"I am there" vs. "They are here"

all of us in this hobby have heard the exclamation "I'm there" or "they are here!" a counless number of times. Usually these remarks are issued forth when one's audio system has made a sonic leap in the direction of naturalism.
However, "I'm there" and "they are here" are clearly two very different remarks.

Would anyone care to describe in detail what about the sound of a great audio system that inspires the listener to make one remark rather than the other.

Which one is a higher compliment?

Thank you,

Generally, it's not the system(s), it's the recording(s). Close, multi-miked recordings put the performance in your room - there is no recording space ambience. Single point/stereo miking should put you in the recorded space. Systems may vary in their ability to do either. Oversimplified. :)
I am/was there --- Back a number of years ago, a technique in studios called LEDE (live end dead end) was popular (still is with some). The dead end is where the speakers are located (acoustical foam on walls and ceiling; carpet on floor). The live end starts about even with the listener position with considerable diffusion behind the listener. This set up effectively elimates the room your in and lets you hear the space in which the recording was made. Having the speakers flush mounted with the walls and the walls angled toward the listener increases the effect. -- I use this in a home project studio with SS equipment and to a lesser degree in a small classical listening room whith a tube setup (speakers flush mount in the studio, four feet from walls in listening room). -- This approach is great for monitoring recordings and I like the modified version for listening. It's probably not for everyone, however.
The truly great systems reproduce ambience information to a degree that allows a listener to experience the sound of a room. Every room has a unique sound that not only can be heard even when there is no obvious source of sound (music), in other words the room is "quiet"; but that interacts with the sound of a musical instrument in a way that is unique and that affects our perception of that instrument's sound. The ability of a system to reproduce that information is what allows the listener to say "I am there". To me this is definitely the higher compliment.
Hi, all,

thanks for the incisive responses.

It seems that more of your regard "I'm there" as the more prized experience in which more information is revealed (lots of "more"s going on here).

Now, if you have experienced "I'm there," could you describe, to the best of your knowledge/memory, the system that "put you there"?

Thank you,

Hi David. My experience follows. Basic: a speaker capable of putting our ears and brain completely at ease with the sounds emanating -- that is, we make minimal to no effort to recognise and UNDERSTAND intricate musical detail... i.e. we're just "there", passive recipients of music. Quad, Soundlab, Genesis, AudioExklusiv, Avantgarde are SOME such (note, my experience is limited!)

Now, the speaker "kit" needs a commensurate signal.

1. Top notch pre: tonal balance, realism in low-level detail and dynamics and correct micro-amplification of speed variations.
CAT, FM acoustics 288 (?), Goldmund (22?), Aesthetix tubes + multiple PS, Symphonic Line rg3 "special order" 4xPS. (again, my LIMITED experience).

2. A "tricky" source: either suberb (on all accounts given our present technology) or one that, within its compromises, DOES at least pick up tonality & tonal balance. A Fender is NOT a Gibson, a Steinway is NOT a Bosendorfer... i.e., "a piano is not (just) a piano": which one, for pete's sake. OR a pre that picks up subtle changes in rythm (speed nuance the musicians play with). IM experience, a top notch TT + average LP, wins over a top cdp + good redbook cd in the "naturality" area.

3rd: an amp that has the quality to amplify these nuances (and, ofcourse, enough juice so that the said speakers will make these audible in our analogue world). Many in as many, high, price brackets.

Ofcourse we have the "wires". Anything that works well is expensive, regardless of production cost. Necessary evil perhaps...

Mucho tough to emulate, IMO... A good pre (CAT) allowed me to *understand & justify the musical presence* (for want of better wording) of certain lower-level, second and 3rd plane details, that were merely cosmetic until then! With a FM Acoustics set-up, my wife hardly recognised music she (thought) she knew by heart. Detlof virtually has a sound wall to satisfy his ears that the orchestra *just could be* in the close vicinity of his room. His amplification is commensurate. There are many others here at A'gon!

Thanks, all, for your patience... the subject fascinates me.