Now you see me…

October 23, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

Most of us want to be noticed and cared about. Few want only to fade into the darkness.

We hope others will pay attention to us.

Yet, when it comes to a high-performance loudspeaker, that’s the last thing we hope for.

The finest loudspeakers disappear in one of the best magic shows I know of.

Large boxes dominating the room. Only our eyes know they are there.

Our ears tell us a very different story.

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28 comments on “Now you see me…”

  1. Yes, but…once you are well aware of where your floorstanders are in the room (in front of you whilst you sit in your sweet-spot) it becomes very hard to *not* imagine them ‘in position’, even when you close you’re eyes, because you know where they are.

    1. Once, my collegue visited us. When she und her husband entered the living room music was playing at a reasonable volume. Immediatly she was aware of the holographic sound, she saw my two speakers and asked, where the other speakers were.

      1. Baster,
        Bist du Deutsch?

        I had a stunning 3D holographic home audio set-up back in the
        ’90s, with monoblocs & a pair of Harbeths.
        These days I will sit down but know exactly where my loudspeakers
        are so I’m automatically mentally ‘beaming in’ on them, regardless.
        It’s easier to be completely enveloped within & surprised by the
        3D soundstage illusion & experience the loudspeakers completely
        disappearing when the set-up is unfamiliar.

        It *is* fun to catch visitors unaware though isn’t it 😀

  2. My magic trick is playing music from my immersive ceiling speakers when someone is in the room and they have no idea where the sound is coming from, and when I tell them it’s coming from the lights, they still don’t believe me. It works every time.

    1. For background music, I also found well placed and quality ceiling speakers a joy.

      Fifty five years ago the wealthy original owners of our house hired a local audio equipment manufacturer “Frazier of Dallas” to install stereo ceiling speakers in every room in the house.

      The system was barely functioning when we bought the house, so I didn’t think much about it. But as I began to repair and update the system, realized how advanced it was, even by today’s standards. Each room had two cabinet speakers built of 3/4” Baltic Birch, weighing over 30 lbs each, with an 8”Altec woofer and Foster compression horn tweeter. Placement of the speakers was also well thought out to maximize the listening area sweet spot in every room.

      Now with all 14 speakers restored, updated crossovers, and powered by 21st century electronics, the Frazier system impresses. Even when compared to many high dollar modern built in home audio systems.

      Now if I can just finish my serious listening room setup…..

      1. Ceiling speakers only work if they disappear and Sonos don’t. To their credit, Sonos solved a number of major issues, such as connectivity, and make some fantastic products. The product I use uses very clever DSP and they do disappear. They also solve size and installation issues, because to get good sound the units have to be fixed tight to the ceiling. The units are 5″ high and 4″ diameter. My electrician and I installed 10 units in 30 minutes. I also use them for AV and bass is an issue. They go to -6db at 40Hz, which is OK, but I expect them to develop a separate subwoofer.

        There are quite a few wall and ceiling products from the likes of KEF and PMC, but you end up rebuilding your house. The Devialet Phantom and Reactor are great for AV as they have thunderous bass, but they need mains power. My system runs off the lighting circuit using a 24v transformer.

      2. Sid Zimit… a name from the past that I knew but for the life of me l can’t remember why. Possibly because he advertised ‘Audio by Zimet’ In the trade magazines. I also remember that he was very outspoken And I am visualizing a caricature of a man’s head but I’m not sure why. Now that I read his obituary in 1988 where his life came to a tragic end, I can only surmise that he knew more about audio equipment then he knew about flying.

      1. Most knowledgeable guests to our home assume I installed a wireless speaker system. In part because of the bespoke modern grills I fabricated. But primarily because they can’t imagine a 1967 house when constructed having large stereo speakers in every room, or how all the necessary wiring could be retrofitted into a ceiling with no attic above (flat roof). Operating the system from my phone probably is a factor also.

            1. Wow, I feel for you. I have two flat roofs, one is the lower roof which I can reach from inside through a second story window ( I leave a two step ladder in front of it ) and there is a permanently attached boat latter that I use to get from the lower roof to the upper roof ( this is all on the back side of the house ). However, just like you I have to blow the leaves off the two roofs every fall.

    2. I used to have a similar party trick. The enormous TL speakers on my main system were placed on their sides in window alcoves, covered by a light drape and then squab cushions to act as window seats. The drapes were lifted for serious listening, but remained in place for background music. I enjoyed asking guests where the sound was coming from, and nobody ever guessed correctly.

      Placing speakers on their sides in alcoves is savagely sub-optimal positioning, but for aesthetic reasons the alternative was no speakers at all 🙁

  3. Taken literally I do find this slightly misleading especially if a reader has not experienced it. The speakers create a soundstage between them and hopefully also beyond the left hand edge of the left speaker and the right hand edge of the right speaker. Depending on the recording this soundstage should be seamless left to right. At some point the sound within that stage will be located exactly where the speaker is so will not give the impression that the speaker has disappeared. Otherwise you’d always be aware of two gaps in the soundstage. I did say literally 😉

    1. Although my speakers are meticulously set up in my dedicated room obeying all the rules, I never get a defined soundstage beyond the speakers on any of my many hundreds of CD/SACD’s. However the soundstage between the speakers is seamless with very accurate imaging. Only on Stereophile Test CD-3, tutorial track 10 do I get imaging way outside the speakers. So my system is capable of reproducing this-it’s just never recorded in the music discs.

      Also, I have never heard this effect in any other vinyl or digital music systems, either at homes, dealers or audio shows, including both music rooms at PSA.

      1. Was in Colorado Springs beginning of the month. Wanted to go to PSA to hear their music rooms (and preview the new FR30’s), but was not able due to standing Covid protocols…bummer!

      2. Neil young’s album Colorado, try the track Milky Way. I close my eyes and the tambourine is coming from way to the outside of the left speaker. Pretty far back, too. Love listening to this track, so loose and emotional.

  4. The whole disappearing holographic thing is cool 😎 but is as dependent on the recording as it is on the room and the equipment. It can be an elusive illusion.

    Is the ‘magic trick’ one of the ultimate audio goals that must be strived for? I guess it depends on whether your selling or purchasing…. 😀 ✌️

  5. Since first hearing the holographic magic stereo is capable of producing (1980…my Rogers LS3/5a moment), my audio hobby journey began. Finally achieving that illusive 3D presentation through synergistic balance of room, components and recordings, my humble 2.1 system isn’t much to look at (.5cf monitors in a 90sf dedicated music room), but the sound presentation states otherwise! Extreme variance between Seen (room & components) vs Heard (huge ambient venues with instrumental/vocal musicians and ensembles in proper spaces and perspectives) is very often, “Mind Blowing”!

    No need to be in the dark or close eyes, the soundstage “illusion” is a rock solid LIVE performance, spreading Well Beyond All room boundaries!! I’m transported into the venue, sitting row 15 with ensembles never between, but behind the monitors in their huge recorded venue settings. Musical articulation, air, physical presence and extreme depth are all inclusive. I enjoy many hours a day in continuous listening bliss without any fatigue or regrets (except when I have to tell the performers by for the evening)! Gee, it is Great to be Retired!!! 🙂

  6. I do not have too much trouble with getting a good acoustic image of the sound stage on all of my records. Obviously, how wide and deep the sound is varies from record to record. What I find really interesting is you can get a sound stage image even with mono recordings.

    I find it interesting to look at these system photographs and wonder what kind of acoustic image they deliver. If you right click on the thumbnail photograph and then click on “Open In New Tab” you get a full screen image.

    1. I just now visited this collection of aspirational setups. Fortunate people.
      Such a difference from Steve (Audiophiliac) Guttenberg’s audio family setups.
      In general “the rest of us” have such a system don’t we?
      And anyway it’s more about matching and setup and the room than just how much it cost. Not to mention one’s musical taste.

      Gotta go my bitter pills are wearing off.

  7. Quite true. In a well made speaker, no matter how big or how small the sound is totally detached from the speaker. Small speaker are visually less obtrusive big speakers simply become part of furniture since sound is detached from them. In fact this is the mark of a well made speaker. Regards.

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