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I've been reading these boards for a long while and when a tweak improves soundstage (wider, deeper, etc) I wonder if it really matters because the soundstage that one hears through the speakers may very well be created by the recording engineer. I'm no music engineering expert, but I think during the recording session, every instrument is played very close and in front of one or more mics. The the mixing engineer takes the tracks and creates a stereo master (or a 5.1 master). I'm no acoustic expert but basically we hear spacial information because our ears are apart and sound takes a bit longer to reach the other ear, so if sound comes from the left speaker, it takes a bit more time to reach the right ear and our brains can tell that the sound is coming from the left. So "stereo" is achieved by mixing info into the left and right channels.
I've listened to pop cds that have a much wider soundstage than audiophile jazz cds. I've also listened to some CDs where the recording was done live with just two mics (I think Chesky has some of those recordings). In these recordings the sound just sounds "distant" without that "intimacy" you get when the mic is placed in front of the instrument...
Ignoring any form of music that is electronically amplified (I mean, is there really a standard position for the guitarist . . . such sounstaging is a matter of preference and is totally artificial) there are problems with recording practice.
If you go to live jazz (unamplified), operas and symphonies you know that most of the great halls are designed to blend sound. Not there aren't spatial clues, there are. But by the time you have moved back to the middle of the parquet or a balcony the sound is more blended than most recordings. Why? Because one wants to sell the seats on the side, that's why!
Very few recording crews use(d) the simple figure 8 Vee configuration that yields optimum balance, spatial clues and even contains phase information that allows the true rear sound to be derived. Crews using this configuration were Mercury Living Presence and still include Telarc (usually).
Unfortunately, several prominant conductors wanted the sound to be an "idealized" version of what they heard on the podium (Bernsteein and von Karajan were the most famous and most egregious offenders) creating a demand amongst audiophiles for a ping pong style separation.
Many like it. I do not. Most emphatically do not. I would never sit front row center (and many recordings are even more exagerated than even that.)
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Unless we were at the recording session, we can't know for sure what the performance or mic feed sounded like. There are some well-made recordings that have good sound-stage information, but many compressed pop recordings have none.
If we make changes in our systems and hear changes in the sound-stage, we have to be careful not to assume any change is necessarily an improvement.
Some sources of mechanical vibration can give an apparent depth to recordings that do not contain depth information. This is similar to the "stadium" effects found on glitzy and cheap receivers. If every recording sounds this way, be suspicious that some new mechanical resonances were introduced.
You are correct in that that there are mixed recordings and natural ones such as Chesky produces. The important factor is how well a particular playback system presents the soundstage information as recorded on the disc, regardless of it's nature.
You should want your equipment to reproduce the soundstage on the recording as accurately as possible. Different recordings, of course, have different soundstages. And some recordings have soundstages that attempt to recreate, let's say, the soundstage you would hear in a symphony hall (the horns are in the right place, the strings are in the right place, etc., etc.).
I'm not sure where "real" comes into it. As soon as you introduce a microphone, you can throw "real" right out the window.
if you weren't present at the mixing/mastering you have no idea how to judge "accuracy" regarding soundstage.
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