• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Imaging and soundstage. What are they and who hears them?

a.dent

Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Messages
12
Likes
23
As background, for the last few years my system has consisted of mainly Accuphase gear which I bought as a bonus to myself after retiring. I bought this gear before becoming a reader of ASR. I have been into HiFi since the 70s so have had a lot of different gear over the years
My system consists of:
Roon Core on i7 NUC with EQ from REW
SoTM SMS-200 Neo Ultra Streamer with Uptone JS-2 LPS.
DP-560 CD/SACD/DAC
C-2850 Preamplifier
A-70 Power amplifier
Magico S5 speakers
I recently added a Matrix Audio Element X.

I absolutely love the sound of my system but I felt the power amplifier was underpowered, which was especially obvious when I have mates around, drink too much red and crank it up on old 70s tracks!

I purchased a March Audio P 452 power amp as a kind of experiment after much reading, including here on ASR.

From the first listen it just sounded amazing. Wonderful resolution, precise instrument placement and best of all I could now power the Magicos to ear bleeding volume without audible distortion. I was as happy as a pig in mud.

I excitedly invited my brother around for a listen. He's been in the hobby as long as I have, he lives nearby and we always compare systems and enjoy discussing HiFi, even if we don't always agree on what sounds best.

His first comments on hearing the P 452 in my system were "That sounds terrible. The soundstage has collapsed and the imaging has disappeared. There must be something broken in the amp. I'd send it back and get them to check it. Sounds like the phase has been mucked up. The Accuphase is way better."

I was completely gobsmacked that he was hearing this and I was hearing amazing clarity, resolution and instrument placement.

I have to say we have discussed this imaging thing before and I've never heard it on any system the way he describes it. The depth and height sort of thing is something I just don't hear.

So to my queries.
Who is right? Can two people listen to the same thing and hear two totally different things?
How can an amplifier (especially an amplifier that measures as well as the Purifi based amps) collapse a soundstage and imaging? Is there a scientifically plausible explanation?
Could this be part of the reason why there is a gulf between subjectivists and objectivists?

I'd appreciate people's experiences and comments.
 

Doodski

Grand Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Dec 9, 2019
Messages
11,156
Likes
10,751
Location
Canada
Who is right? Can two people listen to the same thing and hear two totally different things?
I think you are correct in hearing imaging, left, right, & center. I have compared amplifiers with workmates and a couple of workmates insisted that the Luxmans of the time sounded better. I asked to do a blind test and they refused. As far as I'm concerned I did not hear any difference in imaging with the mid-fi amps. I heard a amp that sounded better and I attribute that to it's excellent linearity of [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]

How can an amplifier (especially an amplifier that measures as well as the Purifi based amps) collapse a soundstage and imaging? Is there a scientifically plausible explanation?
The question is based on a subjective assumption that your brother heard a difference and did not imagine that difference. I'm not convinced that the imaging was lacking on the class D amplifier. I am not a proponent of class D like some peeps are and so I am impartial to class D.

Could this be part of the reason why there is a gulf between subjectivists and objectivists?
The gulf exists because some people want to hear a difference and they then hear it because they concentrate more than the usual listening session concentration would be. I think some subjectivists are lacking any fundamentals of or principles of electric circuits education and so they want to make up what they don't actually know and that means they become subjectivists. Some are simply "fans" or slang "fan boys" of name brands or types of gear and they think that there is a major difference when often times there is none or they pick their preferred brand and slag all other as being inferior and sounding horrible or just lacking in something that is difficult to analyze. Analyzing a audio signal is a real thing with today's technology and knowledge, is fully measurable and can be broken down into various tests that show weaknesses and strengths in gear. Subjectivists sometimes hate that and think there is something in the musical electrical signal that cannot be measured. So subjectivists are stubborn, indoctrinated and groomed by other subjectivists and snake oil purveyors. To a objective person with knowledge of fundamentals and principles subjectivism is a annoying thing that is re-occuring with the various subjectivists and so the divide exists. I've worked with subjectivists and objectivists selling audio gear and they both have a veryyy different method of sales. Somewhere in the middle seems to please the customers more than staunch believers of either camp. Working with subjectivists when selling audio gear is a interesting situation because they hear all sorts of differences and believe many things that have no basis in science, are entertaining to observe and they sell based on their subjectivism and beliefs that some brands clearly are better sounding in things like mid-fi amplifiers.
 

jtgofish

Member
Joined
Jul 26, 2021
Messages
74
Likes
43
I discussed this recently with a friend who makes preamps.Those preamps have a very strong reputation for creating holographic sort of imaging.That is certainly how I and many others hear it but it seems others do not notice that and concentrate more on tonal qualities and left/right spread.He installs quite subtle balance controls which help those that do seem to hear centre fill and depth type imaging to really fine tune that sort of imaging and to get it to "lock in".Again that has certainly been my experience with those sorts of balance controls.Very few systems /rooms are acoutsically symmetrical and neither is our hearing.Some buyers of those preamps have reported back to him that the balance controls do not seem work so they are clearly hearing or listening in a different way.
There is also the example of Yamaha NS 1000 speakers that continue to be much loved by many people.It is almost like they are a great tool for dividing those that hear centre/fill and depth from those that do not.Many people seem to hear that these speakers seem to be quite deficient in those traits where as others hear nothing wrong with the imaging.You can tell those that are struggling to make sense of the imaging and to say get voices to "lock in "because they tend to move their heads from side to side when listening to them.I have afriend who has alove/hate relationship with those speakers and who has owned three pairs of them only to sell them because that sort imaging or lack of it begins to really annoy him.Other people do not hear them that way.
I think it is perfectly reasonable to assume that people hear things like imaging /depth and distance perception differently.It is a bit like those picture puzzles in which an image appears almost instantly to some and never to others.It also reminds me of a bunch of us whitefellas fishing alongside some aboriginal blokes and they were catching all the fish because they could see them in the water and cast to where they were and we could not see them in the water at all.
Some people have perfect sense of rhythm or perfect pitch when they sing .those people are probably more likely to be more fussy about what they hear in a sound system too.
Of course a lot of recordings do not allow you to hear much depth.The better recording engineers like Al Schmitt however went to a lot of trouble with microphone types and positioning to try to capture it.
 
Last edited:

tw99

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2019
Messages
378
Likes
813
Location
West Berkshire, UK
Does your brother “know” from all his years of audiophilea that Class D amps are “inferior” ? If you think it sounds good, maybe that’s what matters… There are a billion threads on here about sighted listening delusions and expectation bias.
 

Chrispy

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 7, 2020
Messages
3,539
Likes
2,769
Location
PNW
As a result of specific speakers/room interaces sure, it can vary. Amps sorry, never came close to such an experience.
 

jtgofish

Member
Joined
Jul 26, 2021
Messages
74
Likes
43
As a result of specific speakers/room interaces sure, it can vary. Amps sorry, never came close to such an experience.

I have owned amplifiers that completely flatten imaging.I borrowed one that had variable positive and negative feedback and that was very interesting to experiment with.The amount of positive feedback changed imaging a tiny bit but dialing up the negative feedback really flattened it down to 2D. Nelson Pass has written extensively about this.His First Watt F7 design was one his designs that paid special attention and tweaking of these factors to get it to sound right.
There was the whole "flat earth" thing in the 1980s which promoted the concept that imaging was either not important or not a real thing.Naim was one brand involved in prosecuting that case.Well their amplifiers at that time sounded very 2D but they did supposedly have PRAT which they claimed was much more important.They have since moved away from those assertions/marketing.Although they cling to the PRAT one.
 

Chrispy

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 7, 2020
Messages
3,539
Likes
2,769
Location
PNW
I have owned amplifiers that completely flatten imaging.I borrowed one that had variable positive and negative feedback and that was very interesting to experiment with.The amount of positive feedback changed imaging a tiny bit but dialing up the negative feedback really flattened it down to 2D. Nelson Pass has written extensively about this.His First Watt F7 design was one his designs that paid special attention and tweaking of these factors to get it to sound right.
There was the whole "flat earth" thing in the 1980s which promoted the concept that imaging was either not important or not a real thing.Naim was one brand involved in prosecuting that case.Well their amplifiers at that time sounded very 2D but they did supposedly have PRAT which they claimed was much more important.They have since moved away from those assertions/marketing.Although they cling to the PRAT one.

Never wanted tubes myself, just another reason to avoid it seems. Always considered Naim more a bs brand....
 

Tangband

Major Contributor
Joined
Sep 3, 2019
Messages
1,013
Likes
987
As background, for the last few years my system has consisted of mainly Accuphase gear which I bought as a bonus to myself after retiring. I bought this gear before becoming a reader of ASR. I have been into HiFi since the 70s so have had a lot of different gear over the years
My system consists of:
Roon Core on i7 NUC with EQ from REW
SoTM SMS-200 Neo Ultra Streamer with Uptone JS-2 LPS.
DP-560 CD/SACD/DAC
C-2850 Preamplifier
A-70 Power amplifier
Magico S5 speakers
I recently added a Matrix Audio Element X.

I absolutely love the sound of my system but I felt the power amplifier was underpowered, which was especially obvious when I have mates around, drink too much red and crank it up on old 70s tracks!

I purchased a March Audio P 452 power amp as a kind of experiment after much reading, including here on ASR.

From the first listen it just sounded amazing. Wonderful resolution, precise instrument placement and best of all I could now power the Magicos to ear bleeding volume without audible distortion. I was as happy as a pig in mud.

I excitedly invited my brother around for a listen. He's been in the hobby as long as I have, he lives nearby and we always compare systems and enjoy discussing HiFi, even if we don't always agree on what sounds best.

His first comments on hearing the P 452 in my system were "That sounds terrible. The soundstage has collapsed and the imaging has disappeared. There must be something broken in the amp. I'd send it back and get them to check it. Sounds like the phase has been mucked up. The Accuphase is way better."

I was completely gobsmacked that he was hearing this and I was hearing amazing clarity, resolution and instrument placement.

I have to say we have discussed this imaging thing before and I've never heard it on any system the way he describes it. The depth and height sort of thing is something I just don't hear.

So to my queries.
Who is right? Can two people listen to the same thing and hear two totally different things?
How can an amplifier (especially an amplifier that measures as well as the Purifi based amps) collapse a soundstage and imaging? Is there a scientifically plausible explanation?
Could this be part of the reason why there is a gulf between subjectivists and objectivists?

I'd appreciate people's experiences and comments.
Making some audiophile recordings myself with microphones and I can tell you theres no such thing as a correct soundstage and a footprint of a real sound image .
Its all an illusion when you listen at home, because of the flawed stereo system.

I think your friend likes a soft sound as comes from accuphase , that doesnt mean that your March amplifier is worse .
 

jtgofish

Member
Joined
Jul 26, 2021
Messages
74
Likes
43
What Paul McGowan has to say on the topic-
 

jtgofish

Member
Joined
Jul 26, 2021
Messages
74
Likes
43
And this about finding that centre fill sort of imaging.
 

Purité Audio

Master Contributor
Industry Insider
Barrowmaster
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 29, 2016
Messages
5,212
Likes
4,556
Location
London
The only consideration is whether the amplifier can properly drive the loudspeaker, this will depend upon the loudspeaker’s impedance curve and the amplifiers ability when impedance drops.
Check out the specs of both speakers and the amplifiers, ideally the amplifiers output should ( alomst ) double as the speaker’s impedance halves.
Keith
 

bluefuzz

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Jan 17, 2020
Messages
611
Likes
991
Who is right?
Are you sure your brother is not bullshitting you? It has been known between siblings … ;-)

If 'soundstage‘ or ‘imaging’ are a thing then they are 99.99% a property of the loudspeakers - their placement in the room, directivity, phase alignment etc. I doubt two excellent amplifiers would make the slightest difference in that respect.

Otherwise, how long is it since your brother last heard your gear before getting the March? Had you changed anything else since he last heard it? Even if nothing changed, audio memory is famously fickle. Without blinded and level matched tests niether of you can be really certain ...
 
OP
A

a.dent

Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Messages
12
Likes
23
Are you sure your brother is not bullshitting you? It has been known between siblings … ;-)
No, he's serious.

If 'soundstage‘ or ‘imaging’ are a thing then they are 99.99% a property of the loudspeakers - their placement in the room, directivity, phase alignment etc. I doubt two excellent amplifiers would make the slightest difference in that respect.
Yes I agree and this is how I hear it.

Otherwise, how long is it since your brother last heard your gear before getting the March? Had you changed anything else since he last heard it? Even if nothing changed, audio memory is famously fickle. Without blinded and level matched tests niether of you can be really certain ...
Two weeks since his last listen, no change in setup and we compared both amps one after the other and back again.

This is the reason I asked if there is any obvious scientific reason that different people hear the same thing differently
 

kceenav

Member
Joined
Sep 9, 2020
Messages
9
Likes
21
I can imagine that not everyone finds phenomena like 'soundstage' equally important or perceives them with the same differentiation. For example, as a predominantly classical music listener, not only the spatial depth of the sound image - and of individual instruments on the imaginary stage - matter a lot to me, but also (slight) differences in the height/elevation of sound sources. I expect to hear the voice of a singer from higher than, say, a cello or a piano. And so on. In fact, I perceive significant differences between different recordings in this respect; sometimes the perceived "height" helps to promote the illusion of a "realistic" presentation, sometimes it does not, sadly. To what extent the respective sound impression is the result of a "better"/"worse" recording technique, however, is the big question ...

But: Are such subtle sound characteristics dependend on the amplifier used? As long as the amplifiers are of good quality and are operated within their performance limits, probably not (I guess).
For clearly perceived sound differences in sighted listening, most likely either "vivid imagination" is responsible - and/or significant volume differences. In unsystematic listening comparisons, the latter is probably very often responsible for erroneous results. In other words: differences are "heard" where there are none (other than in loudness).
 
OP
A

a.dent

Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Messages
12
Likes
23
The only consideration is whether the amplifier can properly drive the loudspeaker, this will depend upon the loudspeaker’s impedance curve and the amplifiers ability when impedance drops.
Check out the specs of both speakers and the amplifiers, ideally the amplifiers output should ( alomst ) double as the speaker’s impedance halves.
Keith
Thanks Keith.
I understand you are a reseller for March Audio so you no doubt know more about the amplifier than I do. The output of the Accuphase doubles as impedance halves but the March, being Purifi based does not.
The Magicos definitely do drop to 2ohms at some frequencies but I don't understand if and how that would collapse a soundstage.
 
Top Bottom