“You are there” or “They are here”

You may be a bit confused by that title, but it’s a valid dilemma in the audio world.  What is your goal when it comes to your system?  There are two differing philosophies.

In a “You are there” set up, your goal is to create the illusion that you are at the concert or some other place where the performance is occurring.

In a “They are here” set up, you want it to sound like the performance is happening in your listening room.  The musicians have magically appeared in front of you and are singing right to you.

Or do you strive for a bit of both? Does it depend on the recording more than the system? It takes some imagination on the listener’s part, so can you not create either illusion in your mind?

Check out what our users had to say on the Forum below.


Buff: I prefer you are there. Recording has a huge affect on this, as do room acoustics. Of course it takes a certain level of quality in speaker and associated equipment to get this, but if it isn’t on the CD/record/etc, it is not going to come out of your speakers.

Mofimadness: I prefer “they are here.” Since I have never been to most concert halls, recording studios, etc., I don’t know how they are supposed to sound. I do know my own sound room and acoustic space and how it performs.

Ballan: I think this has more to do with the recording methods and process, and because of that, I prefer to allow the artist and engineer to make that decision. I have a hard enough time trying to decide between cake or brownies for dessert 🙂

Cbw723: Personally, I find the “you are there” sensation a bit disorienting. I know where I am when I’m listening, and it’s not in a jazz club, concert hall, or stadium. So when I hear the cues that suggest those places, I find them distracting and they distance me from the music. Maybe that’s why I prefer studio-recorded material. It sounds like the music is there with me for my personal enjoyment.

In my case, the acoustic treatment is easy:  just make the room a bit on the acoustically dead side. For the “you are there” experience, I’d think you’d want to make your room’s acoustics a bit like the venue of interest (without getting carried away). A jazz venue is small and a bit bright, a concert hall is cavernous, a stadium is well, an acoustic nightmare. So I think you could probably tailor your room in one way or another to maximize a particular kind of venue, but that might have consequences for other types of recordings and venues.

Rtn1: I have not had time to read through the posts. I have achieve the ‘you are there’ experience for the majority of my recordings. This is achieved by lowering the ‘noise’ and removing electronic artifacts. I put noise in quotes because there is also noise and distortion you cannot hear. I believe it also takes a highly resolving source (i.e. DAC). I do not think the recording is a limitation. The spatial cues are there, they are masked by most equipment.

Jylee: To me, most studio recordings sound like “there are here,” and most live recordings sound like “you are there.” It’s probably caused by the extra cues for space and ambiance I’m not familiar with. I don’t think it has to do much with the quality of the equipments.

Wolf_garcia: If you have an accurate system working properly everything you hear sounds a little, or a lot, dissimilar relative to soundstaging. Acoustic pianos ALL sound different, engineers can make drummers sound properly in a nice area or 67 feet wide (did he have his girlfriend play that tom fill on queue from a restroom stall?), orchestras might as well be on different planets, etc. I try not to care too much and enjoy the fidelity and the musical ideas with some people right in front of me, surrounding me, stuck to the walls, or in a mono mix piled on top of each other…it can all be good, but it’s all different.

Tom6897: Your system is there to provide suspension of belief and fool the senses. I want my system to be able to portray both depending upon the material I am enjoying at any given time. Yes, one system can do both, if properly setup and your room is capable of allowing that suspension of belief to occur.


Do you feel it is possible to have both a “You are there” and “They are here” sound on the same system?  Do you prefer one or the other?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!


  1. “Does it depend on the recording more than the system?”

    I think the majority is within the recording. One example; when I listen
    to “On The Run” from DSOTM, even on a modest system, I can hear the
    helicopter flying behind me, with just two speakers!

  2. Well, it is a tricky question, but at the end I guess it is simple: in a stereo system my goal it is “they are here”. To imagine “I´m there” it is necessary a well done multichannel recording & system to feel the heat.
    And I agree with a previous Agoner: I have a hard enough time trying to decide between cake or brownies for dessert

  3. What a great question to ponder!
    It is (somewhat) possible with the right equipment and environment, but you may wind up with “they are there” with lesser equipment.
    For me, the sweet spot is somewhere in-between, where I simply “jump” into the sound and forget everything else.
    I’ve been to many of the concerts I listen too, I actually prefer “they are here” because many of the concerts were not intimate settings and I can get a more enveloping experience with the artist in my room.
    Out of all the equipment I’ve owned over the years, only with my big Legacy Focus speakers am I able to “play” with those “illusions” and slant my listening experience either way.
    Yet with those speakers it becomes clear that the recording can have a major influence, because what’s there is always there- good bad or ugly.
    For me – Changing room/s or acoustics,volume, speaker tow and separation and some equalization can be tremendous fun trying to bring the band home, or head out to the concert hall.

  4. I never really thought about it until right now, but I have an imediate thought for my system, “they are here”. For the most part, that is what I am personally trying to accomplish, and my system does it pretty well. There are certain recordings that may fool me into feeling like I am there, but this is probably more in my head than a reality, since I can’t possibly know since I wasn’t there or have ever seen a particular artist or band in many cases. One recording comes to mind, Cowboy Junkies, Trinity Sessions. In my system, I feel that I am there, and I like it! I use this recording to evaluate systems including my own, along with several others. So, I guess it is possible to have both. I will say, as my system evolves (who’s doesn’t really!!??) I can see more and more differences in the quality, or lack of, in different recordings. Music I genuinly love, can sometimes be quite unbearble on my system because the recording quality is so…… poor. I save those for listening in my car., since it certainly doesn’t destroy the illusion of being there or they are here.

  5. They are here. But, since I’m more disappointed than satisfied -which I attribute to bad (lousy) recordings) – maybe I should change that.
    One recording always hits the bull’s eye, though – Irma Thomas, “Gonna Cry ‘Til My Tears Run Down”, on Rykodisk’s “Steal This” [Disc 2].

  6. For me I always had that answer, I just never knew it was a topic here. :o)
    I say “they are here” because I’ve had musicians in my living room and my system can replicate that. I’m not the only one who thinks this way, sometimes when I’m spinning some vinyl or rolling the reel-to-reel, my girlfriend comes home and even from outside, she says it sounds like there’s a band in the house, and she’s not the only one to say that. No one has ever said my system sounds like “you are there”, always the opposite.
    Now it does depend on the recorded music and the equipment, I have plenty of CD’s and even vinyl that won’t give you either impression but then there are the ones that will blow you away. I have Ray Charles: Live In Concert from the Shrine Auditorium in L.A. 1964 on reel-to-reel tape and you’d swear he was still alive and in my living room playing live. That’s just one example of many.
    As far as the equipment goes, I don’t think you’ll get either impression from an entry level system so it does make a difference too. Granted, in my stereo speaker array, I have 16 tweeters, 16 midranges and 4 woofers with the cabling and amplification to make them shine and I’m sure anyone here would agree with the “they are here” category if you were to experience my system. The sound never seems to be coming from my speakers, the sound is everywhere and you can hear instruments from the far left of the room to the far right and everywhere in between.
    Just keep listening!

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