Let me propose a thought experiment.
Imagine you had a small acoustic trio playing in your living room: singer, stand up bass, small jazz drum kit. This ensemble is positioned a few feet from the wall behind them. You and your spouse are seated perhaps twelve feet away. What a great experience.
But, wait! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to capture this once-in-a-lifetime event? Let’s set up separate left and right mics spaced a few feet apart and point them straight at the performers, then crank up the recorder.
Once our imaginary recording is completed we want to listen to the results, so we replace the microphones with loudspeakers in the exact same position (though now facing the listeners), and turn the system on.
If we’ve managed to do a good job we’ll hear a duplicate of our live experience. The trio will be positioned behind the loudspeakers (because that’s where they were) and it will sound as if nothing has changed.
This thought experiment hopefully demonstrates a couple of things: why the soundstage should appear behind the loudspeakers and imaging’s critical role generating a believable facsimile of a live event.
If we get sound to detach from our speakers, attain proper height, depth, width, and separation of the players, then we can say we have good imaging—the single most important element in achieving a suspension of disbelief. Is it live or recorded? to paraphrase a memorable ad campaign.
What’re the secrets to achieving good imaging? Take a moment to watch this short video on making room for speakers to breathe.