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Speakers that produce astonishing soundstaging/imaging?

Rottmannash

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You are right. Upon profound introspection I came to understand I'm an awful human being for not tiptoeing when a stranger on the internet says I'm lying. I'm willing to be guided towards enlightenment.
You get the Snark-of-the-Day Award. Happy?
 
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gn77b

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I'm activating the ignore feature in your profile, I suggest you do the same.

I'm adding some clarification about what I said concerning amps. I don't believe that amps are magical devices that somehow add certain attributes to sound, like you'd add some ingredient to food. Put magic amp X in the mix and voila, soundstage. That is a distortion of my statement, obviously tendentious. But in one occasion with one specific speaker, it was only with one amp that the stage didn't become blurry at higher volumes. But at the same time there was no obvious distortion with other amps, you could tell the difference when it came to how precise the stage was defined and the difference was so obvious you could tell it from another room. If I'm to speculate why, maybe some amps behave a certain way when pushed to the limit so that their distortion is benign so to speak. After continuing using said amp for about ten minutes, it went into thermal protection which proves that said speakers required a lot of current. Maybe the manufacturer lied with the sensitivity. Speaking of which, I absolutely believe that using 2.83 V/m instead of W/m for specifying sensitivity is a marketing tactic. Maybe the impedance dipped at some frequency where there's typically a lot of energy in music. There's no magic in that, just plain engineering. For instance my or my friend's speakers didn't change with amps, although someone once insisted that I should buy at least a Gryphon amp that costs 4k EUR used in order to reveal some "magic". Anyone wanting to believe I'm a cable worshipper in disguise is free to do that but please don't try to move the discussion in that direction.
 
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HammerSandwich

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A dipole radiates equal amounts of sound pressure to the front and back of a listening space, regardless of enclosure design.
Ah, we're talking about the difference between squares & rectangles! IOW, all open-baffle speakers are dipoles (unless with rear-wave absorber), but not all dipoles are open-baffle.

I'll need a bit more caffeine this AM before I can recall a dipole speaker that's not an open-baffle design, but there probably are a few. Something like a Mirage M1 with the rear drivers inverted would qualify.
 

DanielT

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Ah, we're talking about the difference between squares & rectangles! IOW, all open-baffle speakers are dipoles (unless with rear-wave absorber), but not all dipoles are open-baffle.

I'll need a bit more caffeine this AM before I can recall a dipole speaker that's not an open-baffle design, but there probably are a few. Something like a Mirage M1 with the rear drivers inverted would qualify.
And when you're still on the subject. How does the sound change (dipol, full open baffel) regarding how far from the back wall a dipole is placed?
 
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Jim Matthews

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I'll need a bit more caffeine this AM before I can recall a dipole speaker that's not an open-baffle design, but there probably are a few. Something like a Mirage M1 with the rear drivers inverted would qualify.
I had a set of Definitive technology floorstanders that were bipoles. My dumpster salvage MMG were better.

(Corrected Bipoles)
 
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Duke

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And when you're still on the subject. How does the sound change (dipol, full open baffel) regarding how far from the back wall a dipole is placed?

In my opinion (as a longtime dipole owner & dealer and bipole loudspeaker manufacturer) if the backwave arrives too soon, clarity is degraded. Imo you typically want dipole speakers to be at least three feet out from the wall, and preferably five feet or more. If that's not possible then you may need to aggressively treat the backwave with diffusion or angled reflectors or (imo as a last resort) absorption. Aggressive toe-in can also help as that correspondingly toes-out the backwave energy thereby increasing the effective reflection path length, but not all dipole speakers work well with aggressive toe-in.

Imo the primary advantage of a good, well set-up dipole speaker is that extra dose of relatively late-onset, spectrally-correct reverberant energy contributed by the backwave. (I dislike using absorption on the backwave energy as then it is no longer spectrally correct). The backwave energy can improve timbre and soundstage depth and even help tip the spatial presentation towards the venue cues (on the recording) being perceptually dominant, as opposed to the small-room cues (of your playback room) being perceptually dominant.
 
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KSTR

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Imo the primary advantage of a good, well set-up dipole speaker is that extra dose of relatively late-onset, spectrally-correct reverberant energy contributed by the backwave. (I dislike using absorption on the backwave energy as then it is no longer spectrally correct). The backwave energy can improve timbre and soundstage depth and even help tip the spatial presentation towards the venue cues (on the recording) being perceptually dominant, as opposed to the small-room cues (of your playback room) being perceptually dominant.
Had dipoles for quite a while and would certainly agree. Part of the Dipole magic appears to be less total reverberant energy in the room and increased diffusiveness of the room signals that reach the ear.
By this, the recorded ambience gets some "additional space to breathe in" but isn't dominated as much by the room as it is with monopoles.

My ey-opening first encounter was at a friend with an Linkwitz Orion build (so quite some time ago), setup in a large industrial loft style appartment with zero absorbing materials, all glass, tiles, hard woods, no carpets etc. Flutter echo and room-mode hell, really.
To my surprise the abundance of room reverb and reflections did way less harm to the presentation than expected, at least at low to medium playback levels.
 

audio2design

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Had dipoles for quite a while and would certainly agree. Part of the Dipole magic appears to be less total reverberant energy in the room and increased diffusiveness of the room signals that reach the ear.
By this, the recorded ambience gets some "additional space to breathe in" but isn't dominated as much by the room as it is with monopoles.

Normally more frequency dependent. However much less from first reflections except the rear wall. It's the time based nature of that extra energy that is critical.
 

Steve Dallas

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Even Floyd Toole doesn't have much to say on the subject of stereo imaging so not sure there is any answer that can be backed up with hard science.

IME most competently designed speakers will image reasonably well assuming they are set up properly and the listener is sat on axis.

The best I have heard for imaging are the Linkwitz LX521 but they are not a commercial design, you must build them or commission a build. They need a fair bit of space between them and the side wall, although that will help improve the imaging of most speakers too.

Another tip is not to have anything in between the speakers (racks, furniture etc) unless it is sat back from the plane of the drivers.

Would help if we knew the make and model of the speakers currently being used. if they are a disaster of a design then the finger points there. If not it's the way they are being set up. Or possibly the amp cannot drive them properly, which will screw the sound six ways from Sunday.

I have attached one of Dr. Toole's presentations, which includes some of his thoughts on soundstage. Start around page 20.

As we continue this discussion, can we agree on a few musical selections which portray good staging for us to play around with? "Soundstage" can be one of those nebulous audiophool terms unless well-defined and understood by the participants in the conversation.
 

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Axo1989

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I generally agree with much of what you wrote there.

I'm used to auditioning speakers in various rooms and, yeah, there are room interactions but I find the general character of a speaker is discernible and pretty constant. And some just seem to "disappear" and soundstage like bejesus, others struggle somewhat.

I could talk about speakers I've owned or heard in terms of soundstaging prowess, but it sounds like you want some recommendations, and I may not know as many speakers in that specific price bracket.

Off the top of my head: Audio Physic offers quite a range of speakers and they are very reliable for doing that "magic act" of producing impressive soundstaging and imaging. If your pal could ever find a second hand pair of Joseph Audio Pulsar stand mounted speakers, he'd hear one hell of a "disappearing/soundstaging/imaging" act as well as ticking off most of the audiophile goodies (excellent rich, deep bass for their size too).

There are tons and tons of speakers out there that will image well, so that's a drop in the bucket.

(I haven't heard the smaller Revel speakers but I bet they'd be excellent as well).
I missed this post earlier. I'll elaborate because you mention some little-known speakers.

I'll agree with your observation on Audio Physic. Listening in a semi-treated room (corner bass traps, some front and side wall panels, can't remember if any rear wall treatment) and with some tweaking of speaker placement, I preferred their soundstage and imaging compared to similar size Focal and B&W in the same room, especially for electronic and r&b-adjacent genres. I preferred the big Focals for some higher-SPL rock-adjacent genres, however. Subjectively, the Focal were more wall-of-sound while the Audio Physic were more pinpoint imaging and 'holographic' (for want of a better term: think sounds distributed in 3D space quite apart from the speakers). Sighted A/B/C so make of it what you will. Consistent with theory for wide vs less-wide directivity and wide vs narrow baffle, etc so—while the visuals of each speaker no doubt played a part—maybe meaningful.

In the end I chose somewhat on price, the trade-in Focal Scala Utopia that my budget would stretch to were snapped up while I was deciding and they were roughly 2x price for similar sizes at retail (comparing to AP Avanti and Codex, this was a bit before Focal Sopra and Kanta ranges appeared). Anyway, the image and soundstage impressions carried over to my own space. Extended soundstage and precise imaging are often mutually exclusive, but not so much in this case. My listening space has floor and ceiling treatment but not walls (I can open the side walls to eliminate first reflection however). Slightly wide speaker spacing with toe-in to listening position per the manual. Toe-in significantly beyond that does narrow the soundstage so there is some side wall interaction going on.

My experience is generally consistent with @audio2design's post #73 except for the scare-quotes (no offence intended, soundstage is just what stereo does, I don't get confused about it, but I don't always know what others mean by it). I also use and prefer software-based room EQ based on spatial averaging of measurements, partly for bass (room mode boost ~50 Hz is a big one) but full-range EQ also improves imaging enough to notice (not everyone experiences this, probably too many variables to generalise) and allows a house curve (pretty straightforward, flat frequency response in-room usually sounds too bright).

I've had dipoles (Quad ESL) but unfortunately too long ago to make any meaningful comparison. I've never had omnis. I'd love to hear MBL for example but haven't even seen any in the metal. You have some eclectic speaker experience, your current Theil look interesting [edit: referring to @MattHooper's posts now].

For the OP, I would say follow up on some of the suggestions in this thread and see what you think. The scenario of choosing/recommending for a friend seems problematic. Sighted bias and narrative-driven perceptions will always be issues, but opportunities to blind-test speakers are pretty limited so you just have to go with whatever measurements and subjective impressions you can garner. There's no specific imaging or soundstage metric for obvious reasons but I'd look for things like low distortion in the midrange/treble and flat group delay once you've worked out your directivity preference.
 
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MattHooper

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I missed this post earlier. I'll elaborate because you mention some little-known speakers.

I'll agree with your observation on Audio Physic. Listening in a semi-treated room (corner bass traps, some front and side wall panels, can't remember if any rear wall treatment) and with some tweaking of speaker placement, I preferred their soundstage and imaging compared to similar size Focal and B&W in the same room, especially for electronic and r&b-adjacent genres. I preferred the big Focals for some higher-SPL rock-adjacent genres, however. Subjectively, the Focal were more wall-of-sound while the Audio Physic were more pinpoint imaging and 'holographic' (for want of a better term: think sounds distributed in 3D space quite apart from the speakers). Sighted A/B/C so make of it what you will. Consistent with theory for wide vs less-wide directivity and wide vs narrow baffle, etc so—while the visuals of each speaker no doubt played a part—maybe meaningful.

In the end I chose somewhat on price, the trade-in Focal Scala Utopia that my budget would stretch to were snapped up while I was deciding and they were roughly 2x price for similar sizes at retail (comparing to AP Avanti and Codex, this was a bit before Focal Sopra and Kanta ranges appeared). Anyway, the image and soundstage impressions carried over to my own space. Extended soundstage and precise imaging are often mutually exclusive, but not so much in this case. My listening space has floor and ceiling treatment but not walls (I can open the side walls to eliminate first reflection however). Slightly wide speaker spacing with toe-in to listening position per the manual. Toe-in significantly beyond that does narrow the soundstage so there is some side wall interaction going on.

My experience is generally consistent with @audio2design's post #73 except for the scare-quotes (no offence intended, soundstage is just what stereo does, I don't get confused about it, but I don't always know what others mean by it). I also use and prefer software-based room EQ based on spatial averaging of measurements, partly for bass (room mode boost ~50 Hz is a big one) but full-range EQ also improves imaging enough to notice (not everyone experiences this, probably too many variables to generalise) and allows a house curve (pretty straightforward, flat frequency response in-room usually sounds too bright).

I've had dipoles (Quad ESL) but unfortunately too long ago to make any meaningful comparison. I've never had omnis. I'd love to hear MBL for example but haven't even seen any in the metal. You have some eclectic speaker experience, your current Theil look interesting [edit: referring to @MattHooper's post now].

For the OP, I would say follow up on some of the suggestions in this thread and see what you think. The scenario of choosing/recommending for a friend seems problematic. Sighted bias and narrative-driven perceptions will always be issues, but opportunities to blind-test speakers are pretty limited so you just have to go with whatever measurements and subjective impressions you can garner.

Nice!

I had Quad ESL 63s and I remember they imaged great. I also had MBLs and nothing touched them for you-are-there sense of imaging.
(I've also owned Audio Physic speakers - had the virgo 2s in my house, Libra and later owned the Scorpios). Another speaker that did an astonishing "disappearing/soundstaging" act were the Waveform Mach Solo speakers, and also the smaller Waveform Mack MC speakers (egg shaped midrage/tweeter modules).

My current Thiel 2.7s soundstage/image really well, though not quite as "disappearing" as the larger Thiel 3.7s I owned. I have the Joseph floor standing Perspective speakers and those are imaging monsters too.
 

HammerSandwich

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I had a set of Definitive technology floorstanders that were dipoles. My dumpster salvage MMG were better.
Interesting. I knew about their bipoles but hadn't realized they did the other. And there have been many dipole-in-a-box surround speakers over the years from various brands. I knew that, and it still didn't click last night.

Of course, a clever company could provide a flexible model with dual binding posts & jumpers.
 

audio2design

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Interesting. I knew about their bipoles but hadn't realized they did the other. And there have been many dipole-in-a-box surround speakers over the years from various brands. I knew that, and it still didn't click last night.

Of course, a clever company could provide a flexible model with dual binding posts & jumpers.

Bipole in a box for surrounds. I am not aware of dipoles for a surround. Does not really work due to directionality. Are you sure you meant dipoles.
 

DanielT

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In my opinion (as a longtime dipole owner & dealer and bipole loudspeaker manufacturer) if the backwave arrives too soon, clarity is degraded. Imo you typically want dipole speakers to be at least three feet out from the wall, and preferably five feet or more. If that's not possible then you may need to aggressively treat the backwave with diffusion or angled reflectors or (imo as a last resort) absorption. Aggressive toe-in can also help as that correspondingly toes-out the backwave energy thereby increasing the effective reflection path length, but not all dipole speakers work well with aggressive toe-in.

Imo the primary advantage of a good, well set-up dipole speaker is that extra dose of relatively late-onset, spectrally-correct reverberant energy contributed by the backwave. (I dislike using absorption on the backwave energy as then it is no longer spectrally correct). The backwave energy can improve timbre and soundstage depth and even help tip the spatial presentation towards the venue cues (on the recording) being perceptually dominant, as opposed to the small-room cues (of your playback room) being perceptually dominant.
Interesting!:)

The more I read this thread, the more I get the urge to get a pair of dipoles, preferably a pair of electrostatic speakers, but I wait because in a few months (which is the plan right now) I will move to a new apartment, or a small house. I will start from the size and design of the listening room and like "start from the beginning" with the sound (fix the acoustics in the room). Fun to start with basically a completely empty room. So speakers will be selected in conjunction with the listening room. I'll see what happens. I do not exclude anything, or any type of speaker model, construction type. Preferably speakers that measure sensibly. It is possible that there will be some "standards" such as the Elac Debut Reference DBR-62 (which are so popular). Kali Audio LP-6 V2, or model with 8 "also seems really interesting.:)

The most crucial thing is:
Small house = many sub. Apartment, in the equation type of sensitivity sound neighbors = probably hardly any sub at all.:)
 
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gn77b

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For the OP, I would say follow up on some of the suggestions in this thread and see what you think. The scenario of choosing/recommending for a friend seems problematic. Sighted bias and narrative-driven perceptions will always be issues, but opportunities to blind-test speakers are pretty limited so you just have to go with whatever measurements and subjective impressions you can garner. There's no specific imaging or soundstage metric for obvious reasons but I'd look for things like low distortion in the midrange/treble and flat group delay once you've worked out your directivity preference.
The purpose of the thread is to narrow down the search. He'll likely buy used locally and audition first. Maybe I'll go with him. No way he'll buy 100% based on what I'll tell him and I explicitly told told him not to fall in love with some model. It's easy to go down that rabbit hole.

Now, I never posted about my experiences. A few random ones.

I remember when I visited my last audio show. There was this room where some Sonus Fabers were playing. Can't recall the model except they were black, narrow, relatively small floorstanders and one of their cheaper models. It was the only room where I heard wow soundstage and imaging in that show. And that in a hotel room.

Another time was with Dynaudio Contour bookshelves, at someone's house. There was sound clearly emanating from outside the speakers. Typical rectangular, relatively empty living room with no treatment. But the owner said he was only able to achieve that with very careful placement, in his words a few centimeters would make a difference. That sound emanating from outside the speakers was present only with some songs, that obviously doesn't exist in all songs.

There is a distant memory from a B&W dealership that some of their upper range bookshelves were able to achieve a very credible sense of space compared to some of their much cheaper models but the memory is very blurry.

Some large Raidho speakers at someone's house. The space was far from ideal, being an attic. What surprised me was lack of real bass but that's likely because of the space. But they were able to project the sound very credibly, they gave the sensation that sounds were floating in the air and there was a definite notion of size to them.

The most expensive system I've ever listened to was comprised of some top of the line Triangle speakers with Accuphase electronics. I'd say about EUR 100k new total. Interestingly, soundstage wasn't the best I've heard but it compensated in all other areas.

Now for my speakers. I was never able to achieve that outside the speakers effect but the sound never seems to come from them, it's clearly detached from the box, it's as if it's coming from behind them mostly. And depth is there with the songs that have it. Imaging is very good, it's as if I can point a laser beam to where sounds are coming from although the sound is never in your face. Never achieved this sound with other speakers I've owned. I'd guess it's what audiophiles call not sounding boxy.

Oh and my PC speakers are some small, crappy bluetooth Edifiers. They do present some spatiality. I once tried them in the living room just for giggles and was surprised that they can sound half-decent. I can't understand why a lot of people watch movies using the crappy built-in TV speakers and complain about the sound in reviews while such things as the wireless Edifiers exist and are far better. OTOH for some people their phones are Instagram devices and they ask for directions when they get lost. I guess that's why most people aren't audiophiles but I digress.

Others aren't worth mentioning because the auditions were too hurried to draw conclusions or there's not much to tell.

Overall, what would I choose based on my experiences? The Raidhos but with fixed bass. I was close to buying some of their small siblings once but changed my mind. And there's definitely something about those Sonus Fabers. Unfortunately that was the single SF model I've ever heard but based on what some people I like to trust said they are among the best speakers out there, especially the ones from the Franco Serblin era.
 
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