Soundstage...How to determine what's right?

Have started upgrading my system and will be trying to optimize the soundstage. A lot of reading has me thinking that I really don't have enough information and experience to get there.
Terms like "congestion, width, depth, and height" have me wondering how much is in the recording and how much is introduced by the system? Are there reference type cd's that people use to determine how their system is progressing? I so, could you help with a list of cuts with info regarding the placement of vocals, instruments and examples that contain material that is not congested?
Thanks for any help.
Your description on tube miking in order to add harmonics brought up questions. Does the same type effect occur with amplification, processing, etc.? Is this why so many people feel that tubed components sound so much better? It would be very difficult for me to go tubes in my pre and amplifiers due to using them both for 2 channel and h/t. Would there be a significant improvement in 2 channel using a tubed cd player? Funds don't allow the ultra hi end but would like to get a bit closer.

Yes and No. I will try to stay away from any argument about which is better. Both are good when used CORRECTLY. Good tube designs can sound pretty much identical to good solid state designs when driven below the end of the day it boils down to the way the circuits are implemented and how they are coupled (high impedance ouput transformers often used with tubes will certainly modify the frequency response, for example - is that good or bad - your choice!).

One of the world's top Mastering Engineers, Doug Sax, and founder of Sheffield Labs still uses tubes in his mastering console (built by his brother) - so yes tubes can be used to modify the sound in line level equipment too (and very nicely in a CD player, for example). The main advantage of tubes is that they sound nice when clipping...solid state sounds terrible...and as my drum link above illustrates ...clipping is all to common....even the pop CD's you buy today often have lots of clipped signal on the CD!!! Tubes make a lot of sense for live music or recording live music if you are not sure what levels you may drive the equipment too - like an electric guitar, where musicians always crank it and tubes just sound wonderful when cranked!
The VK looks like something for me to dream about. It'll be a while befor I am able to justify something like that. Do appreciate the link. Good reading.
Once again thanks. The idea of a tubed cd player is an interesting one. Just wish someone I knew had one that I could try in my system. At this time it is just an interesting idea for me but sometimes I fall prey to impulse buying.
Thanks again,
hey Scoly1- If you're still in here, check this out: ( You may be able to pick one of these up used and upgrade it when the funds become available. It would give you a taste of what a tubed source can do for your listening. There are a number of upgrades available. The first thing I would do would be to find a matched pair of Siemens E188cc's to pop in there. That's if I didn't have the money for those wonderful 1960's Siemens CCa's I'm always raving about. Read the Stereophile review(if not all of them).
I think determining what is right in regards to the soundstage height is based upon personal preferences. I would set yor listening position at a height that is about even with the midrange and tweeter elements of your speakers if they are arranged with the midrange in the center and tweeter on top. This will allow you to position the speakers with directional energy of those two drivers and help you pick the depth and how wide you want the soundstage to appear, for example, with no toe in, the stage will be wider, but you may suffer some loss of coherence in instrumental detail. As you toe in, the details become more focused but with some loss of soundstage width. In regards to depth, I find that having the speakers far from the wall behind them allows for a deep soundstage. Of course a lot will depend on your own listening likes and room conditions and equipment. I like the soundstage and depth where I am seeing (when I am closing my eyes and imagining I am at the concert) and hearing the performance as if I am about the 3rd to the 5th row back. For me and in my room this gives me the best sound and coherence. I also have my speakers slightly toed in, just right of the listening position and of course the regular room treatments to tame reflections and echo. I also found that experimenting with treatment directly behind the speakers effect the soundstage and also can make the speakers sound congested if too much is used there. Funny you mention congested, I also experienced that with a needle going bad and no matter what how many times I cleaned it, it was sounding congested, I finally had to retip it and the congestion went away. Just an example of how similar variable symptoms we hear can be way off topic to the cause.

A lot of experiementing will have to take place. I still have the tape marks in my room from previous positions of loudspeaker placement. It will take some time to get it just right. I would suggest listening to various types of music as you experiment and pick out certain attributes, the whack of a kick drum or the vocals of musicians and listen to how your speaker placement effects the soundstage.
Good luck,
Looked at the Njoe. Have been lusting for the 99 for some time now. Looks like the 4000 is a big step up so maybe it will drive the prices down on the 99. Bought an Arcam not that long ago. Should have just waited a bit longer and bought the 99.
Thanks again.

Thanks for the reply. Makes a lot of sense. I have been playing around with positioning and have seen some improvement. Will continue.

Should receive two of the Chesky disc soon. Ordered "The Ultimate Demonstration Disc: "Guide to Critical Listening" and Jazz Sampler. Should give me something to work with. I do have some problems with the room and will be posting questions soon about what I can do to alleviate some of them and still keep my wife happy.