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Waves commissioned me to write an article on using reference discs for comparison with your own mixes and masters. In the process, I went beyond the scope of the article, and started "reverse-engineering" recordings.

One really useful diagnostic tool is to switch between listening to the sides in mono, and the center in mono. It's revealing to hear what ends up in the sides. With some songs, it's mostly ambiance, to frame the center stuff (particularly vocals). With other songs, crucial parts are put in the sides and mixed up to create a sound that kind of explodes out of the speakers. With Led Zeppelin, a lot of time Page's overdubs end up mostly in the sides.

Anyway, it was pretty revealing, and gave me some new ideas for my own mixes.

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Are you listening to the left channel, the right channel, and the mono sum? Or are you deconstructing the audio into mid and side components (M-S) and listening to those? In M-S, the side components are indeed mostly ambience, particularly if there's some real live stereo in the mix and not just panned mono.

Interesting observation, however you observed it.

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Great question! I'm deconstructing the audio into mid and side components, but listening to those components in mono, and switching between the mono outputs for comparison. When you have sides in one ear and center in the other, it's really hard to judge what's going on.

One of the more interesting examples was Madonna's "Ray of Light." There are synth and guitar parts that are slammed to the sides, and mixed at really high levels. I think this may be why the sound kind of explodes out of the speakers, even at low volumes. Bob Marley's material often places rhythmic but melodic instruments off to the side. So you have the rock steady drums right down the middle, with rhythmic parts holding down the sides as well.

It's also interesting to see the level ratio between the center and the sides. Sometimes they're relatively equal (e.g., Bach concertos), but sometimes the center is way louder (e.g., rap and EDM).

In listening to my material, I'm more of a "using the sides to frame the center" kind of guy, although of course there are exceptions. My main conclusion is that by accident, design, or both, certain "signature" production sounds have a lot to do with how the sides are handled.

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I like this thread!
When I started learning to use automation I was "motion panning" things all over the place just to see what would happen.

I'm over that now, maybe not entirely but mostly done. Lately I've been less inclined to put things all the way right or left but I've been playing with setting the position in the mix by running duplicate tracks. If one is far left and the other is a bit to the right, the combination can sound "somewhat to the left" etc. That is a different sound than positioning one track in more or less the same "somewhat to the left" spot. If I add a very low level effect to one of those tracks, it can make it come to life, it doesn't take much. That's fun.

I can't say I have a style of mixing yet or my sound defined. Learning to keep sounds out of the way of other sounds is quite the puzzle - especially important with low frequencies since they are less directional than higher frequencies.
A good arrangement makes mixing easier, I'm hopefully over the "kitchen sink mix" idea.


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I like to automate panning for a solo or something, but otherwise I largely stick to L-C-R hard panning for my mixes. I have sends to delay or reverb etc to get a little of those in the rest of the stereo field. The only exception to that is for things like string quartets, where it's useful to just have gentle panning less than 80 in either direction for separation.


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Maybe slightly off-topic but I've started listening to various songs on YouTube etc through Sonarworks (for headphones) and also in mono at times to get an idea of how they're balancing levels. It's eye-opening to see how that can reveal more about production techniques and arrangement.

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Originally Posted by Anderton
Great question! I'm deconstructing the audio into mid and side components, but listening to those components in mono, and switching between the mono outputs for comparison. When you have sides in one ear and center in the other, it's really hard to judge what's going on.

Great minds think alike. But actually, I had figured that was how you were listening. Left-only and Right-only obviously sound different but they don't tell you what's common to the two sides that make up the ambient sound and how it relates to the center, or mono information.

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Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
Lately I've been less inclined to put things all the way right or left but I've been playing with setting the position in the mix by running duplicate tracks. If one is far left and the other is a bit to the right, the combination can sound "somewhat to the left" etc. That is a different sound than positioning one track in more or less the same "somewhat to the left" spot. If I add a very low level effect to one of those tracks, it can make it come to life, it doesn't take much. That's fun.

Have you ever played with what's sometimes called "Haas panning?" The Haas Effect is what makes us hear the same sound coming from two different directions with one delayed slightly from the other hear it as coming from the direction of the one that arrives at our ears first. You pan a source hard left and hard right at the same level and delay one relative to the other. Play with delays in the range of 5 to 35 milliseconds and see where that gets you (literally). Our brain tends to hear two sounds arriving at our ears as a single sound for delays of up to about 40 milliseconds, and with greater delay, they appear to be different. But in the "Haas" range we hear them as a single sound coming from a direction that varies with the delay.

I remember a plug-in early in the history of plug-ins that was a Haas panner. I don't remember the name or if it's still around, but you can do it with a delay plug-in or by making a copy of a track, hard panning them left and right, and nudging one in time to position the apparent location.

Oh - Here's one, and it's free. Download Quick-Haas here

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I love listening to music in headphones when the music has a nice stereo spread. Sadly, the last 20 years has given us a move towards having every instrument recorded in stereo and spread in stereo without actually being placed in the stereo field. It's like artists and producers became overly cautious that someone might miss a part if a speaker goes out. When you listen to some modern electronic music where every individual sound is spread across the field with no placement or movement, then you go back and listen to something like Alan Parson's I Robot, wow, suddenly modern mixing techniques seem inferior.


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Originally Posted by RABid
I love listening to music in headphones when the music has a nice stereo spread. Sadly, the last 20 years has given us a move towards having every instrument recorded in stereo and spread in stereo without actually being placed in the stereo field.

One of Pro Tools' strengths is because of its "stereo is really just two mono tracks" legacy, stereo tracks have a panpot for the left and right channels. So you can tilt stereo tracks toward true left and right, instead of typical one-knob panpots for stereo signals, which are just balance controls. Both Studio One and Cakewalk have plug-ins that break each track down into mono tracks with individual panpots, so you can do the same thing. It's less convenient than having panpots right on the mix, but does the job.

Quote
It's like artists and producers became overly cautious that someone might miss a part if a speaker goes out. When you listen to some modern electronic music where every individual sound is spread across the field with no placement or movement, then you go back and listen to something like Alan Parson's I Robot, wow, suddenly modern mixing techniques seem inferior.

I think it may also depend on what you're trying to do with the mix. In my projects, I'm very aware it's one dude (with occasional parts from the Nashville QTs, when I can get them - I suck at female vocals!) playing all the parts in a studio. But my reference for music is playing live, and I want to impart as live a sound as is possible under the circumstances. So stereo, with the sides as frames, works well. When I want parts more to the right and left, I think of where the "musician" would be on stage, and place the part there. So it's never hard right or hard left, nor do all the virtual musicians hang out in the center.

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Originally Posted by Mike Rivers
Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
Lately I've been less inclined to put things all the way right or left but I've been playing with setting the position in the mix by running duplicate tracks. If one is far left and the other is a bit to the right, the combination can sound "somewhat to the left" etc. That is a different sound than positioning one track in more or less the same "somewhat to the left" spot. If I add a very low level effect to one of those tracks, it can make it come to life, it doesn't take much. That's fun.

Have you ever played with what's sometimes called "Haas panning?" The Haas Effect is what makes us hear the same sound coming from two different directions with one delayed slightly from the other hear it as coming from the direction of the one that arrives at our ears first. You pan a source hard left and hard right at the same level and delay one relative to the other. Play with delays in the range of 5 to 35 milliseconds and see where that gets you (literally). Our brain tends to hear two sounds arriving at our ears as a single sound for delays of up to about 40 milliseconds, and with greater delay, they appear to be different. But in the "Haas" range we hear them as a single sound coming from a direction that varies with the delay.

I remember a plug-in early in the history of plug-ins that was a Haas panner. I don't remember the name or if it's still around, but you can do it with a delay plug-in or by making a copy of a track, hard panning them left and right, and nudging one in time to position the apparent location.

Oh - Here's one, and it's free. Download Quick-Haas here

I didn't have a name for it but I've done it many times and for many years now. In 2010 I made a demo with a local singer/guitarist. We recorded everything live, with one mic for guitar and one for vocals. Great singer, put the vocal in the center and add a touch of reverb, done. There was always a low level guitar in the vocal track and low level vocals in the guitar track. A mono mix sounded fine but I wanted the demo to have more "space" so I put duplicate guitar tracks hard left and right and added a small, barely audible amount of very short delay as you mention. On a couple of tracks I added a small amount of a slow, lush chorus effect instead. Both of those effects provided a sense of space. Simple but effective.

I'm not sold on using it if a recording has a more complex arrangement, at least not hard panned left and right. Bringing one side in towards the center shifts the sense of location inward a bit, a primary backup part may get that treatment as it leaves some room for decoration tracks to be put far left or right.

I'll check out the link, thanks for posting it!


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Originally Posted by Anderton
. With some songs, it's mostly ambiance, to frame the center stuff (particularly vocals). With other songs, crucial parts are put in the sides and mixed up to create a sound that kind of explodes out of the speakers. With Led Zeppelin, a lot of time Page's overdubs end up mostly in the sides.

The Page overdubs may end up more discrete because of the lack of guitar bleed through the tom mic with the Glyn John's method? Fairchild M/S strangeness?

Last edited by Chip McDonald; 03/11/21 03:46 PM.

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Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
I didn't have a name ["Haas panning"]for it but I've done it many times and for many years now. In 2010 I made a demo with a local singer/guitarist. We recorded everything live, with one mic for guitar and one for vocals. . . . I put duplicate guitar tracks hard left and right and added a small, barely audible amount of very short delay as you mention. On a couple of tracks I added a small amount of a slow, lush chorus effect instead. Both of those effects provided a sense of space. Simple but effective.

One thing that might be useful about this technique is for something like a multi-layered guitar track that you wanted panned somewhere off center with the layers spread out for "depth." If you panned all the layers to, say, the right, the level of the right channel of the stereo mix would increase, causing the left and right channels to be unbalanced. Sending duplicate tracks to hard left and hard right would also increase the level of the tracks, but they'd stay balanced, and you'd probably find that you needed to drop the level of all the layers so the part wouldn't be too loud. By dropping the level of the right and left tracks together, you'd maintain your panning-by-delay balance and maintain the right/left level balance.

It's just another tool, not necessarily better than a pan pot, but a different way of achieving a similar effect that might work better in some instances. Having a one-knob control seems like it would make what sounds like a complex process much simpler.

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Hass panning becomes extremely important when mixing in “stereo” for a live performance. If you are sitting in a living room at the sweet spot it may not be as important. But for a live show where almost almost no one would be in a sweet spot because of the distances involved, employing Hass panning means if you are in a position where you can only hear one side of the PA the overall mix becomes mono and the levels don’t change.

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Originally Posted by Mike Rivers
One thing that might be useful about this technique is for something like a multi-layered guitar track that you wanted panned somewhere off center with the layers spread out for "depth." If you panned all the layers to, say, the right, the level of the right channel of the stereo mix would increase, causing the left and right channels to be unbalanced. Sending duplicate tracks to hard left and hard right would also increase the level of the tracks, but they'd stay balanced, and you'd probably find that you needed to drop the level of all the layers so the part wouldn't be too loud. By dropping the level of the right and left tracks together, you'd maintain your panning-by-delay balance and maintain the right/left level balance.

It's just another tool, not necessarily better than a pan pot, but a different way of achieving a similar effect that might work better in some instances. Having a one-knob control seems like it would make what sounds like a complex process much simpler.

It's been a while now but one of my experiments was to play a lead guitar part over a jam I tracked. I went direct in with an electric guitar. Then I made multiple duplicate tracks. There were 2 tracks using distorted amp sims, panned a bit off center left and right, 2 tracks using modulation (one Leslie sim and one chorus) panned out a bit more left and right, 2 tracks with different reverbs mixed to reverb only, panned still more left and right and finally, 2 tracks with micro-pitch shifting (both flat and sharp) panned out all the way left and right. 9 tracks of a single performance. The 8 duplicate tracks all got automated volume tracks. I had continuously changing mix of those elements, shifting in tone and placement.

That was fun and I learned some things. Less is more for one. Anything is possible if you automate for another. Such antics could be used on any individual part. If you started with a simple arrangement and kept it subtle it might be pretty awesome.
Every channel on Waveform has a single slider (not a knob - YAY!!!) for panning that can be automated if you really wanted to go out into the weeds. I didn't even get into automating shifting EQ, that would have made 11 tracks. There were many other effects I could have added - tremolo, slicing, delay etc.

The possibilities are infinite if you program them instead of trying to use 2 hands to manage umpty-bajillion crazy stuffs. laugh


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The only problem I've had with Haas is if the delays are short enough to cause comb filtering when the mix is collapsed to mono. But I did find a sneaky way to use delays to create a stereo image from a mono signal, like guitar, without the mono summing issue

I pre-fader send the guitar into two buses, one with a 13 ms delay and one with a 17 ms delay (or thereabouts, but I like to use prime numbers for this kind of thing), and turn the main guitar fader all the way down. However, the buses are not delay only, they mix in some dry signal (e.g., delay around 30%). Then when you collapse to mono, the center-channel buildup makes the dry signal seem as loud as the sum of the two delayed buses, but the dry signal is a louder component of it in the center because of the build-up. It works quite well for creating a stereo "feel" that collapses well to mono.

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Originally Posted by Anderton
The only problem I've had with Haas is if the delays are short enough to cause comb filtering when the mix is collapsed to mono. But I did find a sneaky way to use delays to create a stereo image from a mono signal, like guitar, without the mono summing issue

I pre-fader send the guitar into two buses, one with a 13 ms delay and one with a 17 ms delay (or thereabouts, but I like to use prime numbers for this kind of thing), and turn the main guitar fader all the way down. However, the buses are not delay only, they mix in some dry signal (e.g., delay around 30%). Then when you collapse to mono, the center-channel buildup makes the dry signal seem as loud as the sum of the two delayed buses, but the dry signal is a louder component of it in the center because of the build-up. It works quite well for creating a stereo "feel" that collapses well to mono.


Great post Craig, thatks!!!
It's funny that you use prime numbers, I do the same thing.
For de-tuning I like 17 cents sharp and 19 cents flat. Honestly, I've never tried other numbers, I came up with those and like the way they sound.

I recently got a single Mackie MR5 monitor at Habitat for $6, I am going to make it my dedicated mono monitor. The info about comb filtering is great to know and better still that you have a solution.
I'm finally able to set everything back up, as of today. My mold remediation work in the living room is done, no more contractors coming over. Ahhh...


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I believe that film mixer Alan Myerson does a lot with delay/Haas panning. It's been mentioned in a lot of interviews. And he is working on gazillion track movie scores....

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Originally Posted by RABid
I love listening to music in headphones when the music has a nice stereo spread. Sadly, the last 20 years has given us a move towards having every instrument recorded in stereo and spread in stereo without actually being placed in the stereo field.

As someone who mixes, this drives me insane.

If everything is in stereo, then what's in the middle? What sticks out?

I have one client who gives me everything in stereo. Guitars, tons of keyboard tracks, drums, even bass and vocals. I mixed it the way I usually do, creating movement and separating the instruments. It sounded really roomy and spacious and dynamic.

He didn't like it. "Hey, what happened to all the stereo tracks?"

I ended up having to move everything back so that everything was panned hard left and right again. Y'know, because the client is always right.

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Originally Posted by KenElevenShadows
It sounded really roomy and spacious and dynamic.

He didn't like it. "Hey, what happened to all the stereo tracks?"

That'll teach ya!


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I ended up having to move everything back so that everything was panned hard left and right again. Y'know, because the client is always right.

Was his/her/its/their frame of reference live performance, by any chance?

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Originally Posted by Anderton
The only problem I've had with Haas is if the delays are short enough to cause comb filtering when the mix is collapsed to mono. But I did find a sneaky way to use delays to create a stereo image from a mono signal, like guitar, without the mono summing issue

That's clever. Good to think about mono. 4 ms of delay is right around the annoying comb filter range. A little longer than that and mono might be OK if that doesn't move the track too far off center.

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Sound Imaging is something I think all engineers need to embrace and as the name implies, visually imagining the stereo field and where things are eventually placed.
A recent new tool in the studio that I'm finding helpful is the Flux Program that includes a unique Spacial Spectrogram that provides you with a visual representation of all frequencies in the stereo field. I find myself looking at it all the time...

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Originally Posted by tonyggg
Sound Imaging is something I think all engineers need to embrace and as the name implies, visually imagining the stereo field and where things are eventually placed.

When mixing, I think of a virtual band in my mind, and where they would be on stage from the audience perspective. The only exception is I pan drums from the player's perspective (i.e., high-hat to the left). It just doesn't sound right to me from the audience perspective...old habits die hard smile

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Craig, you may find this interesting. It is a 64 band stereo correlation meter and it's free.
Apparently it can show you which frequencies have phase issues. I have not tried it yet. I've used other Voxengo free plugins and like them.

https://www.voxengo.com/product/correlometer/?eref=ml


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Great monitoring is not necessarily easy to listen to, studio monitors, and in a completely different way modern small monitors, create waves with specific built in properties. For the studio for getting a nice result when simply panning tracks (cannot happen on neutral monitoring), and those annoying modern small speakers because they try to do a sample reconstruction related correction, which cannot work physically (easy to prove).

When you think about (I've been working on remixing CDs and High Def materials from a number of high grade acts through the times, almost nothing from this time) creating a proper sweet spot sound, it's hard enough not to have to think about shear waves and binoral techniques, even though feeding left and right with exactly the same signal will produce sweet spot correctness for most purposes, because the volumes of left and right will be the same for the direct sound, and the travel time for the direct sound components for left and right are identical. You will hear the right speaker sound left too and v.v., so there could be work done on that, which has to be time dependent and frequency dependent, and it may well be the reverberation (and some major modes of thus) spoils the fun by sounding quite different as created by the left speaker or the right one. However, if you measure the sweet spot as exactly in the middle between the speakers, at exactly the same distance, the difference between a mono sound and the same sound through one of the same speakers in the middle ahead of you will be very small, maybe negligible for non critical listening like moderate quality songs at low listening levels.

Now as soon as you sit not in the exact sweet spot, say you move an inch or more to left or right, the highs will start to sound out of focus, or the ride cymbal starts to make you want to look somewhere, and if you turn your head slightly, the whole stereo image will start to deteriorate. There's a curve where you could turn your head and move along such that the delay from the left speaker to the left ear and the right speakers distance to your right ear remains equal, however, then there is a small volume difference, and even if you put the speakers the same distance the walls and the room is symmetrical, the whole reverb is going to be strange.

Digital signals have built in reconstruction problems which make this still much worse. Now, you could make another place in the listening room the new sweet spot, at a distance unequal for left and right monitor, by using a delay and a balance/pan readjustment. Essentially, you measure the distance between your left ear and the left speaker, and your right ear and the right speaker, set the delay to the difference and insert it in the shortest distance path, and then you compensate for the difference in volume from the left and right speakers changed distance (essentially in a dead room) you'd have to adjust the volume by putting a square function inverse over the distance difference. I regularly have made this compensation, and for good speakers in a damped room it works if you don't come to close to one of the speaker boxes (or the sound changes too much).

The great albums and hits most people know have been prepared for a lot of processing, also in the sense of how the wave field created by a good stereo or PA system can be used for satisfactory listening experience also far from the sweet spot. A well produced CD, and to a greater extend a well produced tape or record will sound ok in, say, a disco with stereo being completely not optimal. To make a digital system sound ok, which involves reverberation control (do you have a plugin that can remove an added delay, without having access to the signal without the delay ? it's possible, but hard. Reverb preparation is still harder), creating binoral sound components (which will ring in the reverb of any space), and general directional waves being prepared for all the elements of all sounds on the sound track.

I've been trying the last years to make reappear the studio sound elements in the good songs, and can now recreate the sound of albums and tracks I knew and didn't yet know to sound allright in a wide area around the my quality 5 way monitoring system and other listening situations, and I know it's extremely hard to make sound that's kind of free in the listening space, preferably also with no peaks and damping anywhere in the whole frequency range, as perceived by human listeners in "normal" listening spaces.

Lexicon is your only bet in creating small examples of such kind, every other technique will be a optimization to final results that aren't great.

If you look at the hard left/right problem, essentially you're removing the phase problem of left and right coming together through a delay. Probably a lot of great recordings were made such that it is possible to add the required (extremely completed) sauce to the sound, such that a more reasonable stereo effect can be created. Even exactly (ca. 5mm accurate, considering the wavelength of sound waves a 10kHz or higher) at the sweet spot an instrument placed in between good, neutral speakers will sound different than the (analogue if you must) recorded sound of the instrument played back through those speakers. Because the sound waves coming to you head are different, and the reverberation pattern from an instrument in between the speakers somewhere is not going to be the same as the reverb pattern created by the two speakers playing back that sound simultaneously.

If you'd put an instrument at the location of one of the speakers, and you'd know how to capture that instrument's sound well, and would play back very neutrally on that speaker, it should sound the same, or at least closer (the directional sound may well still be the reason for a lot of different perception, like the speakers will not project any mids or highs against the front wall).

Theo V.


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