3D Soundstage and How To Get It?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by WildPhydeaux, Nov 5, 2019.

  1. WildPhydeaux

    WildPhydeaux Picture withheld by The Authorities Thread Starter

    A Parade in Dallas
    So I hear and read a lot about people's description of a 3d soundstage - wide, well beyond the width of speakers, and a noticeably deep front to back space, allowing them to locate individual instruments within this virtual space. At best, the speakers "disappear". Gee, I like the sound of that, pun intended. Obviously this location of instruments will be content dependent as my assumption is that this is a result of the actual locations of the instruments during recording and/or mixing.

    Cool. Never experienced it in 40 years of listening. At the risk of annoying some, but entirely expecting that my ignorance is showing, how much of this is pure listener's imagination and how much is evident to most people if they quietly relax, closed eyed and listen with an open mind? I really would like to experience this. Although I don't have the best of gear and the most ideal of environments, to my ear my system is the best sounding system I've ever owned. It sounds really good but I wouldn't describe a soundstage anywhere near what many describe. I've played around with speaker placement ad naseum, and I can definitely affect center focus but it's rare to hear anything from outside the speaker's width.

    Revel F52 driven by PrimaLuna Dialogue integrated, source is digital. There is also a Velodyne DD-12 sub. Room is 15' wide and 26' deep, system is on the narrow wall with speakers currently about 36" from the back wall (wall to front baffle), about 7'6" apart leaving roughly 40" between speakers and their adjacent side walls. Listening position is roughly 11' back as measured from each speaker face diagonally to my head. The listening chair is therefore roughly central in the room, front to back. Sub is halfway between left speaker and left side wall. Ceiling is 8'4" although there is a 3' x 15' bulk head directly above the equipment where the ceiling is therefore 7'8". The room is untreated and has cork flooring. The side wal are broken by a couple doorways and stairway on the left and by a large window ( with pleated fabric horizontal screen) and leather love-seat and bookshelves on the right. It's a lively room and I may add an area rug soon.

    The sub has it's own PEQ and I've adjusted it reasonably well with no serious nodes or lean spots. Although I don't use Dirac, I have used Dirac to measure response (9 or 11 positions if I recall) and the speakers showed to be amazingly "flat". Ish. As it is now, I feel there are no serious issues with the bass handoff between speakers and sub - it seems pretty seamless and I rarely am aware of the sub, unless I turn it off.

    As I say it sounds great to my ear and I'm generally very happy but it annoys me that I can't even come close to realizing a soundstage.

    izgoblin likes this.
  2. seikosha

    seikosha Forum Resident

    Lively rooms will kill the effect. Also, it's my opinion that you are sitting too far away from your speakers which leads to hearing as much or more reflective sounds from the room rather than straight from your speakers. At max, I wouldn't be any more than 8 feet away. Of course all this is just guessing without seeing your room and hearing the system. Good luck, when it works, you'll hear everything lock in. It's not magic, just good solid setup.
  3. rocketmotor

    rocketmotor Forum Resident

    Agree with the above comment, try sitting closer. This will probably require moving the speakers around to match the new seated position.
    Dave, The FRiNgE and audiomixer like this.
  4. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Buffalo, NY
    I've come to recognize that there is a learned listening aspect, but the first step is hearing the center.

    What you hear relates to the distance the mics used are placed from the sound source plus what the mixing engineer does with it all.

    This is a very real thing, but I don't think everyone hears it or prizes it the way some do. I judge a system based on it's ability to do this. It's my main thing.

    Also, consider that some records have this in spades, others not so much. A mono recording sounds like a ball of sound in the center. Live albums can be the best.

    Digital sources don't do it as well as LPs, but they do do it.

    The Boys in the Band - Gentle Giant (1972)
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2019
  5. patient_ot

    patient_ot Senior Member

    Acoustic music, that is recorded well and mixed with very good separation between instruments, can give the listener a pseudo 3D effect. Compressed rock music, with loud distorted guitars and instruments fighting for space is the mix is not likely to give you the effect.

    A lot of the stuff people yammer on an on about 3D effect w/r/t to a 2 channel stereo set up is mainly in their imagination. That or they listen to a lot of tame, well recorded acoustic music.

    Awhile back on Youtube there was a guy that had a huge chunk of change invested into his source components but used HTIB/multimedia powered speakers with the little satellite boxes. He bought some fancy speaker cables and rigged them up so they would work with his speakers. He then claimed that everything miraculously became "holographic".

    The human mind is a powerful thing.
    Rukiki, Phil Thien, Drewan77 and 3 others like this.
  6. jtw

    jtw Forum Resident

    You're in Canada. Smoke something.
  7. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Buffalo, NY
    You know you've got it when the cat starts looking over int he corner. Probably not in the cat's mind, but then, it sort of is in a way. We have evolved to hear direction and distance. Seems like tubes, and tubes without negative feedback applied, drench the sound in harmonic distortion and this will simulate and amplify the sense of space between instruments.
    Kyle Mooney likes this.
  8. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Buffalo, NY
    Other recordings where you really get it are those that will feature something recorded in a large acoustic space, but mixed in momentarily with a studio track. I'm thinking of some ELO tracks that are pretty flat and then open up into a huge room for a moment. Something like this:

    Can't hear it on my computer, but they cut into a tap studio, which you hear the space open up, but also the positioning of the feet on the floor of the stage.
    bluemooze and WildPhydeaux like this.
  9. TheSixthBeatle

    TheSixthBeatle Quae nocent, saepe docent

    I got a nice 3-d effect moving the speakers away from the back wall some -- maybe 40" -- and adding a little toe-in. I sit about 10 feet from the speakers. A (non-audiophile) friend of mine was floored the first time he heard my system, crying "the singer's a couple feet behind the band!" Mine are trophy speakers, from my salad days, and they move a fair amount of air. I suppose that contributes. The room is far from ideal.
    Dave, WildPhydeaux and bever70 like this.
  10. Jim G.

    Jim G. Geezer with a nice stereo!

    Magnapan MMGs, 8ft. from side walls, 10 ft. from back wall, vaulted ceiling, a perfect room for them. Also, if legal in your state, a little herb may help!
    doctor fuse, 23jim, TheVU and 3 others like this.
  11. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Buffalo, NY
    Maggie’s for sure. That’s how I first heard it.
  12. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Katy, TX
    Probably best not to precisely center them on that wall.

    Also there threads on this topic if you search. Here's one. The method is a bit extreme. I've never done it this way. I just keep moving things until it sounds right. I auditioned them at a store, so I knew what I was after. But this method is methodical. Probably helpful if you don't know what you're actually after.
    A great speaker placement method.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2019
    hi_watt and WildPhydeaux like this.
  13. gguy

    gguy Forum Resident

    Wildomar, CA
    Ultimately it is Source/room/speaker dependent. I found using a test CD with Imaging/Soundstage/LEDR tests helped me in positioning the speakers to get the best depth and imaging given my setup. I used the Chesky Jazz sampler which has all of these.

    The only music I have found that I can get the full effect with is Jazz, or acoustic music. But the tests will help you determine if it is your setup, or your source.
  14. bever70

    bever70 It's all about the soundstage

    Well maybe it's like the 3d drawings/paintings...they were a huge thing back in the day! Some could see it (after a while it even became really easy), and some just could not. My wife doesn't 'hear' the 3d soundstage, she has hearing loss in one ear...

    I will say one thing on this subject :
    Master Set speaker set up
    Follow these steps and you are in for a surprise. No matter how lively your room is !!! In fact it will work better in a lively room.
    I can't listen with my eyes closed for too long because it just gets too scary with certain recordings and I need to open them to get back a sense of the space I am in, but apparently it's all in my mind so I don't need to worry about it too much. :biglaugh:
    And while some recordings will render it better than others there definitely is no need to stick to so called tame audiophile recordings with this set up :unhunh: !
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2019
    BD2665 and WildPhydeaux like this.
  15. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Seattle, WA
    It would be very helpful if the OP would post his equipment profile. I have no clue what kind of equipment he is running...

    That said: Good tube gear has a much greater tendency to throw 3D soundstage than does SS equipment in general. Much of the older CJ gear is famous for this ability.

    But the best equipment in the word will only go so far if there are issues with your room. Dealing with some of the initial reflections off of side-walls can be critical. Also, placing speakers against your short wall puts your system at an inherent disadvantage when it comes to imaging and soundstage. It is distinctly harder to achieve a really holographic soundstage when your speakers are against the short wall in my experience.
  16. HenryH

    HenryH Forum Resident

    Moving the speakers away from the back wall and moving your listening seat closer to them is a good place to start. Try to get that rough equilateral triangle thing going. Then minor adjustments like toe-in after that. At this point it's a bit of trial and error. You may need some acoustical treatment to boot.

    But it also greatly depends upon the recording. You won't hear it if it's not there to begin with, so try and get a few distinct recordings that actually do have a 3D soundstage, otherwise it could become a very frustrating exercise.
    dennem, TEA FOR ONE and TarnishedEars like this.
  17. PhilBiker

    PhilBiker sh.tv member number 666

    Northern VA, USA
    There are *so many* factors in creating a great soundfield, starting with the most important thing of all - the source recording itself.

    If you've ever been able to sit in a high quality professional recording (or better yet mixing/mastering) studio environment, with really good engineers playing back well recorded material, you'd get a good practical feel for how imaging really should work.

    A simple way to get (near) perfect imaging at home is to set up a "near field". Here's a good explanation of what this is and how it works. Near Field Monitoring – Acoustic Fields - Near fields are awesome for imaging but they don't get quite as good a feel for soundfield depth of larger fields.

    Once you've set up a near field and have a familiar recording that you know contains the kind of imaging and depth that you are listening for you'll know better how to recognize the effect in a larger room. Most of the time in professional mixing or recording rooms there will be both a near field and a larger "room" sound. Engineers will switch between the two speakers to work on getting the kind of depth and imaging they want best for each recording.

    One thing to think about - IME in order to make a larger room image well, the most important thing is for there to be NOTHING in between the speakers (up to the front of the L/R field - for example, have your speakers 3 feet out in the room and the rack flush against the wall can be OK) and NOTHING between any of the speakers and your head.

    Oh - also - never put anything on the top of your speakers. Anything - plants, etc. - becomes part of the speaker and will mess up imaging. Both speakers must be identical.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2019
    izgoblin, bluemooze and Doctor Fine like this.
  18. pdxway

    pdxway Forum Resident

    Oregon, USA
    OP, since you already spent ~$15K or so in your setup and you are using digital source, it may be time to try a good power conditioner if you don't already have one.

    Here is an explanation why:

  19. Bingo Bongo

    Bingo Bongo Music gives me Eargasms

    Ottawa, Canada
    I've heard some great surround sound, but cant say I've heard 3D either.
  20. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    Central PA
    I have a Carver Sonic Hologram generator in storage, from the 1980's, which gave me a great 3D soundstage. The processor basically took a little from the right channel, threw it out-of-phase, and sent it to the left channel, and vice-versa. What you would get were specific sound cues outside of the confines of the speakers, as well as a more pronouced perception of depth front-to-back in towards the center. Most effective sitting in the sweet spot, of course. I would pull out one of my cleaner recordings, such as Fagan's Nightfly or Jennifer Warnes' Famous Blue Raincoat, and just go, "whoahhhhh!". Relatively well-built piece of equipment for the day, better than some of those gadgets you might find in the DAK catalogues of the era. Once I started assembling surround systems starting with a proper Denon AV receiver, I put it away. And, where stereo is concerned, I am just a better-trained listener all by myself.
    WildPhydeaux and PhilBiker like this.
  21. WildPhydeaux

    WildPhydeaux Picture withheld by The Authorities Thread Starter

    A Parade in Dallas
    Sorry, did you need serial numbers on the equipment I listed?

    So, I've been quite amazed at the responses and I appreciate the information provided. I'll read through the various links provided this evening and likely try some of the suggestions but politely ignore suggestions to change gear as I have little interest in that at this point, especially Maggies <grin>. While its true that it's a live room, its not an echo chamber. Now I realize reflections don't need to be slapping me in the face to be a factor, but at this point the primary reflection points are both "treated". On the right, the reflection point is the pleated fabric window covering. On the left it's actually a door - when closed I can clearly hear a lack of L-R balance, so it's left ajar just enough to redirect that primary reflection away from my listening point. I'm not considering this ideal, but its better than ignored.

    I appreciate the suggestion that I'm too far away. According to rough calculation I would have to be 2 feet closer to be nearer an equilateral triangle. As a 6'7" person, I'll be able to use my equipment stand as a foot rest. Yeah, not happening. I have experimented with chair position and heard roughly zero difference in terms of soundstage. I've also tried widening the speakers to match my 11' distance, also to little effect. In both these cases I played with tow-in. This being the case, I suspect that I should re-try all suggestions with a little more space between the speakers and the back wall. As the equipment rack is virtually against the back wall, this would also have the effect of opening up the space between the speakers a bit.

    The suggestion of using the long wall to reorient the room is a non-starter for practical reasons.

    Also, yes, although I appreciate good old rock 'n' roll, I do understand that soundstage is best experienced and experimented with using jazz quartet/quintet and ideally live recordings. I have a fair amount of recordings but appreciate the suggestions also. I did pop Cowboy Junkies Trinity Sessions on at one point. I can definitely hear the atmosphere, but couldn't take Margot Kidders voice on Sweet Jane - her tongue turned into a razor lunging at my ears with every S. I've heard hundreds of recordings but never experienced anything approaching that level of ear spike - my system is normally very smooth. But I digress...

    I can't shift the gear left or right. One thing I forgot to mention is that there is a large plasma TV on the backwall and it's wiring into the wall. So left/right symmetry is fixed. I have a padded fabric screen that covers the TV when not in use, so i guess I do have some treatment in place...

  22. WildPhydeaux

    WildPhydeaux Picture withheld by The Authorities Thread Starter

    A Parade in Dallas
    No interest in muti-channel for music, although I would love to hear DSotM and Frankenstein in SQ quad again...

    Yeah, I've played with vintage gear that I had fond memories of, including Polk SDA (similar effect to the Carver Sonic Holography) and found... best left as memory. Not that there's anything wrong with it

  23. Mmmark

    Mmmark Forum Resident

    I think it's important to understand that what we are (all) trying to do is strengthen an illusion - no matter your setup, you are not going to be able to recreate the sound of a live band on stage. As long as you are limited to two speakers, that illusion boils down to how effectively you can separate and focus the energy coming from the drivers of your speakers across two dimensions. '3D' sound is not a very useful descriptor unless you are talking about multi-channel, multi-speaker set-ups, which are a whole different story.
    Discussing typical two speaker set-ups, I think the differences in perceived soundstage come down to how effective your speakers are in terms of reproducing dynamic range, and to what extent you can control/eliminate/mitigate/account for reflections. Reflections are not necessarily bad (they can reinforce and strengthen base, for example), but I think it becomes almost impossible to discern fine detail in a way that strengthens the illusion of soundstage unless you can eliminate or manage reflections.
    In the most general sense, I think there is a fundamental difference between those looking to make their music sound good, and those looking to create a convincing illusion. Neither approach is right or wrong, but you do end up making choices and sacrifices that prioritize one result over another. I would think that one sort of obvious compromise simply has to do with liveablity. Unless you have a dedicated listening room (and listening position) with a suitable geometry and appropriate treatments, you are unlikely to achieve truly convincing soundstage (i.e., actually fool your brain into thinking it's hearing something in 3D). Having said that, I think many people are more than happy to simply work with what they have they have to optimize the elements in their system to produce clean, detailed, pleasant music.
    Kristofa and WildPhydeaux like this.
  24. davidb1

    davidb1 Forum Resident

    Atlanta, GA
    The Stereophile Test CD 2 has one track called Mapping the Soundstage. Movement and location within the soundstage are easily audible.
  25. WildPhydeaux

    WildPhydeaux Picture withheld by The Authorities Thread Starter

    A Parade in Dallas
    @Mmmark - I don't want to overstate what I'm seeking. I'm certainly not asking for help to transform an already nice sounding system into something it's not. I assume everyone who claims their system sounds indistinguishable from live to be massively suggestible. My quest is not that. It's simply seeking if there are some reasonable changes I can make which will provide just a little more of a wider/deeper soundstage. Surely it's not all or nothing: custom, dedicated room or don't bother. If no suggestion works, OK, I can live with that because I do very much enjoy what I have. But there's nothing wrong with a bit of tinkering and learning from others who have been there, done that!


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