Soundstage: Narrow vs Wide. Which is better?

TLDR; narrow…no wide…both? neither… depends.

Longer story: I have heard Josh Valour and Zeos both mentioned soundstage on headphones and comparing them to others. They both seem to (at times at least) refer to soundstage as the wider the better. Sometimes I’ve felt like they are saying if one headphone has a wider soundstage it is automatically better than something that has a slightly narrower soundstage. I dont feel this is true. There different circumstances where you may want a wide soundstage, not too wide. Or you may want a narrow soundstage.

Current setup: Tin P1, DT1990, AHD7200, Sen 6xx. All fed by Topping Dx3 Pro. (EQ used on all for best performance)

Ive heard a lot of headphones in my short time of being an audiophile (about 3ish years) and have seen the advantages to spending $1,500 to buy 2-3 headphones than trying to find 1 “perfect” $1,500 headphones. Theres times I want a wider soundstage but what good is a wide soundstage if the imaging is crap? I dont want to hear left, right, and middle. I want the music to sweep across when its called for or else it just feels unnatural. Narrow headphones can have an advantage here. By being narrow, you can find ones that have amazing details and imaging and giving a great sense of intimacy like youre right there in front of the singer.

DT1990- these probably have the widest soundstage of my current gear. Theyre not overly wide or unnatural like a Senn 800s, but just wide enough to where I feel like im in the studio in the next room listening to the mix as the artist sings.

AHD7200- These are easily my most narrow sets. However, this becomes and advantage as it becomes a super intimate sound. Instead of feeling like im in a studio in the next room, I feel as Im right in front of the singer at a concert hearing the details of the instruments, the visceral thump of the bass, and natural,detail and separated vocals.

Long story short- Somestimes I want a nice wide sound and others I want an intimate sound. Whatever the preference, imaging and music type have to match up or it comes out…off.

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Yeah, it’s pretty much preference. I really value a headphone if it can create a realistic soundstage that is accurate and has a large range where it can go wide or intimate if needed, as that’s more impressive to me then crazy width or intimacy. Spatial accuracy is preferable to me


Exactly. If soundstage was the end all be all then wed all have 800s and there would never be another headphone. I felt as it was too wide and had no intimacy and just wasnt great for a lot of types of music. 7200’s dont get enough praise bc they do have special kind of sound to them and being narrow really helps that shine

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Yeah, the denons are pretty great. I also really enjoy the fostex th900mk2s strange yet enjoyable intimate soundstage

Ah ha! I learned a new term, “ spacial accuracy”, this is something i had not thought of nor was in a state of mind about. That changes my view in what to look/listen for when enjoying my music and wondering what i think about in terms of the quality of the products i’m using to reproduce the music. This term gives me a much better view/perspective when thinking in terms of width of sound. Thank you again Mon for the knowledge.


Yes, I think it depends on the music you listen to. I knew right away i didnt like a wide soundstage because my music already has a wide soundstage. Also my music is layered, uses a lot of echo and reverb in creating a wall of sound. The music i listen too is U2, Simple Minds, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode, Talk Talk, Sting. More newer bands i listen to like Radio Head, STP, Killers, Coldplay is similar.

Wide soundstage makes this music sound too airy and far away to me. More narrow sounds correct and also allows me to make out the details in the instruments that make up these sometimes mysterious walls of sound i’m hearing.

I put on Duran Duran’s 1st album remastered the other day on my Sendy Aiva’s and i couldn’t believe all the detail i could hear that i never heard before. Before the Synth’s sounded sublime and stylish, mysterious. Now i could actually make out distortion in the synths that i never new was in the original recording. It put a whole new spin on it.

I think it also depends what you want from your music. how you want it to sound. I can understand that people listening to this music for the first time may not want to hear that distortion. It may not be the bands original intention. but for me, who’s listen to it many many times and who’s at a point where i want to understand their music more, a narrow soundstage with more detail is what i’m looking for.

There are very good headphones that exhibit a tendency for one or the other, stage width or intimacy it’s all preference. I know in the hobby this may seem blasphemous… but IMO a great headphone should do both.

I agree, I don’t think headphones have to be super wide or very intimate, I think that good headphones can do both when they need to. It just also needs to be somewhat accurate though, as it wouldn’t be much good if it could do both but at the wrong times lol

is there a headphone that you know of that performs like that, M0N? wide when the source says it’s wide…intimate when it says it’s intimate? can’t say I’ve heard of any headphone being described like that…it’s either wide or it’s intimate.

I agree though…having a headphone perform that way would be wunderbar!

All personal preference… maybe until you get to the next and final level of hi-fi: “holographic” sound. Heh.

Honestly I think that with some midrange iems, you can actually get decent “holographic” sound, where I think you have to spend more with headphones.

it really depends on what you need and your purpose and even then it’s a matter of preference. gaming you generally want something wide with good imaging for monitoring you generally want something more narrow and for music that’s all on you and what you want.

what do you mean you have to spend more time with headphones when IEM’s have holographic sound?

I think what he’s trying to say is to get a similar “holographic” effect with headphones, you need to spend more.


I meant money sorry lol. I was just saying that iems imo can more easily create a 3d ish sound compared to equally priced headphones

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