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Have you ever wondered how songs make you feel like their instruments are being played from different corners of the room, even when you’re just wearing your headphones? Well, this happens because of a term called Soundstage. This is commonly used in the audio world to determine the width, height, and depth of the sound being produced.
However, when it comes to headphones, Soundstage refers to the actual virtual representation of the songs, giving you the experience of music coming from an original space. Now, understanding this concept is very crucial for you if you want to know the quality of your headphones, as it greatly influences your listening experience.
So, in this article, we will dive into what soundstage is and how it affects your headphone’s performance. We will also talk about the different methods of how these headphones bring sound staging to their devices.
Table of Contents
- What is Soundstage in Headphones?
- How Does Soundstage Work In Headphones?
- How To Improve Soundstage In Headphones?
What is Soundstage in Headphones?
Soundstage is the process of creating an illusion of three-dimensional space by reproducing accurate sounds from a stereo speaker system in your headphones. Through this, the virtual sound space is capable of replicating a live performance’s effect. So, while listening to a particular piece of music, the listener can use Soundstage to visualize the placement of musical instruments while they are simply listening to music on their headphones.
So, soundstage in headphones means the perceived depth, height, and width of the different audio elements that occur during your music session. This simply means the ability of your headphones to create an illusion of the sound coming from different specific locations, simulating the soundstage like it’s a live performance or as if you’re present in a recording studio. You can determine the quality of your headphones through the soundstage feature as a good headphone enhances your listening experience by giving you an immersive and more realistic soundscape, giving the impression of being in a room with the music performers.
Let’s talk about how soundstage is achieved in headphones now. So, generally, there are a couple of technical factors and various designs through which soundstage is achieved, like the shape and size of the ear cups, the quality of your headphone’s components, and the placement of the drivers. For example, smaller in-ear models tend to have a lower soundstage than the large over-ear headphones as they have less room for larger drivers and poor spacing between the ear cups.
Another factor that affects the soundstage is the headphone’s sound signature or tuning. A neutral sound signature can accurately represent the soundstage, while a bass-heavy tuning can reduce the perception of depth and width. Some headphones are designed specifically for a wide soundstage, often by incorporating proprietary technologies that manipulate the sound to create a more immersive experience.
Lastly, when we’re talking about evaluating the soundstage of headphones, it’s crucial to understand that the perceived soundstage is very subjective, and it depends on a plethora of factors, including your listening perception and the genre of music you’re playing. For example, classical and jazz music are typically recorded with a wider soundstage to capture the live performance of the artist, whereas other genres, like hip-hop and electronic, are generally recorded with a more focused soundstage for an impactful bass.
How Does Soundstage Work In Headphones?
Here are the different methods through which soundstage works in headphones.
Method 1: Binaural Recordings
Some recordings are specifically designed to be played in a specific pair of headphones. These are called binaural recordings. These recordings are made by recording the audio from two separate sources or by using two different microphones. These different soundwaves are then played individually in each eardrum. Because of this, it creates a soundstage that sounds more authentic and spacious.
When compared to conventional stereo recordings, binaural recordings provide a far more realistic and immersive experience, making them a great choice for creating optimal soundstage.
Method 2: Driver Placement
To create a proper soundstage in headphones, driver placement is a crucial aspect. If we want to create an illusion of a spacious and realistic soundstage, proper stereo separation is needed, which can only be done with the proper placement of drivers.
As soundstage is basically a virtual space created when the sound hits the listener’s eardrums, it is necessary that the sound is heard the way it was meant to be. This is because if the driver’s placement is incorrect, the sound will not be produced properly, and the soundstage will not seem realistic, which will ruin the immersion and the listening experience.
Method 3: Digital Signal Processing (DSP)
The more advanced the headphones, the better the sound quality. In fact, high-end headphones can use digital algorithms that can manipulate sound to create a more realistic, spacious, and immersive soundstage.
This can be accomplished with the help of digital signal processing software, commonly called a DSP. This software can be used to adjust the frequency response and even enhance the stereo image of the headphones.
It can also create a virtual surround sound, which helps create a better soundstage. Not to mention that the soundstage created through this software is more customizable and can be created with the listeners’ preferences.
Method 4: Acoustic Tuning
Another crucial element in producing a soundstage with headphones is acoustic tuning. The soundstage does not just depend on the audio quality, but can also be enhanced through the size, shape, and material used for the headphones’ ear cups.
Additionally, the driver chamber can also be specifically designed to create a better soundstage. An example of this can be seen in open and closed-back headphones, as both are designed in different way which causes the sound to diffuse and reflect differently.
Another example would be how the size and shape of the driver chamber can influence the bass response and overall tone of the headphones, which then influences the soundstage.
Method 5: Cross-Feed Circuitry
Another way to create a good soundstage would be to use Cross-feed circuitry. It can blend the sounds of the left and right channels to create a soundstage that is more natural and gives a real-life music experience.
This is due to the fact that in real life, the sound reaches the listener’s eardrums at the same time by using Cross-Feed Circuitry. And by blending the audio from both channels, the headphones create a soundstage that is both realistic and gives a natural effect.
Method 6: Virtual Surround Sound
Virtual surround sound is a technology that is well known for enhancing a user’s listening experience, as well as the soundstage. The resulting soundstage is more immersive as it can take stereo signals and create a surround sound experience.
It does this by processing the stereo signals of audio and artificially creating a surround sound effect. This effect creates a soundstage that is very convincing and which creates a spacious feel. This is done by mimicking the sound created by real-life surround sound systems.
How To Improve Soundstage In Headphones?
Check out the different ways to instantly improve the soundstage of your headphones.
1. Choosing Headphones With Good Soundstage Performance
There are many types of headsets, mainly in-ear headsets(earbuds) and over-ear headphones. Now, these headphones come in two different variants, i.e., Closed-Back Headphones and Open-Back Headphones. Generally speaking, if you want good soundstage performance, then the Closed Back Headphones are your best option as they have great noise cancellation, which helps create a great soundstage.
However, if you want a pair of headphones that can give you a kind of wide soundstage that can be very advantageous for gaming, then Open-Back Headphones will do the trick for you. It can be difficult to find a pair of earbuds for a wide soundstage, but you can still produce a good quality soundstage even comparable to over-ear headphones.
This can be done by using earbuds that offer high-clarity audio and decent noise cancellation feature. That said, if you even want to create a decent soundstage, you would need a high-end pair of earbuds, as the cheaper ones will not give you desired results.
2. Experiment With Different Kinds Of Headphone Fits
Experimenting with different kinds of headphone fits is one way to improve the soundstage in headphones. The headphones’ fit can significantly impact the soundstage because it affects how the sound is delivered to the ear. Different headphone fits provide different levels of isolation and can affect how the sound reaches the ear, which can impact the perceived soundstage.
You can also try out different fits of headphones as they also tend to improve the soundstage during your listening experience. This is because the fit of the headphones can have a prominent impact on the soundstage of your headphones as it affects the delivery of the sound to your ears. Different types of headphones fit give different levels of isolation, and this affects the sound that reaches yo your ear, eventually impacting the perceived soundstage.
Let’s check out the different ear fits that you can try to improve the soundstage of your headphones.
- Over-ear headphones: These headphones cover the entire ear and provide excellent isolation, which can improve the soundstage by reducing ambient noise. They are also larger and have more room for larger drivers, which can result in a wider soundstage.
- On-ear headphones: These headphones sit on top of the ear and provide some isolation, but less than over-ear headphones. They can still provide an impressive soundstage if they have good driver placement and a neutral sound signature.
- In-ear headphones: These headphones are inserted into the ear canal and provide excellent isolation but can be limited in terms of soundstage because of their small size. Some in-ear headphones are designed with larger drivers and a wider soundstage, but they can be harder to achieve than over-ear headphones.
- Open-back headphones: These headphones have an open design that allows sound to escape, which can improve the soundstage by creating a more spacious and airy sound. However, they also let in more ambient noise, so they may not be ideal for use in noisy environments.
3. Use High-Quality Audio Sources
Using high-quality audio sources is a necessity for having a good soundstage, if the audio quality is of a sub-par level, it will create a bad listening experience which in turn ruins the soundstage. Low distortion, a broad frequency response, and an unrestricted dynamic range are three criteria that objectively characterize the sound quality of your headphones. Although these are hardware-oriented standards, they somewhat pertain to recordings.
So, to make it easier to understand, imagine that you are listening to the song Thriller by Michael Jackson, and after closing your eyes, you can picture him performing on stage when suddenly the audio cracks, and you are taken out of the moment. That’s why you should invest in high-quality headphones, as they stop this hindrance with ease and give you a perfect listening experience.
The most straightforward and easiest way to test the soundstage of your headphones is to listen to songs with incredible vocals and instrumental performances. There are many songs that can help you identify whether your headphones help you create a good soundstage or not. I would recommend listening to the song Bubbles by Yosi Horikawa. It is a great song that can help you test the soundstage in your headphones. In fact, in my opinion, anything by Yosi Horikawa creates a great soundstage.
Honestly, crowning a headphone as the best in terms of creating a soundstage is hard, but in my opinion, the Sennheiser HD 800 S is by far a great choice if the soundstage matters to you the most. With features like top-of-the-line noise cancellation and great sound quality, it’s definitely one of the best products out there. Another great option would be the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X. This pair of headphones provides great isolation and creates a good soundstage.
Musicians usually use little earpieces, known as In-Ear Monitors or IEMs for short. These earpieces help the singers perform better, as they can use them to hear all the instruments being played as well as their own vocals. IEMs also block any background noise, like the crowd so that they can stay focused and in tune with the band. That said, musicians may use a variety of headphones, including in-ear monitors, over-ear headphones, and noise-canceling headphones, depending on their personal preference and the type of performance. Some popular brands used by musicians include Shure, Sennheiser, Westone, and Bose.
By now, you would have a good idea of what a soundstage is in a pair of headphones.
It is also important for you to understand that different music genres greatly impact your soundstage experience as they come with varying features.
So, if you want to have the best soundstage experience, always go for good quality headphones as they always tend to deliver top quality sound.
Lastly, don’t forget to share this article with your friends and family members who might be curious about how a soundstage works. Feel free to reach out to us if you have any queries.
Since the time I got my first pair of headphones in 2012, I’ve been fascinated by these little gadgets that have the power to change our moods through our favorite music. Whether it was the cheap $5 earphones or the premium JBL headphones, I have played my favorite music on tons of different audio devices for all these years.
At AudioReputation, I test and review headphones of all kinds. From popular earbuds like the Airpods pro to the expensive HIFIMAN Susvara, I always perform a deep test and present my honest and unbiased opinion to my readers.