Is the seated-centered solo listening to music a dated tech?

Is the seated-centered solo listening to music a dated tech? Is the design of modern loudspeakers that facilitates stereo wrong? Are we surfing a compromised tech please recall early 3 channel was superior they used stereo because it was a compromise? I have worked with a research group that used MRIs and sound to light up areas of catatonic people’s brains the research showed that higher quality playback lit up more areas but that stereo caused the brain to work harder is this a source of listening fatigue? After all, we are processing 2 unnatural sources that trick the mind into perceiving a sound field wouldn’t it be better to just have a sound field that actually existed? Stereo is a unnatrual way to listen to music its something that sound doesn’t do. Real music floods a space in all directions stereo design requires beaming and narrow dispersion to form an image is this just wrong? Mono had benefits over stereo modern loudspeaker design can make one speaker with a 360d radiation pattern that can form a soundstage for listeners almost anywhere in a room yet we still sit mostly alone seated dead center not wanting to move much because the image collapses just all seems wrong to me today. The more I experiment with non-traditional sound reproduction the more right it feels to me and those hearing it. Music should exist in a real space not a narrow sliver of it.


Should we even record music? Why do we make different types of musical instruments? Are cakes good? Why don’t bagels and donuts taste the same?



If you are convinced that 3 channel is better stick with the front 3 channels of a 5.1 AVR. I prefer "head in a vice" stereo ESLs.

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Is the seated-centered solo listening to music a dated tech?

no, not if one is seeking reproduction of the music as intended with some sense of space and soundstage

Sometimes I feel constrained by needing to be in the "sweet spot" in my listening chair. For that reason I have considered getting speakers that are more omnidirectional or which present a wall of sound with a much broader listening area (though for optimal results, there is still a sweet spot). These would be my short list:

  • Larsen 9 — review: Larsen 9 review / AbSound They excel at being placed right up against the wall, and aren’t really finicky for placement. Excellent bass response and quality.
  • Any MBL (this 120 is the "affordable one at ~$20k!) Review: MBL 120 review

I have heard the MBL and the Linkwitz (using similar design) at a show, and they are almost omnidirectional, with proper placement. They sound almost as good from the back as the front, and you can move around in the room a lot and still get a great soundstage and experience. The top-end MBL was just declared the best speaker at any price (in his opinion) by Jonathan Valin at Absolute Sound.

MBL are wonderful sounding I agree with what you say. At my home, I have many loudspeakers but the massive horns with multicells tend to be the best sound anywhere you are they sound great full, detailed, and easy to listen to but massively dynamic like real music is. When on even when you are in another room they have a near-real sound. I had more than one when walking up to my home asking if I had a live band playing. Even one in mono is an amazing thing and bests more costly audiophile small boxes on stand systems. This has made me rethink how audiophiles approach music reproduction after decades of buying some of the best most highly-rated audiophile products.

Have fun with omni loudspeakers, some create a sense of space. But the best sound stage loudspeakers for me have been direct radiators, perhaps that is because that's how recordings are mixed in the studio.  

A lot of studios used multicellular horn systems. I have many pictures of famous artists sitting in front of Altecs etc in the studio. 

I think the crux is that one must strike a balance in technical complexity and the resultant sound. In today’s world that balance… when high performance is desired is two channel. The additional equipment and resultant setup greatly increases the complexity and reduces the sound quality or vastly increases the cost. More channels, more cost at the same quality level.

I remember quadraphonic came and went in a flash.

What I am suggesting is a one-speaker approach, not a multichannel approach.

Is the seated-centered solo listening to music a dated tech?

Probably. That's why I prefer it. I'm dated tech.

"That's why I prefer it. I'm dated tech."

LOL ... me too! Thanks for the chuckle. 😅

What can I say? I just enjoy the heck out of sitting in the sweet spot thrown by my speaker pair. It's the closest thing I can reasonably do to actually put me at the recording venue...or the venue artificially generated (sometimes superbly) by the recording's producer.

Bob smoking ops Seger sang it best : “ horizontal bop “….. are there other alternatives ? Perhaps hundreds…. a book may have been written….

Leonard Cohen also had something to say….. about… “ various positions “…

i think if you look at control room speakers, or the cited singular multi cell speaker without context of what and where the engineer  / artist / producer might be in the process…it would be easy to draw the wrong conclusion…..  in general lay down the track, evaluate and tweak, add in other tracks, eventually mix down to ? 

Stereo listening is certainly dated tech…mono even more so.

I prefer stereo. Another dated tech I prefer is “constant directivity” which eliminates the narrow “sweet spot” listening.
Reason being is I enjoy mulling around the room…and also having cocktail parties where all others can enjoy the same uniform sound.

The problem is to accomplish this horns are involved (usually) which some folks hate so YMMV…


Not dated tech.

The only way to listen to music.  From a front soundstage the simple two microphone set-up cannot be beaten.

And why should listening privately to music in your home necessarily be a social event?

Multicell horns are used to reduce the level of early reflections in the listening space via tight control of their dispersion pattern. Most famously, the Altec 203B 'Long Throw' 2-Cell with a 20x40 degree pattern was 6dB hotter at 100 ft than other multicell with a 40X100 pattern. They had unmatched reach and clarity before distributed delay systems, but the same goal: improve the direct to reflected sound balance for improved speech intelligibility. What audiophiles call 'detail'. Same goal in the studio: more direct, less reverberant field. As for listening fatigue, sorting out the direct sound from the reverberant field would seem to be far more strenuous than listening in stereo. Suggest reading "The Language Game" by Christiansen And Chater, C. 2022 for a good description of how the brain  parses the sound field for language purposes.


I’ve been saying all along that Ohm Walsh speakers get it right and most others are terminally flawed out of the gate in terms of dispersion and coherence. Most of the world got it wrong! 😉. Though some still do way better than others. Stereo or mono. 

We started with the one speaker approach. One microphone too. You can still get one. It’s called the phonograph. 

So here we go again, Kenjit, John or whatever.  A bunch of vague, untestable statements and no offer of proof.


OP, show us your system, show us your music and what sounds better to you.  Be specific.

You neglect to mention one of the most wonderful things about stereophonic and surround sound -- its ability to literally immerse a listener in a field of sound. To construct a virtual (or highly fanciful) replica of the venue where the music was recorded -- whether the process was done naturally or by hook and by crook.

In any event, when I lived in L.A. I'd take my acoustic guitar and fiddle to places like bars & pizza joints and jam with fellow musicians. We'd sit in a circle and play endlessly. Sometimes the establishment would give us free pizza & beer. Sometimes we'd  get a few bucks from folks in the audience. Of course, we didn't deserve it, but we never threw anything back, either. Long story short, from our listening positions we enjoyed true 360* surround sound. From left to right to front to back.

@johnk - Thanks for the interesting post and food for thought. Great breakthroughs in technology or other fields often come about through thinking outside the box like this. That being said, regarding listening fatigue caused by making the brain work harder to decode stereo, I think @zazouswing hit the nail on the head, "We have two ears..." Since we're "hard wired" for receiving sound in stereo, playing music in stereo does make a lot of sense.


I prefer o solo mio for serious listening.

"I prefer "head in a vice" stereo ESLs."

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We have stereoscopic vision, two ears (stereo), two nostrils and two nipples.

And you want one speaker…

I vote for ‘head-in-vise’ stereo.

i’ve heard at least two different takes on getting a wide sweet spot. the first one was via Magnepan [the speaker company] with their Tympani III speakers, which due to sheer size, dominated the room [made the ears disregard any but the direct-radiator sound]. i have not heard any reproduced music with more sheer impact and clarity and REALISM, than from that megabuck maggie system. no matter where i sit or stood in the listening room [at Definitive Fifi in Seattle circa 1982] i heard the same basic stereo image WITH depth - but the Tympani speakers were the ONLY maggies i’ve heard that could do this trick. on the other hand, on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, i have a bose cinemate sr-1 sound bar [with bass bin] that uses a mixture of spraying direct/reflected sound to the room’s sides [get those shelves out of the way], and interaural crosstalk cancellation [in a manner similar to SRS] that achieves at least the same [perceived] general distribution/dispersion of sound that the maggies achieved [but NOT their depth]. with both systems, i could sit or stand just about anywhere in the room and get the same basic stereo image. these two systems both accomplish the goal of letting more than one person enjoy the best sound that each system could reproduce, without playing favorites with the center listener. if you were to compare the basic sound quality, the maggies win hands-down of course, they have much more direct radiating area, there is just more sound coming out of those things. the bass extended to the mid-20s very cleanly, the mids-trebles were neutral and very evenly reproduced, they live up to the greek root of "stereo" meaning "solid." OTOH the bose had usable response from the mid-30s [low volumes] up to about 16k or so, it was eq’ed fairly flat with a custom tuning for each room it is used in. in a smaller room it played plenty loud and clean. the bose unit will, for most people, be much more affordable, and offer a usable amount of the same large and uniform stereo image over much of the room, that the Tympanis offer. IMHO that is a pretty nifty trick from such a compact affordable system.

A musician/music lover friend who is deaf in one ear seemed to enjoy album listening sessions as much as I did. 
Being dense, it took a few explanations from him about his limitation before I finally quit remarking about how cool the panning was of sounds from speaker to speaker.

I suppose a true mono mix would have been better for him, akin to the OP’s comment, but I’m hooked on stereo.

Watch the video about the totally deaf guy who listens to music holding a balloon. He prefers mylar. Better imaging. I am not kidding.

Basic fact: The speaker closest to you will always sound louder. Always...there is no technology from any speaker designers that will track where you are and adjust itself. Consequently, a stereo mix that's well done always sounds better from the middle...period. Sorry...alleged wide dispersion, tweeters on the back of the speaker, omni directional drivers, clearly incompetent drivers, etc., etc.,...uh, no.

That video of the balloon guy was amazing.

I have never heard mono that can remotely match the depth and location information that a stereo speaker set can. 

Dear Johnk, very interesing question(s). Since this early morning, I'am busy with putting my reflections into words. Here's the result🤗

BDW, I am working in a project where music is used to light up areas of catatonic people’s brains. It is a way to activate these people, getting into a kind of conversation. And it works! Using a specific music title as an anchor. They show a reaction when hearing a tune which is memorized in their brain and than we try to get a conversation started.

Binaural hearing is hearing with two ears. Since ever, this helps human beings to orientate in the physical environment and eventually recognize potential danger. So, our hearing is kind of a 'survival gear'.  To be able to listening to music in 'stereo' is added value, imo. But, isn't stereo reproduction artificial? It is not possible to have the exact sound field that actually existed during the recording or the live concert in your home (or anywhere else than the original location of recording).

Coincidence? Yesterday I have readjusted (not the first time..) the place and direction of my 2 speakers because some night critters 👹👿 must have been moving them (again..). Some 30 minutes later, I was delighted with the sound quality when sitting in the sweet spot, listening (not only hearing) to music. To me, for example some tracks from Buddha Bar are sounding really nice in stereo under 'good' stereo listening conditions (including sweet spot). But then, it's electronic music, artificial. A play with sounds. And with an artificial sound stage.

During the past years I have figured out, that I like stereo listening most the less instruments are in play (vocal and 2 to 4 instruments). What I do reckon - it's mainly the 'quallity' of the recording and mastering which brings the listener as close as possible (which imo is still far away) to the sound field that has been produced by the environment when recording. For example, listen to Norah Jone's 'Little Room'. Or David Klein Quartett 'My Marylin. And 'Chanchullo' from Ruben Gonzáles. Then you might know what I mean. Listening to these records, not sitting in the sweet spot is not the same pleasure to me. In this case, 👍for me to stereo and seated-centered solo listening.

I own some records from the fifties which are incredible to listen to, with a very good sound stage (I use a mono cartridge with a mono preamp, including a shorting plug for one input channel to get 'real mono'). Basically, I should use as well only one loudspeaker to have realreal mono.

I have figured out that listening to mono recordings can be less tiring than listening to low quality stereo recordings (some jazz recordings from the beginning era of stereo recording). But for good stereo recordings, there should be no listening fatique per se. Basically, if in good health, I believe our brain is very well capable of processing that many information in question.

Basically, I agree with your comments. I guess we need to live with some compromises when listening to music at home.








I'm moving everything out of my listening room and am ordering a LazyBoy recliner for the sweet spot this week.     It will have that and a beanbag chair...  thats it

The absence of punctuation in the OP caused me reading fatigue:))

Aside from that, if the music in question is pretty much any genre outside of acoustic music, recorded since the 1970's, what we are listening to is, in fact "the sound field as it originally existed", since that sound field was created by the engineers of the recording.

Listening to music is a cognitively complex process, so it's hardly a revelation that the increased musical information provided by a stereo recording caused an increase in brain activity.

The logical fallacy is in the speculation that more brain activity = listening fatigue.

More brain activity might equal more pleasure.

Eric is spreading lies accusing me of being a fake account. 




 Sunprairie, WI, United States


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Isn’t that called Mono?

What I am suggesting is a one-speaker approach, not a multichannel approach.

Yes and no the loudspeaker is designed to replicate a sound field using one speaker of unique design. Stereo or mono signals can be fed into the loudspeaker. I have been working on it for 7 years so who knows what I will do with it. For now, I greatly enjoy what I'm hearing. But I know humans are stubborn things audiophiles maybe even more so so not expecting much from it. 

I always thought that stereo was an invention of Alan Blumlein, who created recordings with crossed microphone pairs to simulate our anatomical auditory apparatus.  Playback was intended to be by 2 speakers with an equilateral angular relationship to the listener.  This was when recording was strictly 2 channel in a live venue...still the model for any good HiFi system, IMO. 

This doesn't directly suggest a particular speaker dispersion pattern is best...Ohm/Walsh, MBL, German Physiks, all go for a cylindrical wave pattern (Ohm modifies theirs to reduce treble splatter). Quad ESLs whether intentionally or not were highly directional.  Floyd Toole's influence has made "uniform power response" the de facto orthodoxy.  Most of us have issues fitting the ideal into our homes' limitations anyway, so solutions are many, some effective.

2 channel playback is the simplest form of stereo. Listening tests suggest that people generally prefer two or more speakers to a single speaker even when listening to mono recordings. Even for a person deaf in one ear there may be perceivable benefits to having more speakers in a room. It might help to smooth out some serious peaks and dips in the response, or mask some of the room’s characteristic sound.

As for trying alternate approaches to putting sound in a room, I’m not above trying unorthodox arrangements. I’ve gotten interesting results by putting the tweeters very close together in the front, with the midrange drivers spaced wider and the upper bass even wider still. Of course it sounds very different. There was a lot to like about it even if it was strange in some ways. It had a better sense of live presence of sound in the room than when the drivers are all more closely arranged as a point source. I

An arrangement I’ve been playing with lately involves pointing the stereo speakers away from you at a window, large screen TV, or large bare wall and listening to the stereo image reflected back at you. Absorption between the listener and the speaker to minimize bleed, although I’ve found this isn’t necessary for the image to move forward away from the speakers. It can help with the tonality. This set up can be surprisingly good sounding in some situations. The speaker’s virtual position is now behind the wall from an imaging perspective, so the sweet spot widens and the soundstage is big and spacious. The sound can become overly "wet" and revealing of the room’s colorations as you are virtually further away from the speakers so the room sound dominates. But after listening to this arrangement for a while, going back to the standard setup sounded too dry and rather small. I’m thinking a dipole speaker like Magnepans could be a good candidate for this setup. The listener could be positioned off to the sides of the speakers in the cancellation zone, so the bass wouldn’t tend to reach their ears too soon. That’s the problem with this setup and conventional speakers - the bass gets to you early compared to the reflected highs.



crustycoot re:

I always thought that stereo was an invention of Alan Blumlein

One of my favorite recordings is Ry Cooder’s "A Meeting by the River", with V.M. Bhatt. It was produced/recorded by Kavi Alexander of Water Lily Acoustics. He used two superb mics made by audio legend Tim de Paravicini, placed in a "Blumlein configuration". It is a gorgeous recording.

"A Meeting By The River is universally praised for the authenticity and realism of its recording and its 2008 vinyl release is often cited as audiophile-quality reference material. The session was captured using two customised valve mics in a Blumlein-array arrangement into a converted Studer two-track analogue tape recorder and the louder you play it, the more every rattle and scrape of slide on fingerboard and every microtonal flurry draws you into its rarefied, spontaneous atmosphere."

Here is a YouTube version, but one must hear it on vinyl, CD, or hi-res stream.
A Meeting by the River on YouTube

Didn’t read the other posts, but almost all music is recorded in stereo so why wouldn’t you play it back that way and situate yourself in the position where it sounds best? Yes, there are speakers like Von Schweikert, Boenicke, etc. that use rear-firing tweets and others like Ohm and MBL that that are omnipoles, but as great as they may sound (and I do think they sound great) they’re the designer’s interpretation of the sound rather than how the engineer recorded it. And IMHO that’s perfectly fine and may even be preferable for many. For those who really care about optimal sound, having to sit in the sweet spot is a small price to pay and well worth the small effort. And I doubt even omnipole speakers, although they can sound very good off axis, sound as good or as balanced that way as opposed to sitting in the sweet spot. Hey, if you really care that much about walking around and getting the same (crappy) sound, just get a Bose Wave Radio and live it up.


The young kids solo in their room on the phone for half of their lives.

And it's not even in stereo.

The flooding of the space in all directions is the Bose theory... 

not that it's necessarily a bad theory, executed properly.  But it's a sacrifice; many of us enjoy precise imaging, and good stereo speakers do convey a soundstage.