Understanding soundstage in an audio system

November 20, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

13 comments on “Understanding soundstage in an audio system”

  1. Very well put, Paul! I heard my first audio reproduction "Soundstage" (Rogers LS3/5A monitors and Audio Research components) 46 years ago and have since attempted to achieve that 3D Holographic Presentation in my developing systems! Raising 4 kids (now 2 Doctors and 2 Engineers) made my accomplishments for home audio perfection much more of a challenge and journey, as family life perspectives had much higher priorities all these years!

    Slowly but surely, I've woven my way through the muck and trials of experimentation (total budget minded processes) and today, have achieved that audio goal set for myself so long ago! My 9ft front wall (in a 90sf dedicated music room) has some extreme limitations, but careful balance of symmetry in components, speakers, setup, room acoustics and of course, an excellent acoustical recording music library has help to create the Soundstage you so accurately describe! FWIW, the details of all that are best explained in this drawing: (https://i.postimg.cc/j2DXq11b/Ted_s_Music_Room-2.png).

    Believe most have no idea what we talk about (the RSS-Reproduced Sound Stage)...As I've always said, "Once Heard, There Is No Going Back"!!

    Ted

  2. An important presentation Paul.
    It's really important to explain this to people; especially those who
    haven't experienced 3D holographic soundstaging & imaging yet.
    I know that I thought that it was a lot of audiophile snake-oil until
    I heard it for myself almost thirty years ago now.

  3. Ever sense I was a 10 year old boy, I have been trying to make any stereo system that I've had my hands on, recreate what I hear upon stage with live singers and musicians.
    Some of them came pretty close.
    But the dert cheep stereo systems, couldn't get close to it at all.
    It took me a little more then 40 years to get to where I am now.
    But at the risk of asking a dumb question, I wonder something.
    These sonic magic tricks that are pulled with stereo speakers, can the same thing be achieved with a grate pare of headphones and a really grate headphone amp DAC?
    I'm asking because, I ordered an Earmen Angel headphone amp DAC to use with my iPhone 13 and a pare of high end headphones that I own.
    I'm wanting to see if I can make Apple Music deliver to my ears, high rez audio.
    For nearly a G, I hope it will.

      1. Good afternoon John!
        I don't know if this'll help.
        But any how, here is the information that I found on the Earmen website.
        ---
        EarMen

        EarMen Angel
        Fully balanced
        Great features
        Extremely durable
        Gain +
        Line Out Balanced option
        Powerful Battery
        Quality workmanship made in Europe
        Reference Portable Device
        EarMen Angel is Portable Fully Balanced Hi-Res DAC/ Headphone Amplifier with the Pre Out option. It is a very powerful audio device with which you will be able to listen to Hi-Res music on to go. You will be able to enjoy a plenty of power without worrying about consumption, since it is equipped with 2-cell battery. EarMen Angel will provide outstanding performance and we are sure you will enjoy it. Fly music with EarMen Angel!

        DAC
        EarMen Angel uses ESS DAC ES9038Q2M which has great SNR and THD + N characteristics compared to its competitors, along with the newest XMOS USB receiver which is capable of decoding up to 768kHz/32 bit PCM, DSD256 via DoP and MQA Studio.Everything you ever need!

        Fully Balanced
        EarMen Angle is a fully balanced device whose balanced signal goes intact from the DAC all the way to the headphone output. There are no changes in the audio signal itself except for amplification, so the sound from the DAC is original.

        The device is designed so that in the path of audio signal sound, there are no additional capacitors and other components that would introduce distortion, so the sound itself is fascinating.

        Incredibly Dynamic
        The dynamic range of 120dB is amazing, so the music you listen to becomes realistic, as if you are listening live. The device has a linear power supply with ultra low noise which helps to deliver even clearer sound. Once you hear the sound, you will desire nothing but this device.

        MQA Studio quality audio
        Angel supports Tidal Masters (MQA)

        MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) is an award-winning British technology that delivers the sound of the original master recording. The master MQA file is fully authenticated and is small enough to stream or download. Visit mqa.co.uk for more information.

        Powerful Battery
        EarMen Angel has a two-cell battery 2x3000mAh which will give you the opportunity for many hours of listening to music. You do not have to worry about battery consumption, as the charging time is less than 3 hours. Separate DATA and USB charging ports allow the device to run continuously if it is on the charger, and so you can use it all day in your system.

        Gain +
        By switching to Gain + mode, you will get more power, volume and dynamics of sound. This option gives you the ability to adjust the volume to a more precise level, allowing Angel to be used with all types of sensitive and insensitive headphones.

        Headphone jack options
        Angel gives you a choice of headphone outputs to use the ones you love the most. You have the option of a 3.5mm single end output as well as a balanced 4.4m output. Whatever you choose, Angel will automatically recognize your selected output.

        Line Out option
        The line out option with outstanding features gives you the ability to use Angel as a Pre Amp for your home system. You can also choose whether to use Single End or Fully Balanced output. The choice is yours.

        Specifications
        Inputs USB C Female DATA
        USB C Female Charging
        S/PDIF COAX/TOS

        Outputs Single End 3.5mm
        Balanced 4.4mm

        DAC ES9038Q2M

        Audio Formats DSD 256 DoP / Native DSD 512
        DXD Up to 768 kHz
        PCM Up to 768 kHz
        MQA Rendering, MQA Full decoding OFS, MQA, MQA Studio, MQA Auth
        Headphone output

        Single-end with Gain+ Fully Balanced with Gain+
        USB input S/PDIF input USB input S/PDIF input
        Output Level 7.2Vrms 0dBFS 7.2Vrms 0dBFS 8.5Vrms 0dBFS 8.5Vrms 0dBFS
        THD+N 0.004% 0.004% 0.002% 0.002%
        SNR >120dB >120dB >119dB >119dB
        A-Weighted A-Weighted A-Weighted A-Weighted
        Freq. Response ±0.2dB ±0.2dB ±0.2dB ±0.2dB
        DNR >120dB >120dB >119dB >119dB
        Line Out

        Single-end output Fully Balanced output
        Direct Out Pre Out Direct Out Pre Out
        Output Level 1.5Vrms 0dBFS 7.2Vrms 0dBFS 3Vrms 0dBFS 8.5Vrms 0dBFS
        THD+N 0.005% 0.004% 0.003% 0.002%
        SNR >120dB >120dB >119dB >119dB
        A-Weighted A-Weighted A-Weighted A-Weighted
        Freq. Response ±0.2dB ±0.2dB ±0.2dB ±0.2dB
        DNR >120dB >120dB >119dB >119dB
        Battery 2 x Li-Po 3000mAh
        Charge Use 5V >= 2A adapter
        Dimension L x H x W 152 x 27 x 66mm
        6" x 1.05" x 2.6"
        Weight 340 gr / 0.75 lbs

        Download the Windows driver Here
        EarMen Angel User Manual: EN
        Download the Firmware update files Here
        Behind the product
        Behind the Angel stands our engineer Filip Tot, which is the main culprit for the creation of this device. Read his words below:

        "I have been with Auris for more than 4 years. The arrival itself is a story unto itself. I had very little experience as a young engineer when I applied to the company HCP, which deals with the development and production of cash registers. During the conversation, I met my current colleagues as well as Milomir Trosic who presented some of his views on the company in the future and me as a worker in it. I liked the enthusiasm because I am a great optimist, so I accepted the job and within 4 days moved 350km away to the town of Krusevac, about which I knew almost nothing, and now I live in it and started a family. Miki very quickly recognized some of my qualities that I probably hadn't seen myself, so he transferred me to the audio sector, which I knew very little about, I didn't even understand the people who buy such expensive devices and I admired them. I got a lot of support and patience, and I returned it with tireless work because I recognized the potential of the company and what it needs. During these years I worked on many amplifiers together with Miki and other colleagues, such as Headonia, Nirvana, Euterpe, Legato, Ha2-SF ... Somewhere my contribution was bigger, somewhere smaller, but it was not so important as long as we went the right way.

        Earmen's birth came like lightning after radiation, it was so natural. We wanted to reach more people because we had a lot of good to offer. We improved our knowledge of designing tube amplifiers, so we got the first devices, such as TR-Amp, Sparrow, Eagle ...

        From the very beginning, we set out with all our might in search of the perfect sound, like a gold rush. That’s why we pay a lot of attention to subjective feeling, not just measurements. Whenever I work on something I always stick to our motto: Sound above all.

        The path that Auris has traversed since its founding, and now Earmen as well, is special because we started many things from scratch, and our goal is to reach the top. We work tirelessly on new devices to try to share the happiness and excitement we feel when we first listen to them.

        One of those devices is Angel, which I worked on for more than a year, looking for the perfect combination of components and a result that would not leave anyone indifferent. I wanted it to be perfect: multifunctional, with a lot of power, a big battery and beautiful sound. From the beginning, the solution seemed to be at my fingertips, but even when everything worked perfectly, the sound was not what I was looking for. I didn't sleep, I read until late at night, sometimes I was shocked but my colleagues supported me, so I continued that battle even when we all thought that there were no solutions to some things and that they had to be like that. It was only when I put it aside and relaxed that the idea for a completely different concept was born that brought us a handful of dynamics, Low Noise and distortions. The sound was absolutely beautiful.

        I used to think that many things were illusions and exaggerations, but now I know that creating such devices is sometimes as much art as the songs that are played on them.

        1. John Price,
          Headphones will not give you the 3D holographic soundstaging & pinpoint imaging that a well set up pair of loudspeakers can...just so you know once & for all.
          Headphones present sound to your ears in a completely different way than a pair of loudspeakers in front of you do...it's a matter of sound physics.

          1. Hey marten!
            Let me ask you a dirrect right to the point question.
            Have you ever heard of expending the sound stage?
            A company here in the United states that makes a box that they call the Sound Stage Expender/Bass Booster.
            The name of the company is, Black Ice Audio.
            You can Google them.
            Or, you can go to:
            https://www.underwoodhifi.com
            This is their US distributor here in North America.
            The reason why I'm bringing this up, is this.
            Sure you can pull your speakers out in to the middle of the room.
            And they'll image perfitly fine.
            But suppose you're dealing with space restraints, what do you do then?I haven't tried it out as of yet, but I do believe that the Sound Stage Expender/Bass Booster will allow you to put your speakers strait up against the wall behind them, and according to how you have the diles sat on the unit, you will be able to achieve the same results with the speakers up against the wall behind them, as you would with them out half way in the middle of the room.
            But if that little gold and black box with one 12AU7 tube operating it can do that with loud speakers, just imagine what that box can do with a really good pare of headphones.
            Not everything in life follows the rules of physics.
            I tought myself to do this when I was a kid.
            You may be 12 years older then I am.
            And I shouldn't have to tell you this.
            In fact, you should be telling me to do this instead.
            But perhaps you mite want to stard both looking and thinking outside of the box.
            Sometimes, we all get stuck in a rut.
            We'd rather stick to what we know.
            But exploring that what we don't know, frightens a lot of us.
            All true facts.

            1. "All true facts"...really John?
              My God you talk some absolute rubbish, it's quite amusing sometimes...other times it's just sad.
              I was answering your question about whether headphones can create a soundstage, like loudspeakers can & the fact is that they cannot.

  4. All rooms have their own unique soundstage. But I agree that set up and quality of the recording are the best factors. Along with quality electronics and cables.

    I have also heard some decent soundstages in cars. Not quite like a good soundstage in a home but decent.

  5. The simplest and most dramatic sound stage enhancement came from a Paul comment some time ago: get you gear out from between the speakers, or most of it anyway. I have always had unequal speaker cable length, though Paul says better make the long run in interconnects. Once I moved everything off to the side the sound world became immense.

  6. I dialed in my speaker positioning two nights ago after several nights of work. I had a decent soundstage earlier, but moving each speaker out an inch and a half crystallized it, adding precision, coherence and depth. The system has never sounded better. I used the PS Audio Audiophile Reference Disc and Audiophile Guide to The Stereo to navigate this process. I wish I had figured this out years ago.

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