Nomenclature (411) Q&A

What is Imaging? edit

What does it mean when a hifi is said to have good imaging?
1 Answer
Michael Davis, I work here
Imaging refers to the ability for people to listen to music on a good stereo system and, using the ears to triangulate where a sound is coming from, 'see' in the minds eye where a musician or instrument is standing in front of you.

Good imaging, sometimes called 'pinpoint' imaging, refers to the ability of high resolution stereo systems and people with experienced ears to 'see' the realistic outlines of instruments and performers, to see exactly where the violin bow is striking the strings and how the music stand is blocking some of the sound from the violin, to, in the end, to be able to 'see' a virtual band playing in the listening room.

Detractors like to denigrate imaging as something that is artificial and not present in the real world [or, if present, to a much lesser degree]. Hard for me, personally, to see how this can be the case as we have two ears, which are separated, so that we can triangulate where that tiger is and where that rustle in the forest is coming from [so that we know in which direction to run as fast as we possibly can].

Good imaging requires primary high resolution and accurate treble, the high frequencies being the ones our ears use to best effect when triangulating where something is. This means, for the most part, that a hifi system needs a good tweeter and cables that do not muffle the treble in order to have good imaging.

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