Gaz38

Soundstage

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This is a topic I find intriguing and for me one that is pretty pivotal in this hobby

Soundstage is an illusion, this an undeniable fact whether we like it or not. 

That being the case doesn't it stand to reason that how individuals hear and/or interpret music can't be exactly the same? 

We probably all agree that, on a decent system, the music doesn't sound as though it's coming out of two boxes (although it obviously is) as this is nothing more than illusion created by our imagination. If you're with me so far isn't it likely that different people might hear different things on the same track played on the same system 

In an attempt to prove my point I've set the following challenge on 3 hifi forums and several chat groups but, so far, with little success-- Name a track that is freely available on streaming service, then state where you believe a certain instrument is placed in the "soundstage" (made up example - Bruce Springstee, Born to Run, bass guitar is left of centre and slightly behind the singer) and see if most people agree. 

As I said I've tried this several times and very few people seem willing to play along. 

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It is an illusion, of course, but one that some equipment makes a seriously better job of than others. There are a mixture of things responsible and if you look up '3D sound' you'll get some clues about how it can be made to work to somewhat extremes.

The problem (if you want to call it a problem) I think is that there are so many (too many) factors that influence it. The version of the specific track you play, the equipment, the listening room, etc. The 'human factor' is only one thing that will or could be different.

I know that my system is very good at this 'trick', but then I've chosen and worked to achieve that,  because this is one of the aspects that is important to me.

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It is purely imaginary ... an illusion. But once you say bass guitar is left of centre and slightly behind the singer ... you may be moving into the realms of hallucination.

I personally find it hard to believe a 2 channel system actually will create such a sonic 3D effect.

Sound stage with depth ... yes. Singer sounds a bit forward or further back ... yes. Bass guitarist is to left ... yes. But to left and slightly behind the singer? It’s a bass guitar ... 

I may be totally wrong. If I am, do explain to me the science behind it, in a layman’s way.

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5 minutes ago, AntA said:

Perhaps it is a bit like vision but with sound?

42439_xl.jpg

I’m no sound professor but if one wants to say that as an analogy then there must be something in the recording that creates a time delay between the bass and singer so that the bass is behind the singer. 

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Just now, tIANcI said:

I’m no sound professor but if one wants to say that as an analogy then there must be something in the recording that creates a time delay between the bass and singer so that the bass is behind the singer. 

Depth in a stereo mix is given by adjusting the level, adding dynamic compression to each individual track, a pinch of reverb and perhaps a tad of high frequency roll-off.

In most recordings the soundstage is fabricated.

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55 minutes ago, Gaz38 said:

Soundstage is an illusion, this an undeniable fact whether we like it or not. 

That being the case doesn't it stand to reason that how individuals hear and/or interpret music can't be exactly the same? 

Whilst it is an illusion it is one that is formed as a result of how human auditory perception works, and as such is essentially universal.

It's not like one person might 'imagine' a bass drum to be further away than a lead singer whilst another might listen to the same recording and 'imagine' the drum to be in front of the singer.

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2 minutes ago, MartinC said:

Whilst it is an illusion it is one that is formed as a result of how human auditory perception works, and as such is essentially universal.

It's not like one person might 'imagine' a bass drum to be further away than a lead singer whilst another might listen to the same recording and 'imagine' the drum to be in front of the singer.

Correct.

Though some equipment or systems "exaggerate" 3D-ness more than others. 

P.S. Even rooms have an impact...

Edited by tuga

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Real stereo, music recorded with a pair mics, can only create a soundstage between the two speakers and will only produce phantom sources (instruments) left to right and front to back, it won't provide vertical information.

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I think most people think that soundstage is real. However as the OP says if you name a particular track is there consensus on the position of the instruments and singers. I don't think there is as people hear different frequencies at different levels. It would be an interesting experiment.

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Studio mixes use a mono mic for each instrument. Location of each is instrument is concocted in the mixing desk. This allows the soundstage to expand beyond the space between the two speakers.

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2 minutes ago, AntA said:

I think most people think that soundstage is real. However as the OP says if you name a particular track is there consensus on the position of the instruments and singers. I don't think there is as people hear different frequencies at different levels. It would be an interesting experiment.

The recreation of a soundstage is an effect.

It can be reasonably realistic when using coincident or near-coincident stereo mic'ing techniques, or fabricated/invented by the engineer in a stereo mix.

Edited by tuga

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Stereo mixes don't capture any room cues because the instruments and vocals are close mic'ed and recorded in a near-anechoic environment.

Reverb and delay are added to create depth and a sense of venue acoustics.

Edited by tuga

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Just now, tuga said:

The recreation of a soundstage is an effect.

It can be realistic when using coincident or near- stereo mic'ing, or fabricated/invented by the engineer in a stereo mix.

Yes, but the point is would there be consensus on positioning on a given track. Perhaps there may be if everyone listened on the same system I don't know but people perceive sound differently. 

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There have been a number of threads recently where people have been discussing that the soundstage is an illusion as if this is somehow odd or even a bad thing, which confuses me. The whole concept of music reproduction in the home is an illusion (we don't have the performers in the room!) but thankfully one that we all enjoy :).

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