The soundstage chase

Been seeing a couple of post recently about headphones with wide soundstage. And honestly I feel like while staying the same category (ie. speakers only or headphones only, or IEMs only - or even within the open back category and closed) the increase in width are pretty marginal unless moving to the next category like headphones to speakers or IEMs to headphones. Granted I haven’t tried the hd800/s.
For me I’ve just arrived at the place where imaging has become more of a priority than soundstage.

Is the increase in width really worth the pursuit to you guys? And why? For those who have compared an intimate headphone like hd600 to a hd800, is there a really significant difference without ABing?

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So here’s the thing. There is more to soundstage than just pure width. I like to think of a good soundstage as something that is able to recreate good spatial realism. I’m not too concerned about how far something can sound, I want it to recreate the space the music was recorded in, I want it to get that stuff right.


Yeah I can totally value this quality in a headphone or equipment. But whenever I see reviews talk about soundstage they usually equate it to width and height, but attribute spatial realism to detail retrieval or the nature of the drivers? Or am I misinterpreting something wrongly here? What equipment would you say satisfies this?

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I mean soundstage is harder to describe, and it’s easier to describe how wide something sounds compared to accurately describing a space as a whole. For what headphones do this it depends on the headphones, amp, source, and the music, and your preferences

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So for you personally, what’s a good example of say a headphone + system that accomplishes this?

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I mean, hmmm. I think a focal elex and a good amp and dac do it fairly well. I think a dt880 600 ohm does it surprisingly well for the price. I think in games an ad1000x does it really well. More expensive headphones as well. I think a 1990 can do it (but perhaps a bit unnaturally). I think ksc75 can do it well for the price. I won’t mention more expensive headphones. This list is not really representative of my top picks or anything, just stuff that comes to the top of my head at the current moment. I would really have to sit down and think for awhile and listen to a bunch of stuff to make a definitive list and add everything I would want to.

Something that might be easier for me to answer is to ask about a specific headphone as I can answer that a bit more specifically and easily and compare to another frame of reference perhaps

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i think when Zeos talks about it he means width. i remember him saying in a review that he wants to much width he wants it to sound like the girl is singing i in the next room or next county over lol. im not sure why people like this. i like a closer soundstage. i heard the hd800 is the most widest soundstage headphone

I suppose I was looking to understand it in the context of a hd600 / 650 (that I own) vs a hd800 (something that please praise for ‘soundstage’) for some reference point

Here is the way I interpret it in terms of good vs bad. If you see a live band, everyone occupies their own physical place on the stage. If you want to focus on the drummer, you know where he is, and the sounds from his drums should come from that position relatively speaking. You may feel the bass drum kicks differently, but for the most part they come from the same point of origin. If you turn your focus left or right, you can lock in on keyboards or guitars or vocals, but they should come at you from the source vs. flowing from all around you. At least for me. I think some people mistake soundstage and imaging when describing audio, or maybe my interpretation is wrong. The Argons are very wide and to me it’s not appealing. I’d much prefer the music coming at me from set positions to the front and a bit to the sides vs way out to my left and right, or even from behind me. On what I would consider a good soundstage headphone, like the Elex as Mon said, I can close my eyes and picture the individual band members as if I was in the 10th row at a concert. I don’t want to picture myself sitting on the stage with the music coming from all sides with no coherency

Ah, well the hd600/650 does a good job portraying good spatial information directly to your left and right, but it does get better with a better amp (and changed with a tube amp where I actually think the spatial ability improves with a good one). I think the spatial ability of the 600/650 is limited by it’s 3 blob imaging. It really doesn’t let it fully recreate a space because it is really only good on both your sides and directly in front of you. It also does not do the best job at portraying vertical aspects and doesn’t have the largest soundstage range. Compared to an hd800 or 800s, the soundstage is much more pronounced, with very little dead zones for imaging and lots of range for soundstage in an almost 360 degree location around your head. This allows for a very 3d like experience that really can portray distance from the listener really well. The soundstage also has good range, as it can sound distant or intimate when it needs to be at times. It also does a good job with verticality and really can trick your ears pretty well. The hd800s is very detailed and quick, and also is fairly bright and that allows spatial information to be portrayed fairly easily. My main gripe with the 800 and 800s is that the soundstage is unnatural sounding. It is impressive for sure but not really natural feeling. It’s like looking at an exaggerated 3d render of the sound where some other headphones it’s closer to real life representation. It’s like having the ability to hear more than you really are supposed to and that tbh isn’t pleasant all the time. And sometimes that information is not always genuine, but instead perceived information that is not necessarily correct. Overall if you are after wow factor the hd800 is hard to beat for soundstage, but if you value realism I think there are better options out there (not saying one is better than the other, it’s just preference)

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Cool. I gather you’re very fond of the elex from the many posts where you praised them. Would you say they’re one of the closest to ideal for you in this aspect?

Well, I just think they are a great value for what they offer as an overall package. I don’t even own elex but own focal clear and elegia and have heard the elex alot.

Also sorry but I am blanking on what you are asking

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On the topic of reproducing spatial realism / accurate soundstage.

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Ah, my bad I couldn’t think for a second lol. I think for the price they are going to be one of the most spatially accurate you can get new imo, and does meet my standards for sure. I don’t know if it’s the closest to ideal I have heard

So personally I really enjoy the spatial accuracy of my clear, he6, shangri la, aperio, AB-1266, MDR-R10 Bass Heavy, ADX5000, and th900mk2 which might sound like a weird roundup lol but I really like the spatial experience of these headphones compared to others (also I’m sure I am forgetting something)

Edit: I don’t like making lists like this because what I like and feel will change in the future lol so this is currently at the moment

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I liked the ADX5000 but the lack of bass was a bit jarring to me. It was like parts of some songs were muted

True, with different amps tho it did fix that for me, but the classic audio technica high end bass light signature strikes again lol

It sounded like they told the bass player to perform from backstage. But, aside from that, I loved everything else about them. It was just really weird at first listening to tracks I knew very well.

Also yeah listening to music live from the source can give you a good frame of reference of how things should sound, and better help you judge stuff like soundstage. But that’s with live or recordings that were recorded naturally. A studio album is going to typically be spatially different compared to a live album for example

What amp were you using with them (just curious)? And have you tried them on a tube

Edit: also once you get used to the sound it doesn’t sound that deficient

I demo’d at a retailer and the amps he has out I’m not crazy about. He always has out the Sennheiser HDV 820 and the Sony that released with the Z1Rs- TA-ZH1ES? I don’t really like either of them, but he is an authorized reseller so he’s kind of forced to push them and lie to me about how good they are