Today I will be droppin’ in like a Spider with a sweet post about Soundstage. What is Soundstage? That’s precisely the question that many a folk want to know.
So sit back, relax, and grab a bowl of popcorn and a water, because you’ve come to the right place!!
A Brief history
The answer pertains specifically to headphones. But we’re going to start at the origin of it all.
From a young age, we used headphones to listen to music in a lot of circumstances. Often times, they were of a sub-par quality or just downright bad.
Whatever was convenient and cheap is what was used. Most of the time this meant a cheap set of ear buds, or a $20 pair of Sony’s. Not that this was a bad thing, but many of the factory grade headphones found in drug stores and retail stores simply were not of a high quality.
Over time they broke down in many ways. One ear might go out, you may have dropped them and they broke, or you might have accidentally slept with them on the wrong way.
Whatever the case may be, there’s one thing that’s common overall:
They didn’t produce a sound-stage.
But you didn’t care. They sounded fine to your ears, and they got the job done, regardless of their build quality (or lack thereof).
I believe most people pursue music in some form or fashion throughout their life. It’s sort of a universal thing. We all love it, love to talk about it, and love to wear our favorite headphones while we’re out and about. In a world full of negativity, tragedy, and despair, music is something that binds us all together through the ups and downs.
Few people really get into the world of audiophiles, but just you being here tells me that you are very aware of concepts that go beyond just listening to music.
“You know there’s this invention called television, and on this invention they show shows, right?”
The first quote that came to mind is Jules from Pulp fiction, when he ends up talking with Vincent about foot massages and “the holiest of holy” 😉
The same quote could be applied to headphones and music. There’s this invention called sound-stage, and with this invention it sounds like the band is right in front of you. 🙂
A detailed description of Soundstage
Have you ever been listening to music on headphones while doing something, only to freeze and immediately take them off to make sure the sound wasn’t coming from the outside?
That’s part of what sound-stage is. It’s the perception that certain sounds within the music actually came from outside of your headphones. Some people will claim that it’s your mind compensating for lack of surround sound speakers and therefore having a skewed perception of the music.
One thing is for certain, there are many people who have experienced the phenomena of taking off their headphones to make sure the sound wasn’t coming from inside their home.
There are some closed back headphones that give you a nice taste of this. The Audio Technica ATH M50’s are a good example of a closed back model that has some of these characteristics.
When I first put them on, I was floored to the point of wanting to go back and listen to every song I had ever heard. They really do make you look at music in an entirely different way.
For the first few months, I was constantly taking them off to make sure I wasn’t going crazy. It sounded like the music was surrounding me.
Open back models take this concept even further. I have read reviews from people who claim that they could pick out each individual musician on stage, where they were standing, and specifically each note that they played. Instrument separation and sound-stage go hand in hand in this regard.
Sound-stage also breeds clarity.
Have you ever put on a crappy pair of headphones and couldn’t decipher anything that was going on? Often times the sound gets all muddied up due to the poor quality of the set.
With a good closed back model, and especially an open back one, this is never a problem. As a general rule, the higher up you go in prestige, the better the sound is going to be.
An example would be: Sennheiser HD 800 > Sennheiser HD 650 > Sennheiser HD 600 > Sennheiser HD 598 > Sennheiser HD 558 > Sennheiser HD 380 > Sennheiser HD 280 > Sennheiser HD 202 > Sennheiser HD 201.
Notice how the numbers go down from 800? May seem obvious, but this is intentional.
The hierarchy is real. Lol.
I can attest to this. The HD 201’s sound utterly atrocious. Well no I shouldn’t say that. They are a good sounding set, but:
They aren’t nearly loud enough
The bass is sorely lacking
The higher in number you go, the better the sound-stage. The HD 800’s to some are the absolute highest echelon pair of cans you will find. Their sound-stage is almost unreal.
But I digress.
To recap this post and wind it down, just know a few things about sound-stage.
It is the ability to pick out musicians on stage in their exact position.
It is the ability to discern individually the instruments being played, as well as the notes that are played, how fast they are playing, and every subtle nuance that you would hear if the artist were playing for you one on one.
Instead of the components of the song all running together resulting in a muddy mess, the song is heard as a cohesive whole that works together to bring you an experience like no other.
Instead of the music being trapped inside your head, you may feel like you’re sitting in the front row. It’s as if the band is playing in front of you, rather than you simply listening to them through headphones.
In a nutshell?
It’s like having a 3-d Surround sound system in your headphones!!
Stu is determined to provide the truth about all things audio, and strives to deliver excellent content to you the reader! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, attend church, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His attention to detail and perfectionist attitude are what allow him to excel, but it can be both a blessing and a hindrance at times.