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

AJM1981

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"... 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??
Since there seems no defined reference point on the width of a stereo image in hi-fi it is a bit of gray area for "horizontal soundstage"

When producing / mixing audio it is possible to apply a stereo widener. This has a more extreme effect when used for 100%, but applying within marginal percentages it can emulate that idea.

It's this "stereo widening effect" I am thinking of when it comes to the soundstage. Maybe a narrower soundstage is more as it should be for reference and a broader soundstage is to a marging degree what stereo widening does; but on component level; thus adding "color". Which might be psycho-accoustic in the sence that it 'might' be an a non defined marginal error, but "a nice error". I think for a little parallel to Roland and their manufacturing of either the TR808 or 909 in which they were searching for capacitors which were 'just' not perfect to get a little bit of an edge.

Since "the audiophile" is both "we want it as pure as direct and monitor-like as possible 'and' the 180 degrees opposite "we totally like the not so pure tube sound (color)" there is a lot of space in the gray areas for manufacturers because there is no set definition for it and there will never be. There is no one telling a manafucturer that it can't color sound. It would not be wise for reference monitors, but for hi-fi.. no problem

Manufacturers also know that a certain coloration adds value given what people search for and pay larger sums for, so why shouldn't they

When it comes to "vertical soundstage" it is less cryptic. I have two-way speakers and they have a shallower vertical soundstage compared to my three-ways".. But that is purely stretching things out a bit; obviously.
 
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ahofer

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Since "the audiophile" is both "we want it as pure as direct and monitor-like as possible 'and' the 180 degrees opposite "we totally like the not so pure tube sound (color)" there is a lot of space in the gray areas for manufacturers because there is no set definition for it and there will never be. There is no one telling a manafucturer that it can't color sound. It would not be wise for reference monitors, but for hi-fi.. no problem
But since we can increasingly do this in an effects loop, why not offer that in electronics? We can't change directivity on the fly (although one or two speakers have had a similar feature), but the "tube-like" effects, the phase-based 'widening' effects, those could all literally be dialed in to much greater effect.
 

Ivanovich

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I’d say soundstage is primarily produced by the stereophonic or multi-channel system, including the room. Measuring differences between channels (L/R) could reveal alteration of what one perceives as soundstage. Also, a room with a highly absorptive side opposite a reflective side should also impact the soundstage, i.e., a live-end / dead-end room design is usually considered beneficial to improve SQ, including imaging and soundstage.

fwiw - I’ve done no test this is just a thought experiment.
 

AJM1981

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But since we can increasingly do this in an effects loop, why not offer that in electronics? We can't change directivity on the fly (although one or two speakers have had a similar feature), but the "tube-like" effects, the phase-based 'widening' effects, those could all literally be dialed in to much greater effect.
It is already there. The Yamaha Wxa50 class d seems to have that “tube spiced sound” when applying its enhancer setting. Probably all other current Yamaha models could have that setting in the same context.

It only seems that the audiophile world needs time to get into the territory of acceptance. Because this is not accepted that well.

Tubes were the real deal and class B’s that sounded like tubes were overseen in the beginning because it wasn’t the real deal. Now there seems to be an upcoming run and appreciation for older class b amps that “sound like tubes”But it is probably the price tag and the age of an amp that defines if something “will be accepted” to sound like that. Class D is relatively new, so the emotional value to it is near zero.
 
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Gorgonzola

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When producing / mixing audio it is possible to apply a stereo widener. This has a more extreme effect when used for 100%, but applying within marginal percentages it can emulate that idea.

It's this "stereo widening effect" I am thinking of when it comes to the soundstage. Maybe a narrower soundstage is more as it should be for reference and a broader soundstage is to a marging degree what stereo widening does; but on component level; thus adding "color". Which might be psycho-accoustic in the sence that it 'might' be an a non defined marginal error, but "a nice error". I think for a little parallel to Roland and their manufacturing of either the TR808 or 909 in which they were searching for capacitors which were 'just' not perfect to get a little bit of an edge.

Yes, it's possible to fool with separation, (at least horizontally), electrically by changing the Left-Right mix. Years ago I had a Apt Holman preamp that had such a control; look at the picture (from the ASR review), it's the third knob from the right. Turning the knob clockwise a bit would tend to expand the soundstage by reducing the apparent center channel due to L+R blend ...

index.php


I suppose it would be possible for a maker to build in such a control in the component, (with or without talking about).

There are tube "effects" that affect the sense of apparent depth from a component. But in comparison of my tube preamp with s/s and passive preamp I had at the time, I concluded that it was an artifact, not anything on the recording.
 
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Q-sound. Mentioned previously, and worth repeating. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QSound

Understanding it can help someone realize how phase shifts in the recording or playback process can affect the apparent depth or width of a stereo sound. It is plausible to believe that any piece of electronic component might induce an unintended phase shift or micro-second time delay that does not show up on the standard measurements, yet can be heard by some people.

Measuring "soundstage" would probably require at least three microphones or a (Klippel NFS style) 3D scanner.
 
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Gorgonzola

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To get back to the guy on the other forum who was insisting that the Topping D90SE is lacking in soundstage, (still not to mention names). I have reason to suspect he was subjectively comparing the Topping with the US$7000 Ayon Skylla II DAC. This guy undoubtedly listened to hundreds of high-end components.

FWIW, see a subjective review and verbose technical description of the Skylla II, HERE; (no measurements).

Nice picture, (eight vacuum tubes? Why not?) ...
8.jpg
 
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Gorgonzola

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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.
"Imaginary"? I'm not sure that's right. Soundstage can reasonably be defined as the perceived width, height, and depth of image produced by a stereo system. Granted, perception happens in the listener's head.

Hence soundstage is a psychoacoustic phenomenon: is that imaginary? It can't be measured directly. However test subjects might, by ABX, statistically might agree that component A sounded different than component B and further. that it had "better" or "more" soundstage. Nobody has ever tried this to my knowledge.
 

Geert

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Hence soundstage is a psychoacoustic phenomenon: is that imaginary? It can't be measured directly.

With speakers it's a reality and difficult to measure, but with other components like the DAC you mentioned in your OP you could simply start with a null test.
 

Chromatischism

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You would have to not only measure frequency response changes that cause a perception of soundstage to change, but a whole other set of measurements would be needed to capture the 3D: polar plots of speakers as they are positioned in a room. We may be talking about two different phenomena.
 

Anton D

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"Imaginary"? I'm not sure that's right. Soundstage can reasonably be defined as the perceived width, height, and depth of image produced by a stereo system. Granted, perception happens in the listener's head.

Hence soundstage is a psychoacoustic phenomenon: is that imaginary? It can't be measured directly. However test subjects might, by ABX, statistically might agree that component A sounded different than component B and further. that it had "better" or "more" soundstage. Nobody has ever tried this to my knowledge.
Likely cumbersome, but it would be cool to take stereo speaker set ups and use the mics to measure many different spots in the sound field and see if we can map imaging/soundstage.

Edited: I was slow to post and Chromatischism already said that. Apologies!
 
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SIY

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However test subjects might, by ABX, statistically might agree that component A sounded different than component B and further. that it had "better" or "more" soundstage. Nobody has ever tried this to my knowledge.
You need to get out more, assuming that by "components," you mean electronics.
 

Blumlein 88

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I watched this presentation by J_J. He briefly talks about imaging and soundstage measurement. Nothing not already discussed in this thread. If I had marked it I would give the part where it is covered. It is pretty early, I think in the first 15 minutes.

 

guy48065

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"Dispersion"..."directivity"..."ratio of direct to reflected sound"...
Taking these oft-repeated assumptions a little farther leads me to a simple question. (Surely this has been explored...)

Can a stereo system create a soundstage in an anechoic chamber?
 

Blumlein 88

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"Dispersion"..."directivity"..."ratio of direct to reflected sound"...
Taking these oft-repeated assumptions a little farther leads me to a simple question. (Surely this has been explored...)

Can a stereo system create a soundstage in an anechoic chamber?
Don't see why not. Possibly even a more accurate one vs the recording. The perceived soundstage is your brain processing what hits the ears. Enough direct sound hits the ears in an anechoic chamber for this to happen. Same as sealed headphones.
 

DonH56

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"Dispersion"..."directivity"..."ratio of direct to reflected sound"...
Taking these oft-repeated assumptions a little farther leads me to a simple question. (Surely this has been explored...)

Can a stereo system create a soundstage in an anechoic chamber?
Of course, and I often prefer it. You get the recorded space reproduced by the speakers without the room superimposing its response on top of that. My listening rooms have usually been pretty "dead" because I like precise imaging and soundstage.

Try binaural recordings sometime through a good set of headphones.
 

guy48065

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Of course, and I often prefer it. You get the recorded space reproduced by the speakers without the room superimposing its response on top of that. My listening rooms have usually been pretty "dead" because I like precise imaging and soundstage.

Try binaural recordings sometime through a good set of headphones.
I work for a company that does a variety of testing, including noise & vibration. We have binaural heads for some of these activities. I once brought home a DAT recorder to play with for the weekend and it had a tape in it that included conversation in a vehicle between the project engineer & a technician. I was listening thru headphones when the talking began and it was startling & unnerving how real it was. I reflexively turned around to see who was behind me.
 
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