Vanishing sound

September 9, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

One of the more ironic tasks in HiFi is to make the speakers disappear. Quite a feat of magic for big boxes dominating the room.

Yeat, difficult or not, that’s exactly what we want to do.

One of the easiest ways to tell if you’re system is working correctly is to close your eyes and see if you can point to the playing speakers. You shouldn’t be able to pinpoint the source of sound.

Getting this right can often be challenging, especially when you don’t use much toe in (as I often recommend).

The fixes for non-disappearing speakers are often a mix of room treatment, proper electronics, and setup.

I would always start in the reverse order from which I just listed. Setup can often make invisible the speakers right in front of you.

If it takes a change of cables or equipment because of harshness or colorations that focus attention on the source of sound, that becomes a more difficult task.

Whatever the case, working towards achieving vanishing sound certainly has its rewards.

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89 comments on “Vanishing sound”

  1. I suspect it mainly boils down to have a pair of speakers that are accurate and closely matched, and then setting them up properly. You really have to know that he drivers have been accurately matched on the bench. How easy of difficult a pair of speakers are to set up and how flexible they are in that regard should be addressed before, not after buying speakers. I suspect the biggest errors are buying speakers too big for the room and placing speakers too far apart.

    1. Indeed! And the best check of accuracy is playing a mono recording whose phantom image should be as small as possible! And in order to come as close as possible to the essence of the recording one should take the listening room acoustics out of the equation. Thus I prefer near-field listening which gets you close to the accuracy of headphone listening.

      1. I have a new listening room which is smaller, the speakers are closer together and I will be listening from a little closer. The speakers are not full range. The intention was for a more near-field experience.

        The room has been largely finished for 4 weeks, except the electricity is not connected and it is being used as a store whilst other parts of the house are being done. This week my fabulous tiler, Roberto, is laying 100m2 of floor tiles, they are 1m square and 6mm thick, which is quite a skill and rather nerve-wracking. He is a trained singer and I get to listen to Albanian folk songs most of the day.

          1. Yes, not a bass junkie at all.

            I’m sure you’re following the T20 World Cup qualifiers. Mozambique Women are struggling against Rwanda. Currently 11 for 7 and that includes 8 extras. The score hasn’t moved for a while. Did they surrender? Extras are rarely top scorer – have they ever outscored the whole team?

            1. You don’t have to be a “bass junkie” to enjoy
              what low-end should be there in the music
              without it seeming to be too much.

              Apparently the worst news for the Afghani
              women’s cricket team…you can guess.

    2. Harbeth’s are, or at least used to be, ‘pair-matched’ to within 0.75dB from 200Hz to 12kHz & I’m pretty sure that having that pair matching helped big time when I experienced a 3D holographic soundstage & imaging from my 1993 -’99 home audio set-up.

      1. That is exactly the point. You wouldn’t drive a car or bicycle if the wheels weren’t properly aligned. Same with valves, when I had a valve amplifier they came in match sets with measurements. Harbeth make a point that their drivers are matched to an extremely small tolerance. I don’t know how many manufacturers, because it takes time and some skill to do.

          1. You never driven a tricycle round a corner? I had one when I was about 5 years old and it had terrible understeer. I think it was a flawed design. It had a nice pale blue boot (trunk) that was very practical for shopping.

            1. Tri versus bi.
              Around here, the “tri” are the one with the very funny ones riding on the PCH all the way to Point Mugu. They don’t climb the mountains much. Tri as they try, they are slow uphill, fast on a flat line.
              Bi do climb the mountains and they tend not to use the aero position when they ride. They are slower on a flat line and faster up and downhill. They also have better bike skills.
              A few months ago I spent some time chatting on the mountains with a certain Kenyan who rides for England. Skinny dude called Froome. Charming fellow. He was not out of breath, I was. So I asked him to stop for a “we-lfie”. With appropriate pandemic imposed distance.

              The motorcycles dudes, they are “dudes”, with all that leather, bellies, hair and tattoos, sometimes ride “Tris”. But they have two wheels in the front and one on the back. Looks like a chopped up kit car.

          2. When you are dealing with spoked wheels, it’s a balancing act (like a lot of things). For the front wheels, it’s fairly straight forward. Make sure the hub is centered within the wheel radius, but also even along the lateral axis. The spokes all need to be tensioned identically, not as easy as it may seem (what is?). For the rear wheel, the hub and spoke arrangement is not as symmetrical with the gear cluster mounted to one side of it. Slightly different length spokes and thus the need to finesse the tensioning. Much oversimplification, but you get the idea. This is for the old school ‘conventional’ 10 plus speed bikes with rim brakes, that I rode back in the day. Hub mounted disc brakes add another element to the mix, but I never had one with those. I could handle basic maintenance and adjustment, but really nailing spoke adjustment was outside my level of competence, I let real bike mechanics with skill and experience at the specialist bike shops handle this work when needed. Jerry Pournelle’s 2nd(?) Law: “If you don’t know what you’re doing, deal with those who do.”

              1. Yeah, from some of your previous comments (i.e. Campy or Shimano?) I figured you to be a serious cyclist, However since you posed the comment, that’s where I posted mine on wheel balancing for the benefit of the rest of the gentle readers here who may not be as familiar with the sport/hobby. $3k wheels, huh? The most that I ever spent on a whole bike was an original Bianchi Grizzly mountain bike (as befitted a geology grad student) was $400 (or was it $600 back in 1985? Confused Steven indeed) from a shop called Sunflower Surplus (still in business at the original location, although they now go by Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop) in Lawrence, KS. Remember ‘bull moose’ handlebars?

                1. Not to worry, they were a gift. As was my Pinarello.
                  My son used to work at a famous bike shop and would sell complete bikes for up to $20k. Most for people that didn’t have the physique for them but had the wallet and insecure egos. He met a lot of very nice people but also a lot of “I’ll show you how big is my wallet”. Not that different fromy audiophiles.

      2. I love my Harbeth 40.1s. I use them in my digital pipe organ system because they are so full range and accurate, without being etchy and fatiguing. They capture nearly the full spectrum of organ sound, although I need a subwoofer to reach the lowest pedal bass down to 16 Hz. I have the big Harbeths strapped on heavy duty pedestal stands (to keep them from falling off in earthquake tremors) and to position the tweeters at the same level as my ears when sitting on the organ bench. The Harbeths and my vintage tube amp tame the otherwise overly clinical sound of the Terminator DAC and digital source.

          1. Not far from one of dozens. CA is riddled with them. The big one could come at any time.

            I was just thinking of the FA30s and their slender profile in one dimension. Will they come with straps for earthquake zones? 🙂

              1. One concern would be all that speaker cabinet weight resting on the top of the vertical fin of the base–how that connection would hold up with the lateral sway of a strong tremor.

            1. Lateral guy lines like for an old backpacking tent and commercial radio/tv transmission towers. Of course, when “The Big One” hits, this will probably not be a high priority.

              1. Even a non-catastrophic earthquake tremor in which the floor moves laterally perpendicular to the long side of the speaker cabinet, while the heavy mass of the speaker cabinet resists motion by inertia, would create significant shear stresses where the vertical fin meets the bottom of the cabinet. That connection needs to be exceedingly strong. In CA we have to secure things like water heaters, tall book cases and other freestanding heavy objects with straps and clips in anticipation of lateral forces from a potential strong tremor at any time. And these objects are not supported by a fin like the rounded bottom of the cabinet of the FR30.

                My grand piano has three legs with multidirectional rollers. And the organ sits on a platform with multidirectional rollers. Maybe multidirectional rollers on the feet of the speaker base is the answer, with enough friction to prevent the speakers from rolling with the motion of the long-throw base drivers. In an earthquake the speakers would by inertia just stay stationary while the floor relatively moves back and forth.

                In college I majored in physics and structural engineering and studied seismic design. I’m not making all this stuff up.

                1. Indeed. I have a MS in geology. My area of study focused on environmental hydrology and water chemistry (hard rock, soft rock, and no rock geologists (me! me!)), but you get geophysics as part the general curriculum. And I also worked for a geotechnical engineering consulting firm for 4 years before going back to grad school.

                2. Maybe unbeknownst to us, there is within the FR30 cabinet an extension of the base fin up inside the cabinet where it is rigidly connected to a lateral metal frame secured to the sides of the cabinet box. It may not be specifically designed for earthquake forces, but it may be equivalent to the lateral support that a box cabinet extending all the way to the floor would provide. In that way the speaker would behave like a freestanding bookshelf with a rigid frame. The user could consider bolting the base to the floor to keep the speaker from tipping over in an earthquake event. Paul can advise on how the base is connected to the box above.

  2. Paul, I think that by “vanishing sound”, in your final sentence, you actually mean ‘vanishing loudspeakers’.

    For those out there who have not as yet experienced the ‘disappearing loudspeakers presentation’ that Paul is describing above, or even better the 3D holographic soundstaging & imaging that is an absolute jaw-dropper, don’t give up yet.
    I didn’t experience it until I was 33yo & it was akin to a religious experience when it happened, because before I heard it I thought that it was a load of horse crap (snake-oil) concocted to entice audio-nuts to keep spending more & more money to obtain the unobtainable; but not so, it does happen when all the planets align.

    **What we have been discussing over the last 2 posts**
    Ok, you will all probably be surprised to hear that I bought a brand new Musical Fidelity – ‘M6 500i’ today after I had bought a pre-loved MF – ‘M6i’ only twelve weeks ago…yep, me…’Mr. Spend as little as possible & tweak the crap out of it, ex Mid-Fi home audio retail employee Rat’.
    Ok, so by way of explanation, the whole MF range here in Australia was ‘price-dropped’ by roughly 23% about 6 weeks ago & one Hi-Fi retailer in Sydney that stocks MF was having a (further) ‘CoViD Sucks’ (20%off) sale…so, I couldn’t control myself as I have a bank Term Deposit maturing in October…just ’round the corner 🙂

    Long story short:
    MF M6i – 200watts/ch/8ohms (dual mono/double-wound single toroidal construction)
    MF M6 500i – 500watts/ch/8ohms (Dual mono/2 separate L/R toroidal construction)
    And the difference in effortlessness, transparency, channel separation, slam, bass control, finesse & clarity are all very noticeable…well worth the money spent (with what amounts to an overall 43% discount on what I was looking at, price-wise, 2 months ago. It ended up costing me the same as a pair of PSA M700’s, however, I would’ve had to have spent at least another AU$2k for a pre-amp to control the M700’s)

    If the difference between the new PSA BHK-600 & the existing PSA BHK-300 is anything like the difference between these two MF integrateds, then I can only assume that the BHK600 will be a well worth the upgrade, depending on your financial priorities.

    I still wont buy anything that is Made in China for the reasons that I have already given in the past.
    MF is manufactured in Taiwan.

    Happy listening folks!

      1. Hi Richard,
        I’m not sure.
        Musical Fidelity’s ‘M6’ series has been in production
        for around a decade now, so it’s quite possible that
        they are coming out with something new soon.

    1. Congrats on the new amps! While I doubt you’ll ever actually push them to their limits (neither would I) the effect you describe is something I’ve been an advocate of for a long time. Big amps just sort of loafing along never being heavily taxed have less distortion and lots of headroom for transients. And at a discount no less.

      Happy listening!

    2. Good morning FR!
      If my membery serves me correctly, the amp you just bought, is the same exact amp on the website of Underwood HIFI, for a little more then 2300USD.
      I don’t really know how true this is, so please don’t hold me to it.
      But I have heard, that some audiophiles, own seasonal stereo systems.
      They will listen to their music on their fully vacuum tubed systems daring the winter months.
      But when summer comes around, then they’ll switch up to their non tubed systems.
      There is one guy that I know in Daytona Beach Florida that owns two systems like the ones I’m talking about.
      He’ll run his Audio Research on his Wilson speakers daring the winter, and his MF daring the summer.
      But now that I’m 23 years older now aposed to how old I was back then, that’s starting to make a lot of sense to me.
      Has anyone on this list played with the Black Ice Audio Sound Stage Expander Bass Booster?
      I wonder if that little box has something to do with making the speakers disappear?

    3. There’s going to be no living with you now FR. And please, don’t reply to us with “SAY WHAT?” or ”HEH?”. Post photos of your listening room walls in two weeks so we can see where the cracks are forming.
      Are you going to put a clear top on the new amp?

      But seriously, hope you get thousands and thousands of hours of Rock and Roll nirvana.

      1. Haha Neil, I can’t crack the walls, as I rent…bad karma 🙂
        My wife might need a beefier set of NC cans though.
        Truth is I now do have heaps more power but because of the
        sonic improvements I don’t actually feel the need to crank it
        beyond what I normally would; maybe even a fraction less (-2dB).
        The bass control & depth is just stunning.
        It sounds/feels like I’ve got subwoofers in the set-up again.
        My floorstanders have really ‘grown a pair’ (on steroids) with the 500i.

      1. As a beginner still, before i spent more than a few hundred dollars,i could get my speakers to disappear and a basic sound stage up to 3g$ including one of Paul’s 300 amps and things are a lot better but not what I hear you guys talk about. No complaints, i have fun. Watched/read hours of acoustic stuff and Pauls book and CD. If we do some home improvement ill have a new room to experiment in, ill think of the things stored there as acoustic treatment! Rock on all.

        1. Hi Phil,
          Just so we’re clear, the 3D holographic imaging that I experienced with my Harbeth loudspeakers back in 1993 was a complete fluke.
          I just set everything up the way that I thought would be sufficient to get a good result from my home audio rig, however, by sheer dumb luck, I had set it up perfectly to experience the elusive 3D holographic soundstage in that particular room.
          Sometimes the Hi-Fi gods smile upon us.

          Rock on indeed my brother in audio 🙂

        2. Phil, If you say your sound is a lot better today than it was when you began, you are on the right path. Remember what we are talking about here is very subjective. One man’s “jaw dropping difference” is another man’s “it sounded a little different, but I’m not sure it sounded better”. I have read reviews of gear and thought to myself I have got to hear this gear. Went to a dealer in NYC that had the gear, listened to the gear and thought to myself this is not a big deal, what was the reviewer thinking! Use what you read in reviews and online to learn what is out there, but always trust your ears as to what sounds best for you.

    4. [Martin: “For those out there who have not as yet experienced the ‘disappearing loudspeakers presentation’ that Paul is describing above, or even better the 3D holographic soundstaging & imaging that is an absolute jaw-dropper, don’t give up yet. I didn’t experience it until I was 33yo & it was akin to a religious experience when it happened…”]

      1980, Wilson Audio in New Orleans, Rogers LS3/5A when I Heard the Magic that 2-channel stereo Promised!!!

      Yep, it Was a religious experience that 41 years later, I can still vividly recall what I heard in that demo room on a beautiful Fall day! The journey to achieve for myself that illusive holographic 3D presentation has been long and bumpy, but well satisfying and worth all the effort! 🙂


    5. FR, Congratulations, I bet that 500i sounds wonderful! With that kind of power we need to start making a short list of speakers that will really rock your world. Let’s see: PS Audio FR30, Magico A5, ……. 😀

    6. Way cool, Mr. Rat. Enjoy! Especially on ‘Rock out Monday’. You may need to reopen negotiations with the neighbors in the building, though.

      “Shakin’ all over!”

  3. It’s worse than that with most conventional speakers:

    Put on something with a trumpet or trombone, preferably in just one channel like “And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat and Tears.

    With almost all conventional speakers you can not only point to the speaker, you can point to the individual DRIVER the sound is coming from. I’ve called this “beaming.”

    The first conventional speakers I heard that did NOT exhibit this behavior were the Vivid Audio oval series and this inability to localize the sound continues on in the Giya series. Vivid’s reps say this is because unlike other makers who use say a soft cone tweeter and paper cone mid, all three of their drivers share the same basic construction and materials.

    Whether that an accurate assessment or not, it’s certainly what I’ve heard.

    Planars seem immune to this, whether (full range) electrostats or ribbons like old Apogees or the spectacular speakers from Alsyvox.

    Give it a try with your favorite speaker: can you not only find the speaker but point to the exact DRIVER?

    It’s truly amazing how often you CAN.

    1. Quad electrostatics have extraordinary spatial qualities that make most conventional boxes sound broken. Unfortunately they have other issues. It is a stated aim of Harbeth to make speakers that image like Quad ESL. I’m not sure it’s possible. In exactly the same position, Wilson image better. I assume it has something to do with Harbeth being soft-wall boxes, and Wilson extremely rigid.

    2. Bill,
      Yup; agreed.
      A lot of the successful illusion coming out of your loudspeakers depends on what was done in the recording & the mixing stage of the recording.

      Also, maybe the reason that you can locate the trumpet coming out of the midrange driver is because the frequencies coming out of said trumpet is mostly in the range of the mid driver & possibly your brain is adept at locating sound direction 🙂

      1. You might think that, and certainly it becomes obvious when the tweeter and mid are different types, but then you hear a speaker like the Vivid Ovals or Giyas where it doesn’t work that way at all.

      2. Amen, thank you Fat Rat for mentioning the recording in the sound studio. That really has a lot to do with sound imaging. I find that out with different recordings from a variety of music groups (i.e. Eric Clapton, Beatles, Eagles, etc.). It’s all about who produced it and how the song was engineered.

  4. Steven brought up a point I often wonder about. ‘Fitting to room size’

    Is there any rule / guidance other than big room big speaker, small room small speaker?

    I’ve got a smaller room and speakers (hybrid Apogee’s) that are taller than the FR30’s, but only about 12in deep. They look out of place in proportion to the room and distance from the wall. Yet with small subs placed right in front of them with DSP control and the room ‘treated’, the speakers easily become transparent.

    In my experience so far, the ‘transparency’ is directly proportional to everyone of the electronics and cables in front of the speakers along with their ability to convey the ‘transparency’. Then of course the recording, and finally (but maybe most importantly), the room along with the set-up.

  5. Sanders Sound Systems Model 10e speaker system can image like nothing else and doesn’t have the reliability issues of the Quads. More people would be very satisfied with this setup if they heard them properly placed in a treated room with the LMS (Loudspeaker Management System) tuned correctly for EQ, crossover and room correction. And they play plenty loud which is a typical shortcoming of ‘stats. They also need lots of power to be “happy”.

  6. Reading the comments posted so far a lightbulb just went off above my head.
    Over the years I remember that when I really wanted to confirm speaker disappearance I would go to my vinyl collection and pull out the Reiner recording of Scheherazade which had the uncanny ability to present the most amazing soundstage that I can remember with any recording that I owned. It seemed like every instrument in the orchestra was so well defined, so palpable that I felt like I was transported to12th Row Center in Chicago Symphony Hall. Next I would play a great solo vocal or solo Cello recording, then a great acoustic Jazz Quartet where the instruments were not falling off the face of the speakers but had depth which translated to a true 3 dimensional experience. That would ease my temporary insecurity from listening to poorly recorded pieces that got me to run that check. I must’ve done this a half dozen times in my listening history.

    Nearfield listening as other people have stated this morning is another really good way to accomplish the disappearing speaker act as well.

    1. I’ve not been to the Chicago Orchestra Hall, but in most of the halls I attended I would close my eyes and try to pinpoint where the players were. You will soon realize it is not that easy. You get primarily the whole reflection pattern from the hall with the direct sound. You never get this exact touch and feel to where each one was.
      It’s even true for violin or piano soloists with orchestra.
      But I never sat in the first ten rows. Which could be different.
      When I listen to classical music at home, I realize I want to get a gestalt location as a laser focus one is artificial.
      For other types of music, location is decided by the engineers and musicians. Sometimes well, sometimes not so appealingly.

    2. I’ve never been to a live stereo performance. You cannot ignore that live performance is as much visual and no recording can replace that. As we go to more ballet, dance and opera than instrumental performance, we rarely see the orchestra.

      We normally sit up front for ballet, usually rows D or E (4 and 5 from the front). It’s not too close and you can see all the detail of the dance movement and acting. Big dramatic operas often 15 rows back. Monday is the opening night of the Covent Garden season, I have middle of row H, mainly because the Cuban-American soprano Lisette Oropesa is returning (after a triumphant Lucia 3 or 4 years ago) as Gilda in Rigoletto.

      Chicago and London are linked by Georg Solti, who was music director at Covent Garden for 10 years before going to Chicago. When he came back to London I saw him conduct the London Philharmonic many times, often sitting behind the orchestra. I can still see him conducting Beethoven 3. He continued to guest at Covent Garden and the last time I saw him was directing Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna in La Traviata, in 1994. My wife requested that show for her 25th birthday present. It is easier to get an audience with the Pope than it was to get those tickets.

      So the obsession with stereo equipment and soundstaging does not bear much relation to my musical experience and enjoyment. Music is music and it doesn’t much matter where it is played. We have a great annual concert series ending this week that takes place in a multi-storey car park.

      1. I did the same thing with my
        Maggie 3.6R’s. After resetting up my system in a new condominium, that’s changed a bit for the better. I’m locked in to a great listening position now and it took quite a bit of time but it was well worth it. Unfortunately, as JosephLG pointed out, that’s only the first step and recordings are the real problem. I just didn’t know how many different ways they could screw up my listening experience. Now I am very particular about my recording purchases and it is not beneath me to return a bad CD or a vinyl especially to Amazon who lie like a race horse with their verified purchases. If I purchase a vinyl recording and look at the reviews, all of them are shown together regardless of whether they are re-issues, CDs, vinyls and MP3’s…. all lumped together so when you read them you’re reading the same reviews and don’t we have any idea which one each reviewer purchased.

        1. stimpy, It happens on forums too. A thread goes up about a new box set that is released in both vinyl and CD. And at least 90% of the comments in the thread never say if they are about the vinyl set or the CD set. Drives you crazy.

          1. Didn’t know that Tony. With Amazon, they can control supposed verified purchases. I really believe they don’t want to and that makes it difficult except for the fact that they take back almost every recording no matter what your reason so I have been sending about 20% of the purchases back to them. I have too much garbage already in my collection to keep jamming more in.

  7. Paul, I’m sure you know that the amount of toe-in is a function of speaker design, not a universal guideline (often recommended?).

    Many years ago I had Vandersteen speakers and Richard recommended pointing them straight ahead rather than using any toe-in. Recently I read a review of a new Klipsch model and the reviewer cautioned against using much toe-in as that resulted in excessive brightness, a not infrequent criticism of Klipsch speakers.

    So yes it can be effective in helping some speakers to disappear, but not all designs.

  8. Vanishing speakers through speaker selection and set up is job one. It is not hard to do. The three-dimensionality of the soundstage is the bigger challenge, and the reason for meticulous setup and discretion in the choice of gear and recordings. From my very first system, I have always been able to make the speakers disappear with speakers that are reasonably balanced in their tonality and true stereo recordings that aren’t just mixes of monophonic information sent exclusively to right or left speakers. If the recording consists of individual tracks each sent exclusively to right or left channels, the speakers will never disappear no matter where you place them, and, except for room reflections, all you will hear are two speakers. But even with a monophonic recording, if the monophonic signal is sent to both speakers simultaneously, the speakers will disappear and the virtual sound image will appear somewhere between the two speakers. The soundstage will have no height, width or depth, but the speakers will disappear. It is not hard to make speakers disappear with most two-channel stereophonic recordings. It is hard to get the image where you want it, and with the right dimensionality to convince you its real.

    1. I’m going to print out your comment JosephLG. You seem to have the ability to bring all of the necessary information about certain recording techniques being used into the picture so as to remind people like me not to get crazy when listening to so many iffy recordings and the much smaller percentage that project exemplary sound. Well done!!

      1. That’s right. Use only the best stereophonic recordings to setup and tweak, and then just relax and enjoy all the crappily mixed recordings that still can bring joy. Sometimes the extreme counterpoint of bad or intentionally bifurcated recordings can be fun too. Like watching a tennis or ping-pong match. LOL

  9. I played my system for my mother a little while ago, she hadn’t really sat down and listened to a good system. She was really enjoying it, played a song she liked (Shallow) and she said she never heard it like that before. At the end of the song, I explained some of the equipment, then she asked what those big panels were for. She had been listening to my Carver Amazings without realizing where the sound was coming from at all. Dipoles are fun!

        1. Much of my equipment is used too, and an accumulation over many years. No matter how little I pay for something, my mother, who was probably older than yours, would think it is expensive. She used to complain about the price of a loaf of bread, so I was not about to tell her how much I paid for my audio gear. She probably would think she DID raise a fool. LOL

          1. I was raised by my grandparents who would be 110 now. So I’m all too familiar with being frugal. And never frugal enough. My wife hates it but that’s why i could retire early.

  10. Morning all. 2 somewhat related comments.
    So much comes down to the recording. For example, I was listening to a pisno trio record yesterday. With my eyes closed I could practically “see” the trio in front of me and how they were “set up” on stage. One problem. As a lifelong professional pianist, I noticed that they would NEVER actually never up like that. The piano would have been open to the bass player and drummer, not the audience. LOL. Gotta wonder what the engineer was thinking.
    The other thing, re toe in. I use almost none with my Maggies. However I also have Goldenear Triton 1s and Sandy says LOTS of toe and basically as far apart as you can get them.
    Happily back home after evacuating from Ida.

  11. Lets See…Small dedicated quasi near-field music room (90sf), stand monitor bandwidths matched to within 1db, 5 degree “toe-out” wide dispersion monitor placements, HP/LP @ 50Hz, natural room decor sound absorption/diffraction properties, carefully matched source/control/power/cabling components and 95% high end acoustical source recordings-all yields a flat 18Hz to 28K Hz in room response…seems to be a well balanced 2.1 channel audio setup! Yep, All Boxes Checked Here!!

    Well, what all the above actually translates to for Me is a breathtaking, eye wandering, emotional gasping, jaw dropping, teary eyed, exclamations=Total Speaker Disappearances! As Streamin Steven stated 2 days ago, “happy with what I got (a sound stage to get lost in)”!!! 😉


  12. Hi Secret. So true about the recordings being a key driver of perceived soundstage. I was thinking that in a music hall one typically cannot tell exactly where the sound of an instrument note is coming from, due to room surface reflections and diffusions, yet many of us want to be able to isolate the virtual instruments in our listening rooms.

    My room is large enough with so many multi-angled reflective surfaces that when I play my piano or organ, from several feet away you can’t tell where the note sound is coming from. Live typically involves being surrounded and enveloped by sound rather hearing instrument notes solely as point sources. With my main audio system sometimes I get up out of the listening chair and move farther away from the speakers to other areas of the room to sense that enveloping sound more characteristic of a big hall. That is part of the fun of audio, listening from different positions, hearing recordings in different ways. You can even reverse the channels and listen to an orchestral piece with the violins on the right and trumpets on the left. It’s like looking at one of your paintings in the mirror–a new perspective that reveals things you might not have noticed before.

  13. My speakers completely disappear with no toe-in. So much so, that it becomes annoying when some recording engineer places an instrumental solo exactly in line with the speaker…which blows the illusion.

  14. When this topic repeatedly occurs, I get repeatedly confused what we’re talking about.

    We want disappearing speakers…correct…but what mainly makes speakers disappear?

    I’d say, unless we talk of a really bad setup really badly placed, it’s mainly the mix.

    Sure, a better setup (equipment and placement and room treatment) produces a more convincing soundstage, better separated from the speakers and partly pulling sounds usually occuring in one speaker a bit around or behind it, but even with an ideal setup, a vintage pingpong stereo recording comes out of the two speakers and a recording where a cymbal is mixed right into one channel appears so.

    Too many recordings have too many sounds still mixed close to one or both channels.

    People should not believe they can noticably solve this by buying better gear or fiddling with placement or room acoustic treatments.

    If we talk about achieving holographic imaging instead of talking about sounds directly (or not) out of the speakers, I’m with the content of today’s post.

    How colorations or harshness should affect localization of sound from the speakers, is a miracle to me. It’s a completely different topic imo, which, if solved with cabling or different gear, means…this choice then very probably is not optimal in other regards than tonality.

    1. [Jazznut: We want disappearing speakers…correct…but what mainly makes speakers disappear? I’d say, unless we talk of a really bad setup really badly placed, it’s mainly the mix.

      Sure, a better setup (equipment and placement and room treatment) produces a more convincing soundstage, better separated from the speakers and partly pulling sounds usually occuring in one speaker a bit around or behind it, but even with an ideal setup, a vintage pingpong stereo recording comes out of the two speakers and a recording where a cymbal is mixed right into one channel appears so….

      If we talk about achieving holographic imaging instead of talking about sounds directly (or not) out of the speakers, I’m with the content of today’s post….]


      All great points!

      If it Isn’t in the recorded source, then it Won’t be in your music playback disappearing act, no matter the synergistic or investment level of your listening room + components!! 😉

  15. Lirpa Labs is pleased to announce the Romulan BoP loudspeakers with 3rd generation cloaking technology for improved sonic disrupt. . ., ehr, high frequency response while engaged. The ultimate in disappearing loudspeakesrs. Literally.

  16. In my experience very large speakers disappear as well as small ones placed on stands when one closes his or her eyes. and when that happens even the very large speakers simply become another piece of furniture. One can see them but pay no attention to them all because the sound stage is all that grabs one’s attention. Regards.

  17. I have five speakers disappearing my room. My two stereo speakers and three subs. It took a bit of doing, but the result is so so good. And always fun to introduce the uninitiated music lover to the experience. Crazy fun hobby…

  18. After reading some of the comments here I tried earlier today to focus on hearing the speakers and not having them disappear. It’s really hard to do once you have tweaked the positioning of the speakers so they do disappear.

  19. Real musical instruments are locatable. This means that 100% accurate reproduction is also a locatable source – except we try to shoehorn all the musical sources into two speakers. Then if we can locate the speakers, the “stereo image” collapses. I am certain of this, because I make speakers that mimic the acoustic size and shape of the various instruments, the closest approximations to date – and they do not image, there is no illusion that the sound comes from anywhere other than the speaker.

    My cello speakers sound like a cello to cellists, my violin speakers sound like violins to violinists and my guitar speakers sound like (acoustic) guitars to guitarists. You can point to the speakers blindfolded to the same degree you can for the original sound. BUT, try to playback a mixed mono multi-track through these speakers and there is a hole in the middle – just as when two violins are located at a 60° angle you don’t hear one violin in the center.

    90% of three dimensional information in acoustically generated sound waves comes from HRTF (head related transfer functions) and triangulating room reflections. So why do audiophiles hear “soundstage” in recordings that only have IALD (inter-aural level difference) information?

    1. Because speakers have evolved to have significant amounts of time distortion (cepstral distortion). This screws up the phase and timing of waves bouncing around the room so you don’t have a good triangulation reference to locate the speaker.

    2. Speakers have evolved to have wildly uneven response off axis. This ensures that your brain can’t correlate the reflections in your listening room accurately to locate the speakers.

    3. Audiophiles usually listen in untreated or mistakenly treated rooms. This acts synergistically with the speaker flaws (1) and (2) to create a soundfield that is impossible in an acoustic world.

    4. Audiophiles spend thousands of hours listening to mixed and mastered mono multi-tracks through their systems. Their brain is desperately seeking order in this tempero-spatial chaos, and eventually creates a delusion to relieve the cognitive dissonance. Note that EVERY knob and digital function in mixing and mastering studios causes compounding distortion of time and space. Audiophiles prefer a chain where their system tempero-spatial distortions mask all others so their brain can find patterns and learn to recognize them consistently.

    So the disappearance of speakers is an analogous effect to the courtiers seeing the Emperor’s New Clothes – suggestive delusion and cognitive cloaking.

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