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Gentleman’s Guide to Audio – How to choose an Audio Device – Soundstage

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Picking an audio device is a choice that everyone makes but often get stuck. There are a lot to be considered other than just the specs alone. Everyone has a personal preference when it comes to how music or sound is produced by an audio device – and today we’re going to talk about soundstage in particular.

We recommend you to always test the product first, listen to the device and determine the answer to this mindblowing question – does it suit your taste of music?

As you are testing, what should you be looking out for? In the following series on “How to choose an Audio Device“, we will look into a few pointers to help you pick and choose which device suits you.

In this article, we will talk about soundstage. Let’s begin.

What is soundstage?

Imagine you’re sitting at the center of an auditorium near the stage with various instruments located at different parts of the stage. During the orchestra, you should be able to hear where the sound is coming from. When it comes to audio devices with good soundstage, you should be able to close your eyes and envision the soundstage by just hearing the music from your audio device. Directional sound sources coming from the center, left, right, distant left and distant right should be distinct and perceivable to the human ear through the audio device.Soundstage allows us to have a sense of space produced by the headphones.

Soundstage allows us to have a sense of space to be experienced through the audio device, even though we’re at a completely different location.

Sound recording no longer means having the audio coming from only left and right, but a perception of a 3-dimensional orchestra of instruments engulfing you through audio.

A clear soundstage would be more well-represented with the music placement in a 3-dimensional Cartesian plane, with X-Y-Z axes. To recreate the perception of 3D would be rather difficult for simpler audio devices, and a full-fledged home audio system would be more suitable for the task.

Depending on the type of music you listen to, soundstage might be an idea that’s too abstract to relate to. If you enjoy music from the 1930s and earlier, those recordings are a good example of shallow soundstage and instrument deployment.

In the world of sound stage, older track with very basic recording technique have very little present of sound stage.

Orchestral pieces and our modern day movie OSTs are models of dynamic sound placement at it’s best. The settings of such production made it easy for the listener to identify the layering of instruments.

How does a good soundstage feel like

A good sound stage allows the listener to visualize the positions of an array of instruments with clarity. This is achieved through the careful planning of the music production department to deliver the best results.

good Sound stage

What a limited soundstage is like this, the sound from these instruments come from only one direction. Some productions would do this on purpose, but such a setting is far from my liking.

Bad Sound stage

How is soundstage produced

Recordings

To produce a true soundstage effect, stereo recording techniques are often employed. If you listen to older albums(eg 1930s and older), you will notice that it is hard to make out any perception of a soundstage. That’s because soundstage are only capable to be reproduced when stereo or more sound channel is present.

There are a few ways to do so, generally produced through stereo recording. We outlined 3 popular techniques below:

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1. Coincident Pair, (X/Y)

Coincident Pair

The coincident technique is a common approach to stereo recording.This is accomplished by stacking the microphone receivers closely on top of each other, hence eliminating the timing differences and records the different sound pressure levels of both mics.

On the contrary, the close proximity of the mics actually results in a limited stereo image.

Suitable for:

  • Small choirs
  • Backing vocalists
  • Solo acoustic guitar
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