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SOUNDSTAGE DEPTH. Is it IRRELEVANT to music enjoyment?

Posted on April 15, 2000 at 06:13:14

In my quest for new, more room-friendly speakers, I've asked myself this question more and more. For although stondstage depth is useful and interesting to have, increasingly I find that its absence does not effect my understanding and enjoyment of the music at hand in the way that a lack of sounstage width does.

I'm placing all of this in the context of certain ideas that soundstage per se, is relatively less important than any other aspect of reproduced sound; it seems to me that speed, coherence and timing (aka P.R.A.T.) and the absence of smear (you don't know what the absence of smear sounds like until you heard Spectral amps, or the 47 Labs Gaincard - ALL the frequencis of an instrument sound like they're emanating from the same 2-D location) contribute hugely to one's enjoyment of music, much more so than any idea that fantastically wide, tall and deep images do. After all, can we really recreate the sounstage of the Roayal Opera House, Covent Garden in our listening room? And if not, why do we even bother? Does a complete lack of soundstage information stop you enjoying the silken tonality of your mono reproduction 1960s Roberts radio?

Put it this way, how many of you have trouble interpreting the spaces suggested by projected film at you favourite cinema? Did you find yourself angry and frustrated that you couldn't see 'Amercan Beauty' in full resplendent 3-D at your nearest IMAX wrap-around screen? Did you enjoy the film any less because it was played in 2-D. Did the suggestion of 3-D, as opposed to the attempted reproduction of 3-D cause you to declare it as non 'visiophile'?

Do we need depth at all?



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Re: SOUNDSTAGE DEPTH. Is it IRRELEVANT to music enjoyment?, posted on April 15, 2000 at 08:09:16
Jack G
I consider soundstaging, and "the visuals" in general to be secondary. They can be mildly entertaining at first but I actually tend to find them rather distacting. hile PRAT is nice, its not my top priority. For me, its getting the harmonics right, and immediacy.
Thats what SET/horns seem to do well.


Re: SOUNDSTAGE DEPTH. Is it IRRELEVANT to music enjoyment?, posted on April 15, 2000 at 08:14:53
Jim A.
I enjoy depth, but don't find it critical since any reasonably well-assembled stereo will provide at least some illusion of depth, faux or no. Lateral width, however, I do find critical since, to me, a pinched stage presentation compresses scale, physical if not dynamic. I enjoy a "fast" sound as much as the next guy, but don't find pace as critical as coherence, which to me is what SET is all about. My experience has been that SET places players--playing together--coherently within the same space. My experience with push-pull, on the other hand, has been that the players are perhaps better defined within their individual spaces, but the presentation itself never develops the unity, coherence, and precision of a good SET presentation. Others might flatly disagree; they might not place as much musical value on those factors; or they might not "hear" or describe the musical presentation in those terms . . . all of which is cool--to each his own. But since soundspace coherence is what I look for in terms of musical (and, yes, auditory) satisfaction, then I suppose depth, width, and other spatial information is critical to my enjoyment. It's in the coherent presentation where I find the musical message. BTW, I use Lowther DX3's in Medallion II cabinets, and they throw a stage at least as coherent as my Spica TC-50's or the Angelus speakers I formerly owned.


Coherence and Speed, posted on April 15, 2000 at 19:03:57
Perhaps I should elaborate more on what I refer to when I mention speed (I'm as wary as the next guy that words sometimes serve only to confuse not elucidate, and that meaning can be elusive).

I would mostly agree with what you say about SET regarding coherence, and that sense of togetherness and unity in presentation that is so generously reproduced by a good SET amp. My need for that unity and coherence to include the lowest frequencies has led me along the path of amps like the Gaincard. In truth, a particular strength it demonstrates is its ability to deliver all the frequencies of an instrument at the right time (including the lowest and fundamentals), and without smearing effects - effects which before now I never really understood: ie, all the harmonics of a piano note will arrive at the right/same? time, reinforcing the body and integrity of the instrument within the recording in a manner that no speaker - renowned for imaging abilities, like my now defunct Audio Physic Virgos - can pretend to emulate or reproduce (or reconfigure and explode out of all proportion). In a sense, if the amp hasn't already got this top-to-bottom speed and coherence right, then a speaker can never correct it, and can only seek to mask (or reveal) these deficiencies. An important example of Garbage-In-Garbage-Out for me.

And even though a speaker may struggle to recreate pin-point sound images, or ultra-clear instrumental/vocal boundary delineation, this fundamental level of coherence and broad harmonic integrity is very easy to detect once identified (and its surpising how many people have not truly heard this type of coherence). For me it greatly improves my experience of immediacy, and 'freshness', as 47 Labs describe it, in a performance, and also aids my experience of musical phrasing and counterpoint between instruments/musicians.

I'd be curious to know how you fared in you transition from the type of sounds produced by the Spicas or the Angelus, to the Lowthers.



Re: SOUNDSTAGE DEPTH. Is it IRRELEVANT to music enjoyment?, posted on April 15, 2000 at 19:34:24
Me, I just want the instruments and voices to sound real. I do most of my strictly music listening on a MONO rig. I find most pop music mixes so bad (15' wide drum sets etc.) that the image is a distracton, better to listen mono, Hell, it all sounds mono in a bar anyway. The Big Mamu DD rig downstairs is used mostly for watching LDs and DVDs.


Re: SOUNDSTAGE DEPTH. Is it IRRELEVANT to music enjoyment?, posted on April 16, 2000 at 00:25:57
To me ,without depth, orchestral music would sound unreal.Imagine hearing the bass drum or triangle right were the conductor is.In addition mono is fine for some music by for orchestral music it would not be convincing.


Re: SOUNDSTAGE DEPTH. Is it IRRELEVANT to music enjoyment?, posted on April 16, 2000 at 01:28:30
For sure, the space might sound unconvincing, but would it interfere wit the musical comprehension in a manner that, say, a collapsed stage width might?



Mono. Chucked away too soon?, posted on April 16, 2000 at 01:33:24
Tom, I find myself agreeing with you. Soundstage stuff is nice, if it doesn't interfere with the reality of the musical sounds at hand. I'm surprised to find myself actually saying this.

Music first, sound second.



Re: Coherence and Speed (Spica vs. Lowther), posted on April 16, 2000 at 07:09:33
Jim A.
With the caveat that my Lowthers have only 65 or so hours on them, I'd offer the following.

The transition, which by no means is complete (there will always be a place in my home for Spica's), was actually easy. To my ears, the Lowther/Medallion II's are hot-rodded Spicas. The primary differences are that the Lowthers are more detailed with a larger scaled presentation. While neither Spica is gonna do much below, say, 45 hz., I nonetheless find the Lowther bass range more revealing and satisfying, though subjectively I don't think I'm getting below 65 hz. The bass range is well balanced against the rest of the spectrum and better integrated into the sonic fabric. After only 60 or so hours, the rather large Lowther/Medallions don't vanish into the presentation with quite the aplomb or consistency of either Spica, but speed and attack are superior, rendering the "eyes closed" presentation more compelling. Of course the Lowther/Medallions are easier to drive and more dynamic, both micro and macro, than either Spica.

I well understand what you mean by "speed"--the accurate alignment of harmonic structure--which I believe to be an unattainable ideal. Never in my life, for example, have I heard a hi-fi reproduce the bass range and power of a 10 foot grand, nor do I particularly expect that of my system. The "coherence" of which I speak, however, has little to do with accurate bass reproduction. So long as "what bass there is" is well balanced and integrated, along with the mids and trebles, into the sonic fabric, then I'm satisfied with the reproduction. Thus far in my twenty years as a music-lover, only Spica's and now Lowthers (perhaps only--it's still early in the game), have taken me there. I've owned many others, including Maggies, Thiels, Acoustats, etc., that have proven less satisfying, to me that is.


Re: SOUNDSTAGE DEPTH. Is it IRRELEVANT to music enjoyment?, posted on April 16, 2000 at 12:28:11
Well,actually when you listen to mono recordings there is the collasped width you referred to but you still hear depth.


Harmonic stuctural alignment, SAP Quartettes and Beauhorn Virtuosos, posted on April 16, 2000 at 16:49:06
I'm with you all the way on the subject of harmonic alignment, that coincidence of the full spectrum of an instrument's sound - and I hear what you say regarding the unattainability of the fundamentals of a 10' grand. I guess I'm saying that this unity of sound to which I refer is infinitely more musically informative than the pursuit of holographic soundstages (where you feel its possible to walk a round the performers but still not comprehend or empathise with the melodies or harmonies).

I may have the opportunity to hear the Strumenti Acustici di Precisione Quartettes hybrid horn speaker in Italy later this month (2 5" full-range drivers, tactrix horn-loaded cone tweeter, horn-loaded piezo-electric supertweeter, separate 12" paper and foam bass drivers; www.sap-highend.com). But I wonder whether its all worth while, and whether I should investigate something like the Beauhorn Virtuosos with Lowther DX4 drivers? I can't tell you how disappointed I am with the music (the sound is wonderful, if you like that super widescreen panoramavisio kind of thing - and I've realised the hard way that I actually don't care for it much) that I squeeze out of the Audio Physic Virgo 2s.


Re: Harmonic stuctural alignment, SAP Quartettes and Beauhorn Virtuosos, posted on April 17, 2000 at 16:07:13
Jim A.
Being no bass afficionado, and adhering to the "less is more" philosophy, I would choose not to pursue a lossy, multidriver speaker system. I have neither the room nor the $$$ to do it right, if doing it right were possible. But DX4's in a Beauhorn? The shortest path between two points is a straight line. Enjoy your search.


Jim A.


Timbre, dynamics, soundstaging... in that order., posted on April 17, 2000 at 21:32:06
Kurt Strain
Timbre gets subdivided and can be further subdivided as all these can be:
Overtones, cohesiveness, body, texture, consistency in volume, consistency in frequency. This is what counts most to me.

PRAT, dynamic range (PRAT is a list of things, obviously)

Directional cues - dimensionality (w x h x d), focus, stability, correctness of image sizing and proportionality, geometric distortions (i.e. square is more trapezoidal than it should be). Not so important as the top two but it adds the finishing touches for a realistic portrayal if done well.

This is just a short compressed list. What makes something more involving or realistic or call it accuracy will vary greatly from person to person. There's more than one way to skin this cat.



Re: SOUNDSTAGE DEPTH. Is it IRRELEVANT to music enjoyment?, posted on April 29, 2000 at 15:05:36
Mono has a lack of base compared to stereo. I wont listen to anything in mono.
To me, soundstage is more important than the rest. I can listen to just about anything with fabulous soundstage. Even music I dont like. I have a Carver Sonic Holograph, Polk SDA 1A speakers and Polk SDA CRS. Now those have soundstage. But sense I bought my Snell XA surround system I only listen to it. I have a pair of DiAural speakers on their way from Kimber Kable.
check this out:
They talk about my new speakers.


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