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Do loudspeakers need to image precisely?

Ron Texas

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#1
A recent editorial:
https://www.stereophile.com/content/clowns-left-me-jokers-right

A case is made that in except for a few seats image locations are not precise in a symphony. Rather, it is a shapeless monophonic mass. I have noticed this myself although it is more true of typical amplified music played in small venues. What is it we are in search of, and is it the right quest? Does this shed any light on why the overwhelming majority is happy with low data rate lossy recordings and earbuds? Is it the lurid colored neon lights, cheap beer, barmaids in shorts, and hot breeze on Austin's 6th street which makes the music incredibly special? Is what we are craving mostly the magic of some really talented recording engineers?

The editorial does provide various counter arguments.
 

sergeauckland

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#2
When I go to a live, unamplified concert, I don't get precise audio imaging, but I do have precise visual imaging, so I can see who's playing what, and that corrects or creates the right audible impression. At home, in stereo I don't have the visual clues, so do need precise imaging so I can 'see' the performers in a correct perspective. That's why mono isn't as satisfying as stereo, and I find myself buying more SQ encoded LPs. As flawed as that technology was, it does give a degree of ambience lacking in stereo, and totally absent in mono. I suppose I ought to go 5.1 or 7.1, but finding space for two large loudspeakers is hard enough, four even more difficult, and 5 or 7 impossible, so 4.0 it is.

I've gone to a lot of trouble to ensure my 'speakers image tightly, so it's important to me.

S
 

M00ndancer

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#3
First a note: English is not my native language, but I hope I make my self understood.
Speakers can only reproduce the recording. The "best" speaker should be transparent. You should not "hear" the speaker, just the music. I also totally convinced that the only accurate way to listen to non-studio music is to have a multichannel system and a multichannel recording. No two channel system will ever be able to recreate a stage/club. That's why I think that average Joe/Jill listen to the music and don't really care if it's low data rate, when commuting or doing other things. I don't think many people sits down and listen to a recording and wonder if it's accurate. That's something we audio nerds do.

We are in the hands of the recording engineers.

I have similar comparison: I seldom go to the movies. When I do, I'm often disappoined. The image quality and the audio quality in many movie theathers are below the equipment I have at home. So a good "mastered" movie on Bluray disc is better than going to the cinema in many cases.
That might be the same thing for audio. A good recording of a concert from the best seat is better than being there?

So I want my speakers to reproduce the recording as accurate as possible. Then it's up to me to find the recording that suites my preferences.
 

M00ndancer

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#4
When I go to a live, unamplified concert, I don't get precise audio imaging, but I do have precise visual imaging,
Didn't think about that. Really good point. That's why I like concerts on Bluray with 5.1 sound.
 

Ron Texas

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#5
@M00ndancer I don't go to the movies because I avoid crowds, the floors are sticky from spilled beverages, and I can't stand the smell of popcorn. However, the screen has a lot of impact and there is an effect from the crowd's emotions. Multi channel gets mentioned here a lot more than in other audio forums.
 

SIY

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#7
6th Street is for the tourists.

Agreed that orchestras are rarely "pinpoint," but small ensembles can very much be. I want my speakers to reproduce both, assuming the engineer/producer managed to capture a good replica of the original sound.
 

M00ndancer

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#8
Multi channel gets mentioned here a lot more than in other audio forums.
I think it's the conclusion people here have made. Multichannel music trumps stereo when listen to live performances. To better compensate for the lack of visual cues. Easier for our brains to make the 3D model of the audio. But that's just my opinion.
 

March Audio

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#10
First a note: English is not my native language, but I hope I make my self understood.
Speakers can only reproduce the recording. The "best" speaker should be transparent. You should not "hear" the speaker, just the music. I also totally convinced that the only accurate way to listen to non-studio music is to have a multichannel system and a multichannel recording. No two channel system will ever be able to recreate a stage/club. That's why I think that average Joe/Jill listen to the music and don't really care if it's low data rate, when commuting or doing other things. I don't think many people sits down and listen to a recording and wonder if it's accurate. That's something we audio nerds do.

We are in the hands of the recording engineers.

I have similar comparison: I seldom go to the movies. When I do, I'm often disappoined. The image quality and the audio quality in many movie theathers are below the equipment I have at home. So a good "mastered" movie on Bluray disc is better than going to the cinema in many cases.
That might be the same thing for audio. A good recording of a concert from the best seat is better than being there?

So I want my speakers to reproduce the recording as accurate as possible. Then it's up to me to find the recording that suites my preferences.
With imaging however we do havea couple of variables at play which affect the perception. The speaker off axis response and room acoustics. For example if you put absorption at the first reflection point the image will tend to concentrate on the centre.

Whilst yes speakers should be transparent I'm not sure we have any standard or even consensus on the "correct“ polar response (apart from smooth). The room neither.
 
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M00ndancer

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#11
Whilst yes speakers should be transparent I'm not sure we have any standard or even consensus on the "correct“ polar response. The room neither.
True, but I didn't mention anything about any room correction or off axis responses. That's a big issue in it self and I do not have any technical knowledge about it. I only use the Audyssey MultEQ XT on my Denon as my room correction.
Still trying to wrap my head around how I'm going to improve my listening space w/o a divorce. ;)
 

svart-hvitt

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#13
With imaging however we do havea couple of variables at play which affect the perception. The speaker off axis response and room acoustics. For example if you put absorption at the first reflection point the image will tend to concentrate on the centre.

Whilst yes speakers should be transparent I'm not sure we have any standard or even consensus on the "correct“ polar response (apart from smooth). The room neither.
There are standards on speakers in rooms. First room standardization work, what has been called the Nordic standardization discussion, was documented in an AES conference in 1978. The Nordic broadcasters were early adopters of the Nordic discussion and by 1994, the International Telecommunication Union published a similar recommendation to the Nordic N-12 recommendation, the ITU-R BS.1116.
 

March Audio

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#14
True, but I didn't mention anything about any room correction or off axis responses. That's a big issue in it self and I do not have any technical knowledge about it. I only use the Audyssey MultEQ XT on my Denon as my room correction.
Still trying to wrap my head around how I'm going to improve my listening space w/o a divorce. ;)
Indeed, I am very lucky to have a wife who loves film so I got clearance to build a dedicated theatre/listening room which is extensively treated.
 

restorer-john

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#15
Personally, for musical listening, I don't care for imaging with speakers. All speakers are flawed in one way or another so I enjoy them for what they can do, not what they can't.

When perfect imaging happens on some recordings, listener position and gear placement it can be magical, but chasing that nebulous and fleeting dragon ruins my enjoyment of music and HiFi.

With movies, it's different, I want the dialog exactly where it should be in relation to the picture. I have a different setup for movie watching.
 

March Audio

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#16
There are standards on speakers in rooms. First room standardization work, what has been called the Nordic standardization discussion, was documented in an AES conference in 1978. The Nordic broadcasters were early adopters of the Nordic discussion and by 1994, the International Telecommunication Union published a similar recommendation to the Nordic N-12 recommendation, the ITU-R BS.1116.
Yes correct there are standards, such as EBU which talk about reverb time etc but still leave a lot of latitude.
 
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March Audio

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#17
Personally, I don't care for imaging with speakers. All speakers are flawed in one way or another so I enjoy them for what they can do, not what they can't.

When perfect imaging happens on some recordings, listener position and gear placement it can be magical, but chasing that nebulous and fleeting dragon ruins my enjoyment of music and HiFi.
It is indeed a dragon chase because it's not a representation of anything real. It's not what is heard in the recording space and more often than not a complete fabrication by the recording engineer\producer.
 
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#18
It’s hard to argue with the Stereophile writer’s opinion that speakers should present stereo information if it is present in the recording.

Compromise is inevitable when you have a resonant body in a physical space (probably smaller) trying to represent the sound of other resonating bodies in a different physical space.

As soon one enters the realm of multitrack recordings, with high spl instruments, the notion of how a recording should “image” becomes much harder to make sense of.

Often the signal being presented was derived electronically, and the only image information it might have would be related to the mixers decisions, which will be highly affected by their monitoring environment.

Bose’s initial idea for the 901s was kind of nonsensical. He had measurements that said on average an audience member in a hall hears reflected sound to direct sound in a ratio of 8 to 1.

So his speaker had 8 drivers facing the walls and 1 facing forward. This neglects the issue that the ratio of reflected to direct sound is already represented in some amount in a live recording.

But I think a lot of these arguments about how speakers “should be designed” is a misapplication of quasi scientific reasoning. The fallacy is captured in the sentiment that when it comes to evaluating audio equipment you shouldn’t “use your ears.”

The implicit part of “should” statements is the “if” clause.

If you want a speaker that will align with an average or typical listener preference, then these are the technical parameters you should focus on. This would be of paramount concern to, for example, a designer of mass market speakers.

When it comes to an individual users speaker choices, the objective qualities of speakers have a very different relevance, especially if speaker is already purchased.

If some has a particular preference for a sound in speakers, or thinks their “bad measuring” speakers sound great, the state of the art in scientific speaker guidelines says nothing about that preference or happy subjective experience.

I’ve seen this come up in threads debating the KEF LS50 with ostensible “objectivists” somehow trying to argue that happy owners are mistaken, which is a point of view that defies common sense.
 

M00ndancer

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#19
I’ve seen this come up in threads debating the KEF LS50 with ostensible “objectivists” somehow trying to argue that happy owners are mistaken, which is a point of view that defies common sense.
Similar to the headphone crowd. I know that the headphone I'm using for the majority of the time is not neutral or has a wide sound stage. But it has the sound I prefer. I also like my other headphones/IEMs for different reasons.

As for speakers, I have the "best" ones that I can afford and have a high WAF. I'm ok with those compromises. Room correction and treatment seems to have bigger impact on the sound than the speakers it self when you have reached a quality level on the speakers. Have I got there yet? No, but I'm aware of the problem. Back to the stereo argument: I totally agree that the speakers should reflect the recording and not trying to emulate a venue that's not there. As I said before, speakers can only reproduce the finished recording.

I hope I make any sense.
 

FrantzM

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#20
Hi

The issue is complicated. Speakers have a very hard job to do: Reproducing as faithfully the electrical signical that is fed to them. They mange to get some to a point where we can recognize what comes out but their degree of faithfulness to the signal is abysmal... Yet we make something out of it to the point that it can be preferred to the real live sound.

Someone in this thread mentioned the visual clues and they are IME the key to the notion of "Imaging" ... In most concerts . The sound come as big mono blob but our eyes steer us toward section of the orchestra. It is an interesting phenomenon orchestrated (pun intended) by the brain using our eyes and our ears. The flute starts playing, we see it with our eyes but our brain use our eyes and our ears to focus on the sound of the flute. Once we learn the arrangement of an orchestra, for example, we also expect the sound of the cello to come from the right and that of the violins mostly from the left ...that of the tympani to come from the back, cymbals from left back ... WHen playing music through a normal stereo system these are not present. In the absence of visual clues we rely on manipulations at the recording, mastering, producing, engineering level to replicate this complexity. That is what 2-channels has done for half a century and with success. We need our speakers to recreate some kind of "image" that helps us "see" the orchestra in the absence of visual stimulus. It seems more realistic... And that is where I get lost. Some speakers manage to do it better than others in a given room. The room has a lot to do with it but so does the speaker radiation patterns and of course linearity throughout the frequency range....
I speculated a lot on this ... Can't back it up with any research. I need people with more knowledge ...

Calling J.J!!!!

Calling J.J. !!!!

:D
 
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