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.


I don’t listen “deep into music”, I just listen to music.  Some recordings have a three dimensional presentation that seems to fill the room in all directions.  Look to your room acoustics to help with this and then just relax and enjoy the music.  Life outside of the listening room already taxes the mind.

OP, Are you able to discern soundstage “depth” in live performances? Is there a specific track/recording you have in mind?
I’m not sure I could discern “depth” with my eyes closed unless perhaps I’m listening to a symphony or a large chorus several rows deep. 

I created much more depth by better positioning of my speakers and also with tube amps. Certain recordings -- such as Chesky’s -- provide excellent samples to see how you’re doing.

In my music, I can hear that, for example, that the tympanis are in the back left and the basses are in the back right. I can hear there are at least two rows of instruments in front of them.

The notion you should "just relax and enjoy the music" is somewhat patronizing, if what is it is assuming is that you’re needing psychological help.

I’m going to assume something different. That you’re intellectually curious about a feature of good audio systems and you’re inquiring. You don’t need to relax -- you need answers.

room/speaker set up is highly determinative of success in having a good hifi have a sense of audible stage depth

tube amps can help some in this regard, but are not a necessity... proper set up is (assuming sufficiently good source and speakers)

done right, there is no debating the depth is there and is convincing

     Whenever imaging or soundstage are mentioned, I like to remind people about these resources: The following provide tests, with which one may determine whether their system actually images, or reproduces a soundstage, as recorded. 

      ie: On the Chesky sampler/test CD; David explains in detail, his position on the stage and distance from the mics, as he strikes a tambourine(Depth Test).

     LEDR test tells what to expect, if your system performs well, before each segment. 

  Chesky CD contains a number of tests, in addition to the LEDR.


 and (

  The shape of your ears’ pinnae is also a variable, regarding your ability to perceive images/locate sounds.

   A Stereophile article, that explains the LEDR test: 

Audio companies don’t want you to know!

In 60’s and 70’s, hi-end audio companies tried to recreate the natural reproduction sound and they were pretty close. Listen to the music of those times. Those music made us to fall in love with the music. Many music are closer to real music and more real than modern music. Then they all gave up the effort to the natural sound since 80’s. They must be tired or too old. Or reproducing the natural sound is that hard.

Hi-end audio companies since 80’s are all about the sound. Not the music. Since audio companies don’t have the natural sound, they changed the marketing from the natural sound to the deep sound. They always talked about a deep sound stage since they couldn’t make the human voice in front like a real live music. The human voice in modern hi-fi (or hi-end) is not laid back but it is just far (too far!) and vague (no soul). The audio industry keeps away a’philes from the truth which they can’t make the natural sound. They don ’t want you to know that. Nowadays, they talk only the technology but glare/veil is still there.

The characteristics of un-natural (veil/glare) sound is grain, harsh, bright, thin, confused, vague, veil, etc. They hurt/irritate our ears always. So, many a’philes believe that the good sound is not irritating sound. Not the musical sound. Many A’philes wants more bass. They believe the bass can cover irritating sounds but the bass will not cover irritating sound. Irritating sound is not high freq and they don’t know it. They will merry-go-round for a long time.

Some people say many audio systems sound too forward. Yes. The vocal/music is too far back but the glare/veil/brightness is very forward and punching the listener. These glare/veil prevent the vocal/music to be more forward. Glare/veil means the sound signal is broken and once the signal is broken, it can’t be restored. And almost sound signals are broken from the source. If forwarded glare/veil/brightness is removed (by making a right CD player or streamer), then the hi-end audio will be more consistent, predictable, and closer to the real natural music. Alex/Wavetouch

@mihorn it sounds like you must be listening to a boom box. Yes, depth is real. I can see it with my eyes open but much more so with my eyes closed. I am of the opinion that along with proper positioning of your speakers, the better your bass is the deeper you'll "see". Here's the reasoning and mind you, I'm not an expert; every frequency falls off as lower in frequency and those lower registers give us "visual" cues as to location. It goes all the way back in the evolutionary history where we had to identify possible threats at a distance by hearing and hone in on the direction it was coming from. Lower frequencies while not so much directional, travel farther giving us another auditory cue. 

it really depends on your setup in order to reproduce a good soundstage you need high resolution components a good source and the system should be well optomized room acoustics placement good clean power and your recording quality of course matters 


dave and Troy

audio intellect nj

Not a myth. Depends on the acoustic, the recording, and the ability of the system.


Good post.

I'd like to also add that the way modern recordings are made, ie assembled together rather than the capturing of a musical event in real time, is not going to help create any convincing impression of soundstage depth either.

The easiest way to discern depth if you’re listening to rock or jazz, IMHO, is to listen to the drums and the vocalist or lead instrument. They are often both located in the center of the soundstage and with a little practice you can hear that the drums on some recordings sound further back than the lead. Once you hear that you’ll know what you’re listening for and it will be easier to hear depth.

I listen to Classical.  I define depth as when I can clearly tell the percussion are located to the back and stage left, the brass to the back and stage right, and if the conductor divides the violins I can easily discern that.  Also if one gets the feelings of the spaciousness of a concert hall, as many orchestral recordings are now live

+1 @mahler123

On the cut, ’My Name is Robert Neville’ from the original movie soundtrack, "I am Legend", the opening trumpet sounds like it’s coming from my neighbor’s house across the street - to the right of center.*   With lesser quality cabling and/or removing the power conditioner, I can make the sound stage flat as a pancake - without changing anything else.

_ _ _ _ _ 

Similar but not as deep with: 'Fanfare for the Common Man' - Minnesota Orchestra - Copland.

I have "depth" throughout the soundstage - up to the left edge of the left speaker and the right edge of the right speaker.  I have width beyond the speakers but there doesn't appear to be much depth beyond the edge of the speakers.

The depth of the soundstage is determined by your equipment, venue, and recording. Assuming a good recording that can have depth… many. I don’t want to get off onto the details of this subject.


My system images well (see mine under my UserID). When I finished up positioning the speakers the soundstage would extend two or three feet beyond the speakers to the side and back about 4.5’ to the wall. Then I hung a very heavy tightly woven wool carpet on the wall… now the soundstage goes back into the wall two to four feet more depending on the recording.

In previous systems, initially the soundstage only extended to the wall. Then, upon careful tweaking the wall ceases to truncate the soundstage depth.

Many years ago, I was fortunate to run across a local audio store owner who was much more of a hobbyist than a businessman.  I had many discussions and spent may happy hours of listening and more importantly, learning in his store with him and his customers. Over the years, I learned a lot about different music and systems and especially how to listen with the moving in and out of components and the varying differences that resulted and were perceived.  

You can't learn by only talking about it.  Listening to multiple systems and components (plus discussions about same) do help.  That's why the Chesky Ultimate Demonstration Disc is a good one to own.  Because each track is prefaced with a description of what should be listened for and then what should be heard.  Even then, the results are obviously system dependent.  Just because you think you heard it, you may not have heard it, like it really could be heard and experienced!

For example, many years ago, I used the Superman track on a Telarc disc as one of my auditioning pieces.  I had occasion to go to an audio store to listen to some used Apogee Stage speakers that I was considering purchasing.  The speakers were good, but what struck me was the finale of Superman and its crescendo.  It wasn’t the speakers that blew me away (they were great too) but the amplification.  The drive separation and coherence of that crescendo was what I had been seeking, but didn’t know it until I heard it.  In fact, when it finished, the salesman saw the look on my face and asked what was the matter?  That and a test drive later of an Audio Research VT100 Mk2 tube amp taught me how important great amplification was.  Before then, I didn’t want to believe, because my wallet didn’t want to believe that my Aragon  4004 MKII amp was not capable of the performance that the Audio Research was.  I found that not only was the Superman ending crescendo more powerful with the instruments more delineated and overall, more open, and less congested; but instrument like woodwinds and brass sounded more like live ones, the sound I was seeking but didn’t know it, until I heard it! 

My point in saying all of this is to suggest again that you don’t know it, until you hear it and you generally can’t hear it by sticking to a this or that component.  You must try as much as you can and as high of quality as you can.  Otherwise, learning can’t take place.

How could this be a myth ? If listening live you have each aspect of tone,soundstage ,width as well as depth imaging and instrumental textures.

this greatly depends on in a big way the $$ amount invested and system synergy.

having not only been in audio for 40 years but also owned a Audio store in the UK 

this way I have been on both sides of the coin . Sad but true you truly do needto spend well over $20k at minimum to get just a satisfactory audio system ,especially 

when pricing has inflated 25% in the last 2 years. Quality speakers alone command    well Over $15 k for anything in the B class of Audio .  This is why people dedicate a whole year just to upgrade a piec3 of equipment ,myself included.

I went from a $100k+ system to2 much smaller ones .

imo you need to spend at least $10k k in total just for digital to get a truly good reference base system ,to many this too it would ge entry level .it all depends on your budget . Being a Audiophile is a never ending hobby ,technologies especially in digital have gotton substantially better in the last 4 years which is a great thing.

now for under $2k you can get a very respectable sounding R2R dac , $5+k starts the reference grade for example . The T+A 200 dac is my next goal superb Sonic quality and a bargain at $7k.

There is no question that a good system well set up can give a sense of depth. What I'm not sure is whether this is reproducing what' s on the recording(which I doubt) or just a room/speaker interaction(which I suspect it is except for a miniscule number of recordings). But the affect is nice and certainly adds to the illusion of almost live sound.


If you want a good point of reference of soundstage depth to play with, Zepplin’s Celebration Day (studio masters / Qobuz) has a deep soundstage. And Nora Joes “little room” (not too late / 24bit / Qobuz) sounds like she’s wayyyy back in the room. Fink’s album Bloom Innocent (acoustic) has really good depth too.

@mrmb Well said. I frequented a different forum (not ASR) and I kept on getting harassed by harsh words. When I talked about differences of DACs I got bashed on by a few vocal individuals because they think DACS "only do 0s and 1s, either it works or it doesn't". 

Talking about differences of amps, they jumped on me pretty hard too. Their king is anything from Purifi/Hypex. Last week I talked about how system synergy is important and I got absolutely destroyed. I'll never go back there again, it is not a place to voice a different opinion. There's a new generation of people that only rely on graph data + distortion measurements and they are VICIOUS. 

I say all this because I've experienced 1st hand how massively an improvement a component like an amp can be for the overall sound. 

@audioman58 It's crazy how often people in this forum rave about the TA200 (in a good way). 7k is out of my price range for a DAC, and also I've been pulled into the BMC audio dac/amp system.

The answers from you guys are, yes soundstage depth is real. The only question left is would people experience it regularly or with just a few rare pieces of music?

Two track demonstrate depth exceptionally, Lou Reed - Take a Walk on Wild Side, the backing vocals, and try Bobo Stenson - Bengali Blues, you can hear exactly where each instrument is down to each drum and snare. If you cannot try listening via a valve amplifier and very good bookshelf speakers. 

I've mentioned this a couple times on this website, but I have several classical opera LPs where the characters wander around the stage as they sing, moving left to right, backwards & forwards, and sometimes going off stage as well. Choruses are often clearly heard as being behind lead singers. There are chaotic crowd scenes that fill up the stage.  It's totally addicting. My opera CDs aren't quite as 3D, but maybe that's just because I have less vintage/top flight opera recordings on silver discs. As for streaming, unfortunately even the classical streaming sites are more than a tad short on opera recordings.

I didn't want to go to the cost angle.   But yes, to move sonically from mid-tier hifi, one must spend some bucks to enter sonically into the true high end. This isn't dollar value related alone, but is attributable to a certain dollar value.   My decades ago Aragon amp vs Audio Research amp experiences (that I mentioned above) demonstrated the difference between a sonically good, but mid-tier amp and one that was a true high end amp. 

Once one owns, or has heard what a highly resolved system brings to the table, if depth and soundstage isn’t discernable or barely is so, consider yourself lucky, because you can save some bucks.  But for me, soundstage and imaging provide the better the you-are-at-the-performance illusion and the better that illusion, the better the system is and the happier I am. 

For a similar performance, some components are less expensive that others.  Most of us have looked for giant killers.  While a similar sound achievement can be had for oftentimes less money, there are no David’s and Goliath’s There are just some overpriced and underpriced components for the results they provide.

Listen to what some people believe are systems that are doing most everything right and you will get an idea of what to listen for.  But obviously, there is no best of the best, just a mixture of the best of the best components.  Every component has its pros and cons – i.e., what it does well and not so well.  However, at the higher-end of the sonic scale, those variables are generally lessened.   With each component at that level, being more the same than different.  Add those component variables to each of our room variables, our individual components and how they synergize and then the big variable (if you've done enough homework), is knowing and recognizing what your own sonic preferences are.   Those variables are then used when choosing equipment.

After a certain cost point, the cost to benefit ratio does increase exponentially.  Each of us must judge whether we can financially make that move and have learned enough to determine that move is rewarding enough to make.


                             How LARGE do you like your music?

     Unless a system can cleanly reproduce all the information (well engineered/recorded in an environment with good acoustics and mic placement) in a quality cut, to the original/intended dB level; It's listener will never hear that information.

              ie, regarding, "depth": the reflection off the venue's back wall.

      Of course: familiarity with the venue in which a recording was made,  would go a long way with regards to recognizing whether what one's hearing is actually accurate.    NOT that that's a necessity, when it comes to the enjoyment of one's music, BUT- having that knowledge, one can be confident that their other recordings are also being faithfully reproduced.

       'Checkerboard Lounge Live Chicago 1981' (on vinyl) is a favorite of mine, far as being able to hear the room, especially between songs.

        Especially, in the softer cuts of Diana Krall's 'Live in Paris' vinyl (45 RPM/180 Gram), I find the Olympia Theatre's back wall reflections nicely reproduced (with accurate depth).

         Back the the size-of-your-music thing: I turn my sound up slowly (a song at a time, to acclimate the ears to higher dB levels, without having them shut down), until my image height reflects where I imagine/know the performers to have been, when recorded.     Again: a system has to be able to reach that level cleanly/without distortion, or: it's just LOUD (iow: noise).

          It's been my experience: seated in the better/more expensive, front and center seats; it's easy to hear and locate individual voices (human or instrumental), on a stage and seldom would the level be low enough for some to consider, "safe enough".     Yet: no one complains, because it's clean sound (just big).

           Most Blues are just meant to be played energetically.

           Ever seen anyone cover their ears during the Finale of Stravinsky's 'Firebird'?     

           The long pipes/pedal notes of the Crystal Cathedral's Ruffatti organ could/would pull the air from your lungs.     Playing Crystal Clear's DTD recording brings that home.

            It's also during such reproduction, that the effects improved fuses, PC or speaker cables and interconnects bring to the listening room, are most evident.

            The tests I mentioned in my first post eliminate all the variables and present the listener with established sounds, that will let them know if their system is actually reproducing what's in the recording.

             If your system doesn't put out (or you can't hear) what's in those tests: it's NOT because the effects are a, "myth"!

The answers from you guys are, yes soundstage depth is real. The only question left is would people experience it regularly or with just a few rare pieces of music?

Because of what I listen to, I recognize imaging, soundstage and depth most always.  But I'm sure I tend to favor recordings with those attributes.  However, most of the tracks in my 100K plus library have those attributes. 

Imaging, soundstage and depth are a result of the recording engineering and of course, the type of recording it is.  Listen to some well-recorded jazz or live jazz -- and that is most of it -- you can hear the room, the audience and there is depth and a sense of the room.  The same can be said for symphonic recordings and many studio recordings.  Soundstage and depth provide a sense of being in bar, the recording studio, or the symphonic hall.  Without the you-are-there attribute, my Alexa speakers would be sufficient verses my Klipsch, Martin Logan and SoundLab speaker rooms.


Don't listen to @audioman58 

You don't have to to spend that kind of money to get soundstage and depth. 

I wonder if rear fireing speakers ( often a midrange driver ) could help,
perceiving depth ?

I have Audiovector R6 Arrelé  and I do perceive depth .

As I mentioned in a earlier comment in general the more $$ you can spend per component the closer you can get to your audio nirvana .your records yes willhave a bearing on the depth also but if you have  agood balance in quality including 

quality-digital cables then you will get a fair amount of audio realism on a daily basis . Just expect to spend a minimum of a bare minimum of $20k to start 

for a respectable sounding system , and upgrade pieces as you can afford .being aAudiophile can add up $$ very fast.


Others have mentioned the ultimate demonstration disk by David Chesky and it is good, but his newest album, The Hifi Collection is superb! If you ever listen to Steve Gutenberg The Audiophiliac, he’s good friends with David Chesky and there’s a link to get the download for free. Anyway, the first song was amazing! I heard stuff from behind the he speakers and way wider than my speakers.

you have to have speakers that can do this magic, you have to have a record that recorded it and you need the electronics to join in.

Talking about differences of amps, they jumped on me pretty hard too. Their king is anything from Purifi/Hypex. Last week I talked about how system synergy is important and I got absolutely destroyed. I'll never go back there again, it is not a place to voice a different opinion. There's a new generation of people that only rely on graph data + distortion measurements and they are VICIOUS.

Class D amplifiers have been greatly improved in the last few years and some are very competitive with class A and A/B.   As with anything audio, especially the high end, the design and its quality depends upon the designer. 

Some forums tend to focus on measurements, topography's, individual parts like the DAC chip and while the individual parts are important, their selection, combination, and the implementation of the sections of the device in total, are where the magic resides! There is a reason why many audio designers and their historical designs rightfully remain held in esteem and it ain’t because of the individual parts they choose, or point-to-point wiring, or the type and class of their product.  It is because of how they conceptualized and implemented their designs! 

Get away from any forum that favors a certain class of amplification over others, measurements vs listening, a certain DAC chip over others, solid state vs tubes, box speaker’s vs other types etc.  Everything in this hobby has their place.  Ruling out anything, especially out of hand, eliminates some marvelous equipment finds. 

For example, for audition, my son obtained a Sears Silvertone tube amp from a vintage console stereo.  The price was $300!  He bought it from a local vintage audio repairer and seller.  That $300 tube amp at 7-watts, is killer with my son's Klipsch heritage La Scala speakers.  Who would've thought -- not some forum member!! 

Don't eliminate, or gravitate to anything because some say this or that is good, or not.  As with anything in life that is truly rewarding, one must learn enough to make one’s own educated decisions. 

If when hearing a well sorted hifi system playing, for example, orchestral music, and you don't heard depth you should simply find something else to do. Engineers use panning and level to great effect in producing recordings with realistic sound staging including depth. It's there...

You don't need to spend a lot to get soundstage or depth. First time I heard it was with in the1980's Marantz 2035, Pioneer turntable/Shure cartridge and Advent speakers. Of course the more money you spend the better it is. My Harbeth 30.2 and Luxman integrated do way better.

Funny thing is, I recently listened to several songs on a well-known $12K DAC and $20K speakers and the imaging was very wide, but the height and depth was barely there. So money isn't everything.

i will put this here - given the topic being discussed it is worth a watch i believe, specifically for the comments in the second half around how the speakers need to be well into the room to get the proper depth of image

the rest of video is just ok, these two are not among my favorite folks on y-t, much of their content is pretty worthless, but in this particular case, i think their discussion around how speakers image is spot-on and very salient to this thread

In my humble experience : speaker placement is the biggest factor of hearing (and reproducing )  the “depth” from your source of music.  In most cases if your speakers are placed too close to the front wall of the room you tend to have a rather flat sound image ( no depth). Regardless of how expensive the gears are. 

Try to pull your speakers 12 inches forward and see if you hear a difference ? 
Have fun and enjoy ! 

I have perceived varying levels of soundstage depth in recordings themselves and in the way the music is presented via my equipment.
Much improved speakers revealed this.
My response was something like, “wow, the distance between those cymbals and the lead vocal seems physically pronounced.”
I find soundstage depth to be an interesting aural perception.
Mono recordings from the ‘30s and ‘40s are recordings where I do not “see” a tall, wide, expansive, immaculately separated combination of elements, but a narrow, short, yet wonderfully deep “tunnel” where I can “see” into a deep background.
Just my personal experience.
I find many modern recordings are very “shallow.” Right up front and dry, almost like a pencil sketch on paper instead of a deep, 3-D experience.
Something antithetical to such a presentation might be, say, Rudy Van Gelder recordings from the ‘50s or ‘60s, or September of My Years by Frank Sinatra. A far more palpable sense of physical space between the various individual sonic elements and a far more dynamic and expansive overall presentation in terms of depth, width, and height,

Depth can happen on a boom box no problem, it has nothing to do with the sound system it has to do with the way the music was recorded. I've done thousands. 2 mics over the conductors head will give lots of depth. Why do audiophiles assume that music is all miked the same? Modern music isn't recorded for depth it is close miked with a multitrack recorder.

The album

Gabi Hartmann - Gabi Hartmann

is recorded with lots of depth in the soundstage.

Hear i.e the piano and woodwinds on track four.

Real depth or created at the mixer board?

Electronic music often have created depth in the soundstage.

Sound "appears" to come from far left and right, well outside the speaker placement width.

It also appears behind the speakers, in front of the speakers, apparent height is also heard, and if you have a nice setup you can actually hear sound that appears to come from behind the listener.

You don't need expensive equipment to hear this.  A definitely not audiophile, fully studio manufactured, recording I use for a lot of demos is Led Zeppelin II, side one.  If you can't hear the swirling up and behind your head on track 1 your speakers/room are not set up properly.

Chesky demonstration disks can show all of this.

No, it is not, but it depends on your music.  Classical music from Telarc, LSO, and a few others exhibit great soundstage width and depth.  Pop and rock not so much.  Key to the portrayal of a deep soundstage is having the speakers well out from the back and side walls. 

@samureyex No sir! When you start getting depth in sound stage you know you’ve got things right with your system. The right component’s, cables, vibration control, power conditioning, and noise floor, all in harmony. Anyone who tells you different is kidding themselves and has not experienced great soundstage. This is almost the holy grail and what we’re trying to achieve. I’m here to tell you it is really something when this happens. In my case with attention to all of the above in many years of tweaks and upgrades, I achieved this with a bluesound node, of all things..When I finally installed a fiber optic in my Ethernet cable feeding the node…boom! It kicked in, and it wasn’t at ear splitting listening levels, rather normal listening volume. It was a really nice experience, and felt rewarding. The only bad thing it made me spend more money by replacing the node with a much better streamer. But now I have a much more satisfying system. This hobby will do that to you if you’re not careful. Keep searching. 

ARC Hardware + Magneplaner speakers.  Good source recordings.  Try Sheffield direct-to-disc for an example

YOUR ROOM has to be conducive to music reproduction accuracy.


It has to be a live recording to have true soundstaging.  Studio recordings may have soundstaging, but it is something manufactured or mastered into the recording, as studios are usually inert.

Much of what sense of depth you perceive has to do with how a recording was made. 

We hear with two ears that are for all practical purposes are the same distance from the front of the stage.  They are also the same distance from the rear of the stage.  The space between our ears accounts for the difference in arrival time as well as the difference in intensity of sound reaching each ear.  This works very well in helping us locate (left to right) the source of sound.  What helps us differentiate what sounds are coming from the front of the stage vs. the rear, is the proportion of direct to reflected sound as well as the loudness.  In a concert hall, the closer we sit to the front of the stage, the greater the difference  we will perceive between strings and woodwinds as an example.  When we sit more toward the back of the concert hall, the greater the amount of reflected sound vs. direct sound reaches us and so the depth of the orchestra gets flattened out. 

So back to how a recording was made:  If many microphones are placed throughout the orchestra, not only will the sounds of say, the horns reach their mics at the same time as the sounds of the strings reach their mics, the pickup of each of those sections will contain roughly the same proportion of direct vs. reflected sound.  While it is possible to delay signal coming from mics toward the rear of the orchestra, there is not much that can be done to alter the proportion of direct to reflected sound in any sort of a natural way.  This is why these kinds of recordings sound so flat from a depth perspective.  It's kind of like a cardboard cutout of an orchestra.  Everything sounds intimate, but not anything like it sounds in a concert hall.  If you listen to very early stereo recordings made by Lewis Layton or Bob Fine for RCA and Mercury respectively, you will hear all the natural depth of the orchestra from the best seat in the house.  Why?  They used only two or three mics and placed them very carefully.  Many of the Telarc and Chandos recordings were made using similar techniques.

Recordings of rock and jazz and pop music are typically (not always) made using close mic techniques.  Seven mics on a drum set is not unusual.  Very intimate sound, but nothing approaching natural sounding.

@dinov Spot on. After a bit of upgrading (more than a bit) I could have sworn all of a sudden music was playing behind as well as in front of my listing chair. That's the very definition of holographic soundstage. 

Soundstage depth mostly depends on recording and mixing quality rather than your equipment.