Looking for speakers with soundstage depth

I guess that's what it's called. There have been some really nice speakers in my system over the last few years including Vandersteen 2CE signatures, Meadowlark Audio Kestrel IIs, Revel Performa M-20s and a few others. The Revels were the most accurate speakers I've owned but when I pulled my trusty old Kestrel Hot Rods out of the closet I was once again caught by there very natural and fun to listen to sound. Even though over the past four months I've had numerous "never heard tha in there before" moments with the Revels, I sold them.
What the small, unassuming Kestrel HRs give me is a 3 dimensional soundstage that none of the other speakers could match. It was also the first time I had hooked them to the Bel Canto eVo2i which was an eye opener. BTW, I'm pretty much convinced it's the coherent time alignment that contributes the effect.
So my question is what speakers under 2K (used) will provide what I'm looking for? The newer Thiel 1.6 or Thiel 2.3 might do it. Maybe something like a pair of Magnepan 12s?
My room is small but well treated. Any suggestions or should I just stop looking? Thanks.
That's a tough one. It sounds like you happy and maybe you need to tweak a couple of things.

Just reviewing your system you may have to significantly upgrade in components to get what you really want.

I would focus on cabling or power conditioner to see if you gain more 3 dimensional soundstage.
any dipole placed 5 feet or more from a back wall will give you depth. prime examples inclkude all electrostatics, apogees, magnepans, analysis audio speakers and other planar magnetics.
certain thiels are really nice, it took me 20 sec to like the cs1.6(found some on the gon) and i really disliked the 1.5, go figure

when you said you were looking for sound stage and the "never heard that" i had to drop a plug, you should find a dealer and take a listen
Halifax: I agree about the Thiel 1.6s -great soundstage!
For some reason, these are a tough sell to the common audiophile.
I think it's the old-wives-tale about Thiels being harsh/strident in the treble.
Thiels are as harsh or smooth as the components upstream (including the music played).
I am a 1.6 owner.
The Thiels soundstage and image like champs. The 1.6s are great speakers. Another option are the three way book-shelves the PCS.
Mrtennis, I was hoping you'd weigh in. I've seen your recommendations for Maggies but not the five foot requirement. Unfortunately I don't have that kind of space but it's good to know as I was seriously looking into some smaller Maggies.
As for the small Thiels, I also owned the 1.5s a while back and did not care for them at all. The 1.6s sound like a vast improvement and I'm going to keep my eyes open for them.
I recvd an email form a member recommending the Gallo Ref 3.1 and I'll check those out also (hadn't considered them before).
Thanks for the input.
Hey Tim, Have you experimented with your speaker position? You may just need to move them out from the wall a little more and toe them in.

With my setup I can change the amount of depth with the angle of the speakers. I have them toed in until I can only see a very small part of the inside edge. This makes the sound appear to come from way behind the speakers while still projecting into the room with great 3D effect.

Before getting this right I never understood what people meant when they would say that the speakers made the wall behind them disappear but that is exactly what has happened.
I'm a bit surprised that no one has recommended minimonitors. A highly braced cabinet with little surface area situated in free space usually produces outstanding staging. Many good choices are available in your price range. The key here is finding one with a tonal balance you like. The original ProAc tablette was the best imaging speaker I've ever heard, but tonally it was a mess (at least to my ears).

god luck


I agree about mini-monitors playing the disappearing act and great imaging, however, I agree with MrT and others that suggest that dipole designs will consistently throw a "deep" soundstage (even if it isn't a particularly good recording they always add spaciousness, whereas minimonitors will require a better recording to produce the same effect) It all boils down to the room interaction...I would only add that space becomes critical ....too close to the back wall and the soundstage from these designs can collapse or make the sound claustrophobic. Also the sweetspot can be an issue too - balancing ambience with image - although if you listen alone then it hardly matters as you can find the precise spot and it can be magic.
Totem Forest's throw a state of the art soundstage without tow in (which kills dynamics)and they love solid state. Bi-wiring is suggested. They are gorgeous sounding and extremely transparent with low level and high level dynamic capabillities. Placement is a no brainer and they deliver bass well into the mid 20hz in room. Presence and palpability are high as well...crossovers are hand wired..no circuit boards!!
I was impressed with the holographic presentation of the Lipinski 707s. However, they were positioned several feet in front of the back wall and did not have much deep bass.
>> So my question is what speakers under 2K (used) will provide what I'm looking for? <<

Without a doubt, the Gallo Ref. 3s will do what you seek. And they are available for around $1600 right here on Audiogon...Where are you located? If anywhere near Washington, DC I'd be happy to demo mine for you.

I've owned the VS 2Ce, 3A and still have a pair of the Kestrel HR; what I find odd is that you felt Kestrel imaged better than the Vandersteen and I wonder if that is simply due to room placement and your options there. I always thought the VS provide expansive stage depth, and yes I think it was to the first-order/time-aligned stuff.
RW, that is a very generous offer. I live in Indianapolis though.
Pubul57, when I had the 2CE sigs they were in a room that way too small. I could never get them to sound right. In fact I also owned a pair of the 1Cs at the same time to compare and because of the room I preferred the 1Cs. Strange I know but the room is important and that's why I am looking for a small speaker. The 1Cs could disappear in the same way the Kestrrels do. The 2CE sigs never did in my room.
Right now I am listening to the Silverline SR-11s. They image very well but don't have the tone of the Kestrels. They aren't broken in yet.
I think I'll take the advice concerning position adjustment while I'm waiting. Actually, I believe I could live with the Kestrel HRs for quite awhile.

I will experiment with minor positioning adjustments as
Tim, I had an experience recently you might be interested in. I picked up a pair of speakers that were quite a bit larger than my previous set. The bass was overwhelming which really clouded the midrange and skewed the whole presentation. I knew the speakers needed to be away from the walls being dipoles, so I fumbled around for a while trying different positions, but it wasn't until I followed Cardas's Golden Rule that everything snapped into focus. The boom disappeared, the midrange became natural and the imaging was killer.

I realize that near-field listening isn't going to work for everyone, but if you haven't tried it, you should at least once. The stereo effect is stunning--especially with dipoles. But more importantly, following the Golden Rule minimizes room resonances which results in better acoustics. Read all about it here:

Setting Up Speakers In a Rectangular Room by George Cardas

If you're hunting for soundstage and depth, I encourage you to check out a pair of Alon's. All of their models sound more like electrostatics than boxes. They disappear effortlessly.
one of the factors in achieving depth is very high signal to noise ration.

when a recording features several instruments recorded at varying distances from the microphone. it is necessary to have a very noise-free stereo system in order to perceive the gradation in sound pressure between instruments.

while speaker placement and radiating pattern is important, too much noise may cover up the sound of an instrument in the rear of the stage.

being able to hear , for example, 3 instruments, varying from 5 feet to 20 feet from the microphone will create the sense of depth and perhaps elicit a term audiophiles use, layering. when you have a stereo system capable of depth you also may hear separation as well.

thus it's not just the speaker too consider, but also the rest of the stereo system to produce a noise-free signal
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@timrhu - I'm with a couple of other posters - best improvements to imaging have been gained by introducing good cables throughtout the system. 

Also adding quality cone feet under components was the icing on the cake

My cables removed noise from my system allowing the components to amplify L/R channels more precisly which in turn  positioned the artists exactly where they should be within the image and expanded the image beyond the listening room walls

My listening room is quite spacous and the speakers are 8ft from the wall behind them - which helps a lot.

What cables do you have currently ?
Still, lots of good information, in most of the thread. It was presumptuous, to have spoken for the OP. My apologies(if you’re still out there), Tim!
I have a pair of magnepan mg12s that do a great job at image depth provided I get them out into the room, say 3+ feet fro the wall.  With good recordings the image depth often appears to go beyond the front wall.

Shadys wrote:  "I have a pair of magnepan mg12s that do a great job at image depth provided I get them out into the room, say 3+ feet from the wall.  With good recordings the image depth often appears to go beyond the front wall."


That is exactly what I have found with dipole speakers.  Once you get beyond about 3 feet (and 5 feet is REALLY good), just about everything - including in particular the soundstage depth - improves.  Here is what is happening, I think:

The ear/brain system judges the size of the room by the time delay between the first-arrival sound and the "center of gravity" of the reflections.  As you move dipole speakers farther out from the wall behind them, you are delaying the onset of the reflected backwave, and thereby correspondingly pushing that "center of gravity" back in time.  The ear/brain system interprets this as "you're in a bigger room", and thus super-imposes less "small room signature" on top of the recording. 

Along similar lines, in designing a recording studio, the acoustician tries to prevent significant early reflections from reaching the recording engineer's ears in the control room earlier than the natural reflections in the live room where the recording was made.  This way the recording engineer can hear the natural reverberation of the live room without the (typically smaller) control room superimposing a "small room signature" on top of what the engineer is hearing through the monitors.

I take advantage of this characteristic of human hearing in some of my designs by bouncing reflections off the ceiling, thereby adding time delay to those reflections similar to the backwave of a dipole speakers pulled out into the room a good five feet or so.  You can hear the soundstage depth collapse when the additional up-firing reflections are turned off.


Agree there is something about time n phase correct speakers.  I auditioned the Thiel CS1.6es at home and they were really great with imaging and sounstaging.  And NO, they weren't bright sounding -- quite refined actually.  My hesitation is that they're no longer in business, and as an owner of another defunct speaker make I can tell you it's like walking on eggshells.  At some point something can blow and you could be screwed.  Then again, as an owner of Meadowlarks (great speaks BTW) you've obviously got some experience with this. 

Obviously Vandys are just great speakers that do the time/phase thing as well or better than anyone.  That said, time/phase coherence isn't an absolute necessity for imaging or depth of stage.  There's more than one way to skin a cat, as it were.  I'll throw in Joseph Audio and ProAc as some of the most holographic speakers I've heard.  And I'll also mention Nola with their open-backed mids and tweets, and a lesser-known brand Boenicke has some very interesting technology and rear-firing tweets.  I guess from that perspective, VonSchweikert deserves a mention too as does Usher, Verity, Giya, YG, Rockport -- and on it goes.  Best of luck in your search. 
most good quality, relatively coherent speakers will give a very deep sound stage when properly positioned including distance from the wall behind them.  
I have heard everything from KEF LS50s to Harbeth M40.2 deliver an impressively deep soundstage when they have room to breathe behind them- e.g. as much as your room can offer up to five feet or so.  
In addition they need proper toe-in and positioning relative to each other.