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rrstesiak
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How I achieved an excellent 3D Sound Stage

All:

I wanted to share my results and lessons learned on how I have arrived at what I believe to be a very good sound stage; and I just am now enjoying my music and getting into Redbook... First, a picture of my setup as shown in the Gallery section so folks can get an idea:

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And, here is what I have done specifically to "get there":

1. overall carefully picked system components that compliment each other and sinking a little bit of money into a Creek Evolution 50A Integrated amplifier, matching Epos Epic 2 speakers with Epos Stands, PS Audio NuWave DAC, Rega P1 turntable w/Ortofon Red 2M, Cambridge Audio 540p, and coming soon NAD 516BEE passing through my DAC, and Audioquest cabling. (I use a Macbook Air as my digital front end for FLAC files stored on a NAS redundant array elsewhere in my home.)

2. Room Tuning in the form of speaker placement.. I spent many hours getting my speaker and listening position into that critical 6.5' listening triangle for optimal soundstage depth at the slight sacrifice of optimal bass response; which I have read is quite a common exchange. So I just increase the bass on my tone controls occasionally when needed. I must say though with very good source recordings, I find I can defeat the tone controls. I also carefully adjusted "toe-in" to be immersed into the soundstage as much as can be expected.

3. Michael has been instrumental in providing undocumented and significant improvements to my system through the kindness of many detailed suggestions from the forums of Stereophile. He has provided suggestions on how to internally modify my Creek amp, as well as even the wall outlet. That could be a reply all of it's own..

4. I can't believe I forgot this very critical part to achieving my soundstage with my equipment and room: VOLUME! I make sure the volume is between 90-100 Decibels..with 100 being only transient peaks; not constant, otherwise that would be too loud! I theorize I am able to get such a good sound stage with my largely unmodified and untuned equipment by more or less sort of leveraging theories of near-field listening; allowing the speakers and amp and dac to take over and do their engineering magic at these volume levels and 6.5' listening triangle. I see many on more technical forums attempting to re-design things...but maybe companies like Creek and Epos and PS Audio are onto something...if one just tunes them *slightly*, and cranks up the volume!

So, I would venture to guess I sort of have had a lot of beginner's luck in combination with exhaustive research in falling down the path of Creek/Epos/Rega, and was advised by a former Cornell professor turned audiophile to purchase the PS Audio NuWave DAC with massive analogue power source.

I truly have just TODAY had this revelation:

While no doubt Michael's tuning methods and entire rooms surpass my system judging by the size of sound stages I hear reported, I feel with a little tuning, I can still achieve a "very good" sound stage by leveraging wise equipment and cabling choices with critical, key tuning recommendations per Michael without having to rip apart equipment, and cranking up the volume to realistic sound levels.

I am going to also post internal pics of my DAC to show its serious construction next..

Listen On!

Ron

Here is a pic of the internals of my DAC:

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And here is a closeup of only ONE of FOUR massive 12,000 uF capacitors ...and yes, this is just a DAC!

Image hosted by servimg.com

So I hope my somewhat unique approach helps others to see what is possible with a few wise equipment choices and just cranking up the volume can do to achieve a "decent" sound stage.

Now having said all of this, it is in fact my goal to further tune the room.... but that will need to wait until Autumn when I again have some positive cash flow.

Kind Regards,

Ron

geoffkait
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Big honking transformer

You were a tad late to the party. The lynching party for the ubiquitous big honking toroidal transformer that is. Last year there was a long thread right here on these very fora on exactly how to deal with such transformers. In fact, now that I think about it, the two dudes who carried out the lynching, I mean treatment, were from Pittsburgh! What are the chances! The transformer, one of the most toxic and damnable things ever foisted upon naive gullible audiophiles.

Geoff Kait
Machina Dynamica
We Do Artificial Atoms Right

michael green
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I know

Hi Ron, BTW thanks for the mention!

I know what you mean about taking things apart, and will admit it use to be somewhat painfull for me because some of this equipment is so darn pretty. When we look at these components we see these beautifully made housings, the problem is, when we look inside and see the actual parts making the sound from the electronic side of things we have to ask the question, what's the difference between the sound of these great components in their housing as compare to without their housing, and how far is going too far for our own personal sound vs looks.

For myself everytime I take a step, I go through that question looks vs sound. And the way I justify it, is to stop thinking of my systems as what they look like in off mode compared to how the soundstage looks when turned on. If someone has the best of both worlds, or at least close enough that's pretty cool, but how many times do I see listeners start down the tuning path only to find themselves in a completely different hobby than they started with. Somewhere along the journey, the soundstage itself becomes the looks and the exterior housings somehow become a distraction in the mind.

And so

Now when I get a component it's more of a part of the whole and takes on a different beauty for me. In the end I start making the room into my own private mini concert hall and it takes on a mood that makes me feel less like I'm sitting in a living room and more like I'm sitting in the soundstage itself.

A line that all of us have to draw for ourselves. When I sit there listening, what do I see? Do I see equipment or has a soundstage takin over my space and my mind. It's a bridge all of us cross, and is also a bridge that defines our hobby and world. Being a long time listener of huge soundstages as well as owning tons and tons of the equipment the visual mind of the soundstage for me far outweighs the visual of any equipment playing, even to the point of the equipment not even being there, or being a hindrance (obstruction) to my virtual reality.

On the listening side of things, by far, my best sounding systems were not in the same room as me, or were setup with a very low profile no higher than 12 or so inches off the ground.

such an interesting and fun hobby

michael green
MGA/RoomTune
http://tuneland.techno-zone.net/

helomech
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Sound Stage

Ron,

I noticed that I have an almost Identical speaker placement setup to yours (unavoidable due to my room layout). I also use Epos Epic 2 speakers, with the right channel near a corner.

I'm glad you're impressed with the soundstage you've achieved. I haven't been too impressed with the sound stage of my setup with most recordings. However, I'm not exactly sure what a good "3D sound stage" should sound like. The whole idea has always struck me as quite subjective. Of course, one could argue that maybe my DAC is no good, or my receiver isn't up to snuff. If only us audiophiles could instantly teleport to a fellow enthusiast's listening room to evaluate strengths and weaknesses. We might find that you use a superior DAC or that I use an inferior amp stage. With so many highly regarded products on the market, I'm always left wondering if I'm missing out on a hidden gem, or if I should've sprung a couple more bones for a more expensive component.

My system uses Epos Epic 2 speakers, a Yamaha RS500 receiver/ integrated, a Topping D20 DAC, and a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC with a Clearaudio Concept V2 cartridge. My Phono stage is a DB Systems DB-8. Interconnects are Audioquest and speaker wire is just standard 12 gauge Monoprice copper. I use a 10" Paradigm subwoofer situated behind my seating position for the extra low Hz.

I must say that I noticed a substantial improvement when I switched from the 2M Red to the ClearAudio cartridge.

On the topic of Transformers, I recently stumbled upon an interesting article. I'm not sure if it's claims are valid, it's intriguing, given that "high-end" manufacturers seem to favor the toroidal design.

http://www.soundstage.com/maxdb/maxdb071998.htm

Happy Listening.

-Roy

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Something to try, perhaps

If you want to try and keep bass while expanding the stage without all the transient smearing from having a speaker in the corner, move the speakers out into the room and move your chair to the back wall. The back wall is usually bass heavy and might sound better than corner loading for bass. Hey, it's free and easy to try it.

geoffkait
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3D holographic soundstage

Roy wrote,

"I'm glad you're impressed with the soundstage you've achieved. I haven't been too impressed with the sound stage of my setup with most recordings. However, I'm not exactly sure what a good "3D sound stage" should sound like. The whole idea has always struck me as quite subjective."

Yes, it's subjective. Very subjective. The whole soundstage thing... like many things in audio ...is subject to the laws of purple prose - when someone has a bigger vocabulary than the next guy and is not afraid to use it he can usually make it sound as if HIS soundstage MUST be better. It all hinges on the use of words and phrases like three-dimensional, holographic, image density, expanding sphere of 3D space, transparent bubble of exactitude, the players are in the room, our jaws hit the floor and the soundstage was as big as Kansas. In reality when I go to hear what all the fuss is about soundstage wise somewhere I frequently find a soundstage suffering from uh, shrinkage.

Cheers,

Geoff Kait
Machina Harmonica

rrstesiak
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Replies

Geoff:

geoffkait wrote:

The transformer, one of the most toxic and damnable things ever foisted upon naive gullible audiophiles.

Yes, I am beginning to see people either trying to isolate the transformer internally, or even remove it completely from the chassis..is that sort of what you're referring to and the solution? If not, I would like to definitely read up on it.

michael green wrote:

I know what you mean about taking things apart, and will admit it use to be somewhat painfull for me because some of this equipment is so darn pretty.

Michael, you know me well already! On a serious note, I also appreciate what you are articulating regarding placing the music first and the equipment seond; or rather modifying the equipment for the MUSIC's sake, and not for the aesthetic. I am thinking of exploring in that direction with the power supply from the DAC.

helomech:

I would like to ponder your system for a day or so and maybe suggest some things... for now, I can just state; and for the benefit of other readers too, that to be specific, my "3D" soundstage is specifically this: ASSUMING A GOOD SOURCE, the soundstage exceeds each speaker to the left and right by 4 additional feet out to the sides...it extends behind the speakers about 4-6' sometimes greater, distance ...and then it is consistently 2-4 feet "in front" of the speakers; with the occasional instrument sounding as if it is behind me! It also has height .. roughly the same height as the room: 7.5 feet. To compare, when I first started listening with zero tweaks and poorer components, but SAME SPEAKERS, my soundstage was merely a line...level with the front of the speakers, with occasional dips behind, in front, and wide left and wide right...but again, nearly just a line...HOWEVER, I had the Creek Integrated as well at that time and I heard an extraordinary dynamic range and isolation of instruments and placing of instruments from left to right very accurately. It is this "VOLUME" and almost like a new room that expands the physical dimensions of my listening room that is what I am calling my "3D Soundstage".

Catch22:

I totally agree and in fact have done that in my early stages of speaker placement (moving to back wall to increase Bass), but after many many hours of listening and adjusting and the size of the room, I find the speaker placement currently optimal. A lot of tracks don't require Bass correction, and for those that due, I engage the tone controls and increase Bass to +4 and it's resolved. The only music that does slightly suffer is RAP.....so I push the speakers to 1' from rear wall, and the Bass comes back. :)

Geoff: To remove any subjectivity, I have described my soundstage in detail in my reply to helomech.

All:

I encourage everyone to continue listening and sharing, and helomech..I just got back from a week of no internet access and I need a day or so to try to give you some pointers.

Kind Regards,

Ron

geoffkait
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Transformer treatment and circuit board isolation

This link will drop you down onto page 2 of 3 of the efforts of the two dudes from Pittsburgh to absorb the magnetic field generated by the transformer and mechanically isolate the circuit boards from vibration, much of which comes from the transformer.

http://www.stereophile.com/content/tuning?page=1

Ron wrote,

"Geoff: To remove any subjectivity, I have described my soundstage in detail in my reply to helomech."

Now that I think about it I'm almost certain that my point is more or less that all attempts to describe soundstage wind up being subjective in nature due to the vagaries of language and other factors. The corollary is that is you cannot know the sound of a system someone describes even though it's described in the most honest, careful and complete way UNLESS you are there to hear it in person. Notice how I've skirted around the issue concerning some peoples' motivation for exaggerating or even misrepresenting the subjective description of soundstage or any other audio attribute you might wish to mention. That's why I used the phrase "purple prose" the other day on this thread. Embellishment might sneak in if one wishes to sell a product or sell an idea or even one's cleverness. I've even seen cases when embellishment was employed to try to win an argument. Perish the thought! Lol

Cheers,

Geoff Kait
Machina Dynamica

rrstesiak
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Reply to Geoff

Geoff:

Regarding describing soundstages, May wrote a very wise statement: "In addition to our ears, we listen with our minds."

And so based on that statement, I would have to concede you are correct. I am certain if someone else came and listened to my system, they would no doubt render a differing opinion. However, if that logic were 100% true, then it would render all reviews of every stereo component moot. So, I would like to concede a middle ground and say that I am certain most listeners of my system would be pleased with the soundstage at least somewhat matching what I describe, but point taken I am also certain there would be differing opinions. As I have no intent of selling any products; and only possess a slight Bias to Creek, I have no reason to lie or exaggerate...and I think most readers by now know I am a straight shooter.

As for the link to the transformer isolation: *BRILLIANT*!!! I loved it! Thank you -

Cheers,

Ron

May Belt
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Soundstaging

>>> “And so based on that statement, I would have to concede you are correct. I am certain if someone else came and listened to my system, they would no doubt render a differing opinion.” <<<

Hello Ron.

Regarding Soundstage. It is not what other people might hear and how THEY might describe YOUR sound – it is to do with the differences YOU actually hear when you have made changes (carrying out some so called tweaks).

If you make a change and then describe the result as ‘better height, better depth, better width, better separation of musical instruments etc, etc’, then those are the improvements you have heard – i.e. the differences between now and before. So YOU can describe it as ‘better soundstaging’. But that does not mean that someone else, strange to your room and your sound, would automatically describe it as ‘having an excellent soundstage’.

So, when other people describe hearing a ‘better soundstage’ with their sound, then they are describing exactly what they hear !! I have found that people are quite good at being able to judge when changes HAVE taken place with their sound !!

Regards,
May Belt,
PWB Electronics.

rrstesiak
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Re: May

May:

You truly have a gift intellectually; consistently making me really think about things on deeper, transcendental levels and I always value your feedback. I now very clearly see your point and I have to say I agree.

Thank you as always for sort of "guiding me" through this bizarre world of audio.

Respectfully,

Ron

rrstesiak
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Reply to helomech

helomech:

After carefully looking at your entire system, I can immediately see one glaring issue, and one subtle one; both of which need attention.

If you replace both, you may very well notice a much better soundstage. There is, unfortunately, a small chance you *may* need to upgrade the Yamaha as well... I looked extensively into them.. and it seems like it's op-amp based and not an analogue based amp... on the other hand, the A-S1000 totally rocks, if you want to stick with Yamaha. It is priced around $1299 and has analogue circuitry. Here is a favorable review: http://www.whathifi.com/yamaha/s1000/review. The R-S500 did receive some decent reviews; however, hence my stance on it MAY be ok. I used to have a Yamaha 7.1 Home Theatre receiver with TopArt opamp tech and I did enjoy its sound; however the world of 2-channel is bizarrely different and even though one would think it would be cheaper and simpler, sadly the opposite is generally true!

So, on to the specifics:
1. Your weakest link is your DAC.... I would upgrade that *immediately*. If you are severely budget constrained, I recommend either the Musical Fidelity V90 DAC, at $299, or even better, Halide Design DAC HD: $450
a. The Halide Design is a decent upgrade from the Musical Fidelity for a modest price, and received an A rating here on Stereophile. The Musical Fidelity also got an A rating, but I think it is skewed as really a B device; but since the price is so low, they bumped it to an A.
b. I have personally owned the Musical Fidelity DAC...and it did present a very accurate sound, but I just felt something was missing, and my budget allowed up to $1500, so I ended up with the PS Audio NuWave, at $699 for refurbished. A great deal. It indeed has a much deeper Bass sound, and the soundstage is expanded.
c. So, depending on budget, I can recommend, in order of sound: 1. PS Audio NuWave, 2. Halide HD DAC, 3. Musical Fidelity V90

Any of these should deliver a more "3D" soundstage, but as in anything else... you generally get what you pay for. If you want to just be absolutely sure of a good soundstage, I would go straight for the PS Audio.

2. The second area that needs immediate attention is your speaker cabling, believe it or not.
a. I noticed a very serious improvement in upper and lower frequencies when I upgraded to AudioQuest Rocket 33 cabling... It employs a bi-wiring setup, and made a noticeable difference.

3. Assuming your speaker position and room acoustics are optimal, and if upgrading options 1 & 2 still doesn't work, go for an upgraded receiver/Integrated amp. I can easily of course recommend the Creek Evolution 50A, for $1299, which is probably the very cheapest decent audiophile grade Integrated Amp you can get.

I hope my suggestions at least get you to start thinking more about your system and help you on the road to that immersive or "3D" soundstage.

I did not critique the analog front end because I think you are on the right track there... the phono stage is a bit rare, but it seems to be well received in British circles; which is a good thing.

Feel free to reply with any questions.

Kind Regards,

Ron

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