Your definition of soundstage

I'm having difficulty describing the term soundstage lately. I've enjoyed owning and listening to a good number of high end speakers over the years (owning the lesser end)and am interested in soundstage depth comparisons.

Each speaker that I've heard places the band in a different space. This can be front row, mid hall, lively, laid back, deep, in your face, etc.

I love the presentation of Verity speakers. I also own a pair of Reynaud's that are more lively and a touch warmer. The stage is more immediate with the Reynauds and the Verity's (Fidelio Encore) are more set back and refined in a different way.

What are your opinions on where the music comes from? Please name brands and try to describe the presentations you prefer.
The speaker is not the only thing that affects the presentation. The electronics have just as big of an affect if not more in some cases.
Compare the presentation of solid state versus tubes for example. Or the laid back sound of early Conrad Johnson compared to the lively sound of Audio Research.

This is interesting on a couple of levels.

Not knowing any better… I’d define a Sound stage as whatever sonic information is being depicted or displayed immediately about the loudspeakers, by the contributing audio system.

How dimensional, deep, tall or wide, and how close in proximity to the LP is the result of more than just the speakers.

I doubt seriously any recreated sonic picture generated in one’s home is going to be identical or a duplicate of the original recording venue and atmosphere. I would say that it is entirely possible to recapture a sufficient amount of it for it to be emulated well for all practical purposes and as such, be very representative of the initial recording setting. But it’ll be no fingerprint.

Especially if the producer/engineer takes some liberties during the mixing.

I’ve noticed as the sensitivity of the loudspeaker increases, the depth of stage diminished. Some of this again, is contributed by the electronics and the recording itself.

Whatever is inside the recording should be reproduced via the electronics in varying degrees. Those degrees or the accuracy of the sound stage’s geographical layout depends on the whole of the rig’s abilities. It’s degree of transparency, resolution, and it’s talents for placing audio cues into space coherently, and as the supplied info requests.

I’ve heard for a while now and tend to agree with it, that speakers make the largest impact upon a system. They simply do not make the only difference. Nor, when some change is needed/desired should they be the only consideration to that end.

One configuration of equipment I owned provided me an exceptionally deep and wide stage for the musical setting. Almost nothing ever presented itself forward of the plane of the drivers. It was littered with details and cues sufficient enough for it to be very stimulating and involving, yet after some time I noticed my disinterest in that sort of sound stage. It was simply to remote.

Some alterations made the stage approach the LP more so. Different cabling, preamp , and speakers were thereafter added for the geography to change.

More electronics and then speakers again were exchanged, and as you might think so too was the stage lo.cation and expressiveness of the musical content thereafter altered. It got a lot closer to the LP though it’s closer presence did not alone increase it’s involvement or excitement.

It was the result of the sum of things. The system wide changes which made for the continued improvement (s).

My ‘stage now sits about my speakers, with about as much info behind them as in front of them. It’s most forward points to either side of where I sit… at times… depending once again’, on what’s in the recording and it’s fidelity.

For a while now, and some time to come perhaps, I find a closer involvement with the music more fun. Neither am I on the stage, nor are the musicians in my lap, nor is the sound itself aggressive or untoward at any time.

I feel I’ll continue to enjoy being set in nearness to the production, rather than being set well back and apart from it. That being said, I could live with more separation, though not by much.

So long as the sound stage has enough cohesiveness and information contained within it to be laid out intuitively, is inspiring and is captivating, while sounding great, I’d sit anywhere in that space to receive it.

When a representation does not make sense as it is scattered about, too large an image, set well up onto the walls, or it’s contents are out of proportion with relation to other objects also contained in it, I will have trouble soon enough concentrating on it, and quickly I’ll lose all interest.

A good sound stage IMO has to be food for the soul, candy on the ear, and easy on the mind. It will become illusion and magical. It’ll just click, then, when the mind no longer has to involve itself, real enjoyment comes due to that relaxation.
I loved reading Jim's long post. I define soundstage as the sound field that's created when the system plays. Sometimes it's high, wide and deep, sometimes it's low, narrow and shallow. Seems to depends on system components, the recording, power cords and lots more.

I like to define it that way because it seems easy to differentiate it from image, which would include instrument definition, separation, detail and clarity. It's possible, for example, to have a wide and expansive soundstage and within it, instruments that can't be located precisely, or wander about.
Not only speakers and amps but also the source components can have a big effect on the soundstage as well, especially when we are talking about turntables. Even within a product line there can be big differences. One of the main reasons I chose Rega over other relatively inexpensive tables like Project and Music Hall is because the soundstage is so much larger and more lifelike.
This is very interesting to read and learn. I've had several systems and have enjoyed several really different stages. My old system had a very good stage that was more from speaker to front wall and the further I set that stage to be back of the speaker the more detail and dynamics I lost. I found myself to enjoy the laid back stage on certain things and not to enjoy it on others. I think I was trying to get more stage out of that system than something in it was capable of. If I just let it come forward to the speakers it was over all a much better listening experience. Prior to that equipment my system was much better at staging without losing detail but was just not what I wanted.

Now I have a new system and the stage is unlike anything I've heard before. There are several factors in my new systems ability to stage and one of them is the Critical Mass Systems platinum series racks. My system now has what I would describe as a stage without boundary. Meaning my walls have nothing to do with the ends of my stage and that can be said front, right, and left. My speakers are only maybe 3 feet off the front wall and 9 feet apart. My stage is more detailed than ever, and also can extend up to I would say 20 feet wide on some music. The layers of depth in the band start at the front wall and extend back from that. It never gets up to the speaker. In the past with this stage or anything close to it that I've heard it lacks the impact and dynamic detail but this system lacks none of that and I hear more than I have ever on just about every disc I put in. I enjoy all the stages and it is something I like. I also like detail so don't sacrifice detail like I did once to try and get more out of your stage.

Cables make a difference as I am doing a demo on Interconnects and speaker cables now and each one actually changes the demension of the stage to some degree.

Important to note that while I say how big my stage is, it still remains very musical and cohesive. Its not fatiguing to listen to but does take a bit of training or getting use to as for the first time you hear it, you will just be like, "man what was that and where did it come from, I've never heard that there before"... so I wind up replaying things over to hear it because I've just never heard it like that before.

Stage is important but so is detail and musicality so just try to find the happy balance with the gear you have to draw out the best it can do across the board.

Enjoy the music,
Thanks for the interesting and informative responses. I agree with what has been said and continue to learn from you all daily.

My real re-interest in soundstage stems from a demo back when the Devore Nines came out. I owned the Super 8 at the time and was never really satisfied with the speaker despite the rave reviews and member accolades.

I went to a dealer that carried the Nines and heard them in the same room on the same gear as the Fidelio Encores. I recall the gear being all ARC reference. The pre was the Ref 3, Ref 110 tube amp and cd7. I'm aware of price discrepancy between the speakers, but that is not the point, as both are great.

I was shocked at the difference in presentation between the two speakers. Neither had a perfect synergy with the electronics, however both where in the same very well treated room with identical electronics, cables, conditioning, etc.

The soundstage of the Verity's was set up around 6 feet behind the speakers and remained firmly planted. The air in the room gave the sense of distance and placement. Not only did the speaker control the soundstage, but it gave the space in between me and the soundstage a clear and firm perspective. Air, space, distance, etc.

The Nines did something very different. They also had a great stage, but the individual instruments took on more of the focus rather than the entire presentation. The air in between me and the soundstage was less firm and stable and perhaps less separated than the Verity's. It was easy to listen to one instrument and then move to another, but the stage was less planted in one space.

To add personally to what Blindjim said, in this case, my mind was more at ease and relaxed with with the Verity presentation. I just fell into it instead of trying to listen.

Speakers and systems are individual and I hope to gather more opinions.


Good thoughts on the various speakers you heard on the same gear.

I wish more input on that factor were added to our posts when we attempt to gain some inkling of a thing's voice we likely aren't going to be able to audition.... not that those accounts would be demonstrative as our own results BUT we'd have a better idea.
I think that's one of the more often ignored aspects audiophiles overlook when seeking out pieces for their systems.

Where will this place or migrate the stage.... or will it have much effect at all on the positioning of it's characters??

That does matter to me, just as much as does it's honesty to timber and tone, decay, low end impact, speed, etc.

I think that for me, the more my mind has to work to figure out what my ears are hearing, echoes, placemnet of musicians, boundaries, etc., the less into it I am.

Where it sits geographically is not a tremendous issue for me. In front, about, or rearward entirely, of the speakers. It does however need be coherently reproduced and mismatching devices can wind up scattering or circumventing the truth of the area the reproduction is defined within.

it's gotta make sense readily for me to relax and dig it.
...lots of high quality commentary here...

I like to summarize staging as basically "spacial depth".
Speaker placement and of course the room itself are also involved in the auditory illusion of stage & image.
However big, however small, forward or deep, it just has to work well and remain musical so it can be enjoyed. Don't get an impression to quick on a stage that is different than you are use to as anything you hear that is different can take some adjusting in your listening habits. I've seen and heard people say after only one listen that something isn't right or its fatiguing or whatever. Listening is a habit and your ears get trained on what you hear and how it is delivered. If that changes dramatically it can be shocking, is it better is a question to each individual. In order to tell if you like it more or not you really have to live with it for a bit so you can get use to it from a listening perspective.

I still say don't get hung up on a stage, just get the best detail and image the system can give you and the stage will come naturally. If its at the plain of the speakers or at the front wall or whereever, when you feel your detail and image are working together, leave it alone because trying to seriously improve the stage may affect the other as I have experienced. I speak from experience on this. I got hung up on stage and tried to get my system in the past to give me a stage it just wasn't capable of and I should've just left it alone as it sounded better with a lesser stage.

A decent e-zine that could be vastly improved with the elimination of freakazoids like Norm Nuttbeg.

From the OP's original comments about the differences between various speakers in his setup: "Each speaker that I've heard places the band in a different space. This can be front row, mid hall, lively, laid back, deep, in your face, etc." In my experience these parameters can all be addressed with speaker placement and room treatments. Even the final positioning of the listening chair for focus will have an effect.
Beerdraft, could you identify some of the music that presents itself in the form of a 20 foot wide soundstade with your system, please? I would love to experiment with soundstage optimization. It would be great to start with source material that contains such information and avoid the certain futility of trying to extract something that isn't there.

Listens2tubes, I don't have enough experience with room treatment to argue your point but wouldn't that mean a change in speakers would also need a significant change in room treatment?

Der, a fun cd if you like Jerry Gonzalez is Y Los Pirates Del Flamenco. I wouldn't say 20 feet wide (not on my system anyway) but it's well recorded with nice dimension.
Der, I will have to look at the cd's but most stuff is only about 13 to 14 feet wide. That said some classical like Beethoven and stuff with orchestra can get much wider and sound like some parts are coming from way out to right or left and or very, very deep. I will try to revisit some of them soon and let you know which ones I experience this on but I don't often listen to this classical stuff. My wife likes it so I will play if she comes down. I have a guy coming to set up my speakers from Illinois whom I am paying. I'm wondering what he will do with my setup and if it will improve. I hear he is one of the best so I'm looking forward to it and hope I don't mess with it once he is done. I'm bad about moving things every now and then just to see if there is anything else, sometimes it works and others it means you spend hours trying to get it exactly back where you had it.
"sometimes it works and others it means you spend hours trying to get it exactly back where you had it"

Some blue painters tape will help ypou there.
Well there I went again, moving things and again no tape, now it is terrible, bloomy bass. Will have to work in the morning to get it back in place. I moved several things this time, chair, speakers, and acoustic things, haaa.. Now I got a mess of a stage.
Listened to the Rockport Aquila with Spectral gear over the weekend. Very nice, deep, tonally accurate soundstage. I listened to all kinds of music, including live AC/DC, with a 20 foot deep soundstage and the band perfectly placed. The tonal and dynamic qualities were awesome.

Easy to listen to. I need to post a wanted for a wanted for a genie in a bottle.
Well the setup guy came he saw he kicked butt. Indeed money was well spent getting this guy in to place my speakers. He was most impressed with my room and setup and said I am definitely achieving the maximum potential of my speakers. He has never heard the Sasha so well in stage depth and presence and still maintaining detail and dynamics. I'm very happy with what he did and it sounded fantastic before he got here to me, but now sounds phenominal that he is done. Oh yeah, I don't have to wonder now if I can get it better and move it again, it is as good as it will get unless I want to upgrade something majorly so now its all about listening.
I would call the soundstage "the goal". With that goal, each system will do it differently, each room different... yes it should be musical, engaging, with magical tonality, dynamic(micro and macro), with PRat,... all important too! (as mentioned way more eloquently by blindjim). Each above as definied by the listener.

"the goal" (for me) is when you can walk around the room, say from a couple of feet back from the speaker (so its drivers can become a point source), walk throughout the room, and the "characters" stay locked in their proper locale as you move, they do not! With good hall info or venue acoustic(for me). (assuming the recording has this via production values, manufacturing processes,...)

It is a system result, of having "synergy", as beerdraft states, things "lock in".. First your speakers should dissapear as a sound source, the room hopefully as well; your electronics, source, preamp, amps, have to be able to allow your speakers/room to do it's thing. Then Cables too (alot of cables do not "stage" here, as you move around the room, so does the stage move with some cables here, they may sound OK, and things from the sweet spot may appear OK, but it is not truely all that focused or locked in as made apparent as you move around the room - or even as your head bobs to the music). Each room is different, rules of the room (living room versus dedicated cave), budget (sometimes we cut corners on good cables, isolation; for various reasons stay loyal to a component that may or may not be delivering the goods as well as another could be...), tastes and preferences/priorities of sound. And it is work, listening THAT HARD, to figure out what it is you are listening too, "the set up"; speaker placement, the room, component placement, cable placement, all the various tweaks, Tube rolling, isolation devices, power cords, IC's, tube dampers, cartridge setup/phono stage - everything effects everything else - not just the speaker's ability to stage or the placement of that pair of speakers in that room.

It is real work to get it "right"... but after cleaning your elbows, the sound you are left with, can really tug at your heart - regardless of the mood you step into the space with, you cannot deny the emotions the music before you brings forth. The "snapshot" of that recording at that moment in time, replayed for you... that moment recaptured and replayed at your leasure, in your space,...