What should you hear?


I'm new to the hobby and curious what type of imaging sound stage you should hear.  I have a pair of Vandersteen 2ce signatures and they sound great.  What I find however is that the imaging, sound stage is very dependent on the recording.   

Norah Jones?  She sounds like she's sitting right in the room.  It's amazing.  

One I'm particularly interested in learning more about is Brubek's Take Five.   The saxophone images great.  Sounds dead center.  The piano however is clearly coming from the right hand speaker and the drums are clearly coming from the left.  Is this typical? 

Thanks for your input and tolerating a "newbie" question. 
mvrooman1526
@larryi --

I agree that imaging on some classical orchestral recordings can be quite impressive. I like recorded music for that aspect of performance. But, arguably, it is not that realistic because you almost never get the kind of precise instrument placements one has on recordings when hearing the music live. If you close your eyes at a orchestral performance, you really don't hear as precise an image; you use your eyes to get the placement. I don't care that much that most recordings are, in that sense, unrealistic, because I like what I hear.

Important point raised regarding the perceived experience of live music vs. its reproduced state in front of a home stereo. In that sense and on a broader scale it could easily be argued that the cultivation of reproduced music tends to be something of its own rather than more authentically emulating a live reference (un-amplified or not). We're not always given that much to work with in light of the nature of a range of recordings, but that being said, and irrespective of the nature of said recordings, what is sought after is usually more of a magnifying glass placed over a limited area on a canvas rather than seeing the scope of a bigger picture - with all that entails one way and the other..
People that attend live musical events and fail to locate instrumental voices, via ear, should spend a bit more, on their seating.        Of course; it helps to know something about the hall/venue, the seating arrangements, and acoustics.         For acoustic Jazz, Blues, Chamber Music, etc gigs: get there earlier and pick a seat, that allows for a balanced sound stage, imagining where binaural mics might be placed, if one were recording.                    That’s all assuming venues with decent acoustics.
@rodman99999 
I agree on seating position in a concert hall or club and the acoustics. Here in Philly we have a mega million dollar overdamped concert hall which is such a shame. The orchestra moved from a 150 year old venue with excellent sonics.

As stated above, the recording of an orchestra may not give a true reproduction of the live event. Depending on engineering and recording techniques, it may sound flat and closed-in or may sound open with great depth. I prefer not to compare it to live, but to enjoy a great performance with the ambience of a concert hall. I like my listening spot to sound like I'm sitting in mid-hall orchestra seating.


@rodman99999 --

People that attend live musical events and fail to locate instrumental voices, via ear, should spend a bit more, on their seating.       Of course; it helps to know something about the hall/venue, the seating arrangements, and acoustics.        For acoustic Jazz, Blues, Chamber Music, etc gigs: get there earlier and pick a seat, that allows for a balanced sound stage, imagining where binaural mics might be placed, if one were recording.                   That’s all assuming venues with decent acoustics.

From my chair it's not about "fail[ing] to locate instrumental voices," but rather that the sonic nature of a live acoustic event deviates intrinsically from a reproduced ditto in a home setting, and that also in the sense that the precision of instrumental placement that can be found in the latter isn't as pronounced in the former. These impressions are based on a variety of concert venues with very good to excellent acoustics, positioned mid-hall or the 3/4 section of the seating rows, as centered as possible. I'm a fiend when it comes to finding the proper seating position, mind you. 

Still, despite the fundamental difference of presentation from a live acoustic event (less so an amplified one), it's my go-to reference when trying to humbly approximate its traits/characteristics via the home stereo, and not the other way round. 
Rodman,

It is true that one could find a seat up front that provies a nice stereo spread and allows one to aurally locate instrumental groups/soloists, but, that seat might not be close to ideal for other reasons--tonal balance, proper mix of reverberation, etc.  For example, in "shoe-box" orchestral halls, it is often the case that seats about 2/3 of the way back down the hall are better than up front.  Also, in any hall, the ideal seats would be a small portion of the total seating, so saying that everyone should spend more to get better seating simply doesn't work.  My point was that listening at home is a different experience, and in at least one aspect, the difference can be in favor of a good recording played at home.  But, of course, the whole experience of a live performance is, to me, much more enjoyable.  This is particularly the case with large-scale classical works where the power and scale cannot be matched by a stereo system.

For some other forms of music, such as rock, the non-sonic factors that make the experience enjoyable play an even bigger role.  Frankly, if my stem sounded as bad as the sonics at a rock concert, I would have long ago quit the game.