an illusion of "being there" at a live event. Besides, plenty of music was made for recording rather than performing live, and performance would lose some of the virtues of the recording, including that cool imaging.
'Imaging' is the goal of stereophonic audio reproduction as laid out by Blumlein over 60 years ago.

It works pretty good!

The Image should be able to appear in space in a way that is nearly independent of the loudspeakers. Anyone who has heard Amused to Death by Roger Waters knows what I am talking about.

Imaging is best achieved by having the loudspeakers be equal height and distance from the listener's ears.

Not all speakers and electronics image the same way and some units are better at it than others. For example imaging or soundstage is generally considered the pervue of tube equipment rather than transistors although that is not to say that solid state gear does not image!

Depth is a function of the soundstage or imaging abilities of the system. IOW the soundstage should be a three-dimensional artifact of the reproduction.

Very well expressed. I agree entirely. If you close your eyes at a live performance of classical music, for example, it is very hard to pick out individual voices in a massed choir or individual instruments. I enjoy that my system is able to do this, but the imaging that it creates is very different from the actual sound of the performance.
Imaging is about the places were the instruments and voices are located. When the quality of the system is better the stage is better and also the quality of imaging. And yess depth is an essentail part for the absolute sound. Because many recordings you can listen that every part of the recording has not the same place in depth. When there is depth instruments and voices become more 3D. The level in resolution, blacks and air is important how precise instruments and voices are touchable. What I said many times; instruments and voices are in real very small in proportion. You need the right cables and sources to get the realistic proportion. When I am right you use a Pass Labs poweramp just as I do. Pass Labs give a wide and eeep stage, but instruments and voices are not very sharp focussed within the big square a Pass Labs can give as a stage. That is why you alwaya need to know exactly all the different properties each part of your system owns. At shows you hear often that instruments and voices are projected too big. The simple reason for this is that they use cables which are not able to give a small and direct focus of instruments and voices.
At big concerts there is not a lot of imaging. But at a concert of the Rollings Stones I was stunned by the dynamics ( best ever heard) and the fact that instruments were so much better separated than most other concerts of big artists. But in a small concertroom with a very good acoustic I listend to jazz music. Separation and depth was stunning. Even for live it is possible. A month ago I was at a concert of Joe Bonamassa. The drums came from behind. The separation of instruments was very good. I seldom could hear his guitar play this precise from the rest.
I have many Chesky cd's. In the past I love the way of recording. But some time ago I listend again and I did not like them so much anymore. These days the level of recordings is even higher. This makes the older Chesky recordings less special.
Location, isolation, and separation of instruments in space...depth is more soundstage(all instruments in a plane) related...front to back, lateral dispersion, etc...realism kinda falls in both camps...more so imaging...as in vivid presentation, 3d sound...im a soundstage man...I like a big, open, sound...with depth....even better...with instruments "spread out"

IMO, imaging and sound stage go hand in hand. Once you put air around an image you create greater depth of sound stage.
Something similar to imaging is the presence. The presence is more to realism and musical. Imaging is more artificial and analytical. Imaging is from everything the sound wave touches like speaker cabinet, walls and ceiling. Imaging is the art of using room and speaker cabinets. When the sound is reflected from walls and ceiling of listening room, the imaging is like the room. The sound wave reflected from the stucco wall, the sound will be dry and dusty like stucco. If the listening room is like a concert hall with expensive woods, the imaging is like the good concert hall. Unfortunately, Almost rooms are not like a concert hall. Imaging offers very little musical satisfaction. That’s why women don’t care for imaging. Imaging is valued only for the individual who pursues imaging in their room only. Or people who train to hear it. The brain has to process added information from walls and home furniture, and the listener get easily tired. Women hates it!

The presence is formed only by sound from speakers. If a recording has concert hall information, good speakers show strong presences of the concert hall. If the sound reflects to a wall, the presence of the concert hall will be lower because of the sound of room. The presence is musical because it is what is in the recording. Women love the sound with the presence. Even the bad recording is fun to listen.

In many years of my audio journey, I have heard only one speaker with true presence.
In many years of my audio journey, I have heard only one speaker with true presence. Mihorn
Which speaker? What brand and model?
Something audiophiles go crazy over and music lovers don't notice as much.

Something that has caused folks to buy speakers and then get absolutely sick of their distortion and other problems.

Something audiophiles can argue about and debate whether it really exists at a concert.

Something that one of the biggest speaker companies accomplishes, as the expense of higher distortion due to how they use the drivers, to get certain sounds float in the air, and distract them from the inherent problems with the speaker.

Something that keeps audiophiles' heads locked in a single position whole listening to the equipment (as opposed to music).

Those are some of the things that imaging is.
Proper speaker placement and sitting position is critical in creating the best imaging that a system offers. This effects depth and width as well as separation of the performers.

As for imaging during a live performance, how many people can fit in the sweet spot?
Something audiophiles go crazy over and music lovers don't notice as much.
Something that has caused folks to buy speakers and then get absolutely sick of their distortion and other problems.

Upgrading gears and find new sounds are fun! Problem is the return on investment of time, effort, and money is very small or disappointments! Worst thing is the investment doesn’t give back any feedback. Many audiophiles don’t know what to do next! Another gambling purchase is inevitable, or all previous are investments could be wasted. So, audiophiles must gamble with more investments.

If audiophiles know the weakest link in the chain, there will be no upgrade bugs. Compromise in sound is OK as long as the problem is identified. When the time and the price are right, the problem will be corrected. You are in control! Like stock market, the future is clear whether up or down, everyone is in control. If we don’t know what the problem is, we keep thinking about it. That bugs us. Audiophiles (men) don’t take that easy because of self-esteem, reputation, and previous investments. Man has to finish what he started. We love to get into something more serious. Take it like a man! It’s sad that almost everyone has gone without finding the musical nirvana. Life is short! There is no time for experiments!

You need a sound system that gives you clear feedback. The feedback comes from good speakers which is the end of chain and a vital piece in a sound system. If you have upgrade itches constantly, you need a good speaker.

Back to OP, imaging is an easy part to identify in a hi-end sound system. Imaging must be combined with musicality. If you are not sure, ask your wife if she likes the music from your sound system. She is correct.
Here are some observations that I have made over the years regarding imaging. When my son was in the Chorale in college we went to various concerts from small intimate settings (piano and singer) to the full orchestra and Chorale inside big churches. The acoustics in large churches has a lot of reverberation. That tends to blend all of the voices together. I could hear general locations but not even close to pinpoint. Like someone said, some voices stand out; but placement is not precise. We bought the CDs of the concerts sometimes (they were always professionally recorded) and the sound at home was very close to what I heard live. When my son performed in a chamber with a piano I tried to sit front center. The intimate sound was just like listening to the stereo at home.

When traveling in cities on the coast or in Europe, I stop to listen to live performers and even groups on the streets. The sound is usually flat- kind of dead because the performers are in open air. There is no reinforcement for the bass. The imaging is very good since there are very few reflections.

Clubs are not my favorite because I do not like the over amplified bass most of the time. Sometimes they are great if the music is more acoustic than amplified. I find the imaging in a club to be not as good as my stereo because of all of the reflections and distance from the performers.

The first Cowboy Junkies record is a great benchmark for a stereo, I think. It was recorded in a church with two microphones. The imaging is more realistic because it is not a mix down of a bunch of mics close up to each voice and instrument. I played violin as a kid and when I listen to some classical with violin solos, the violin sounds like it is close to my ear like when I played one and yet it is some distance away like it should be when listening to a performer. I think that is called cognitive dissonance. That is, the sound is very detailed as if your ear is very close to the source; but the source is several feet away from an imaging standpoint.

Maggies have great imaging. I rank Quad ESL's (modified 63s) a 10 for imaging and Maggies a 9. I'd give my Thiels an 8 and Wilson Watt/Puppies an 8.5. There are a number of other speakers that do a good job too, of course. I just haven't heard many other brands in a while. But still, imaging is just one facet of a speaker's performance and a lot of work has to go into the source, electronics and room in order to help the speakers develop clear, focused images.
Last weekend I did a comparison between MIT interconnects with Audioquest Colorado, Niagra and Sky. Audioquest was superior to the MIT interconnects in every single part you Judge a cable for. The silver interconnect made the stage wider and deeper compared to the MIT interconnects. Voices also became 3-dimensional. Going back to the MIT voices became rather flat. You can make a stage wider and deeper with amp. cables, conditioners and even sources. The difference also in imaging is huge. Audioquest is superior in giving a much sharper individual focus. I would love to invite MIT people on a A-B test. With a big panel as well.
Spoken by a true audiophile: "As for imaging during a live performance, how many people can fit in the sweet spot?"

As a music lover, I don't worry about where I'll find the "sweet spot". I just go. And I often find, with jazz and chamber I am withing 12 feet of the performer, in a venue not using sound reinforcement. But you have to like music enough to go without a guarantee of being in the "sweet spot". My gosh, so many folks listen to the equipment, and want live music to conform to the audiophile home experience. Can you see that this is backwards?

That's a rhetorical question. We know the answer.
Hi Bo, one thing that I have noticed over the years with MIT cables is that they need 5-10 hours of run in time after being manipulated. They will sound rather flat and dull for a while and then the sound will pop back to normal. Would you be able to let them run in for a few hours and see if you have a similar experience?
In short...imaging is the ability to pick out/concentrate individual instruments and voices in a performance....some speakers obviously do this better than others...in that there is a real realism/excitement to the presentation...they transport the listener...small monitors are known for their pinpoint imaging and focus...however...I have large speakers accomplish this as well...all in the design...FWIW, I have also heard what many would could consider budget speakers...less than $500...do this very well...its not necessarily price exclusive
Nice...a "consultant" pushing cables to emphasis improved imaging which has no proven validity...only personal opinion...here we go again....
I sold MIT for over 6 years of time. We listend first to the MIT interconnects. They were connected for a long time. Even brand new AQ interconnects were superior to the MIT cables burned in. It is not pushing. It is Always about facts and the truth. It is about using the best quality possible, the rest does not make sence.
Cables are known to have the least effect on systems...then amps...once again back to speakers for depth and imaging....but dealers/consultants love to push hi end cables...huge mark up...then ofcourse one had to bi-wire...then bi-amp, etc
I'm siting here listening to Copelands Symphony Number 3 on my Magnepans. This is imaging.
I do not agree. Some cables are that good that they have a very big influence. Since 2002 I use blind auditions to show to people how much they can do. For example source of 2000 euro with powercable of 2600 euro. Compared to source of 5000 euro with powercable of 100 euro. Or amp from 5000 euro with powercable of 100 euro. And amp of 2500 euro withj powercable of 2600 euro. You can spend your money one time. I want people to get the best quality for the money.

This weekend I was at a client with Wadia 381, Spectral poweramp, Audio Research 5SE and Isophon Cassiano. With MIT interconnects and MIT powercables there was a very vague focus with a little depth, low freq. were not tight and also the different layers were not there. By using Purist Powercables and Audioquest silver intrconnects the whole sound went to a much higher level. More depth, the image was so much more touchable and more 3-D. Decay was superior to the MIT cables.

Without the best cables you still miss the quality in imaging you can get with highend speakers, amps and sources with good cables.
I know that some people disparage the value of imaging because you don't get imaging and sound staging effects at a live concert. But if the recording engineer deliberately manipulated or recorded or mixed the music so to create a sense of location of instruments/voices and an expansive soundstage, then I want my rig to reproduce that. Its' one of the great pleasures of good home audio in my book.
You are fully right!!
Left speaker emits sound. Right speaker emits sound.
If/when you can place them to work together in the proper positions, the individual sounds emitted by the individual boxes will seem to disappear and "image" into a 3-D sound stage.

That is imaging.

Like the focus ring on a lens. Twist it around until you see a clear image.
Nice said, but the most people have a 2-dimensional sound. And they also have an image!!