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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Maybe I'm not an audiophile, or maybe I have strange tastes, but I can't figure out why people feel that "imaging" is so important. It may be that I just don't understand what it really is. My understanding is that if speakers have good imaging, you can sort of picture in your head where the musicians are who are singing, playing an instrument, etc. while you listen to the music. Is that right?


If that's it, then I can see why that's a little bit interesting, but from my perspective, how the music SOUNDS, things like detail, clarity, dynamics, soundstage (which I think is sort of how "big" the music sounds, as opposed to loud - but I'd love to be corrected on that one too if I'm wrong) are far, far more important to me. If it sounds amazing, then whether the vocals sound like they are coming from 3 feet off the ground or 9 feet off the ground makes no difference to me.


A saleperson at a store the other day was trying to convince me that the $8000 per pair KEFs were worth that much money because they had the "best imaging he had ever heard." That was the primary quality distinguishing them from other speakers costing much less (they did sound amazing, just not that much more amazing than speakers half that price in my opinion). I just don't get why it would be worth a lot more money if two speakers sounded exactly the same as far as quality of sound, and one had much better imaging.


I know that everyone will say "everyone has individual tastes to of course to you it's not worth the money" and I understand that, which is why I bought speakers that don't have the greatest imaging according to true audiophiles (although the imaging sounds, or is it "looks", pretty good to me), but have fantastic sound to my ears for my tastes when playing the music that I listen to.


But I'm wondering 2 things. First, am I missing something? Is imaging more than that or is it significant in some way that I'm not understanding?

And second, am I alone in this belief that imaging is not a particularly big deal woth paying a lot of money for?


Thanks for any insight.
 

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You got the speakers that sounded the best to you. That is all that matters. Yes imaging is a great thing for some of us. The whole point of a good system for music is to feel like you are there. Not to feel like something is being reproduced.


A nice chewy big red wine is what I like. I like to pick certain characteristics out of the wine itself. Some people are just happy with the results of drinking. (not saying that's a bad thing :D). Same thing I think. I like to compare the whole audiophile thing to wine. I think they have a lot in common. Some people are fine with a BOX of wine (bose owners) and others can't be happy unless they can pick out what kind of barrel was used for the wine's storage (high end audio guys).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The wine analogy is excellent. I never thought of that one before. I think I fall somewhere inbetween. I don't like box wine or bose speakers, but I seem to hit a point of diminishing return where I don't get very much more out of really expensive wines than I do out of good quality wines that are moderately priced, and the same seems to be true with speakers.


I ended up with a pair of Def tech 2000tls (the last pair of floor models were sold to me for 1/2 price now that they are discontinued - that was a pretty good deal really, $1500 for the pair), which when toed in properly have a decent enough image for my tastes, and sound great with all kinds of music, great clarity, and particularly big soundstage, which to me sounds great. I find the tweeters to very much emulate the sound of a live performance as opposed to a reproduction. They are pretty revealing too, even a little too revealing for the recordings of my old band.


I will say that upgrading to decent separates over a mid-line AV receiver made a very big difference, too. I was always skeptical that it would make a big difference and then proved myself wrong in a big way. I'll never go back now.
 

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Cardinalfreak,


you seem to distinguish somehow between soundstage and imaging. I have always thought that the two somehow went hand in hand. To me, the larger (wider) the soundstage, the easier it is to perceive and pick out the location of individual instruments. When the soundstage is small (narrow) is makes it difficult to identify instruments and voices spatially, because they all sound packed on top of one another.


While I dont' think that the two terms mean exactly the same thing to me, I've never auditioned a set of speakers where one showed up without the other.


my .02,

David
 

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I am not sure how one separates soundstage from imaging -- I thought having a soundstage was the result of imaging. Speakers which image well sound more natural to me. I don't like speakers which I can point to where the music is coming from. If I can point out the source of the sound, I hear something wrong in its reproduction (it's almost like the speaker is squawking at me). I also rely on the imaging of my main speakers to create a phantom center when I watch movies alone or with one guest, which I feel is superior to a real center channel.



Edit: -- David -- I was on the phone while posting this and you beat me to the punch :).
 

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i also tend to think that imaging goes hand in hand with clarity and detail and is completed with a nice soundstage


once you have those traits in spades, it creates the effect of "imaging" that we hear since the imaging is only heard since its in the stereo recording


so i guess good imaging is also a way to re-create what was recorded more accurately


correct me if i'm wrong somewhere, had 2 horus of sleep
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by cardinalfreak



If that's it, then I can see why that's a little bit interesting, but from my perspective, how the music SOUNDS, things like detail, clarity, dynamics, soundstage (which I think is sort of how "big" the music sounds, as opposed to loud - but I'd love to be corrected on that one too if I'm wrong) are far, far more important to me.
Great subject. Many audiophiles and reviewers have gone on record saying imaging/staging is the single MOST important thing a speaker can do. This is clearly a matter of priorities. I disagree, however, for my own personal use. I think accuracy and detail/clarity (lack of distortion) are more important. But, my opportunities to listen in the sweet spot are rare (family, kids, remodeling, etc). Also potentially important are dynamic range and depth of bass. I say potentially because the needs for both of these depends on the individual.


However, imaging is essentially allows the speaker to "disappear" and you can forget (or try to) that you're listening to a reproduction. I think imaging becomes a little more important even with movies. You want all speakers to disappear if possible. And, since you will be seated and riveted, you'll get the opportunity to enjoy it. So, all things being equal, good imaging is the icing on the cake. Is it worth paying a LOT extra for? Not really. A used pair of Spica TC50s or Near 10Ms will cost you $200 and they image as well as any speakers I've heard. And better than some that cost $10K. I worked at a quasi-high-end store way back that had all the affordable speakers on a switcher, about 15 pair of them up to $1500/pr. You could always tell when the Spicas were playing because you couldn't point to which speakers were on and what row they were on. A lot of speakers can't do that today, including some that are acclaimed for their imaging (maybe my ears are shaped funny).


Interestingly, a lot of audiophile speakers companies go on and on about their imaging for music, then give you a poorly matched center channel which ruins the imaging on 5.1 material. It's like "we're REALLY serious about this.....well, 50% of the time, anyway". :) In any case, I try to find speakers that do a lot of things well rather than speakers that do one or two things very well and others so-so. I mean, once you spend over about $5K, you should be able to have everything done well to very well. That includes imaging. But a cake that consists only of icing is not a cake.
 

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All I can say is that I used to wonder why people bought "hi-fi" systems when you could hear music on a good transitor radio.


That was in 1968.


Now in 2003 and $big dollars$ later, I have $6500 speakers and $3500 amps.


All you need to know is that you only need to get what "you" like, and like the sound of.


But, be prepared for that to change.


Your very questions will lead you to reach out for the "Holy Grail", if it is but only to your ears.


Satifaction will either be attained or sought.


Enjoy,


John
 

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soundstage = breadth


imaging = pinpoint localization of sounds
 

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Tom understands it more or less like I do.


Soundstage = Perceived space


Imaging = Perceived location of sound sources.


Both can be improved on any system and, contrary to the general sentiment, the location of the speakers is more important than the speakers themselfs. However, it is true that small speakers, like bookshelf's, can do a better job on both areas because their size often makes them stiffer, so they are less prone to sound artifacts (due to cabinet resonances) that mess up the imaging. Their location (if used on stands) can be closer to the center of the room, improving the sensation of space due to room reflections.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by cardinalfreak


If that's it, then I can see why that's a little bit interesting, but from my perspective, how the music SOUNDS, things like detail, clarity, dynamics, soundstage (which I think is sort of how "big" the music sounds, as opposed to loud - but I'd love to be corrected on that one too if I'm wrong) are far, far more important to me.
cardinalfreak,


The degree to which a speaker images is indicative to the degree to which it is not distorting the signal.


The characteristics of detail, clarity, dynamics, that you mention, plus phase - are all part of the clues that our

ears / brain use in order to localize sounds.


Imaging is therefore a more severe test of a speaker than the properties you mention alone. If a speaker muddies

the detail and clarity, or it gets the dynamics wrong - it is messing up some of the sonic clues that help the ears/brain

construct the sonic image.


Additionally, if the speaker distorts phase information - while not affecting detail or clarity - it can affect the

perception of the sonic image.


If a speaker system is doing its job properly - it ideally should sound as if the musicians were right in front of you.

If the musicians truly were in front of you - then you would be able to discern the sonic image.


Therefore, imaging makes for a quite strict test of a speaker system. If it doesn't image well - then it is just

not reproducing the same soundfield [ or approximation thereto ] as if you had the real musicians there.
 

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If both speakers behave almost equally then it doesn't matter if they muddies some details or the dynamics are wrong. The imaging has to do more with how much information is available for each speaker and how this information interacts with the room. Now, if the differences between our two speakers are greater then they will be incapable of sustain an stable imaging.


I'm a newbie regarding phase, it is a very complex subject, but my guess is, that again, if our two speakers manage the phase within certain boundaries in respect to each other then the image they will be able to make will be stable and realistic (or not).


One last thing. I think that all the imaging stuff is more related to speakers location and the recording we are listening than to the speakers themselfs, unless we are dealing with dipoles or bipoles or other technologies.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
This is all really fascinating to me and I appreciate everyone's thoughts. I'm still not sure I understand it exactly (it appears more complicated than I first thought) but I understand a lot more than when I started all of this.


Bottom line: I'm very happy with my speakers, whether they image well or not. I listened to Abbey Road last night after my wife and kids went to bed (there's enough separation in the house for me to crank it up pretty good) for the first time on my new speakers, and it just blew me away as it never has before. So much more detail and crispness in the high end than I've ever heard before. Great stuff.


I love this hobby (or is it more of an obsession?)
 

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I guess I am not at all a person who wishes my stereo system reproduces a sound like live music.


I want great sound, which may well include good imaging, et al. But I don't want a concert hall or anything like it in my living room.


Mark
 

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With the same speakers (Energy C-9's), and all other things being equal, would upgrading from an economical receiver (Marantz SR-6300) to a higher end unit (Marantz SR-8200) improve imaging and soundstage?


If yes, will the effect "wow" me?
 

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The two things that will make a difference in imaging first are foremost are the speaker and the acoustics of the room. Changing your receiver won't help much.
 

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I think when audiophiles rave about imaging, it is with 2 channel music, and then music that is recorded ascoustically, which basically means classical, or maybe some jazz. You're not going to get good imaging from most multitracked pop or rock recordings.


With a good system properly set up, and a good recording of, say, a classical orchestra, the orchestra should have a depth and width that it has in real life, with reverberations according to the size of the hall. You should be able to close your eyes and imagine you're sitting in the hall, maybe a few rows back from the front. You should be able to hear into the space and pick out individual intruments in their proper place. That's the thrill. That's the appeal to audiophiles. If all the instruments sound like they're coming from the speakers or a plane between the speakers it dimishes the experience.


At least this is my understanding. I don't get great imaging in my small apartment...

:(
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Chronosphere
If both speakers behave almost equally then it doesn't matter if they muddies some details or the dynamics are wrong. The imaging has to do more with how much information is available for each speaker and how this information interacts with the room. Now, if the differences between our two speakers are greater then they will be incapable of sustain an stable imaging.
Chronosphere,


I'm afraid that the above is just plain wrong.


Either that, or you have a different definition of imaging.


In order to place not just one, but many sound sources in the sonic image - the speakers have a very complex job to

do. Dynamics and detail are part of the sonic clues that our ears/brain uses to localize sound. If the speaker

distorts this information - it is distorting the clues that are used to create the sonic image.

Quote:


I'm a newbie regarding phase, it is a very complex subject, but my guess is, that again, if our two speakers manage the phase within certain boundaries in respect to each other then the image they will be able to make will be stable and realistic (or not).
I'm afraid you misunderstand again. When I speak of the phase information - I'm not referring to the phase of one

speaker with respect to the other. The phase of one instrument vis-a-vis others - and since the different

instruments have differing amounts of energy as a function of frequency, then I'm referring to the phase as a function of frequency.


If the speaker alters the phase of one component of the signal with respect to another - then the sound pressure

level - which is all that we really detect with our ears - will be altered. The sum of the woofer output and tweeter

output will not be the same if the phase of one is shifted.

Quote:


One last thing. I think that all the imaging stuff is more related to speakers location and the recording we are listening than to the speakers themselves, unless we are dealing with dipoles or bipoles or other technologies.
One of the reasons I prefer dipoles - is that you don't find dipolar radiation patterns in Nature. Natural sound sources

are basically isotropic. Because we evolved in a world with isotropic sound sources, the algorithms that our ears/brains

use for localizing sounds evolved with isotropic sounds.


That's one of the reasons I believe dipoles "disappear" so well. The algorithms that are used to localize are meant

for an isotropic pattern, not a dipolar pattern. The ears/brain, therefore have a more difficult time localizing

the speaker as the sound source.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Gypsy Davey
I think when audiophiles rave about imaging, it is with 2 channel music, and then music that is recorded ascoustically, which basically means classical, or maybe some jazz. You're not going to get good imaging from most multitracked pop or rock recordings.

:(
Gypsy,


I agree with that.


I have one CD - the "Best of" from a well known group.


You can tell how the engineer mixed this - I call it a "3-channel mixdown".


All instruments and vocals were individually miked and recorded on a multitrack tape machine.


The engineer then divided the tracks into 3 classes - one that goes to the left speaker only, one that goes to the

right speaker only, and one that goes in both equally.


When played on a system that images very nicely - the system reproduces exactly what it was given - 3 sound sources - one

to the left, one to the right, and one in the middle.


When you close mike - you destroy the phase information. The fact that one instrument is a different distance away

alters the phase with respect to another instrument. We use this phase information to help localize.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Morbius
Chronosphere,


Either that, or you have a different definition of imaging.


In order to place not just one, but many sound sources in the sonic image - the speakers have a very complex job to

do. Dynamics and detail are part of the sonic clues that our ears/brain uses to localize sound. If the speaker

distorts this information - it is distorting the clues that are used to create the sonic image.
Agreed. But then again, you will have image with dynamic and detailed speakers and with others with less dynamic or less detailed ones. The image will be different? Sure and maybe that's your point.

Quote:
Originally posted by Morbius
I'm afraid you misunderstand again. When I speak of the phase information - I'm not referring to the phase of one

speaker with respect to the other.
No, I understood what you say. Still, you need to refer to the phase (as you define it) about BOTH speakers in order to talk about a consistent image. If one of them have a more consistent phase then the image will be poor.


Oh, and I agree with your interpretation about dipoles.
 
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