Sound Stage Disappearing, Speaker Type and General Questions for new Audiophile

I am one year into my “audiophile journey”. Through Paul’s video’s, I have learned so much and I am eternally in debt to him. And, If I’m posting in the wrong area, I’d like to apologize in advance. (This is my second ever post on the site here)

I have Def Tech 8080 speakers. I know that they aren’t the best audiophile speaker out there, but when I heard them for the first time in the store, I was just, blown away. I bought them that day. Since then, I have learned much more… but more questions are raised.

First - am I crazy, or does the sound stage kind of disappear if you REALLY listen to where the sound comes from? At times, I can really position things in front of me imagining a stage. But other times, when I’m really critical, I can “tune into” a particular speaker and loose that illusion. Is that normal?

Second, comparing my 8080’s for less than 5k, to a 50k pair of B&W’s at the store I bought them from, the B&Ws had a lot more detail when there were a ton of instruments. You could hear THAT particular instrument in an orchestra vs my Def Techs that blend everything together more. Having said that, the B&W’s sounded “tinny” or metallic and I didn’t like their overall tone. (I think that’s the right terminology?) My question is, can a speaker actually sound better based on what music you listen to? I do like classical music, but that’s maybe 5% of my listening. Generally speaking, I’m listening to maybe 3 to 8 instruments and one or two vocalists. Can a speaker sound better based on how much “stuff” is going on at a particular time? My speakers seem so great with smaller groups/ bands, but aren’t that hot with large scale reproduction. Is it one or the other? Are my speakers bad because they can’t do orchestra as well as a rock band?

Another way of phrasing the question is, when I upgrade to my next audiophile speaker, should I look for a speaker that’s incredible at orchestra and gets every detail right? And if I find that, should I expect it to produce as great of sound for far fewer instrumental rock banks too?

Any help and guidance is appreciated. And, I really appreciate the amazing and thoughtful comments that flourish here on PS Audio’s forum. This forum is very polite and refreshing v. other places I have read.

(I typically listen to bands or groups like ZZ Ward, U2, REM, Nirvana, going more old school Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Elvis… This could be a very long list - but I listen to smaller groups in comparison to large, full symphonies)

Thank you for any input!

Goodmorning Mr. Peters,

It looks like you are talking about two separate things here:

It is hard to build a speaker, that’s a known fact. It’s even harder to build a three (or more) way speaker, due to the fact that more filters tend to mess up the phase at different frequencies. That explains you can place one instrument and not the other. Mr. Paul says in one of his videos that sideways fireing woofers are not his personal choice and I agree. By the way, it looks like the PS Audio speakers are going to have sideways fireing woofers, but that’s besides this particular case.

There are drivers (tweeter, midrange, woofer) that are per unit 10 times the price of 4 sets of your 8080’s. With all due respect, in this line of business sound quality tends to go hand in hand with price. I wish that was different, but it just isn’t…
So… Like Mr. Paul says in one of his videos: Use AT LEAST HALF of your budget on speakers, the rest I forgot… :face_with_thermometer:

All of the above of course based on the fact that you use halfway decent source materials. I couldn’t find any in your list… What I am saying here is that some mixers for instance like to place drum kits all over the place with those (damned) pan pots…

Hope this helps. If not I am truly sorry… :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

Your first query is interesting. In many ways soundstage is a mental construct. Your brain is taking the sound coming from two speakers and using volume and phase information to create a plausible image for the noise. It is, as you have observed, possible to force yourself to ‘turn off’ this interpretation and just hear the speakers as sources. I think it is analogous to those trick pictures in which you can see an old crone or a young lady dancing, depending on how you choose to interpret the image.


You are going to get a lot of replies because everyone truly wants to help.
I had a set of DT 8020’s that I thought were pretty good to listen to until I did some research and ended up with a $3k set of Tekton Design Electrons that made me want to pitch the DT8020’s into the dumpster. That was using a Denon 4400 AVR and Oppo 103 as a source. After adding the PS Audio gear the speakers just sounded that much better.
And as others will say you need to spend a lot of your budget on speakers. You may have to spend everything you have on speakers now and upgrade the rest later. You can always upgrade the rest of the system as time and money allow but if your speakers are only so-so then you wont hear the system perform as it truly can.
There are probably hundreds of speaker manufacturers to choose from but it will be fairly easy to shorten up the list. If you can listen to them with a return policy that is nice but not always available. I started with a max. dollar amount and researched until I was satisfied and bought what made the most sense to me. Others are the same I am sure. Either way make sure to have some fun along the way.

In this pursuit of getting the most out of your system, reading and listening are helpful.
It sounds like you plan on replacing your speakers, in the future. Start reading Stereophile and some of the better online sites. Darko, Soundstage, and the forum at Audiogon has some good topics. If they start getting ugly, you will soon learn who to ignore.
When I say listening, spend some time at any nearby audio stores. Just be honest, that you are not ready to buy. If they aren’t busy, and don’t spend time with you, cross them off the list. I have found the shops that have survived, even prospered in the last 10 years, are both music lovers and audiophiles. They are the ones that will help educate you.
If you find a reviewer that you agree with, read past reviews.
I refuse to call this a hobby because my love of music drove my interest in the equipment.
For now, either try moving your speakers around to get the best out of them. If you have done that, just focus on the music. If you listen to the system, you will never be content.
The best speakers should be able to play all of your music in an enjoyable way. You have to remember, not every recording is well done. Find three or four CDs, LPs, or files that bring out the best of the types of music you like. Those will become your reference tracks. These days most dealers will have Tidal and/or Qobuz. If they won’t play your requests, not a good dealer.
Take your time, save, or budget as much as you a are able to spend.
Ronald is correct if your sources aren’t very good, everything after that will be corrupted. In the pursuit of a system that will consistently bring joy, everything matters.
If you post your whole system, we can suggest a path to take.
More money will usually get you better stuff, but it is no guarantee. There is synergy. In the past, there were speakers that would be recommended by genre. That was also when audio snobs would tell you, if you listen to anything other than classical, opera, or some jazz, you were wasting your money. Now those guys are in the minority. We all listen to different or sometimes the same music we grew up with. Look at the records that are being released by the audiophile labels, if any genre is less represented, it might be old country. Otherwise you see lots of types of rock, jazz, blues, etc.
The above should give you some things to ponder.

Welcome to the life of an audiophile. Reading your post took me back to the beginning of my journey and all the questions that I had (and still have):laughing: One thing I will add is that everything in your system matters. Great speakers if fed by less than capable equipment will yield mediocre results. Another thing to consider is the recording you are listening to. Some recordings were better engineered than others and just sound better. In general higher resolution yields better results if you have the ability to play back these tracks but this is only if the original recording was done well. MP3 and other “lossy” codecs are to be avoided if you are wanting the best sound quality.
When looking to upgrade, look at your system as a whole and try to determine what is likely the “weakest link” in your audio chain. Then research replacements and audition them whenever possible. Folks here will help you no doubt. Audiophilia is a journey towards better and better sound. We get there one upgrade at a time and to be honest it never ends because we are all constantly evaluating our systems and looking for what will be next best way to reach “Sonic Nirvana” the "Absoulute Sound etc… I love it!

Hi J Peters,
Welcome to the forum. I glad you took time to ask us. I agree with all previous comments to you. I would like to comment in a practical way. My interest (learning) about a good/excellent system has evolved over the past year.

  1. Try in home trial speakers. It will cost you shipping charges at most. When I go to the stereo store, I never have enough listening time. Listening at home for 100 to 200 hours is the way to go. Yeah, speakers are expensive, but in home trail for me, reduces impulse buying.
  2. Don’t reach for the most expensive equipment, take incremental steps to experience the improvements, again 100 to 200 hours per component. You will appreciate what you have that much more, learning as you go.
    Yes, get very excited, but remain practical. Buy, sell and move up. I have found selling on PSA or others like USAudio is easy (and safe).
  3. Assess your room and placement of what you currently own. Placement can be a source of free improvement to your system. There are lot of good threads at this forum site.
  4. Watch DIY tube videos, you may not want to go that way, but I found several educational.
  5. Consider buying some used components. I have, and it has been a good experience for me. I avoid buying used cables, unless I get a free trail with return guarantees.

Always share your experiences with us. Its a form of 2 way praise.



Howdy @JPeters568!

Your experiences definitely matches mine when it comes to B&W. They’ve got incredible amounts of detail and precision, but they’re often quite bright and fatiguing. For me, I don’t enjoy them. Others love them. The most important thing to remember is your listening preferences are your own. If you don’t like a speaker, that doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong, it just means you don’t like them.

When it comes to how to listen when shopping for a speaker upgrade, I find it important to not change your listening habits much. If you like jamming to Pink Floyd and ZZ Ward, by all measures you should make damn sure the speakers you buy next do a brilliant job with 'em.

Your best bet is to listen to as many different speakers as possible. Be it in home trial or if you have a nearby dealer or audio shows, spending time hearing different speakers will help a lot as you decide how to move forward.

Here are a few common recommendations around PS HQ that tend to be very musical and enjoyable to listen to (vs. the more fatiguing, metallic sound you heard from the B&Ws):

  • Harbeth
  • Monitor Audio
  • Dynaudio
  • Tekton
  • Goldenear

Keep us posted on how things go!

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Thank you, everyone, for the responses! I should have put my components in as well to give you a better idea. For two channel listening, they are:

Definitive Technology BP-8080ST Towers
Anthem P2 Amp
Emotiva XPA-1 Pre-Amp
Cambridge Audio CXN v 2 DAC/ Streamer
A very cheap 4k Blu-ray

All of these are using balanced cable interconnects except the Blu-ray which has an RCA connection to the preamp.

Almost all the music I listen to is streamed using the CXN via Tidal or Apple Music. In my teens (I am 40 now), I owned hundreds of CD’s, but with the advent of streaming services, I got rid of my CD collection when I went to college, which I really regret now. But, am considering piecing a new collection back together and getting a transport eventually.

Chrisj1948 I think nailed my question with a picture like this where you can see two faces, or a vase. With a stereo image, it sounds like my assumption might be right about it being a mental construct that can be interrupted when you intently focus on the direction of sound, rather than listening to the sound as a whole. This isn’t a “problem” with my system, just a realization. Typically, the speakers just fade away, and the singer is RIGHT there, dead center in the room, anywhere from 5 to 20 feet away depending on the recording. Having used computer speakers, or my car stereo, etc. prior to these speakers, the transition to having the singer/ band, right there in the room with me, has been one of the most profound, amazing musical experiences that I have ever had. It’s magic, every, single, time, I listen to a decent recording. (And again, I know my system isn’t that hot, but until a little more than a year ago, I never heard or even knew what a sound stage was.)

I guess to phrase my second question more succinctly… Can one pair of speakers do everything really well from blowing out the walls at 120 db when listening to rock, to resolving the triangle lost among a sea of instruments in a full orchestra?

I listen in a hybrid stereo, home theater, living room now. But would eventually like to build out a separate listening room. After you guys see my components, if you have suggestions, or an upgrade path, I’d love to hear it. Here is a picture of my setup. The speakers and my listening position are all roughly 11 feet apart, and the speakers are pulled 4 feet out from the rear wall. If anyone has suggestions on placement, I am more than happy try and report back my findings. Overall, I am really happy with the way that this system sounds, but would like to enhance it gradually. Thank you all, again! Josh

(For anyone interested in the home theater portion components…

DT CS8080 center
4 DT Mythos 9 surrounds
4 DT in wall speakers for atmos
Marantz 7011 Receiver
Marantz MM7055 Amp (driving the center and 4 mythos 9 surrounds)
A Samsung 82 in 4k tv and inexpensive bluray.

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That giant square hole in the left wall doesn’t really help… Try to move that rack with that giant display to the back as much as possible. See what happens if you move the speakers just a little closer to the middle and more to the back. Maybe toed in a little bit. You still have room to play. What if you turn the whole thing around, would that be possible…?

It looks like your gear is plenty good enough now to really show off a better set of speakers. I think you would be delightfully surprised at any of the brands that @Schroedster recommended. Start with an amount you want to spend and it wont take long for a nice list to form. Not sure what the speaker budget is but anywhere between $2k and $8k there are some really good popular choices.

Just for fun and it won’t cost a penny, drape a heavy quilt over the tv monitor and listen again.

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If you weren’t getting imaging, or a soundstage, then moving things back a little would make sense, but I see you have room treatments. I prefer to have my speakers a minimum of 10’ apart, as I need to sit about 10’ away, so that the six drivers can blend together. Side note, that 82" Samsung is on my wishlist.
Do you have a subwoofer? If not that might help your speakers, preferably two.
I reread your first post and you are basically happy.
Let’s assume that you can buy one or two new things at a time.
Start by adding some subwoofers. Be sure they are designed for music, not just home theater.
Next I would buy a power regenerator, and have an electrician put in three 20 amp circuits. If you can swing a P20, that will handle everything in a simple 2 channel system, otherwise go with a P3 for front end components. Plugging the amp in to the wall.
Next purchase a nice tube preamp, consider Audio Research, Conrad Johnson, PS Audio BHK, Aesthetix, and remember there are a lot of good used preamps to choose from. I prefer to buy from the dealers on Audiogon. Upscale also has a nice selection of used gear.
Around now, you will have to decide if you want to get a better DAC, there the PSA Directstream is hard to beat.
And finally speakers, I took a look at your amp, it is the one thing, that will handle any speakers you choose. I like speakers that have built in, powered woofers.
Usually you would start with the speakers, but as you are reasonably happy with them, a good tube preamp will make a big difference. I didn’t research the Cambridge, but I do know they make good, high value products.
I think some will disagree with me, and tell you to start with the speakers, that is valid too. I just think you will be better off taking it in the order I am suggesting. One thing you could do is get a Directstream and use the volume control, as you are basically running a one source system, but then you won’t be able to use the HT bypass, as far as I know.
And eventually you may want to add a turntable, but that could come last.
And I disagree with the suggestion that you buy more than once. That is what the hobbyists tend to do. If it is all about the music, do it right. You put together an excellent first system. You will either be able to trade in, or put together a second system from it. One thing you could do when you replace your speakers, is get something that works a little closer to the wall behind it, so you have a wall on each side. I have a friend who has an opening very much like yours, and his dealer a specialist in setup was able to put Vandersteen 5As quite close to the walls and it is the best sounding system that I have ever heard in someone’s home. Of course every other component is top of the line, state of the art.
I wanted to ask you where you live. City will be fine;-)

If the quilt helps, get a piece of acoustic foam from the Foam Factory.
I went with 2" pyramid, but if I did it again I would go with 3" or 4".
You put some Velcro on the back of the HDTV and put the fuzzy straps on the foam. Glue alone won’t hold it, you need to sew them on. Nothing fancy, just some stiches between the pyramids.

I’ll try moving the entertainment center back - and cover the TV with a quilt now… those are great ideas! Especially with the bipole speaker! I have often worried about the bipoloar aspect being cut off by the TV there! Thanks GUYS! I’ll report back soon!

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So I just got done experimenting with some of the suggestions in terms of placement. First, I moved the entertainment center back. That actually was a great suggestion! It opened up the sound stage more… It’s hard to explain, but it was more, lively. Next, we moved the L/R channel closer, and we thought the sound was REALLY harsh. Like, almost too focused if that makes sense? It was just, “right there!” It wasn’t a sound either Ann or I liked. Next, I moved the speakers wider, and back a little, and that, was actually REALLY good! It wasn’t this “in your face” sound, but relaxed… I hope I’m explaining this in the right terms… But, that actually was our favorite. Covering the TV with a quilt or not, didn’t make much difference. But, moving the entertainment center back with the TV… did something… I can’t put a finger on it, but it opened it up more? (Does that make sense to anyone?) But having the speakers wide, was the most enjoyable. It was the most natural sound.

Below are pictures…

This setup was SUPER focused, but unnatural, and harsh. But, I have to admit, the soundstage of it was pretty good actually. But, very small too. There were plusses and minuses to this. But the harsh, direct sound made it a minus.


There was this. The entertainment center is pushed back a lot, and the speakers are standing out on their own a lot more. This actually sounded really good, and natural, but, the focus of having them closer wasn’t as good. (I’ll experiment more with placement… ) But having the quilt on the TV or not didn’t change much… Having them wider was more realistic, but less focused.

And finally, my assistant, Ann… This is the best picture, EVER, taken of this woman. :slight_smile: (Kidding aside again, she’s an incredible sweetheart and I really appreciate her helping out… (And she looks awful in this picture too, but still cute. :D)


Ron! Awesome advice on moving the entertainment center back! That helped a lot! Moving the speakers closer didn’t help… But I’ll experiment more with placement now that the entertainment center is back and making a different sound stage. (I actually don’t have a lot of bass boom having the speakers closer to the wall… maybe I will try that, but all advice seems to be to move them into the room as much as possible so I have been reluctant to get them closer to that back wall. I’ll move them back though and let you know! Thank you!)

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I’m glad Ann thinks you’re number one. My wife says it that way all the time!


You might try stumbling around at this site a bit: Cardas Room Set Up Tips. The “rules of thumb” espoused there can get you really close; and depending on the shape of your room help you with tweaking your speaker placement. You are already on the right track because you are not afraid to experiment.

Have fun.

You bet…! Nice meeting Ann too…