• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required. There are many reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

SO ... HOW do we measure soundstage???

Gorgonzola

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 27, 2021
Messages
1,033
Likes
1,415
Location
Southern Ontario
"... because there is no magic."

On another audio site, a forum member insisted he found the Topping D90SE DAC to have a shallow and unsatisfying soundstage despite superb measurement here at ASR. He thus meant to assert the insufficiency of measurements in general.

A good buddy of mine there, as part of his rejoinder posted they following ...

QUOTE ...

{Redacted} says soundstage is a "psychoacoustic" phenomenon, (I agree) ... but seems to imply that it is ultimately unmeasurable, (I disagree).

Note: a few days ago I improve my soundstage, (perceptively wider, deeper), by moving my speakers a little farther apart; no components were changed. However {redacted} is talking about differences in soundstage on account of individual components. (Are these different things? I thinks so.)

So how might we hope to measure the soundstage contribution of individual components? Seems to me ..
  • Either we find some presently mysterious direct soundstage measurement (analogous to, but not, harmonic distortion),
  • Or we find that some existing measurement(s) that correlate with the soundstage phenomenon.
So for example, (to press a point on which still not everyone agrees), tube qualities, such as "warmth", correlate with relatively high low order harmonic distortions and relatively low higher order HDs.

Possibly but hypothetically, another tube quality which {redacted} has described as "layered imaging", others as simply "depth", is another correlate of harmonic distortion profile. I've heard phenomenon myself and personally believe it was related to my tube preamp versus s/s and passive preamps that I compared. Thus I call it "reverberation effect" and consider it an "artifact" or "fake" in that I don't believe its on the recording itself.

... END QUOTE.

Anyone here have thoughts??
 

ahofer

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 3, 2019
Messages
5,021
Likes
9,050
Location
New York City
Unfortunately, many other threads here have kind of failed to define or identify "soundstage" clearly enough.


This kind of requires getting a group of listeners together, trying controlled unsighted changes in equipment and/or positioning, and ranking the results as to the "size of soundstage" or some such subjective metric. Then we could compare the highest-ranked setups to form a hypothesis as to what is going on.

AFAICT, nobody has really done anything like this and made it public. So we are left speculating about harmonic distortion, phase changes, etc.

UPDATE after @Killingbeans' comment - I think a study about direct/early reflections was posted in one of these earlier threads.
 

IAtaman

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 29, 2021
Messages
2,380
Likes
4,091
Any inquiry that is motivated by an attempt to prove to someone who believes they can perceive a difference in sound that what they are perceiving has no real physical foundation usually ends up with the goal post being moved to somewhere else. So I'd suggest don't bother.

But if you must, I don't think what you need is a method to measure sound stage, you need a method to demonstrate that the DAC does not actually change the sound in a perceivable way. I believe there are various examples of the same sample going through a ADC/DAC couple multiple times, presented with a sample that has gone through the chain only once. Ask your friend if they can successfully differentiate the single pass from the multiple passes. If they can not, ask them how they can claim that the DAC is changing the sound in any way.
 
Last edited:
OP
Gorgonzola

Gorgonzola

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 27, 2021
Messages
1,033
Likes
1,415
Location
Southern Ontario
Define it precisely, then the measurement will be clearer.
Yes, some are confused between (a) soundstage for a whole system, i.e. recorded stereo separation, the listening room, speakers, and speaker placement, etc., versus (b) soundstage attributed to single component, (e.g. DAC), in an otherwise "all-things-equal" situation.
 

DVDdoug

Major Contributor
Joined
May 27, 2021
Messages
3,001
Likes
3,950
I don't believe it's "measurable".

But it might be quantifiable by a panel of listeners as ahofer suggests above. Or you can make your own judgements.

But if you are comparing electronics, the test should be done blind because there's no reason for the electronics to make any difference unless you are using some kind of intentional processing. With a DAC or other electronics, it's probably best to start with a blind, level-matched, ABX Test because the odds are, there is no real audible difference at all!

I'm reading Floyd Tool's book and if I understood and remember what he said... He says it's mostly from the recording and that our ears & brain quickly adapt to the acoustics of the room. He also says multi-channel surround recordings can help.

And since it is obviously an illusion (especially with just a pair of stereo speakers) I assume different people experience it differently.*

On another audio site, a forum member insisted he found the Topping D90SE DAC to have a shallow and unsatisfying soundstage despite superb measurement here at ASR. He thus meant to assert the insufficiency of measurements in general.
A VERY common belief among "audiophiles". ...And they often "don't believe in" blind listening tests.



* P.S.
People do perceive soundstage in headphones differently - I NEVER get a realistic soundstage with headphones but since people talk about it so much, I used to think I was in the minority.
 
Last edited:
OP
Gorgonzola

Gorgonzola

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 27, 2021
Messages
1,033
Likes
1,415
Location
Southern Ontario
My money is on a "simple" ratio between direct sound and early reflections.
Yes, but the commentator was talking about supposed soundstage qualities of a single component without changing anything else in the system, room, speaker placement or whateve.
 

SIY

Grand Contributor
Technical Expert
Joined
Apr 6, 2018
Messages
10,467
Likes
25,159
Location
Alfred, NY
"... because there is no magic."

On another audio site, a forum member insisted he found the Topping D90SE DAC to have a shallow and unsatisfying soundstage despite superb measurement here at ASR. He thus meant to assert the insufficiency of measurements in general.

A good buddy of mine there, as part of his rejoinder posted they following ...

QUOTE ...

{Redacted} says soundstage is a "psychoacoustic" phenomenon, (I agree) ... but seems to imply that it is ultimately unmeasurable, (I disagree).

Note: a few days ago I improve my soundstage, (perceptively wider, deeper), by moving my speakers a little farther apart; no components were changed. However {redacted} is talking about differences in soundstage on account of individual components. (Are these different things? I thinks so.)

So how might we hope to measure the soundstage contribution of individual components? Seems to me ..
  • Either we find some presently mysterious direct soundstage measurement (analogous to, but not, harmonic distortion),
  • Or we find that some existing measurement(s) that correlate with the soundstage phenomenon.
So for example, (to press a point on which still not everyone agrees), tube qualities, such as "warmth", correlate with relatively high low order harmonic distortions and relatively low higher order HDs.

Possibly but hypothetically, another tube quality which {redacted} has described as "layered imaging", others as simply "depth", is another correlate of harmonic distortion profile. I've heard phenomenon myself and personally believe it was related to my tube preamp versus s/s and passive preamps that I compared. Thus I call it "reverberation effect" and consider it an "artifact" or "fake" in that I don't believe its on the recording itself.

... END QUOTE.

Anyone here have thoughts??
Yes, some are confused between (a) soundstage for a whole system, i.e. recorded stereo separation, the listening room, speakers, and speaker placement, etc., versus (b) soundstage attributed to single component, (e.g. DAC), in an otherwise "all-things-equal" situation.
And here we are. If the claimant hasn't demonstrated a phenomenon (and it's easy to do, a simple test to see if A and B can be distinguished), then it's a waste of time to speculate on how to measure it. "It" (in this context) overwhelmingly likely is imaginary, and it takes a lot of sophisticated equipment to measure imaginary things.
 

dasdoing

Major Contributor
Joined
May 20, 2020
Messages
4,277
Likes
2,748
Location
Salvador-Bahia-Brasil
you take 2 channels and throw them through 2 tubes in parallel, there will be phase variations. these will in consequence smear the center image as it will "wobble" from left to right (around center) on a frequency axis. some people seem to hear this smearing as being wider as you have no laser-pinned center anymore. that's the only effect I can think of that alters the soundstage other than room/reflections.
 

-Matt-

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Nov 21, 2021
Messages
677
Likes
564
I suggested a possible way here:

Could measurements be made with a stereo microphone system (simulating our ears) and some computer code (simulating our brain processing) in order to test the precision of sound object localisation? I'm imagining that you'd have test sounds with well defined locations in the soundstage and then the computer code would spit out position information (with uncertainty) for different sets of speakers (or for different toe-in etc).

I've not looked into the details, what are the capabilities of Trinov's fancy 3D microphone system?

Or maybe something like MiniDSP Ears but for speakers rather than headphones?

...and was pointed towards the work of Greisinger on LOC here and here.


I had something like this in mind:
https://arxiv.org/pdf/1904.01916.pdf

or this
https://www.informatik.uni-hamburg.de/wtm/ps/2009_Murray_Erwin_Wermter_NN_final_preprint.pdf
 
Last edited:

Killingbeans

Major Contributor
Joined
Oct 23, 2018
Messages
4,095
Likes
7,570
Location
Bjerringbro, Denmark.
Yes, but the commentator was talking about supposed soundstage qualities of a single component without changing anything else in the system, room, speaker placement or whateve.

True. But talking about the "soundstage" of a DAC is like talking about the amount of cheese in a strawberry, IMO. Completely nonsensical.
 

Tangband

Major Contributor
Joined
Sep 3, 2019
Messages
2,994
Likes
2,792
Location
Sweden
you take 2 channels and throw them through 2 tubes in parallel, there will be phase variations. these will in consequence smear the center image as it will "wobble" from left to right (around center) on a frequency axis. some people seem to hear this smearing as being wider as you have no laser-pinned center anymore. that's the only effect I can think of that alters the soundstage other than room/reflections.
Using a non stiff power supply ( high impedance ) after the regulators before the analog OP stage using resistors can make a small compression effect that makes everything sound less dynamic and more ” ear friendly ”, you can then play a little louder without listening fatique and that can give the perceived music effect of ”a bigger soundstage ” . This trick can apparently not only be used in tube amplifiers ( both pre and power amps ) where its very common, but also in separate dacs.

About loudspeakers - the soundstage seems to be better, bigger an more natural in a stereo setup using a good single driver speaker or a coaxial loudspeaker, ie ” a single point source ” speaker, compared to multiway speakers ( that might have other advantages )

And how do we do to measure the perceived soundstage ? Its impossible because the stereo soundstage is built up in the brain - No mono speaker measurement can show how a stereo soundstage is perceived by the listener.

Because of the flawed 2-channel stereo system , the best soundstage illusion is also dependent on the ratio of direct sound from the speakers and reflected sound from the walls in the listening room. Playing with reverbs in a studio, one can conclude that in a normal room, about 20 ms delay ( 6.8 meters delay from the direct sound from the speaker ) of the reflected sound from the sidewalls can give the illusion of a much bigger soundstage .

This is one of the reasons big listening rooms sounds better than small rooms when using 2 channel playback.
 
Last edited:

Dunring

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 7, 2021
Messages
1,247
Likes
1,328
Location
Florida
Ratings.com has a leaderboard for headphones soundstage and the only test I've ever heard for it. For Amps and DACs it means something is wrong with channel balance, or a filter that give pre and post ringing that some people think is that effect. The color settings on the SMSL DACs with filters can make it sound that way. So much obsession over it, when most is in the music. Listen to KD Lang Constant Craving or stuff from John Secada or Seal to hear a good example of that.
 

DLS79

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Dec 31, 2019
Messages
663
Likes
747
The individual in question should play this song and tell what he thinks of the sound stage.
 

BDWoody

Chief Cat Herder
Moderator
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 9, 2019
Messages
7,024
Likes
23,077
Location
Mid-Atlantic, USA. (Maryland)
On another audio site, a forum member insisted he found the Topping D90SE DAC to have a shallow and unsatisfying soundstage despite superb measurements...

Well, if he insisted...:rolleyes:

Claims aren't evidence. That's hard for many to grasp.
 

AJM1981

Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2022
Messages
34
Likes
12
There is a lot of gray ground when it comes to hifi in my opinion. There is design, there are specs and systems should measure flat.. but on the contrary they also should have a signature sound according to taste.

Besides the notion that I think a piece of art in optical design (“everything breathes quality”) already is half the market price of an amp, there is off course also sound. And wider soundstages seem to score points.

Since this seems more of an audiolovers tech forum instead, the thing I was wondering about is how wider soundstages in amps are achieved in a technical way.

What exactly creates that difference?

And is that effect comparable to apply a small percentage of “stereo widening” effect on the music production side?
 
OP
Gorgonzola

Gorgonzola

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 27, 2021
Messages
1,033
Likes
1,415
Location
Southern Ontario
And here we are. If the claimant hasn't demonstrated a phenomenon (and it's easy to do, a simple test to see if A and B can be distinguished), then it's a waste of time to speculate on how to measure it. "It" (in this context) overwhelmingly likely is imaginary, and it takes a lot of sophisticated equipment to measure imaginary things.
I suppose hearing more/less sound stage from a given pair of components would be essentially no different that hearing any other sort of difference.

I suspect, though, that participants might be better convince if a group of them had a consensus ahead of time about which component had better soundstage and which less.
 
Joined
Feb 22, 2024
Messages
32
Likes
53
"Soundstage" is often a concept that is confused. There's a difference between the pattern of dispersion/directivity of the sound coming out of the speaker and how that balance between dispersion and directivity creates a sense of size, which is what I think about when I use the word soundstage, and accurate space-time-frequency differentiation of elements in a mix, which I might call imaging. Different things affect both of these. A stereo widening plugin or a reverb or anything else that creates a sense of spatiality in production is just varying the arrival time and level of the sound in subtle ways at varying frequencies to create a psychoacoustic impression of space.

Amplifiers don't intrinsically have a quality that can be called soundstage. The idea that you could compare two amplifiers and say one creates a bigger or smaller soundstage is silly, because amplifiers don't produce sound waves. They produce voltages that move drivers back and forth.

If the amplifier has less distortion and higher dynamic range, and its power and current handling are adequate for the load you're presenting it, it can help the system reproduce more details, with the correct phase and timing relationships, that might improve our perception of spatial cues in the resulting sound field. Same if the amplifier is controlled i.e. using its damping factor to effectively slow down and stop the movement of the driver when it needs to. If the amplifier output is accurately matched across both channels and has an accurate phase response etc., it will also help the stereo image feel more coherent and will help your brain more clearly discern imaging cues from the sound, because you aren't getting as many errors in the arrival times/arrival levels of the sound to your ears.

If you're talking about dispersion, it is hugely dependent on speaker/driver/waveguide and cabinet/baffle design.

This thread is huge and may be of help. https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...creates-a-large-and-precise-soundstage.48542/
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom