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How do you differentiate between soundstage width and depth and accurate imaging?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by Tacanacy, May 26, 2017.
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  1. gregorio
    For me, what's happened here has got nothing to do with the etiquette of any particular forum but much more fundamentally, what is science and therefore what constitutes "scientific". A basic understanding of what science is, would instantly end the majority of snake oil abuse of audiophiles. Gunwale stated "I think there is only a fine line between marketing gimmick and science.", there are certainly examples of this but generally no, there is not a "fine line" between marketing gimmick and science. It only appears like a fine line if you've got absolutely no idea what science is and in that case the fine line is arbitrary, because it can't be based on anything more than who's got the most impressive looking marketing and/or herd mentality.

  2. ev13wt
    Correct, but there is quite "set in stone" method on how to debate as well. You simply don't jump in and start blabing :)

    Gunwale stated "I think there is only a fine line between marketing gimmick and science."
    I have been wanting to comment that for days. I agree the "fine line" is only small if one is "pretty new" to the scene.

    The line between science and marketing in audio is a fking huge grand canyon. Most consumers cannot even see the other side currently!
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2017
  3. bigshot
    If you keep replying, he'll probably come back and you can play with him again.
    ev13wt likes this.
  4. castleofargh Contributor
    science should be based on repeatable evidence and on lasting failure to disprove a falsifiable idea. that's how we get our models of reality, and they last until new information makes us reconsider.
    marketing is mostly about a guy asking his legal department "can we get sued for telling that lie?".

    anyway here we had a mix of issues.
    1/ adapting a definition of soundstage however we like. that certainly didn't make communication easy.
    2/ dealing with a subjective impression while keeping an objective approach to it. impressions of a direction or the reverb of a room when using headphones can very much change from one subject to the other. but also those impressions come from sound, and sound does follow specific objective rules. so while discussing impressions isn't always bounded by science, what a headphone does is strictly within objective reality. jumping from one side to the other also made it hard for me to discuss without disagreeing.
    3/ failing to pick a reference that can really be used before making comparisons. here we started with comparisons of feelings like we're in front of a band or with the band. while it's easy to imagine, it's a made up reference unless I was in the room with the band while they were recording that album. but I wasn't so that reference doesn't exist for me and of course any claim about how realistic something is will lead nowhere objective when even the reference is a made up subjective construct.
  5. bigshot
    The big problem is replying without really listening.
  6. gregorio
    1. To me, "sound-stage" is one of the easier audiophile terms to comprehend/define. A "stage" has a left and a right, a front and a back, just as any decent stereo mix should have. Maybe I'm missing something?
    2. That's a massive problem in audiophilia. Some aspects of the creation and reproduction of music/audio content are entirely objective, some are entirely subjective and some are a combination of both, as you say, an objective approach to "subjective impressions". It seems to me that many audiophiles are almost completely ignorant of this, either viewing the whole thing as entirely subjective or not having any idea which aspects are/should be objective, which subjective and which subjective but approached objectively. The audiophile world would be a very different place if audiophiles knew the basics of which is which.

    Often but not always, or rather, it can depend on the level of education. Two examples to demonstrate my point:

    1. Audiophile cables. One doesn't need a degree in electrical engineering to realise the psuedo-scientific claims made by many are nonsense, just a basic understanding of how science works is enough, because scientific claims require testing/experimentation, reliable data and data analysis and cable retailers never back up their claims with reliable data, just cherry picked anecdotes, reviews or nothing at all.

    2. MQA on the other hand has far more sophisticated marketing, they've taken pretty much the opposite approach to the cable industry and provided a great deal of real scientific data. The line here between science and marketing is much finer or rather, it's still quite a big gap but one needs a high level of education/knowledge of a number of different fields to be able to work it out. A number/Most of MQA's claims are nonsense not because of the lack or quality of their supporting evidence but because there are other factors (which they've omitted) which make that supporting evidence inapplicable to the specific claim in question. Their marketing has been carefully planned and executed over many years by scientists! The average consumer and even the well informed audiophile is going to have great difficulty spotting that "huge grand canyon". I don't mind admitting that while some of MQA's claims jumped out at me instantly as BS, quite a few of them had me scratching my head, following up references and doing further research.

    ev13wt likes this.
  7. Kdubbs82
    It’s unrealistic to expect live soundstaging in headphones. However, spacial clarity With instruments and vocals let’s our brains clarify all that’s happening in a mix. This is what I think people mean when they say soundstage with headphones. But too much destroys clarity and too little doesn’t allow the mix room to breathe.
  8. N00bAudiophile
    I feel this discussion from almost 2 years ago is not finished yet. So let me add :)

    I think sound stage is like you are standing in a circle where the “instruments” are spread across from the center hence a VIRTUAL RADIUS.

    While imaging is how much VIRTUAL ANGLE your line of sight center to the sound source the Sound Engineer intend you to hear.

    It is virtual because a speaker or headphones can only replicate the sound radius & angle. The degree of accuracy depend on how the sound engineer mix the monaural audio. I believe it is a pretty complicated thing.

    For a starter, a weak sound contrast means further hence greater radius from center. It must be contrasted to a louder sound. That’s how the sound engineer emulate depth or radius.

    When there are several backing vocal to a music, a Sound Engineer may place several backing vocals versus a fixed main vocal and spread them to create a sense of separation. Hence the angle of imaging is created.

    There are several techniques to create a sense of depth and stereophonic location, even using 2 speakers with a subwoofer in two dimensional space or simple stereo headphones can do the trick of us hearing things from above or below you.

    A sound’s image engineered for speakers is not appropriate to listen on headphones. And vice versa.

    The Beatles’ Sergeant Peppers engineered for stereo speakers. The imaging would be bad if played in headphones.

    If a modern music/games is designed for headphones, you can still hear it on speakers but it would be in a weird imaging position.

    The only thing to remember is now people mix to use in a 5.1 or even 7.1 or Atmos environment. Mixing Dolby for headphones is different from Dolby for speakers.

    A nice article about creating stereophonic imaging in headphones.


    You can now even mix surround 5.1 on a regular stereo headphone. No need for a specialty room with real surround setup. :)

    Last edited: Jun 16, 2019
  9. bigshot
    Headphone mixes are usually specified as headphone mixes. The vast majority of commercial music is mixed for speakers. I've got a 5.1 speaker system and I've heard 5.1 headphone mixes and it isn't the same thing at all.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2019
    N00bAudiophile likes this.
  10. audiorrorist
    This right here!
  11. N00bAudiophile
  12. gregorio
    1. That's not really what you are supposed to hear. What you are supposed to hear can be better described as like you being in the audience in say a concert hall, with a stage in front of you. This stage has width, a left and right, and also depth, a front and a back, where a performer at the front of the stage will be closer to you and a performer at the back of the stage will be further away. However, this analogy isn't entirely accurate, for example unlike a real stage, the "stage" in a music/sound mix can have almost infinite depth, although typically, music mixes don't employ/use as much of that available depth as sound mixes. Your analogy appears to use "radius" as the depth (front/back) of the stage and "angle" as the width (left/right).

    2. Technically, speakers or headphones cannot replicate either left/right or front/back, it's all effectively an illusion. The illusion of left/right positioning in the stereo image is achieved by varying the amount of sound energy routed to each of the speakers. For example, if the sound energy is routed entirely to the left speaker the sound will appear to be in front of you, at the left most extreme position of the "stage", while if the energy is routed equally to both speakers it will appear to be in the exact centre of the "stage" and if the energy is routed say 75% to the left speaker and 25% to the right, it will appear to be halfway between the centre and left most "stage" positions. This aspect of the stereo image is not a "complicated thing" in fact it couldn't be simpler, it's called "panning" and the sound engineer controls it with a "pan pot", a simple knob. This can be done with a high degree of precision because modern digital mixers typically divide this panning into about 200 steps (100% left to 100% right). Depth on the other hand is trickier because it is entirely dependant on the perception of distance, which has several factors, all of which are relative rather than absolute. A distant version of the same sound will be quieter, will have less high frequency content and will have a greater ratio of reverb (sound reflections) to direct sound. "Stage" depth therefore doesn't have a simple, single control but is controlled by a combination of different tools, fader for volume, EQ for frequency content and reverb for sound reflections. In addition, compression is a front/back control, more compression will add to the perception of the sound being nearer the front of the "stage" (closer to you).

    3. This isn't really correct. Hearing things from above or below (the vertical plane) is extremely variable from person to person, depending on their individual pinnae. We can't create a perception of the vertical plane on a commercial mix designed for speakers and even with headphones, it's very hit and miss and therefore typically not attempted.

    4. Generally that is at least somewhat true, although most music recordings/mixes, particularly more recent ones, are not exclusively engineered for speakers. Therefore, even though the imaging would be different on HPs, it might not be "inappropriate".
    4a. If you're talking about the original mix, then probably. Stereo mixing in the 1960's was rather rudimentary compared to what was possible in the 1980's.
    4b. Yes, IF it were designed exclusively for headphone playback.

    5. As far as I'm aware, no one creates commercial mixes for Dolby Headphones.

    6. Again, not really. In theory it's possible but in practice it doesn't work very well. A surround mix created on headphones will translate unpredictably to an actually surround sound system. This is why all the very expensive, multi-million dollar surround mixing facilities haven't ceased trading!

    Without wishing to sound too harsh or discourage your participation, the Sound Science forum isn't the right forum to post your impressions and suppositions of sound/music engineering as facts. If you don't know or are not sure, by all means ask.

    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
    N00bAudiophile likes this.
  13. bigshot
    The recent Kraftwerk Catalogue blu-ray had Atmos, 7.1, Stereo and Dolby Headphone Surround mixes. Headphone surround mixes are becoming more common on blu-rays with surround mixes. It doesn't work particularly well though.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2019
    N00bAudiophile likes this.
  14. gregorio
    1. As far as I'm aware, no one has actually created the Dolby Headphone Surround mix, it's been generated from the Atmos or 7.1 mix. There maybe exceptions, but not as far as I know.
    2. I've yet to hear headphone surround mixes that are convincing. It may work for some people, some of the time but without the individual headphone response and individual HRTFs, it's always going to be hit or miss and it usually translates rather poorly to an actual 5.1 surround speaker setup.

    N00bAudiophile likes this.
  15. bigshot
    I think Dolby is just starting to promote some sort of headphone surround format. The one on the Kraftwerk box has a special logo and everything. It might just be some sort of fold down, but it does sound different than the regular stereo version.
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