Is soundstage DEPTH a myth?

Ok, help me out fellas. Is it a myth or what?

I’m a good listener, I listen deep into the music, and I feel like I have good ears. But I can’t confirm that I can hear soundstage depth. I can hear 1 instrument is louder, but this doesn’t help me to tell if something is more forward or more behind. Even in real life and 2 people are talking, I can’t honestly say I know which one is in front.

The one behind will sound less loud, but is that all there is to soundstage depth? I think the answer I’m looking for has to do with something I read recently. Something about depth exist only in the center in most system, the good systems has depth all around the soundstage.


A’gon site won’t let me post the complete link, but if you want another answer, some food for thought, try searching for gramophone-dreams-26-nelson-pass-harmonic-distortion.

Of course, those among the audioscenti here who have golden or platinum ears and hearing BEYOND that of mere mortals will argue to the contrary.

But… that’s what they do.

Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to keep convincing yourself you’re better than.



This recording has depth.


  • The film critic Philip French wrote in 1990 that "nothing dates the past like its impressions of the future." He was talking about Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film, A Clockwork Orange, but at that time he could have been describing Kraftwerk. For those of us who grew up in the ’80s, unless we had particularly hip parents, Kraftwerk already felt like ancient history. Once acid house, rave and techno had arrived, they seemed downright primitive. Their funny outfits and rinky-dink sounds all came over like something from a Doctor Who episode in comparison to the white heat of technical innovation that was happening around us. Of course that was unfair. And as we grew into our musical tastes, working backwards through Underground Resistance, Drexciya and Juan Atkins, Kraftwerk’s vitality became more obvious—not just their influence, but also the power and beauty of their creative project. As electronic music became more diverse and complex, the purity and elegance of their sound gained an added appeal in contrast. Their music and art felt more futuristic the further it receded into the past. 3-D The Catalogue contains recordings of the shows performed in major contemporary art galleries during the band’s extended tour of 2012 to 2016. The mixing is pristine, the performances note perfect, the dynamics dramatic. And if you select the quadruple Blu-ray set (with accompanying deluxe art book, with concept work and detail from the shows’ visuals) and have a decent home viewing setup, the package makes absolute sense. As a straight-up listening experience—whether you get eight CDs, eight LPs or the condensed "best of" version—the value of 3-D The Catalogue is a little more questionable. For sure, the sound is exquisite, and the "liveness" is audible, if mostly in filter-sweeps or the way sounds zip across the stereo field. There’s a depth of bass, a sense of scale, a deftness with those moving sounds that certainly "takes you there" if you’re going to have a deep-listening session, whether with hi-fi speakers or headphones. But how often, honestly, are you going to do that? For most listening situations, what you’re getting is buffed and polished remakes of classic Kraftwerk. Quite often, the structures seem identical—you could send yourself mad flicking back and forth to the original versions working out the slight differences (and believe me, I have). On certain tracks—the majestic sound of the Trans-Europe Express material leaps out here—the lushness of the production is transformational, and they stand out as worthy additions to the Kraftwerk remix and remake canon. But too often, unless you’re 100% immersed in the mix’s spatial-dynamic brilliance, all that detail is irrelevant, and the originals can sound better. Put the new take on "Spacelab" side-by-side with the original, and the crisp sparseness of the latter pops out of the speakers more than the live version. In a sense, it’s just like any box set. If you’re a hyper-fan (and God knows Kraftwerk have plenty of those), you’ll want it and will enjoy absorbing every minute. If you’re not, you won’t. But actually, the very nature of Kraftwerk makes it more complicated than that. The way they’ve always reassessed and reworked their legacy, most notably on 1991’s The Mix album, makes it interesting to see which of their tracks stand up best to new sonic treatments. And that their place within the electronic music continuum only seems to become more solidified with each new generation makes new ways of hearing their tracks welcome. Sometimes impressions of the future don’t date—they mature.
  • Tracklist
    1. Autobahn 01. Autobahn 02. Kometenmelodie 1 03. Kometenmelodie 2 04. Mitternacht 05. Morgenspaziergang Radio-Activity 01. Geiger Counter 02. Radioactivity 03. Radioland 04. Airwaves 05. Intermission 06. News 07. The Voice Of Energy 08. Antenna 09. Radio Stars 10. Uranium 11. Transistor 12. Ohm Sweet Ohm Trans-Europe Express 01. Trans-Europe Express 02. Metal On Metal 03. Abzug 04. Franz Schubert 05. Europe Endless 06. The Hall Of Mirrors 07. Showroom Dummies The Man-Machine 01. The Man Machine 02. Spacelab 03. The Model 04. Neon Lights 05. The Robots 06. Metropolis Computer World 01. Numbers 02. Computer World 03. It’s More Fun To Compute 04. Home Computer 05. Computer Love 06. Pocket Calculator 07. Dentaku Techno Pop 01. Electric Cafe 02. The Telephone Call 03. House Phone 04. Sex Object 05. Boing Boom Tschak 06. Techno Pop 07. Music Non Stop The Mix 01. The Robots 02. Computer Love 03. Pocket Calculator 04. Dentaku 05. Autobahn 06. Geiger Counter 07. Radioactivity 08. Trans-Europe Express 09. Metal On Metal 10. Abzug 11. It’s More Fun To Compute 12. Home Computer 13. Boing Boom Tschak 14. Techno Pop 15. Music Non Stop 16. Planet Of Visions Tour De France 01. Tour De France 02. Prologue 03. Etape 1 04. Chrono 05. Etape 2 06. Vitamin 07. Aero Dynamik 08. Elektrokardiogramm 09. La Forme 10. Régéneration Abridged 01. Autobahn 02. Geiger Counter 03. Radio-Activity 04. Trans-Europe Express 05. Metal On Metal 06. Abzug 07. The Man Machine 08. Numbers 09. Computer World 10. Boing Boom Tschak 11. Techno Pop 12. Music Non Stop 13. The Robots 14. Tour De France 15. Prologue 16. Etape 1 17. Chrono 18. Etape 2

I was listening to Helene Grimaud. The album is Duo. It’s just Grimaud on piano and del Sol on cello. The piano sounded like it was up on the stage at a concert hall. I’m sitting in the front row and del Sol is seated right in front of me just to the right on her cello. Please don’t tell me there’s no such thing as depth or width in an audio image.


@normb (et al) -

       It's sad that so many of you naysayers refuse to acknowledge the FACTS of so simple an issue.

        NO ONE is attempting to place themselves above another, or claiming to have, "golden ears".

        In your haste to justify your untenable position, you ignore the truths that:

1) The LEDR test, and others available (ie: on the Chesky Test disc), are purposely designed to test our systems for sound stage width, depth and height.

2) Their intention/goal is the removal or all variables, regarding source material.

3) There (QUITE OBVIOUSLY) exist a multitude of variables, beyond source materials, that can/will limit the reproduction of the effects under discussion.

4) YES: those variables include the disparities that exist in aural acuity between individuals, LIKE EVERY OTHER OF THE HUMAN SENSES, which the more rational of us recognize as, "LIFE" (that just how it goes).

        To dissuade others of their pursuits (whether tonality/organics that please THEIR palate, a sharper image, the accurate reproduction of a recording venue's ambiance, whatever their individual goal) is disingenuous, at best. 

        The tenets of the Naysayer Church, based in nothing but the unscientific, unlearned and misguided faith of a few, but- repeated vociferously in so many AudiogoN threads, can be disheartening.

         My only goal, in these threads, is (and has ever been) to encourage any that desire tonality/organics pleasing to THEIR palate, a more realistic reproduction of recording venue ambiance, or: HOWEVER, "better sound" is defined for them, to experiment with their rooms and systems, by any means that piques their curiosity.

          Were your ilk's the only voices acknowledged: we'd still be listening to Conch shells and arguing, as to whether two could actually produce a stereo effect.

          Thankfully: we've moved past the mind-numbing rhetoric of so many distractors and progressed, far as we have.

                                                  Happy listening!

Soundstage depth is real. I hear it on almost every recording. Except the lousy ones. For the record. I use Watson Labs Model 10 speakers. They are dipoles with subs.  My room is carpeted and  treated to minimize echo. I find more depth with dipoles than any other speaker.  I believe. But cannot prove. That depth is also a function of the distortion profile. Mostly even order harmonic distortion proveds more depth. I came to this conclusion adjusting the distortion profile on my 80 wpc  first watt v3 amps. This could explain why some say  tube amps give more depth... 


For a good spatial example, "Kind Of Blue" exhibits excellent soundstage depth (and width). It's very easy to pick out the instruments' three dimensional placements.


Soundstage depth is real if it’s in the recording to begin with.

AND - If many other things are aligned in your system and room acoustics

Much audio gear just does not image well, particularly speakers, in the true sense of imaging and depth. A properly time and phase aligned speaker not only sounds tonally correct but exhibits palpable imaging.

The biggest obstacle to attain "real life" palpable imaging will be your room acoustics and speaker placement.

I will tell you now, if you have no acoustic treatment going on just forget it, it just won’t happen. If you look at the very best recording studios in the world, they spend loads of money and design effort on acoustics going beyond the RFZ necessity. Once the room has a sufficient reflection free zone in the listening position (the wider the better) then you can start positioning the speakers for optimal soundstage and imaging. This of course is a bit of the chicken or the egg first situation. Acoustics going beyond the RFZ will help with later reflections supporting the ambience of recordings. This is called RT60 and is the length of time frequencies take to decay in a room. If a room is too dead (or dry), the RT60 will be too short and systems sound lifeless.

So you need the right balance in a playback room as well as the RFZ, and speaker positioning.

Many Dacs are also not great at imaging or creating a 3d soundstage, usually timing issues or jitter to blame. I am full digital with really great Dac’s at my disposal so I enjoy breathtaking soundstage and image depth.

Many audiophiles mistaken imaging with just the sense of space versus feeling like you’re actually at or in the venue. This perspective again depends on the recording itself.

I am both a dealer / custom room designer, and I’ve been designing & building AV rooms for 30 years now.


Who asked you?


The OP asked if there was mythology involved, I accommodated him with the POV of an EXPERT/professional in the field.


My background is in science/medicine. Questioning is second nature for me. We don’t TRUST the science, we test it in the real world.

Now I’m wondering if the folks who forced the executioner’s cup of hemlock upon Socrates were audio fanatics who hated questions.

It's not real its an illusion generated by your mind. If I play back a stereo recording in mono it doesn't have much depth though the mind tries to do so. Stereo is designed to make the mind imagine an image by using 2 spaced loudspeakers ea fed a bit differently. TV also doesn't have a moving image your mind thinks it does as it just looks at nonmoving still images flashed at it. Human senses are easily fooled. Are holograms real no? Its illusion.

soundstaging and in particular, perceived depth of stage is certainly there in spades when a terrific live recording is played on a good, well placed system... i think most here agree with this

but i will add that many multi-track studio mixes, say, of pop music, can also have pretty decent depth if the recording engineer does his job well... this is 'artificial depth' that is engineered into the music, rather than capturing and reproducing the real depth in the actual performance venue, but i think this works pretty darned well, is pretty convincing too, when done expertly

If the soundstage is indeed real then why do we need 2 speakers wouldn't 1 be enough? Why does this real soundstage disappear when not seated centered? If it's so real wouldn't it just always be there?


You can say that everything audio is not real, that's not the point of this discussion.

Soundstage depth perception is completely real and best replicated with stereo mic pair recordings due to the phase / time arrival differences.

Our Binaural hearing is by design to locate sounds and judge their position and depth! 

However I've come across many individuals who seem to have little to no function in this area and cannot hear phase differences, perhaps you fit in the category?

And that's the science

I've had clients who can't even hear what 180 degrees out of phase is !

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The points in my previous comment fit still. A system can convey very well but "mono" certainly will not. You need at least a minimum of two point sources to create the sonic imagery. And it can be very convincing when all the proper requirements or elements are in place (as per my original post)

One thing I haven’t heard many complaints about are audio systems or components that over exaggerate depth effects. I do hear about them over exaggerating width from time to time.

Imagine a dac that makes instruments that should just be a little closer sound like they're right in your lap, while instruments that should just be 10 feet further back sound like they’re 300 feet further back. I’ll bet some people would get a kick out of that.


How come almost every animal that's ever existed has had both a pair of eyes and a pair of ears, both separated by a decent distance in order to allow them to appreciate three-dimensionality? I mean, sure, it's in survival's best interest to have back-ups but's best if you know what direction that threat (or food source) is coming from and how far away it is.

In my case, it's all about speaker position. Or rather, the position of my listening chair in relation to the speakers. If I'm a foot too far out or a foot too far in, the soundstage suffers. Sit in the right spot, and magic happens. So, I'm a firm believer that depth is possible from a recording. 

Maybe you all dont know what stereo is. something recorded using two or more channels so that the sound (seems) to surround the listener and come from more than one source


  1. give the impression or sensation of being something or having a particular quality.                                                                                    In other words, it doesn't exist you seem to get the impression of a sensation of space. It's not real. Good day!

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@normb -

Of course, those among the audioscenti here who have golden or platinum ears and hearing BEYOND that of mere mortals will argue to the contrary.

But… that’s what they do.

Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to keep convincing yourself you’re better than.

                                                  Who asked you?

                       fyi: AudiogoN is what’s referred to as an, "open forum".

     Cast aspersions (or: project your personal flaws on others) and you can expect a response.


The OP asked if there was mythology involved, I accommodated him with the POV of an EXPERT/professional in the field.

       Did you neglect to read the quote, at the end of that article, oh Great One?


Trickster Pass reminded disbelievers: "You are welcome to take my remarks as entertainment."

                                        I WILL (and: yours as well)!

                                                Happy listening!


@ czarivey - You are correct, it all begins with the quality of the original recording!

After a wonderful recording has been made then you have all the following issues that smear the image so you cannot perceive depth:

  1. Nonlinearity and analog and digital converters
  2. Phase shifting in crossovers
  3. Distortion in amplifiers
  4. Distortion due to limit physical limitations of speaker cones
  5. Most of all the effects of your room

A way to fix this is using Dirac live. Dirac Live room correction software applies state-of-the-art, patented technology to analyze and digitally reduce room impact and enhance speaker performance, and optimizes the sound with respect to frequency and time. Dirac Live delivers a larger sweet spot, accurate staging, clarity, voice intelligibility and a deeper, tighter bass.



In the real world ---- not the make-believe world of the recording engineer [I can say this because I was one] --- musical instruments and the human voice have special characteristics depending on your proximity to them.  The degree of warmth that you perceive increases as you become closer to them.  It is that degree of warmth that subtly informs the listener as to the distance [thus the depth] from which the listener is located from the performer [vocalist or instrumentalist].  I once had the Concertmaster [Principal Violinist] of my orchestra [an earlier career] complain that no recording ever represented his conception of his own playing.  When I pointed out that his instrument was clamped between his chin and his collarbone and that HE heard characteristics of his instrument that NOONE else COULD hear because of the direct conduit to his ear, he nodded and agreed.  He was as close as one can get to the source of the music.   Most recordings are the recording engineer's idea of what you should hear and are compromised in ways that we can't imagine.  Orchestral music was hilariously interpreted by the engineers at Columbia Records when every solo instrument was represented in what I like to call a "Totem Pole" in that every solo instrument was dead center, one on top of the other !  With a twist of a "Pan" control, any input can be moved across the room and that vocalist who was sitting next to the pianist can quickly be moved next to the bass player.  Commercial albums in which the performers are actually contributing from different cities are magically mixed by the engineer into a hopefully agreeable combination of sound.  Some are obviously suspect and others are wonderful.  We haven't heard the "real thing" since 78RPM recordings were recorded in one take with zero editing.


When I moved my speakers (Vandersteen 2CE signatures) into the room, the  soundstage improved enormously: I can definitely hear that some instruments and some parts of the orchestra are in front of others.  I have had less luck with the Magnepan LRS speakers in my second system - but the room is unfriendly for the purpose.

+1 @terraplane8bob One little knob makes it all! But real or not real doesn’t really matter as long as it’s done with quality. A flat recording without any depth is without life and boring to listen to.

Alex/Wavetouch     I enjoyed reading your take on the subject. Took some time to get my speakers positioned and room treatment optimised.   However there is some truth in your description of modern audiophile recordings and kit.   Often I feel I’m missing out in comparison to my “cheap Hifi” of the seventies. When I hear music if that era played on “vintage” systems I still get the n my magic.  Makes me wonder whether I’ve convinced myself that I could have made a mistake spending a lot on my present kit which sounds awesome in a “ modern audiophile “ way.         

Soundstage depth , far right , far left , rear sound , and height can be achieved with a single pair of stereo speakers . Of course the information has to be in the recording to begin with in the first place ! The equipment including your cables has to be also able to extract that info and play it back to you . In my lifetime Ive only met 3  people that can actually set up a proper stereo playback system ! A retired sound engineer , and two audio dealers . I never realized how much I was missing until I found these golden eared audiophiles .

It did cost me more than I wanted to spend on equipment but I never regretted it .

Conrad Johnson tube pre amp , Krell solid state amp, Krell CD player ,Nordast cables and speaker wire , and a pair of Anthony Gallos Reference 3.1 speakers with dedicated sub amp for the Reference 3.1 woofer , all set up properly give me all the depth , height, far left , far right , and rear sound one could ever want !

Room treatments are great but not necessary to achieve these sounds either .Ive had small rooms,  large dedicated rooms , basements rooms, awkward rooms  . All  speakers have been properly set up by one of the gurus . I don't have the patience to sit for hours to tweak speaker placement or equipment set up but Im sure glad there are people out there that love to do this .

You would be surprised at the amount of information even from old Jimmy Hendrix studio recordings the have what I would call spatial sounds . Its been lots of fun over the years to listen to many CD's that have been recorded purposely that way .

Someday I hope you find one of these gurus that can show you the way .

Terraplane8bob - adds more truth which again so many misinterpret in their listening..

AND, things do get thinner and cooler sounding harmonically the further they are from us or recording perspective.

People should understand the recording process and how "audio" works before trying to be so subjective and discuss the merits of audio components. I’ve read both Mix magazine and The Journal of Audio Engineering for years as a hobbyist in audio before I became an active player and designing rooms.

AND: asctim brings up another issue I’ve had as both a hobbyist and dealer. There’s a lot of equipment that makes the imagery come closer, the Pro designers of audio recording gear call this "magification", I hate it, having owned large speaker systems all my life the last thing I need is imagery to be oversized. The same is true of the opposite effect but more rare. I also dislike "in your face recording", we don’t experience music that way in real life! Many jazz recordings tick me off with the vocalist practically swallowing the microphone, result, voice larger that life and sounding amplified due to proximity effect of the microphone.

Di-poles and Bi-polar speakers ADD to the original signal in an unrealistic way and everything you would listen to will be altered as it adds a bounced echo off the front wall. A passive echo effect tunable by the speaker distance from the front wall.

Oh and again, the less you toe your speaker in, the more you involve your room and create greater reflections. You can do this so much that you can create artificial ghost imaging which I’ve called "Sympathetic Reflections", an effect, not realism.

Dolby Atmos - Great effect and totally enjoyable with movies, electronic music or EDM, but I haven’t heard much natural music recorded realistically on it yet .....

If you get use to this, it’s akin to adding artificial flavor in everything you eat, a slippery slope in audio enjoyment i think ...

AND - Room treatment is absolutely necessary to achieve best audio performance and realism from any system.

Want to learn a little more, look up LiveLab McMaster University .ca

My audio system total $ = ca. $1,500

But, I can enjoy music better than my neighbor who owns B&W and etc.

Why, I do have one more very high end part, my brain's selective filtration function.

What is the function? It selects good part of sound produced from a mediocre audio system, and filters bad parts (noise, 3rd harmony high frequency, etc) out.


As long as I maintain the function in my brain, I do not need high end audios.

Please, try to develop the function instead of wasting your money.

r27y8u92 -- I pursue high-end audio because listening to high fidelity is such a viscerally rewarding experience. It's pure pleasure, something that seems to be an anathema in your world view. Yeah, I could survive on gruel, too, but I don't.

@r27y8u92 I (and lots of others) can put together a system for $1,500 that produces very fine audio. But I don’t - anymore :)

Amps turn smaller signals into larger signals.

Wire transmits electrical signals.

All else, is Room/Speakers and your brain.. Just like Space/Time. Senseless to talk about one without the other.

Go Polk!!



mahgister is back it seems, under a pseudonym

system is 1500 now... must've come into an inheritance 🤣


"Hypoman" made a comment about "eye candy" often being placed between loudspeakers and how distracting it can be.  I once owned a gorgeous pair of B&W 801 speakers finished in Rosewood and sold them to buy the exact same speaker in black because the beauty of the rosewood was so distracting. It may sound crazy, but I swear I was able to listen more deeply without that "eye candy" present.

Comments about recording engineers remind me of the old joke about medical doctors :  "What do they call the doctor who graduates last in his class in medical school"? ------------ Answer: "Doctor".   I believe the same applies to graduates of recording engineer schools !   Just because you have a degree doesn't mean you are good at what you do.  My favorite recording engineer is George Massenburg.

Comments about "ordinary" audio systems and using your brain to compensate for the system's shortcomings remind me of the dozens of fine musicians I know whose audio systems are positively horrendous !   They simply say that they can fill in whatever information is missing by "hearing" it the way that they want to hear it !  A great audio system is really just "the icing on the cake" to them.  Really !

Wow, omg, so much being written hear about the subject.

Soundstage is like pornography, when you hear it you just know.


And something not discussed too often, Quality recording is quite important especially on a better more revealing system. Lower level systems are tough to distinguish better recordings on. I know this because I have three systems in my home and each room is different.


There are some who believe that even with the very best of recordings, the best loudspeakers with the quietest cabinets, the best rooms acoustically speaking, 2 channel audio is at best only able to give limited amount of realism/soundstage depth.

Some, like the physicist/audiophile Dr Edgar Choueri, argue that spatial audio could be the best way forward when it comes to sonically reproduced realism.

After hearing him speak on the Audioholics YouTube channel, I'm tending to agree with him.

Absolutely. But, like in the real world it's defined by the environment around the source and the volume (relative to other sounds) of the source. So, those are the parameters that must be in the original recording or at least engineered to sound that way.  

cd318 - I have the software version of Dr. Choueri's BAACH and that certainly helps in locating the source in the soundstage. I've been intrigued with this concept and have used a Carver Sonic Hologram for many years before the BAACH technology.


 If you want to hear depth in the soundstage, you can download a speaker set up CD from PS Audio. The female singers, sing from 3 feet, 6 feet and 9 feet from the mic. If your speakers are set up properly, you can clearly hear the difference.


It has been years on the making but it would now appear as if the revolution in audio for decades is soon about to happen right under our noses.

To think that we might soon be able to experience some of the spatial audio sensations Dr Choueiri talks about, eg the bird that flies towards us and perches itself on our right or left shoulder.

Is this the future of Hi-Fi as we know it?