Stereo Imaging. (Reply to an AK question.)

Technically speaking, “Stereo Imaging” is generally considered to consist of three components: localization, spaciousness and envelopment.

Localization: The positioning of each sound source in space. (The perceived width of the source itself is called, “localization blur.”)

Spaciousness: The perceived width of the sound field, including all sources.

Envelopment: The sense that the listener is immersed in a 3D sound field.

Each of these components depends on somewhat different factors. Also, the factors can often be somewhat mutually exclusive. For example, it can be difficult for a speaker that creates a sense of envelopment to excel at localization, unless certain very strict conditions are met. Like anything having to do with human perception, it is impossible to give a hard and fast hierarchy of importance to the factors that lead audiophiles to proclaim a certain stereo pair of speakers to be good at, “imaging.” Aside from the recording, (and any post-processing), which obviously has a make it or break it level of importance… how it was made and how it interacts with a given speaker and setup …here is a list off the top of my head:

– symmetrical location of the speakers with respect to the listener.

– the impulse response of the speakers.

– precise frequency response matching between the speakers.

– the angle subtended by the speakers WRT the listener.

– the presence or absence of nearby reflecting objects and boundaries, both to the speaker and the listener, along with their level of absorption at various frequencies.

– the acoustical reflectivity of the floor, and/or the vertical polar response of the speakers.

– the horizontal polar response of the speaker. Anyone who thinks that wires or amps, (etc.), have a significant effect on imaging is factually mistaken. The only component that can have even a tiny influence on imaging besides the speakers is the cartridge.

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