Help me understand sound staging (good one 4U Glass)


Bronze Member
Username: Machman

Post Number: 15
Registered: Oct-04
I've been reading a bit of Glasswolf's website and whatever else I can find on audio staging.

What I don't get is this:

Why is everyone so down on rear speakers?

I consider myself to be a bit of an audiophile (albeit a newby in terms of how to make good sound myself). My natural instinct in any vehicle is to set the fader to feed 10 - 15% more volume to my back speakers. Otherwise, because I'm sitting at the front of the car, I feel that I "hear" my front speakers too much, and miss out on being surrounded by my music. That's one of the things I love most about listening to music in my car is the feeling of being surrounded.

If I turn down my rear speakers I understand that I'm setting up an appropriate front stage, but to me it seems like more of a mono listening experience compared to having great sound coming at your ears from all directions. For example, I'm inclined to think that having a set of component speakers in the back of my car is a good idea to help give me that "surrounded" feeling.

My thinking is that if I turn my head in any direction I get the same sound. Further, if I were the only person in the car I would also be inclined to not only add 10 - 15% volume to the back speakers, but to also add 5 - 10% to my right speakers. This way, I wouldn't "hear" my driver door speakers more than I hear my passenger door speakers and I would be at the epicenter of my listening experience.

To me this is appropriate sound staging.

Someone tell me why I'm a rambling idiot. ;)

Gold Member
Username: Glasswolf

NorthWest, Michigan USA

Post Number: 5525
Registered: Dec-03
two things to define here.
soundstage and imaging.
soundstage is the ideal where you close your eyes, and the point source of the vocals make the artist appear to be up on a stege in front of you. This is the most realistic and "live" feel you can get in audio, and what most audiophiles aim for.

Imaging is the ability to point out exactly where each artist in a band is located during the recording process, as if you were in a club and could pinpoint the locale of the singer, pianist, guitarist, drummer, etc. It adds a sense of realism otherwise lost.

These are why diehard oldschool audiophiles still swear that 2.0 audio is the ideal platform for music. Not 5.1 etc.
Anything heard from the back is first or second order reflection with time delay usually, and should be replicated by proper speaker placement in front of you, as opposed to trying to computer generate it via DSP.

In poorly set up car systems, the sound comes from down by your ankles, or behind you, destroying the "live" feel of the audio. The only reason cars ever used rear speakers was due to the need for larger drivers (ie, 6x9s) for high fidelity audio as it developed in the 60s and 70s. The rear package shelf was otherwise unused, and provided an ideal space for large speakers that would be otherwise hard to place in the cabin.
It had absolutely nothing to do with actual audio image quality.
hope that helps.

Bronze Member
Username: Machman

Post Number: 17
Registered: Oct-04

But what about the person that doesn't care about soundstage (sound coming from the front), or imaging (being able to point to the source of individual musical sounds).

I guess what I'm saying is that to my ears it's more important to be surrounded by the music than to be able to determine from what direction any of it's components come from.

Am I alone in this?

I go to live concerts to get soundstage and proper imaging. I get in my car and turn it up to be engulfed in music.

Is there a definition for the type of listener I am? ...hopefully it's not "audiotard".

Gold Member
Username: Glasswolf

NorthWest, Michigan USA

Post Number: 5527
Registered: Dec-03
its all up to you and your ears.

don't plan on competing in any events though :-)

Silver Member
Username: Boopers

Lima, Ohio United states

Post Number: 267
Registered: Jul-04
I also like the feeling of being surrounded by the music, but with a really good set of front components, or more if you are willing to put money into nice kick panels to accomidate, the sound will still "fill the car". As of right now I don't have the money yet, but I'm thinking of keeping the set of coax I have and adding a set of components to my front stage and eliminating the 6x9's so I can vent the subs into the car through the holes there and where the armrest comes down in the back seat. As for now I'll stick with my 6x9's until I can get my front stage beefed up so that it can put out enough sound to make up for the lost rear stage.

Gold Member
Username: Jonathan_f


Post Number: 2602
Registered: May-04
With a car, resonance is one of the biggest issues you have. A car is totally filled with reflections and resonances, metal, plastic, fiberglass, windshields, etc. Some of the sound from the front is still going to reflect off the back of the car with enough power, especially in really small vehicles like trucks. You're not alone, some people like having the feel of being surrounded by music. Honestly, what it sounds like to me is that you need a subwoofer. Subwoofer range is omni-directional and adds ambience to the music you're listening to. Without enough low end, your sound quality will lack tremendously and you'll lose the fullness and richness of the sound. Most people I've seen that depend on rear speakers to get a "surrounding" effect are usually using rear speakers as a crutch for lackluster bass performance due to not having a sub. I'm not saying that's your case, it's just what I see most of the time when I hear that comment. A proper front component system and subwoofer will still give a rich, full sound when set up properly, with the benefit of better soundstaging and imaging and also more clarity and detail due to less cancellation due to phase issues. Most people on this forum are on a budget (lots on a VERY strict one at that) and they are better off investing money into better front components than they are dividing it between fronts and rears. I recommend the same for you, focus your efforts on a proper front component system and subwoofer setup and see how you like it before investing all your cash in fronts and rears. Even if you do have a ton of cash in your wallet, the least you could do is supply yourself the best there is to be had as far as front soundstaging goes, with a lot of money and the will to get the best results, there's no reason not to.

Gold Member
Username: Glasswolf

NorthWest, Michigan USA

Post Number: 5561
Registered: Dec-03
by the way, you're not an audiotard, although that term did make me laugh.. reminded me of this:

If you have the time to do this little exercise, I can show you how good a 2.0 speaker system can sound, and you'll be forever swayed to the oldschool side.
go to
find the closest authorized dealer to you on their little database.
Go there one day when you have some free time.
Ask a sales associate to let you audition a pair of Martin Logan ESL panels, something similar to the Odessey or Prodigy lines they offer. Listen to a jazz CD they'll have handy (they always do.)
sit back about 15-20ft from the speakers, dead center in the "sweet spot" and close your eyes.
listen to the nuances of the instruments, the volcals, and as you listen, picture yourself at a club, live, and try to point out where each person is sitting and playing. Try to figure out which way they're each facing.
After you've done that, which is very possible with these speakers, you'll understand why I don't feel music needs any surround effect at all to sound absolutely perfect.
I've done this little demonstration with several of my friends trying to convince them of why I was willing to fork out $3600/pr for my KEF Reference mains, and over $6500/pr for the Martin Logan Odesseys, plus the cost of the Krell amplifiers, bi-wire cables, etc..
After they auditioned the speakers, they stumbled back in with a glazed look, and started trying to figure out how they could afford to buy a pair of the speakers, too.

If you have the time, try it. See if you still feel a need for more than two speakers in a room when it's not a movie soundtrack you're listening to.
Please, let me know what you think, too. I'd like to hear your results and thoughts.
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