What tweaks can I make to my system for a better soundstage?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Prospero, Feb 8, 2022.

  1. Prospero

    Prospero Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    United States
    Hi everyone, I’m a brand new member, though I’ve searched and read forum topics a number of times. I love my system, but, as most audiophiles do, I’m looking for tweaks toward a better soundstage. My equipment is listed in my profile, but here it is for convenience:

    VPI Classic One turntable
    JMW Memorial 10.5 tonearm
    Soundsmith Voice cartridge
    Parasound Halo 2.1 integrated amp
    Sutherland 20/20 phono pre-amp
    Marantz SA8004 SACD Player
    PSB Imagine T2 tower speakers
    Audioquest biwire speaker cables
    Mackenzie RCA interconnects

    I’d love recommendations on what changes or tweaks might add the biggest bang for the buck. Thanks in advance!
    hi_watt and GyroSE like this.
  2. Danmar

    Danmar Forum Resident

    Welcome. Look into a DBX 3BX range expander.
    The Pinhead and Prospero like this.
  3. seikosha

    seikosha Forum Resident

    A good room, Proper setup and room treatments. With a good room, you can do wonders.
  4. Rick58

    Rick58 Forum Resident

    Eagle, ID, USA
    I respectfully disagree ... while this may make things sound good at first, seems like it's an artificial enhancement? Which does "the same thing" for all recordings? I admit, maybe I don't know WTH I'm talking about (which I don't, I never heard one). OK, go ahead and look into it. :D

    Right on! Setup to begin with, if you've used the Cardas Method, or any other 'established' method and still find it lacking ... when I added room treatment, I was shocked by the increased articulation (throughout the spectrum), resolution, and etc.. The soundstage (including depth, and placement in 3D space) DID seem to be more 'solid' and corporeal, which is mainly what I was also looking for.

    Then, changing the IC between pre and amp from AP Oval type to SR Foundation (silver) made a large difference in overall sonics, including increased sense of soundstage depth and solidity. I don't know if I would have heard all that without the room treatment though. No, it wasn't a HUGE change but large enough (significant to me). I'd say a 20% increase ... :)

    I spent about $2500 including shipping for GIK panels and bass traps ... so as much as my newish Parasound A 21 amp, but I believe they're worth every penny.

    The best thing is to start with speaker setup ... in an equilateral or stretched equilateral triangle between speakers and your ears, with speakers at least a couple feet away from back and side walls. AND, YOU in a good place. I'm 1/3 of the way 'into' my room (6' from rear wall in an 18' deep room). Try moving the speakers closer together? That can improve the depth perspective. Move apart until the center image starts getting diffuse, then move back together a little. (Read up on other setup techniques.)

    AHA, get a sub! I have and strongly recommend the SVS SB1000 PRO model (with remote app). That can 'add' a sense of space since you're hearing more of the 'room' things were recorded in. Even largish speakers (my Silver 8s go to about 40Hz) will benefit. Hearing that lowest octave helps. The room treatment and bass traps (and Parametric EQ on the SVS Pro models) get me really smooth flat bass down to 20Hz (where the sub has a built in non-defeatable high pass filter).

    PS/Edit: Your overall system seems excellent. I don't 'see' anything that would detract from extracting most of the information in recordings. Of course ... one can go crazy and spend more money ... :) PSB Imagine T2 Tower loudspeaker seems excellent and good to ~30Hz, so the sub may not be 'needed'. They commented on the excellent imaging, so these ARE capable of it. MAYBE your expectations are a little higher than 'reality' though? Have you listened to other setups/systems? Might be worth a visit somewhere to try this out.

    PPS: Wow, the impedance is quite low on the PSBs, see PSB Imagine T2 Tower loudspeaker Measurements ... I was going to suggest maybe a tube amplifier to flesh out the soundstage, but be sure it's very comfortable driving 4 ohms or even below. The article mentions PrimaLuna being a good match sound-wise, I'm sure there are many others.

    PPPS: your Parasound integrated should be great, at least into less than jet engine levels in a decently sized room Parasound Halo Integrated integrated amplifier Measurements ... I use Parasound pre/amp driving MA Silver 8 speakers, which also have a lowish impedance in places. No issues at all, altho the A 21 is a bit more powerful.

    PPPPS: If you WANT to spend some money ... maybe a Schitt Freya+ preamp into a suitable high power amp? I'd be tempted to get some PS Audio S300 Amplifier – PS Audio says stable into 2 ohms for musical transients ... seems to be good to me! I'm a bit hesitant to recommend Schitt amps, as they're not rated for 4 ohms when used in bridged mode. Maybe a suitable beefy tube amp would work too. Tubes somewhere seem to be a good way to extract 3D soundstage information ... but not 100% all the time of course. Some do some don't. The Freya+ seems to be a good recommendation, and you have the phono stage etc. so maybe the 'simpler' preamp would be sufficient.

    But then, you'd HAVE to get the $600 SR Foundation IC to connect them (use balanced connections if you can). :D

    PPPPPS: WELCOME TO THE GROUP !!! :edthumbs: :cheers:
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2022
    mds, jonwoody, Max Florian and 7 others like this.
  5. SocProf

    SocProf Well-Known Member

    Denver, CO
    Clean every metal to metal contact in your system with a good cleaner like Caig DeOxit Gold. The smallest bottle is $8.49 on Amazon.

    If you don't have any vibration control devices, I would suggest starting with some less expensive one. My Marantz SACD player is sitting on top of Vibrapods + Vibrapod Cones, and it definitely made a difference. Even wood blocks are better than the plastic feet on most components.
  6. guestuser

    guestuser Forum Resident

    Totally agree. I’d start by experimenting with speaker placement and also try removing biwiring. Bypassing the speaker crossover can sometimes sound better but other times it can also ruin the soundstage intended by the speaker crossover designer.
    Ken Clark and Rick58 like this.
  7. Prospero

    Prospero Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    United States
    These are all excellent ideas! Thanks so much. I hadn’t thought as much about room treatment but that is a great avenue to explore.
    jonwoody, timind and Rick58 like this.
  8. toasty

    toasty Forum Resident

    Tiverton, RI USA
    Equilateral triangle speaker/listener arrangement is a reliable beginning. And get the speakers out into the room, away from the walls.

    When seriously listening, cover any exposed glass in the room. If you have a TV between your speakers, move it, or at least cover it for listening. If you have a coffee table or anything else between the plane of the speakers and your listening position, remove it.

    As has been mentioned, tube electronics "usually" provide better soundstage than solid state, but not necessarily.

    If you are not using vibration control devices, I strongly recommend Isoacoustics products. Not the cheapest but some of the best audio dollars you'll ever spend.

    If you have large, flat surfaces, like bare walls, get tapestries. Wood or tile floor? Get rugs. Serious commercial room treatments (GIK, etc) may or may not be necessary.

    Buy a copy of the Andreas Vollenweider cd Caverna Magica. If you still don't experience a significant soundstage, you've got more work to do.

    Good luck!
  9. Rick58

    Rick58 Forum Resident

    Eagle, ID, USA
    not sure about this one but maybe worth trying. I don’t know that biwiring vs. jumpering connections “removes” any part of the crossover. Certainly it separates the various stages though.
    timind and Doc Diego like this.
  10. Rick58

    Rick58 Forum Resident

    Eagle, ID, USA
    Good suggestion, get known good soundstage recordings. I need to get this one. There are numerous posts and threads here about good soundstage and recordings … worth a couple hours of research and reading for sure.
  11. Toneh

    Toneh Forum Resident

    New Zealand
    Welcome to the forum.

    My comment - which is 100% intended as a legitimate alternate P.O.V, not trolling or just being facetious - Allow yourself to be increasingly immersed in the beauty, emotion, intensity, melancholy, joy, energy, humour or playfulness contained in the work of your favourite artists and free yourself of the distractions of audiofoolery.

    Your system probably sounds great as it is already.
    timind, Signed DG, izeek and 8 others like this.
  12. yamfan

    yamfan Forum Resident

    As others have said get the room treated. Also, ensure that both speakers are equidistant from the listening position and equally as far from walls.
    Rick58 likes this.
  13. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    new speakers and tubes in your system someplace, e.g. a tube preamp.
    a tube amp even better.
    i say new speakers because i had PSB T6 towers and with the best possible speaker positioning the sound stage was small, especially the center vocal image. it was high but very narrow, like a small window.
    it is the way these speakers are designed and voiced unfortunately.
    jonwoody, Roland Bart and Nails like this.
  14. bever70

    bever70 It's not all about The Soundstage

    Could you post a photo here of your room and/or speaker setup? This would help to rule out some options, otherwise advise and ideas will be all over the place without knowing if they would be any help to you.
    timind and Rick58 like this.
  15. Rick58

    Rick58 Forum Resident

    Eagle, ID, USA
    Certainly good advice, and symmetry is best. However, my setup is not symmetric. I have a couple feet from speakers on the right to walls, there’s about 6’ on the left and also behind the left speaker is an open alcove where I have my home office.

    I’m sure there are guys in paroxysms of pure horror about this, but it works for me!

    Here’s a somewhat dated pic. I actually left the monitors in place while listening to the towers (and they sounded great, no effects from having the monitors in place as shown), but the soundstage from the monitors was a bit too wide/diffuse. So now I have them closer together, about in line with the towers. Then I move them well out to the sides when using the towers. Please excuse the boxes … still there a year after I moved here. Oh well.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2022
  16. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Seattle, WA
    Actually bypassing your speaker crossovers is a good way to fry your tweeters if you don't have a properly tuned electronic crossover to replace it with.
    timind, William Bryant and guestuser like this.
  17. This x a million, and making sure you have recordings with ‘good’ soundstage.
    timind likes this.

    TEA FOR ONE Listening to the world one note at a time

    Rick58 is giving great advice. Speaker placement is paramount to achieve a holographic soundstage. The room is also a huge factor in achieving this. Are you in a dedicated listening room or is this a shared space that someone may have an issue with speaker placement? There is nothing wrong with your gear from what I see. You should get a great soundstage with moving things around,and then treat your room. GIK is a great way to achieve that. Enjoy the journey!
    jonwoody, Audire, timind and 2 others like this.
  19. Catcher10

    Catcher10 I like records, and Prog...duh

    A free tweak is to play with speaker placement as well toe in. Decrease your toe in and you might get a bit wider soundstage.......if money is burning a whole in your pocket, get dual subs. I have a Halo HINT 2.1 also and that integrated begs for you to connect 2 subs. It is more than well equipped to handle it either with the 2 mono sub outs or the stereo sub outs. I have used both but get better performance going stereo subs especially a wider soundstage. Yes I understand low end Hz is not directional as well mono and all that, but I bet you there still exists a bit of separation on recordings that will add to the staging.

    Your towers are mid 30Hz range which is great but a pair of SVS2000Pro subs will get you sub 20Hz if the recording has it. But what you will gain for sure is the sustain of low end notes that will easily add to your experience and a wider stage presence.
    Hanks3, hifisoup, izeek and 8 others like this.
  20. guestuser

    guestuser Forum Resident

    You're right, I was a bit mixed up in my description of bi-wiring functionality. Thanks for being kind, sir! :)
    Doc Diego, TarnishedEars and Rick58 like this.
  21. Nails

    Nails Forum Resident

    I've found a great soundstage by using a nice tube amp and dac, proper speaker placement (aimed just a little outside of earshot) and i've just started installing acoustic treatment.

    My first piece is actually a diffuser panel. Not ideal, but the Vicoustic Multifuser DC3 was on sale recently for around 30% off so I picked it up. The wavewood nor anything from GIK were on sale, but this will be next for me.
    thomaskong, TarnishedEars and Rick58 like this.
  22. Prospero

    Prospero Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    United States
    I moved both speakers forward from the wall another couple of feet and turned them inward a few degrees. Just this tweak worked wonders! The speakers achieve a much more airy sound and the bass is more resonant in general. I definitely plan to experiment with tube amplification at some point, although I hear that is quite a rabbit hole unto itself.
    timind, Kristofa, jonwoody and 10 others like this.
  23. bever70

    bever70 It's not all about The Soundstage

    If you only started moving your speakers around now....please keep on moving them around for the next few months! You might be surprised! Do this before you get any new gear.
    Riotvan, jonwoody, Doc Diego and 11 others like this.
  24. Christian Evans

    Christian Evans Forum Resident

    Recently auditioned Accuphase E650 class A and E 280 class A/B
    Soundstage was way better on the class A amp.
    SonI can vouch that at least in my system, my room, my ears, same brand, Class A trumps A/B for soundstage.
    jonwoody, Rick58 and Prospero like this.
  25. Thing Fish

    Thing Fish “Jazz isn't dead. It just smells funny.”

    London, England
    Three low cost treatments you should consider to help bring your system to life.
    In no particular order.

    1. Room treatment - A few well placed acoustic panels can be a game changer. You can experiment with big cushions or wall hangings for free. Of course room treatment can be expensive.
    2. Speaker placement - This can have an amazing effect and it costs only time.
    3. Equipment/speaker support - spikes, sorbathane or squash balls cut in half. Filling your speaker stands with sand? Hours of fun can be had experimenting with this one.
    The FRiNgE, jfeldt, Tullman and 4 others like this.

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