Paul McGowan .....
After a recent post I was thinking about the term Separation as it applies to the instruments and singers on a soundstage. I spoke of how the elements in the recording were rounded and separate such that they seemed as if I could reach out and touch them. They were palpable.
It occurs to me that I have, on many occasions, experienced great separation without feeling like I could reach out and touch the players – so I’d have to conclude the two are, themselves, separate terms that may be interconnected at times but not always.
The separation of elements within a soundstage is something almost hard to describe and easier understood once you hear it for yourself. It’s somewhat like the old saying “you’ll know it when you hear it”. Indeed, you can listen to your system and enjoy the heck out of it without ever really experiencing what separation sounds like.
It is probably also instructive to point out that this soundstage I am referring to is not something you’re immersed in. Rather you are as a distant observer looking through a “window” at the illusion of players on a stage. Regardless of the resolution of the system you almost always hear this presentation forming the illusion of soundstage even if there’s little separation of the elements.
Continuing with our metaphor of the distant illusion being viewed through a window, if the window is somewhat translucent you can’t see the individual players as well as through a perfectly clear one – thus while you know it’s a group playing in a defined space – it isn’t clear to you how many people are in that group. Clean the window and all of a sudden you are aware not only of the number of people but the distance between them.
Each separated player has her own space and you can plainly “see” the individual and their space they are allotted.
Obviously we don’t “see” anything because it is only a sound picture that forms this illusion. But even with your eyes closed, separation of instruments within a space is easy to identify once you hear it.
From a design standpoint the elements I have used to get better separation in electronics is almost always through improvements to the power supply. If another designer were having a problem improving on the separation of instruments in their designs, this is the first place I would look, taking great care to make sure the power supply is rock solid even to the extent of placing individual spot regulation where it is needed – that being determined by listening to each element in the circuit.