Soundstage and image height, does it exist?

On another site, there is a discussion on soundstage, and there are a few people clamming, that, since there is no vertical information encoded on stereo recordings, that soundstage height does not actually exist. It is a product of our minds filling in missing information. 

Are they correct?

Please explain your position, with as much technical details as you feel needed.



Are they correct?


whether or not they are correct is their opinion . . you have people that think the earth is flat , so what does that tell you ?

why are people so worried about what others think or say on certain topics and then have to get others opinions ?

when you listen to your system, what do you hear / experience ?

i am definitely not an expert in this and never claimed to be.....but doesnt the room and the room treatments play a huge roll in the soundstage of a room ?

A narrow floor-to-ceiling line source like the Carver speaker will do this better than any speaker with multiple drivers of varying sizes (B&W, Focal, Magico, Wilson ... as examples).

The Pipe Dreams speaker comes to mind - a favorite of Harry Pearson! It too was a tall line source.

Third, I can recall listening to the astounding width and height of the sound field produced by the Harold Beveridge ESL (back in '78). 

Volume can play a big part in getting the illusion of height. At least in my room. Low volume keeps everything closer to the level of the tweeter/your ears. At a moderate increase in volume every thing seems to open up. Just don't overdrive your room - sounds like crap. FWIW.


´´ why are people so worried about what others think or say on certain topics and then have to get others opinions ? ´´

You must be a very interesting person to talk to.

I hope you behave differently with friends and life partner .



why do i need to behave differently with friends or life partner ?

so because i ask a simply question of what does it matter what others on a site say , you have a problem with it ?


The ´´tone ´´ of your post is slightly arrogant . That is the way I perceived  it.

When I sit on the floor listening to music I get a perception of sound stage height.

Plus my cat like it cause I am rubbing her belly while we listen. 

Hope that was not snotty or to technical. 



The ´´tone ´´ of your post is slightly arrogant . That is the way I prrceived it.

well that is where you would be wrong.   


I dont see why a person cant have their own opinion on something and if you dont agree with the majority of the group then you are wrong.    that is the point i am trying to make and that has nothing to do with being arrogant.





 Poutine  has his own opinion,and he doen’t agree ( and care )with the majority of the world.

Take a look at the result.

Even Captain Kirk , used to consult Mr. Spock and his crew !

Post removed 

Well I have no idea if they are right or wrong regarding the non-vertical coded information, but what I do know is I prefer my speakers (Forte III) adjusted slightly up. If I were to keep them leveled to the floor I find myself looking down to hear the music. Sound waves seem to travel in the direction you send them, and I would imagine expanding the farther they travel. It is possible that there is no need for a vertical code only a slight speaker adjustment. And, might I dare say a little imagination or trickery of the brain. 

I run Acoustic Zen Crescendo speakers.  Transmission line design. There is clearly the impression of height in the soundstage.  Sometimes it's actually annoying to hear an instrument that appears to be several feet above the rest of the band.  I put in down to the upper postion of the midrange and tweeter.  They are a couple feet above my ears in the listening position.  I just close my eyes and picture a two tier stage.  Works for me.  

If you can hear it, and I think most of us can, then it (perception of height) exists. It's not just speakers. Years ago, I had an Apt Holman amplifier and a McIntosh 2105 and I tried them in the same system with the same music. The Apt Holman had a very squat height and the McIntosh much taller comparatively. With speakers I guess it's all about the way the drivers disperse the sound. With electronics, I'll leave that to better minds.

My friends and I have tested this by trying the same gear in different rooms. Our conclusion is that image height is a function of ceiling height and position of the drivers. Canting the speakers fore and aft can change the image height as well. Give it a try. 

the human hearing mechanism encodes height information based on frequency contouring caused by the shape of the ear. there is a tone map in the brain that instantly "translates" certain directional sounds as "higher" or "lower." SOME stereo music recordings contain enough of this information, a FEW of them. i have heard it demonstrated on the LEDR [Listening Environment Diagnostic Recording] on a Chesky test disc, with the synthetic cabasa rising above one speaker and sailing across the ceiling to the other speaker, as well as sailing backwards. 

The brain always fills in information and creates illusions that are not real. Close your eyes and listen to vocals, they invariably appear to be dead centre, but there is no speaker there, its an illusion created in your brain, you hear two separate signals one in each ear, your brain processes that and informs you its from the middle, its not is it. Soundstage is the same, some systems give much wider soundstage, more often how they placed is more important. 

of course it exists...WHY its there? the differences among sound at the source, often 2 lil boxes, how it fills our room and our ears...theres a ot going on there. our brains make sense of it. there must be a whole slew of factors at play. the size and dimension of soundstage is quite different from system to system in my house, and tweaking each system changes it. my desktop system has a wild freakin 3D soundstage thats really high...well, when i lower my speakers, the sound stage height lowers. when i flip em upside down it changes again. barely change the toe-in and i get pretty significant changes in width and separation, placement of sounds. ive only recently learned of this holographic experience, and man its wild. but of course its real. you have sound coming at you in a particular manner from a particular place and places. 

we perceive sound as 3 dimensionally with our ears as we do the world around us with our eyes. 

cool stuff. im fascinated. 

In my fully acoustically treated house of stereo with 9 ft ceiling, I have used 40" tall towers and 69" ones. Both pairs projected imaging all the way to the top of the wall. So, in my case, yes. 

I cannot give a technical explanation, but I definitely have experienced a soundstage.  My listening room is untreated, but filled with soft furniture, carpet and drapes.  I stream music using McIntosh solid state electronics and Klipsch La Scala speakers.  It is not the same with all recordings.  Some of the best have been old recordings from the 1950's as well as newly issued material.  At its best, the music comes from each side, above and behind me, and the speakers "disappear."  I have even experienced a soundstage with headphones.  I recall a Tony Scott recording where the clarinet clearly "appeared" from across the room.  I speculate that it involves the quality of the recording and the interplay between my ears and brain.  The soundstage also expands after listening for a while, which reinforces my speculation that the brain becomes acclimated to the sound, and then produces the soundstage.  

As has been noted already, everyone knows that their speakers, no matter the design, can project an image in the center, where there is no driver. Obviously, speakers radiate sound: to the left, the right, above and below. Why would this not create an image above, just as it does to the left and right, assuming the ceiling is high enough to allow for it?

If you want to test this dimension of the stereo image, acquire Northwestern's LEDR recording. It's available free online, but is also on one of the Chesky jazz samplers. Here's a link to a Stereophile review of it:

Finally, riley84 asks why anyone would be interested in anyone else's "opinion" in such matters, and was accused of "arrogance" as a result. This doesn't look arrogant to me; quite the contrary, in fact: live and let live. But I still find riley's question naive. OF COURSE we care about others' opinions regarding audio; that's what this forum exists to disseminate! More: I expect those opinions to be backed up by either evidence or argument. I visit this forum for tips on how to improve my system. I'll try those tips which are defended convincingly. Same is true in just about anything else ("life partners," "friends"...). We live among others, some of whom seem to us to be on the right track, others not so much. For me, I'm open-minded, but I want reasons to believe.

In my 50+ years of playing this "game" I have found that there certainly is height information that is being processed by your brain, albeit a phantom, as is the center channel.

Moreover, to my ears this is very recording dependent, acoustic guitar and singer I prefer not to hear them on the ceiling as that is outside of my live experience.

Large orchestral pieces "should" sound like you're in a proper theater setting.

At about three minutes into Steely Dan Aja there is a police whistle, on my rig it actually sounds like it is outside and across the street.  YMMV.



As many of you know the visual center of your brain uses a ton of "CPU cycles" to recreate what we perceive as our own reality.  When you take that processing load off your brain as a matter of course it uses whatever input is left and draws on past visual input to complete the picture.

That is why I mostly listen with the lights off and my eyes closed.  I suspect many of you 'philes do the same thing.  



There are some people who honestly don't, won't and can't hear it. Everyone is physically and emotionally different.  But sometimes these people can't fathom that other people can. And some of those people think that it's their responsibility to tell people it's nonsense. 

@simonmoon I don’t know about the mastering process, but my recent experience with entry level gear may provide some insight. In the last 4 years, I started with KEF Q150 stand mounts on Monoprice Monolith stands. I didn’t know it at the time, but my soundstage and imagining was limited to a line between the tweeters--a 1 dimensional soundstage. I replaced the KEF’s with B&W CM9S2 towers. The line of a soundstage expanded to a wall, which was only 2 dimensional, being height and width. More recently, that wall gained some depth when I upgraded the streamer to the iFi Zen Stream.

Two channel mastering is likely very different from the object placement afforded by the new spacial audio music mastering. But I would argue that there is some way in which soundstage height does exist. I would guess that someone who argues that soundstage height doens’t exist is probably proceeding from a set of definitions from the spacial audio world. Probably just a definitional problem where people are talking past each other.

My understanding of human sound perception of height is that it occurs mostly in the pinnae, causing the tonal relations and phase relations to change at the eardrum. There are no timing or level differences that can give us height information so a two channel playback system doesn’t inherently have anything to work with. But we may perceive a ceiling echo in a concert hall recording as coming from above from other unconscious means of deduction. You could say it’s our imagination but it would be informed imagination. If a recording is made using a dummy head then tonal relations associated with height do get encoded onto a 2 channel stereo recording. All directions are possible, but it usually doesn’t work super well because 1. Our pinnae are not all the same, and 2. The sound goes through the pinnae transformation twice - once at the dummy head microphone and again when the sound from the speakers hits your pinnae. My experience with listening to dummy head recordings through speakers is that the height effect can make it through all these issues with powerful effect sometimes. I have a recording of airplanes flying over that creates a very powerful directly overhead effect on every speaker I’ve tried so far.

Any system that has a tonal response that mimics your tonal response for height can cause a height effect for you. Ceiling reflections can also create a height effect. And of course speakers up high can create that effect. My speakers tweeters are higher than my seated position so I have an elevated sound stage.

Image height is a function of the reproduction chain, loudspeakers in particular. If it was simply a matter of saying that there is no vertical information encoded in stereo recordings then the resultant sound stage would be non existent in the vertical plane.


This first time I heard height reproduced through a hi-fi system was when I played Boult's recording of Holst's The Planets (EMI ASD 2301) on a Thorens TD-125 Mk.2/SME 3009/Decca Blue pickup turntable, feeding pair of Magneplanar Tympani T-I's bi-amped with ARC tube amps. Way, way at the rear of the hall (which itself could be heard) I could "see" the percussion instruments (particularly the triangle), raised on a podium above the instruments in front of them. I didn't yet know symphony orchestras were so situated, and had no expectation to hear that sound. Yet I did. 

@roxy54 --

With speakers I guess it’s all about the way the drivers disperse the sound.


I like that the actual, total radiated field of sound extends somewhat beyond the listening height (with a line source ideally terminated at both the floor and ceiling) dictated by ear level above the ground. My own speakers are just above 6 ft. tall, but the acoustic center at the LP is situated between the upper edge of the bass bin and the lower edge of the horn above (i.e.: at 100-105 cm’s). This way there’s a sensation of what’s presented to the ears as being less restricted and more immersive (or fuller), and so there’s a larger "canvas" for the sound to emit itself from. Physical properties of sound that to my ears more closely emulates the signature trait of an acoustic live symphony orchestra concert, or even a live amplified one.

Whenever imaging or soundstage are mentioned, I like to remind people about these resources: The following provide tests, with which one may determine whether their system actually images, or reproduces a soundstage, as recorded. ie: On the Chesky sampler/test CD; David explains in detail, his position on the stage and distance from the mics, as he strikes a tambourine(Depth Test). The LEDR test tells what to expect, if your system performs well, before each segment. The Chesky CD contains a number of tests, in addition to the LEDR. ( and ( The shape of your ears’ pinnae is also a variable, regarding your ability to perceive images/locate sounds. A Stereophile article, that explains the LEDR test:  

To quote Bobby Owsinksi from The Mastering Engineer's Handbook:

The LEDR test is a substitute for about $30,000 to $40,000 worth of test equipment.

Stereophile also has an article about it, written in 1989 (!) by Bob Katz:

"My system has great imaging!" "I can hear sound coming from beyond my speakers." "The depth image in my system goes back at least 20 feet." Yes, we audiophiles are proud of our imaging (footnote 1), and we've worked hard to get it. My back is still aching from the last time I tweaked my speakers until the image was just right. Wouldn't it be nice if we had a test to set up and check a stereo system for correct imaging? Yes, Virginia, there is an imaging test—your LEDR is here (footnote 2). LEDR, which stands for "Listening Environment Diagnostic Recording," is available on a test CD from Prosonus, the Studio Reference Disc (footnote 3). The CD is rather expensive (about $50), but there is no other official test for imaging. [Since this article was published, an LEDR track was included on the first Chesky Records Jazz Sampler & Audiophile Test CD (JD37).—Ed.]

Luckily it's 2022 and we don't have to buy expensive CDs anymore, as there is an online version of this test here:

The Stereophile article has a rather lengthy explanation about what you should hear - the short version again quoted from the Mastering Engineer's Handbook is:

If the sound for the up image doesn’t go straight up from your loudspeaker, six feet in the air as you sit there in your position, then you’ve got a problem with your crossover or with reflections above the loudspeaker.

If the sound doesn’t travel from left to right evenly and smoothly with the left-to-right test, then you’ve got problems with objects between your loudspeakers.

And the same with the beyond signal, which is supposed to go from about one foot to the left of the left speaker, gradually over to one foot to the right of the right speaker, which detects reflections from the side wall.

I apologise as I have not had time to read all the responses to your question about image height but this article was published in the Absolute Sound and was part of a series of articles about being able to determine the best digital audio music files - wav/flac etc - and computer file servers - windows/Mac. The writers of the artiicles used image height as a 'measurement' of sound quality - the higher the image the higher the quality. I use this method - not in a measured way - but listening for the height which equates to me as better/best sound quality. It usually correlates to high frequency content and higher or highest resolution in the music being played. The article - one of them is here - if you scroll down until you find image height the context can be read. Hope it helps?


= High Fidelity = Full range. Box/xover speakers aint going to out perform a  Full range, = Sensitivity issues. under 90 db vs over 92db, High sens always wins out in a  shootout every single shootout. My tech here in new orleans continues his mantra,, **Well you do have a  xover in your speaker, ..** I tell him over and over,, sure its a  single cap, acting  as  a filter on the 2 tweeters per channel. Each T has a  8.2 Mundorf SESGO cap,. Which blocks fq's at the 4kish range.  I am speaking of xovers on both tweeters and woofers ina  typical box design. My Seas Thors had 1 coil + 2 resistors + 4 caps per tweeter then the woofer had like 1 res + 1 coil + 1 massive cap. 

A Full Range has no xovers. 

Which allows the purity of the music to sing natural. 

A woofer never will out shoot a  Full Range, = Higher end FR, not lower end. 

Some FR are garbage. A few are true high end speakers, which IMHO will never be surpassed in high fidelity. 

I have a  8 inch FR + a  6 inch FR + dual T's per channel. Open baffel. FR sound like garbage ina  closed/ported box.

But of course most of you here have not heard a  FR in action, so you would not know what I am tlking about. 

For me, FR is top dawgs. 2nd to none. 

Out shoots all panels/Stats/horns. 

height which equates to me as better/best sound quality. It usually correlates to high frequency content and higher or highest resolution in the music being played ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Exactly, the higher sens drivers always presents a cleaner more accurate = more detailed musical image vs low sens drivers. Ideally no driver under 91db and not over 95db are the ideal sens range for any driver

That speculation cannot be disproved, but with my line source speakers there is no height with the sound stage. The stage expands laterally from both speakers due to phase interactions.  This also might explain the sound source coming from behind the listener, in a room where all four walls are completely insulated. 

There is a lot of neurological processing regarding phase reception given the fact that the 1D axis of two ears yields 3D hearing so I would look more to that as an explanation.



A narrow floor-to-ceiling line source like the Carver speaker will do this better than any speaker with multiple drivers of varying sizes (B&W, Focal, Magico, Wilson ... as examples).

But that’s a side-effect of a line-source. Completely unnatural, when a guitar image like a Pipe organ



I guess the Cowboy Junkies on Trinity Sessions were just an artifact of the recording engineer and their positions had nothing to do with what I hear concerning their placement on the soundstage?

They used just one mike and sat or stood around it while playing. Any decent setup will show their position and height differences. This is old news.

Sounds to me that whoever said that doesn't have a good enough system to show a proper soundstage. That's not accounting for what an engineer can do by moving performers (and instruments) around the soundstage and even then, the height can vary.

There are omnidirectional (picks up from all directions), unidirectional (mostly from one direction) and bidirectional (from two opposite directions) mikes that when nothing is done to alter their intake, will allow playback of approximately what they heard. That includes height.

All the best,

I will atempt to explain why a  FR is superior form of speaker in all classical music vs a  xover box design With my dual FR drivers at 92-95db and dual tweeters at 91 db , the most subtle,  hush instrumentaion/ notes can be detected without having to crank up the vol on the amplifier. Now when the cresendos crash in, sure  SPL can go up a  bit, but not near as loud as a  xover box design in these fq peaks. 

After listening to my dual FR  + dual Tweeter  design, (no other in the world, I am the only audiophile employing this unique design), I could never go back to any xover box style speaker. 

My local tech here in new orleans bangs away at my design saying ** YOu still have a xover,,its not xover-less** true and not true. 

A single 8.2 Mundorf Silver cap on each tweeter acts as NOTHING MORE THAN A FILTER. THe **woofers** = FR, have no xover components./

If you wish to call a  single cap a  xover, feel free. He demands  I confess I employ a xover. I refuse to do so. 

Itsa  filter of the barest minimum. Vs say Troels Gravesen's xover designs which employ at least a  dozen components in each speaker. 

The dual FR are really 80% of the sonics, completely free of any xovers. The dual T's kick in at 4-5K hz, and carry minimal sonics as most classical music  falls below 5k hz. 

The dual T;'s are acting more for a  lil **Pizzaz** and ambience. 

A single FR w/o a  T is not going to deliver the goods. A tweeter is a  absolute must.

But a  tweeter will not save a  xover/box type. 

Wilson can stack as many drivers they wish ina  cabinet and hope to copy the sonic fq range which a  high end FR can accomplish. Its not going to work. What you get with Wilson is more sound, a  true  LOUD-speaker.

Attacking is the code word. vandersteen's, Tektons, ZU's all attack with LOUDNESS. 

Buts thats not high fidelity Its low fidelity which is nothing more than distortion which equates to fatigue. My speakers are fatigue free. On a   scale of 1 to 100, they are a  zero. vs your avg box/xover types, , which offer fatiguing and tiresome to endure for any length of time.

Wish I had known this extential facts decades ago, would have saved me  some sufferings.

One considertion to ponder here in this discussion of xover box types trying to compete with a  higher end FR design is the evident fact that woofers are not so good at fq's above 1500hz and Tweeters not so good at below the critical 3k hz range.

There is this huge   gap, falling within the heart and soul of the musical image. 

Which is the reason for Dali, Wilson and countless other designs have evolved into complex multi driver designs. 

Creating a  big problem. A 2 way has always sounded better than a  3,4,5 way. 

With each added driver the musical image gets more crop, splice, sliced and butchered. Chop Suey.

Yeah sure its **full range**  but full of e xactly what, its not easy to say. 



“Creating a  big problem. A 2 way has always sounded better than a  3,4,5 way.”


not been my experience at all. 

Gee, I don't know.  BUT, what I do know is that when Jim Winey decided to make Magnepan speakers 6' high, the listener was treated to a source that more closely mimicked the experience of being at a live concert.  The "sound stage" of a concert is the hall you listen to it in.  Most halls are designed to provide a quality listening experience that is as tall as the hall and as wide as the stage.

When you first hear Maggies that are set-up properly in a room that is decent, you then may understand the concept of reproducing the live experience.  If you wish to call that "sound stage" or "image height" then feel free.  

Another interesting fact is that, soon after others heard Maggies, THEY started making their products TALLER.  Wonder what caused that, eh?

The experience of sitting in YOUR ROOM and listening to well-set-up Maggies driven by superb hardware is one that SHOULD remind you of the live concert experience.  Call it whatever you wish; to me, that is part of the goal of all this.


Without reading any of the posts, I've decided this post is nonsense. Obviously if you have ears and decent equipment this post is moot. I'm  fairly new to autophila Started with 1 adcom and added another, bi-wired in stereo. They had a nice soundfield. 5 foot oval in the middle.  Oh the speakers Cornwall iv's preamp Mc M70 sound was very good Loved it. Came across a mcintosh 452. the owner wanted to upgrade to the mc462. {THANK YOU} pulled the adcoms and added the mac. an amazing difference, The soundstage expanded 3 foil, to the whole back of my sound space.The room is 15 by 20 with a couch 15 feet back. there is no way I'm mistaken the difference is obvious, there's no denying it. The perfect listening spot is about 10 feet back but she wont let me move the couch.

On this @nonoise and I agree. It took me a long time to get the speakers set up properly and longer still to get the subs right but now that I am at least much closer to perfect I most definitely perceive height differences.

People "clamming" are generally not aware of soundstaging so much as the splort and sucking sound the mudflats make as one clams. Otherwise, soundstage height, width, location of instruments either accurate of not (drummer's kits are generally not 25 feet wide, although some engineers think they should be), is a fundamental part of great hifi without which the whole damn thing would be senseless (pun intended).

I always took it for granted until I had some very much non-audiophiles over in my much too small for the big speakers I had, studio apartment. There is a track that starts with a skateboarder in a half-pipe. The friend who happened to be sitting in the sweet spot basically stopped all conversations and made everyone take turns listening to the opening of the track from the sweet spot. You can very much tell that there is height. The half pipe extends through the floor. Maybe it was expectation, and they were each familiar with the sound and could immediately contextualize it, but I doubt it.

I don’t know if showing height is a goal during mixdowns. I do know there was an project I read of years ago that was able to make a sound appear to be generated from anywhere in a room with a single speaker. I don’t know how much calibration was needed to adjust for room acoustics, but it certainly worked as a proof of concept. 

Thanks for all the responses to my OP, folks!

I have never had a problem getting height in my images, when the material calls for it. 


Like in the track on Chesky's first "Ultimate Evaluation Disk", with the Mozart flute concerto, where, on all my previous systems, and my current one, the flute is always at the correct height for a person standing and playing the flute.

Like wise, on the title track of King Crimson's "Islands", there is a cornet that comes in at about 2:00 in, that is also at about 5.5 feet above the floor, just at the correct height.

I ordered Chesky's CD with the LEDR test on it, even though I know you can get it for free. I also want the rest of the material on the disk.


If height information is encoded in a recording I’ve found it doesn’t take much of a system at all for it to be perceived. Pretty much any basic system will make it work. Height perception should even work in mono. I’ve found it also easy to get sounds extending well beyond the speakers to even behind the listener. Speaker placement and listening position are a little more important for the wrap around effect but it doesn’t require a great system. I find forward depth is far more difficult for me to perceive, pretty much impossible if I can see the front wall too close to me, although it can work if I close my eyes and the system is well balanced tonally and speakers positioned well.