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What is the obsession with soundstage?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I just posted this in the high end forum in reply that someone thought soundstaging is the most important aspect of music reproduction:


I do not get the obsession with soundstage on headphones. An extra few mm of space around the head is nothing like the 3d space a good speaker system. I have the HD800, and i love the "air" at the top end of the spectrum, but it doesn't give a realistic representation of the 3d placement of musicians like two well positioned and tuned speaker can. Even so, the speaker representation is an illusion anyway. Try listening to a acoustic band and your ears will not necessarily place them accurately with your eyes closed.

I feel strongly the most important aspect of musical reproduction is the emotional message. This is carried by tambre (how delicately or forcefully a string is struck), key changes, harmonic interrelations, and most of all intonation (the rhythmic interplay between passages and musicians). Soundstage is a fascinating phenomenon, while alludes to resolution, but I cannot count it as an important characteristic of musical reproduction.

It is wonderful the first time you sit in front of a pair of electrostatics and hear acoustics from 15m behind your rear wall, but that is just pleasant acoustic pyrotechnics, and pales when you hear the interplay between the piano and double bass when Oscar Peterson toys with the rhythm, or pink floyd teasing at what comes next.

Am I missing something? Enlighten me.
post #2 of 6

I don't care for an especially wide soundstage, as I agree that it often sounds artificial. But the sense of air and instrument separation (which generally comes along with soundstage) can really enhance the listening experience- I'm one of those analytical listeners that give my full attention to the music and love to focus on individual instruments/layers.

 

I will admit though, with a closed-back headphone like the W3000ANV I don't miss wide soundstage at all.

post #3 of 6

If soundstage isn't important, than there would be no market for open headphones.

 

But untill music is done with binaural recording, i don't think the soundstage is used optimally for headphones.

post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ubs28 View Post

If soundstage isn't important, than there would be no market for open headphones.

But untill music is done with binaural recording, i don't think the soundstage is used optimally for headphones.

I agree generally. However i think open headphones have qualities beyond just soundstaging. The lack of rear cabinet helps reduce colouration and energy storage.

I'm not against soundstaging. I'm just curious as to why it seems such a priority here over and above musicallity.
post #5 of 6

For me, soundstage comes along with a sense of realism in what I'm listening to. If the headphones sound congested, it sounds wrong and it's a distraction. That's a reason why I really like my ATH-W1000X sometimes. They are forgiving and still sound good.

post #6 of 6

After doing some testing with my IEM vs Open Headphone, I find it really depends on the music. For jazz and classical music,  soundstage is very important. For Modern pop, hiphop and dance music, soundstage isn't very important. 

 

Since most people listen to modern pop music, I don't understand the obsession about soundstage either (unless everybody listens to jazz or classic music on this forum for some strange reason).


Edited by ubs28 - 10/22/13 at 6:32am
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