June 30, 2020

On Image Height

Largely based on a true story again.

Our group of audiophiles continue to have on-line discussions on topics peculiar to our hobby.

This time, the discussion turned to Image Height, which refers to how high up from the ground that the sound sources of the singer and the various musical instruments are perceived to be emanating from within the sound-stage.

This is a performance characteristic that many audiophiles hold very dearly to. Many even take it as a make-or-break item in the capability of a hi-fi system. An image height that is deemed too low may elicit a total write-off of the entire system, all other audio performance criteria be damned!

Usually, the position of "the mouth of the singer" is used as the reference point. As such, solo vocal tracks are commonly used to gauge image height.

The discussion went thus:

A: "What should be the image height from a hi-fi system? How high is considered correct?"

B: "I asked a sifu once, he said it should be the same height as our line of sight. Slightly higher is ok too."

C: "I like my image height to be the rough height of a person's mouth while standing up."

D: "Image height is the result of the interaction between the left and right speakers, this interaction also causes the variation in height. The correct height should be around 5ft /1.5m. If the height is wrong then there is something uneven with the energy distribution within the audio frequency spectrum.

B: "There are actually a variety of height possibilities:

The artist can be performing standing up,

she can be sitting on a tall stool.

or sitting down on a chair.

But one thing I am sure though, no audiophile likes an image height as if the singer is lying on the floor! 😁"

E: "There is one more position, very comfortable, called the 'Ge-You Slouch' θ‘›δΌ˜θΊΊ! 😁"
(note: Ge-You is a popular character actor from China)

A: "No lah! we are talking about the posture of the singer, not the listener lah."

B:"In my opinion, there could be 2 possibilities to the image height phenomenon.

If image height is purely an effect or the result of the interaction between the loudspeakers and the listening space, then our "system tuning" will determine the image height from our system, in our room, for all recordings, since this interaction is independent of the recording itself. That is, we'll get a consistent image height in our listening room.

However, if image height is part of the information encoded in the recording, then we should hear image height variations from a variety of recordings, from different labels, genre, era etc, as the condition or circumstances under which each recording was made would be different.

I don't know which one is correct, but I suspect the truth is somewhere in-between these 2 extremes. I have heard different system and room tuning influencing the perception of image height. I have also experienced hearing varying heights from one same system when playing different recordings. The latter, in my opinion, signifies a highly resolved and highly transparent system."

A:"Is there such a thing as an image height that is too tall?

F: "No lah! Depends on personal taste, who knows, an audiophile may like a front row seat like this....

The End. πŸ˜‰

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