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    What is sound-staging?

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    deepee99

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    What is sound-staging?

    Post by deepee99 on Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:45 pm

    I have no clue what sound-staging really is. I can hear it but cannot define it.
    There is channel separation, and there is speaker placement. Those certainly influence the sound image. But how can a tube in a dual-mono ST-120 or a pair of M-125s effectively create a sound-stage?
    Aren't we really looking for range and clarity? Those are audible to anyone who has ever played a chromatic on an upright piano and isn't utterly tone-deaf. Maybe I'm off on a tangent here, but would like to be corrected.
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    jfine

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by jfine on Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:37 pm

    I thought it was just imaging, or maybe it's that holographic sound, whatever that means...
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    jfine

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by jfine on Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:44 pm

    Some of these audio terms are just plain confusing, lush, liquid, wet, warm, smooth, but if you change the subject, then it makes more sense...

    wildiowa

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by wildiowa on Thu Apr 12, 2018 6:16 pm

    I thought it was more dealing with the physical aspects of a space....arranging speakers, objects, furniture rugs etc, and where you sit.... to get the most pleasing sound in the listening room. "Stage" to me implies space. I suppose this includes tube rolling and other stuff as well. Thing is...what sounds "best" to one may be different for the other. As always, subjective and individual.
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    Bob Latino
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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by Bob Latino on Thu Apr 12, 2018 6:30 pm

    "Soundstaging" to me is the ability of a music system to replicate as closely as possible the width and depth of the stage on which the music was recorded. Within that replicated sound stage it should be easy to locate the position of instruments and vocalists within the sound stage. A lot of soundstaging depends on the recording itself. In some cases you can hears sound from outside the boundaries of the two speakers. (music to the left of the left speaker and music to the right of the right speaker). To get real good "soundstaging" you need electronics that have very low phase shift and have speakers that have been properly placed in the listening room. Tube electronics tend to soundstage better than solid state electronics. Those that are new to tubes tend to comment that their new tube amp makes the music sound more "3D" with a greater sense of space.

    Bob
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    Kentley

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by Kentley on Thu Apr 12, 2018 6:56 pm

    Great definition, Bob.
    I believe the term "soundstage" was borrowed from movie production (and opera studio recording) where the literal "soundstage" is a carefully marked studio floor which puts the performers at exact positions which (hopefully) will be captured by proper miking. This translates, when done well, into the listener experiencing the illusion of being there in the studio.
    Also be aware that soundstaging tends to be far less a factor in {most} pop music, though artists such as Peter Gabriel certainly take advantage of the possibilities. But even here, it is an artifice. Kind of an artificial illusion, maybe? A redundant redundancy?

    wildiowa

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by wildiowa on Thu Apr 12, 2018 7:05 pm

    Was thinking the same thing...with modern recording techniques where parts may literally be recorded on different continents, seems it may not apply to pop rock etc not captured live.
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    vtshopdog

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by vtshopdog on Thu Apr 12, 2018 7:55 pm

    I agree some recordings allow the listener to place instruments nominally left to right and occasionally positional depth can be perceived as well.  Other recordings, well, it’s simply not present.

    Next to recording attributes, my experience is speaker quality and placement are the dominant factors and that amp and source equipment are secondary.

    Life is about balance:  Pulling my current speakers further away from the walls improves imaging and overall sound quality at the cost of making my living room look like it was decorated by an audio nerd electronics hoarder.
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    Kentley

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by Kentley on Thu Apr 12, 2018 8:17 pm

    All of this leads one to the inescapable conclusion that true, natural soundstaging can only be had, and is of paramount importance, when the musical source consists of purely acoustic instruments played in real space live. Orchestral and chamber musics, and "classical" piano, and vocal recitals and opera are genres where true soundstaging is crucial.
    At the same time, all music benefits from reproduction which is optimized by careful attention to "Soundstage" in its broader sense.
    Think Phil Spector. Totally monophonic (at least early on). On a decent hi-fi, there was a sense of huge space. So there are several kinds of soundstage.
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    deepee99

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by deepee99 on Thu Apr 12, 2018 9:56 pm

    Kentley, I don't think Spector did anything, ever, in stereo. He was religious about mono. I remember the first Beatles albums, allegedly in stereo. Mono instruments on one channel, double-tracked mono vocals on the other. Early days.
    I certainly agree with HRH Latino that tubes deliver a more 3D sound than does the cheaper sterile s/s crap, although I've got an old Hafler and a Bedini that can give them a rum go. Perhaps one of our joys is that it can't be quantified so we get to argue about it incessantly.
    IMHO, if you're working with high-grade gear like VTA, it's all in the tweaks: a few inches of speaker placement, or room treatment, for example.
    PeterW, on another thread here, argued convincingly that most of your bucks should go into the right speakers.
    Andy Bowman at Vintage Tubes has come with some doozies:
    http://ultra-fidelityaudio.com/
    +100 dB efficient, so you can drive them with a crystal set, but way beyond my budget. Their architecture reminds me of the DQ-10s of old.
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    jfine

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by jfine on Fri Apr 13, 2018 1:31 am

    deepee99 wrote:
    Andy Bowman at Vintage Tubes has come with some doozies:
    http://ultra-fidelityaudio.com/
    +100 dB efficient, so you can drive them with a crystal set, but way beyond my budget.

    Saw those, not sure they would do zeppelin well though. maybe.

    What matters most to me at this point is tuning, i.e., room, tubes, caps, wire, etc., trying to make all my recordings sound great, not just the typical show-off stuff.

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    deepee99

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by deepee99 on Fri Apr 13, 2018 3:28 am

    jfine wrote:
    deepee99 wrote:
    Andy Bowman at Vintage Tubes has come with some doozies:
    http://ultra-fidelityaudio.com/
    +100 dB efficient, so you can drive them with a crystal set, but way beyond my budget.

    Saw those, not sure they would do zeppelin well though. maybe.

    What matters most to me at this point is tuning, i.e., room, tubes, caps, wire, etc., trying to make all my recordings sound great, not just the typical show-off stuff.

    I'm a bit of a whimsical piano player, so I know what one sounds like. If I can *hear* an actual piano in my listening space that doesn't sound like an electric piano, I figger the task is done. Those GECs and some speaker placement tweaks made the penny drop.
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    Peter W.

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by Peter W. on Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:44 am

    I am sitting HARD on my fingers, and will stay out of this unless my entirely unvarnished, full-snark (but free of sarcasm and vulgarity) opinion is requested.
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    deepee99

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by deepee99 on Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:50 am

    Peter W. wrote:I am sitting HARD on my fingers, and will stay out of this unless my entirely unvarnished, full-snark (but free of sarcasm and vulgarity) opinion is requested.
    Oh, go for it, Peter!
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    Peter W.

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by Peter W. on Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:12 am

    OK, and here goes. Please do not suggest that you were not warned, and I ask no forgiveness for being blunt, and perhaps rude as a result.

    First, we need to agree on what is under discussion: Soundstage. Which I am taking to mean the extent to which sounds as we listen to them in our various venues differentiate between the various instruments in play (and the human voice is an instrument), and place them in a virtual space as created by our speakers via our electronics from some source. This source may be anything from a single microphone through any-of-many traditional sources from vinyl to CD.  If we can agree on this as a firm base, then >I< think what follows will hold together. If not, it will not.
    The purpose of electronic amplification is to reproduce what is fed into it without adding or deleting artifacts of any sort at any level. “Straight-wire-with-gain” is a common catch-phrase. And this is entirely irrespective of solid-state, vacuum-tube or any combination or permutation thereof.
    Often, the ‘soundstage’ is idealized as the actual recording venue – and the goal is that what is heard “at home” is to get as close to that venue as is practical. With that in mind:
      a) Much music in these troubled times has never seen a stage, virtual or otherwise. It is a whole-cloth creation on a computer by an engineer – who may or may not be a musician – to a goal that is probably nothing like
          entertaining a live audience. Dimensionality, such as it exists, is leavened into the mix, not a natural part of it.
      b) Whatever the original soundstage, what is recorded is done via microphones into leveling mixers that will enhance or reduce any given instrument at any given moment based on the sound-engineer’s particular take on the
          moment. c.f. the triangle strike – Beethoven’s 9th Choral. If the Omni mikes were used only – that critical moment would be lost.
      c) A piano will generally overpower almost any other instrument (organs being the exception), but not all of them.
          So, even the recording soundstage is largely a chimera as heard “at home”. There are, as always, exceptions. But few enough that the reality must be accommodated.

    Now:  “At home”. Wherein we must account for:
        • Type and placement of speakers.
        • Size and nature of the venue.
        • Amplification power available

    Sound reproduction is a matter of vibrating air. Vibrating air is 100% and purely a matter of Newtonian Physics – as it applies in our little world. More energy gives more vibrations, a larger vibrating surface is capable of making longer wavelengths, but will require proportionately more energy to do so, and so on and so forth. Pretty irrefutable, pretty basic. The amount of energy vibrating the amount of air during a tutti section of a full-orchestra presentation will not happen at home – without a moderate power-plant and other supporting infrastructure being involved. Do not even think about that, allude to that or consider that as anything approaching a realistic goal. Meaning:

    Most music cannot be reproduced accurately in any home venue.


    What can be done “at home” is reproduce the electronic signal as presented via the recorded venue in a reasonably accurate matter into reasonably accurate speakers placed reasonably well in a venue that will allow the speakers to perform with the least amount of external interference. Some venues may even enhance the capacities of the speakers. But *WHAT WE ARE HEARING* is the red-headed stepchild of the recording engineer, producer and any of a dozen others, and their decisions from the first note to the last on what gets miked, what gets enhanced, what gets diminished. At the extreme: 100 instruments, 60 voices, 20 mikes, ultimately onto two tracks. Soundstage.

    I noted that the Hafler Circuit showed up recently. The Hafler Circuit is a Sum/Difference separation of signals laid down on the two tracks as noted above. *THAT* is what your soundstage includes. Neither more, nor less. Just be glad that many recording engineers have pretty good instincts, and some of them are both musicians and artists. BUT, don’t for one hummingbird heartbeat think that what you are hearing through your speakers at home is even the 3rd cousin, twice removed of what you hear from the 10th row of Carnegie Hall. And, unless we get our collective and several butts out into the world of live performance on a regular basis – these absolute and simple truths will be forgotten, which is very dangerous.
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    deepee99

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    Whaddya mean, I'm not hearing the real thing?

    Post by deepee99 on Fri Apr 13, 2018 11:24 am

    Smile Peter, points well taken. And I have been to Carnegie and the JFK Centre in D.C. as well, and heard the real magilla. It's a blood-stirring experience that one should not attempt at home, regardless of net worth. I don't envy the chain of engineers & etc. that try to manipulate that down to two tracks. Best they can do is close, but no cigar. Not possible.
    I DO sense music coming from beyond my speakers to the far side of each, but that might just be a self-induced hallucination or room acoustics. Or mebbe that's what sound-staging means. I still think the whole term is an invention of The Absolute Sound.
    You neglected to mention distortion. Tubes distort a lot, but in a way that is more pleasant to the ear than is generally the case with sand amps. I don't fully understand the physics, but it is what it is.
    I revert to my earlier premise, which is if what you're hearing is really a piano (or a human voice as you noted) that's prolly about as good as it gets. I'd toss the flute into that mix as well: very hard to reproduce.
    Thanks for an informative rant. I hope I've added a bit to it.
    -d-




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    Peter W.

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by Peter W. on Fri Apr 13, 2018 11:38 am


    You neglected to mention distortion. Tubes distort a lot, but in a way that is more pleasant to the ear than is generally the case with sand amps. I don't fully understand the physics, but it is what it is.

    I tried to step away from glass vs. sand for the duration of this discussion. Entering into that trap would have led inevitably to sarcasm, condescension and various other forms of invective which really do not have a place here. Put simply, I believe in courses-for-horse with one size-13 steel-toed boot firmly in each camp.

    As I entirely agree that instruments that sound on playback close to what they do directly is a real milestone - I put trumpets and the Human Voice at the top of that most-difficult-to-make-happen list. Let the Bright Seraphim....

    chefothefuture

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by chefothefuture on Fri Apr 13, 2018 12:30 pm

    In the relative world of pop and rock, it could be argued that one doesn't want the recording to sound like the live performance. Which brings in the debate of "true stereo" vs. "multi-mono" (multiple mono tracks mixed down to two channels)... Do I need to get my popcorn?
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    Peter W.

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by Peter W. on Fri Apr 13, 2018 12:58 pm

    chefothefuture wrote:In the relative world of pop and rock, it could be argued that one doesn't want the recording to sound like the live performance. Which brings in the debate of "true stereo" vs. "multi-mono" (multiple mono tracks mixed down to two channels)... Do I need to get my popcorn?

    Pop & Rock are worlds unto themselves. As they impinge on this discussion, they serve as fascinating outliers to the recording world, with some true tour-de-force results (Band - Music from Big Pink) and onward.
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    jfine

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by jfine on Fri Apr 13, 2018 3:39 pm

    deepee99 wrote:
    I'm a bit of a whimsical piano player, so I know what one sounds like. If I can *hear* an actual piano in my listening space that doesn't sound like an electric piano, I figger the task is done. Those GECs and some speaker placement tweaks made the penny drop.

    Piano is hard to get right on record, trouble is, I would say 99% of all the recorded music I have is not recorded or mastered well enough, or simply the restrictions of the medium, doesn't and never will sound like the baby grand next door. Those who say their system can do that, well, hooray.

    I just want the system to make recordings sound good, it will never be a well done live performance.

    chefothefuture

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by chefothefuture on Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:25 pm

    Sometimes too good or too much soundstage can actually bring out imperfections in the media much to the detriment of the playback. Or make some things sound decidedly odd.
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    bluemeanies

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by bluemeanies on Sat Apr 14, 2018 10:19 pm

    Soundstage - The area between two speakers that appears to the listener to be occupied by sonic images. Like a real stage, a soundstage should have width, depth, and height.


    While this is not coming from my mouth but from domains on the internet and I think fits.
    As does BL explanation which runs parallel to the above statement. Along with quality of the recording and placement of speakers which is imperative to achieve a pseudo 3dimensional sound as Bob has mentioned but I believe strongly that a good handshake between the recording and speaker placement is as important as the electronics. All are suppose to compliment each other to give birth to out musical nirvana.
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    Kentley

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by Kentley on Sun Apr 15, 2018 8:31 am

    Excellent, blue, except for one detail:
    "Soundstage - The area between two speakers that appears to the listener to be occupied by sonic images. Like a real stage, a soundstage should have width, depth, and height."
    That should read "the area surrounding two speakers" or some such, since soundstage may, due to the miracle of complex phase relations, extent beyond the mere area between two speakers.
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    deepee99

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by deepee99 on Sun Apr 15, 2018 9:28 am

    jfine wrote:
    deepee99 wrote:
    Andy Bowman at Vintage Tubes has come with some doozies:
    http://ultra-fidelityaudio.com/
    +100 dB efficient, so you can drive them with a crystal set, but way beyond my budget.

    Saw those, not sure they would do zeppelin well though. maybe.

    What matters most to me at this point is tuning, i.e., room, tubes, caps, wire, etc., trying to make all my recordings sound great, not just the typical show-off stuff.

    Zeppelin well? Now I'm sitting on my fingers Smile Oxymoron to follow.

    Dogstar

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    Re: What is sound-staging?

    Post by Dogstar on Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:47 am

    So Phil Spector killed the sound stage as well as Lana Clarkson. When I heard reference to the 'Wall of Sound' in my younger days I never understood how that was supposed to be a technological improvement since making a recording sound as if you are really there seemed to be a luxury everyone was hoping for. I do understand that a three dimensional effect for a huge rock concert is almost impossible but I seem to remember how some concerts were supposed to be mixed to give you impression that sound was traveling around wherever the musicians was while running and bouncing around on stage. One other thing I've noticed is that one setup for my speakers and wall treatments may sound good for a certain kind of recording but then not so good for another. For instance a recording of a small quartet playing jazz as opposed to a symphony orchestra playing classical music.

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