Tag Archives: speakers

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

The cost of a soundstage

Visitors to PS Audio often walk away from Music Room 2 with their jaws still open.

Following a recent visit, Karel Osten wrote to me:

“I know you have described the sound but until I heard it for myself I had no concept of the depth and rock solid placing of the sound. Words are inadequate to describe the effect of the wide soundstage but at the same time the precise location of instruments and vocals. It seemed to me to be a strange combination of mono and stereo if that makes sense. How much do you think you have to spend to get anywhere close to the same sense of depth and soundstage?”

This is a great question and one we struggle with all the time. Fact is, what you hear in MR2 is not just the IRSV but an entire audio system. Those speakers are some of the more revealing speakers made. Thus, anything before the speakers gets shown in a harsh light—for better or for worse. There’s no hiding possible.

When it comes to the specifics of Karel’s question of depth and soundstage, that’s a little easier to answer. Given decent electronics, even a low cost loudspeaker system can disappear and in its place, listeners can experience a full soundstage. It just takes some setup skills, enough room for the speakers to breathe, and the right group of equipment. Synergy focused on soundstage.

I am pretty confident most of us already have many of the basic components needed to achieve what Karel’s looking for.

The reason we don’t get there is often a single missing piece in the chain.


Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

This is one way and like Paul, I use diffusion on the wall in back of where I sit and listen to music, although I prefer to absorb the first audio reflection off of the wall and use the mirror trick Paul describes for this.

Diffuse or absorb?

We know that our rooms play an important role in sound quality. A 2-channel system that performs to spectacular levels in one room, might sound miserable in another.

We’re asked all the time whether or not adding sound absorption or sound diffusion to a room is the best option. The answers are rarely clear and almost never easy because every room is different.

However, there are some general guidelines we can use to help our decision making.

The simplest is when we start with an obvious problem like slap echo or over reverberance. Clap your hands near the listening position and see if the clap sounds natural—without anything added or subtracted—or is there a quick echo slapping off a wall? Always, we’re looking for natural sound in our room. Not overly dull and absorbed, nor overly bright or echo-laden. If you hear an echo that’s likely a good indicator you need some type of absorption to kill the bounce at those frequencies. Corners, the meeting point between ceiling and wall, and large open wall areas are prime candidates for absorption. Use only enough to kill the echo without robbing the room of life.

Step two in room treatment happens after we’ve tamed the echo or overly live room with modest amounts of absorption.

Diffusion’s tricky. While it’s my favorite for improving imaging and smoothing tonal balance, it’s easy to get carried away and wind up with a mashed potato soundstage—wide and deep but nothing has specific placement and individual instruments and voices sound diffuse.

Start with the point of first reflection using the old mirror trick. Employ a friend or spouse to stand with their backs against the sidewall between the speaker and your listening position. Holding a small mirror in front of them—facing the opposite wall, have them move closer and further from the speaker until you can see the tweeter from your listening position. That’s the point where diffusion typically works best (for starters).

Diffusers also work well on the front wall behind your speakers.

My best advice is to go easy. Most people wind up overdoing the room and then regretting it.

Hope these tips help.