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Sometimes I really can't believe how worked up people get about mixing. I see quite a few posts in other forums about the pros and cons of LCR, where everything is panned either center, right, or left. Of course, in the early days of recording, you didn't have conventional panning - which led to weird mixes like drums on the left, bass on the right, and vocals in the center.

Proponents say LCR simplifies mixing (well duh - you don't have to think much about panning!), gives ultra-wide mixes, and translates better over systems when people aren't sitting in the sweet spot. That makes sense, because all the important stuff is in the center. What's hard for me to understand is how emotionally invested people are in being for or against the concept.

For me, LCR mixes can sound great over speakers, and especially, if you're listening to music on smart phones or laptops. But with headphones - which is becoming an ever-more-common listening medium - LCR mixes sound unnatural, and I find them tiring because they're so extreme.

So as usual, there's never a one-size-fits-all solution. Sometimes when I want more drama in a song, I'll mix some elements further left or right, and sometimes I'll just use the left and right to frame whatever is in the center. Why do things need to have labels, so people can get into arguments on forums? I saw one thread where one guy was dissing another guy because he wasn't talking about "pure" LCR mixing, and then they got into a pis*ing contest about LCR purity. Seriously, why the drama?

I'd be interested in any comments form y'all about LCR mixing.

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When I was working on remixes on Metapop, I got into LCR mixing to see what I could learn.
I went way out into the weeds, automated panning, extreme left and right positioning, all the fun tricks.

I used headphones more than speakers. I'm glad I did it, I have a good sense of some things that can be done and things that perhaps should only be done if one is making a satirical statement on an era or style of over-produced recordings.

Other than during the recording/mixing process, I don't sit in one spot and listen to carefully positioned speakers and I never listen to music on headphones unless I am working on a mix.
When I listen to music, most of the time I have something playing in one room and I move about my home, I'm listening from a distance, maybe to speakers that are aiming away from me.

Craig, your recent thread about mixing with noise got me thinking and brought 2 recent memories into focus. In both cases I was in busy retail outlets, large buildings with tons of stuff breaking up reflections and crappy 6.5" ceiling speakers placed here and there.
Do You Love Me by the Contours came on, it transported me back to being 7 years old and listening to an AM radio with a 4" speaker and totally into what was happening. Second experience, different place and I Want To Know What Love Is by Mariah Carey came on - I'd never heard it before and it stopped me in my tracks. Never liked the Foreigner version but Mariah (I didn't even know who it was at that point), knocked it out of the park.

Crappy speakers, less than ideal listening environments with lots of external noise and visual distractions, both songs translated as direct hits on my soul.
Stereo/Mono would have made no difference whatsoever.

Now that the mold remediation project is over and done I can set up my space how I want it.
I'll be setting up a mono mix on a single Mackie MR5 in the studio space (formerly my bedroom and quietest space in the home). The Quantum has a Mono switch on it, handy.
I've set up a pair of JBL P40 9" 3-way speakers on top of the breakfast bar in the living room/kitchen/utility space room, facing the kitchen. Below the bar on the living room side is a pair of TimeFrame TF 400 speakers facing the opposite direction.
The JBLs have a bass port on the backside, it is in phase with the living room speakers. The amp has speaker selectors for both sets, I can do either or both. I played some things last night and walked around. It sounds good everywhere.

I'll be putting a rig with a pair of cheap Yamaha speakers on top of the fridge and also hooking up some cheap KLH speakers to a TEAC CD player that has 3 watts per side and no EQ. I'll put that somewhere.
My reference CDs are - The Cars - Best of, Prince - Best of and Emmylou Harris Quarter Moon In a Ten Cent Town. I've got others, Notting Hillbillies and Traveling Willburys get some play too. Brenda Lee, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix. I've got radio to, there are some great Canadian stations nearby.

Soon, I can burn a CD of something I'm working on and have a variety of options for checking translation - laptop speakers, crappy earbuds. cell phone extension speakers and all the fun new stuff.

I've yet to see a topic that the "interwebz warriors" won't go full tilt on, everything is certainly worth scathing, hostile bickering!


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Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
I've yet to see a topic that the "interwebz warriors" won't go full tilt on, everything is certainly worth scathing, hostile bickering!

Oh yeah? Well, screw you. smile

But back to reality...I always start mixes in mono. If I can get the mix to sound good in mono, I know it will sound good in stereo, or if played back under circumstances that make it mostly mono. Seems to me that jibes with your philosophy.

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Originally Posted by Anderton
Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
I've yet to see a topic that the "interwebz warriors" won't go full tilt on, everything is certainly worth scathing, hostile bickering!

Oh yeah? Well, screw you. smile

But back to reality...I always start mixes in mono. If I can get the mix to sound good in mono, I know it will sound good in stereo, or if played back under circumstances that make it mostly mono. Seems to me that jibes with your philosophy.

Pretty much. I know it would be difficult or impossible to use any of these reference speakers as my only studio monitors but I also know that very few people will ever listen to any music on studio monitors so things need to sound good in the "real" world.

The "hi-fi" rig has 3 options, I have two more or less ordinary crap house stereo options and some pathetic tiny speaker options. I could put songs on my cell phone and drop it into a large empty paper cup, I've seen that done at a few deck parties.
The gear used to listen can tell you how near or far you are from hitting the mark, especially if you can get a fairly broad overview.

People want a beat and an ear worm that they can sing or hum along to, if they like the story that's all the better.
That's just in general, there are specific genres with followings that don't fall into that category - prog rock like Yes and Rush comes to mind.

I've always been more pop oriented, that's a broad category but it's what comes out when I write - rock, country, blues, folk, punk, ballads etc. I've done all sorts of things in the past but the "happy snappy" thing has always been there.

And, everybody else can do whatever they want, I am not going to argue with them on the interwebz just because they are wrong.laugh I could do something useful with that time!

Last edited by KuruPrionz; 03/27/21 08:48 PM.

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My first stereo mixer was an Ampex MX-10. I still have it racked up and ready to go in case someone wants to hear what they sound like through a tube mic preamp. It has four inputs, two mic and two mic or line. This mixer pre-dated pan pots, so each of its four inputs had a switch for output A, output B, or both. Today we'd say left, right, and center. I was looking on the web for a photo I could post and I ran across one, a slightly later version than mine (but still MX-10) on Reberb, with an asking price of $1,850. Crazy stuff. Figured I'd better take a photo of my own.

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

As far as LCR panning is concerned, back in those days most of my recordings were made with a stereo pair of mics, so one was left and the other was right. If there was a fill mic, that went in the center.

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LCR doesn't work for me in the modern synth world. The point is valid and the method is solid, but I lean towards at least the idea of an orchestra as I compose. That means a lot of track soloing and delicate changes. I put sections on loop and tweez the panning & EQ religiously. Orchestral brass needs added care and big synth sounds even moreso. Mind the spectrum!

LCR is essentially for bands with a singer or major lead instrument up front. I don't want to simplify a mix past a certain point. Operationally, yes, but not compositionally, duh. There is also an unavoidable sense of trying to dance a tolerable line between the range of listening formats. I throw my hands up a bit and just lean into blatant surrealism that caters to my taste for the range of colors. As with a lot of modular, if it sounds intriguing enough, you can call it Art and skate on through the subjective angles of it.

A smokin' lead singer obviously gets the first focus, but its hard to see it as a go-to unless you're doing a selection of early R&B songs, where the mix is part of the historic style. It might also fit a piece at which I'm chipping away, featuring a Jon-Hassell-esque physical modeling sound that can sit dead center and fill the stage with little need for sidemen.

I think its safe to say that as a loose given, this crowd knows when to employ a hardcore sidechain drop, when to slather something in cloudy reverb, when a LCR mix suits the song best and when to delete a bit of train wreck. I sometimes overwrite like a sumbitch, so removing big chunks of clutter is a personal technique. I'm sure many of you have your own. grin


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I'm not doctrinaire about anything. Basically I tend toward "enhanced mono" for lack of a better term, which makes the sides great places to stick things that matter, but shouldn't interfere with what's happening in the center.

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Hey Mike! Check out this Instagram post on LCR recording/panning for your photo credit! smile

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I'm a fan of LCR. For certain things like layered claps, harmonies, string quartets, etc, I will do narrower panning because it sounds unnatural to have hard panning. Sort of like using a soundstage in scoring. Otherwise, I try to do LCR.


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Originally Posted by Anderton
Hey Mike! Check out this Instagram post on LCR recording/panning for your photo credit! smile

Oh, man, you work fast! If I knew I was going to be famous for my photography, I'd have set up some lighting.

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Originally Posted by Mike Rivers
Originally Posted by Anderton
Hey Mike! Check out this Instagram post on LCR recording/panning for your photo credit! smile

Oh, man, you work fast! If I knew I was going to be famous for my photography, I'd have set up some lighting.

Well, I can include the photo in a book and give you a photo credit for that, if you want to do the Director's Cut version of the photo smile

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Originally Posted by Anderton
Well, I can include the photo in a book and give you a photo credit for that, if you want to do the Director's Cut version of the photo smile

I'll get the lights. wink

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Originally Posted by Mighty Motif Max
I'm a fan of LCR. For certain things like layered claps, harmonies, string quartets, etc, I will do narrower panning because it sounds unnatural to have hard panning. Sort of like using a soundstage in scoring. Otherwise, I try to do LCR.

It can also be a good place to start...sort of resets the track priorities before going any further.

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I've recently learned I greatly prefer LCR. Everything else is "fancy mono", diffuse and blurry: where to put things you're not sure you really want to be heard.


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Originally Posted by Chip McDonald
I've recently learned I greatly prefer LCR. Everything else is "fancy mono", diffuse and blurry: where to put things you're not sure you really want to be heard.

What do you think of listening to it on headphones? Does it bug you after a while?

Also, how do you prefer to mix drums with LCR? Kick and snare are easy, and overheads go left and right. But it seems toms and the high-hat would be a problem. I know some "LCR forever" fans make an exception for drums.

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Originally Posted by Anderton
What do you think of listening to it on headphones? Does it bug you after a while?


I don't know, I rarely use headphones lately. It's only a recent epiphany.

Quote
Also, how do you prefer to mix drums with LCR? Kick and snare are easy, and overheads go left and right. But it seems toms and the high-hat would be a problem. I know some "LCR forever" fans make an exception for drums.

No, I like hat wide out to one side, or mono drums. Even panned drums. 70-76 George Martin, Jeff Beck Wired. Wide discrete guitar, not 3+9 o'clock panning, It's maybe a nostalgia bias: I remember hearing stereos in different places as a child and my perception of the experience was "I can hear the guitar coming out of *that* speaker, and it sounds like a guitar right *there*". Or keyboards, or BVs, whatever.

Another influential thing is for many years every saturday after work I'd eat at friends Tex-Mex place, and they'd play an extremely wide variety of music on an ancient Marantz stereo in a room with 20 foot ceilings, and the speakers would be on each end of the room - a long rectangle, maybe 100'. One over the doorway pointed lengthwise, the other on the other end pointed opposite mounted to a stairwell. Completely wrong in many different ways, very reverberant but with complex "diffusion". Sitting in the middle, modern recordings were just "fancy mono"; a bunch of stuff in the middle, but the old school recordings - while seemingly "strange" and "wrong" - I remember liking hearing the guitar "over there", the bass "over there", maybe the vocal, whatever, however it was recorded (maybe old Neil Young). It put the artist *in* the room.

Also as a kid, record stores: was there ever a record store that didn't have the same speaker set up, on opposite ends of the room, pointed to each other? You never heard "proper" stereo at a record store as you walked around. But it was nice, I remember the experience, even the "wrong" sound of smiley eq, and speaker cabinets placed against walls, or in corners.

And the ultimate thing I miss, sound wise from the 70's: SHAG CARPET. My youth has a damped high end, not filled with the clattery sound of footsteps and clashing conversations.


Reconciling all of this with Modern Production Expectation is vexing. I miss discrete stereo,plate reverb or real rooms that are flat and not hyped sounding, instruments that don't sound very far away and meant to represent the sound of THOR or some comic book MASSIVE PRESENTATION. Which is fine for something over the top, like a Devin Townsend production, but... get off my lawn.


/ you know, some D&B, electronica stuff started out with that retro-dry sound discrete LCR sound, I miss that as well:Photek, et al


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Originally Posted by Chip McDonald
Originally Posted by Anderton
What do you think of listening to it on headphones? Does it bug you after a while?


I don't know, I rarely use headphones lately. It's only a recent epiphany.

Yeah, LCR can definitely sound good on speakers, but I find listening to LCR on headphones fatiguing. These days, I think more people listen to headphones than speakers.

I do a modified LCR for most mixes, although not as a strategy, just as what sounds good. The important stuff goes into the center, ambience and supporting instruments (e.g. hand percussion) go between center and left or right, and then important-stuff-that-shouldn't-interfere-with-the-center go far toward the left and right.

Just for kicks I did some mixes done in the past as "textbook" LCR. They had their merits, but ultimately, I didn't like them as much as what I'd done.

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Interestingly enough I've never actually had the luxury of mixing a song on monitors. It's always headphones for two reasons - (1) I didn't even own any monitors until last November, (2) I don't have a treated room or a desk that will work with them and since I'm not going to be at the current location for that many more years I don't feel like investing in lots of acoustic treatment for that space. So I mix primarily LCR (as I described earlier), but actually in headphones. Maybe I'm weird but it doesn't bother me at all. You can always have FX sends and stuff that bring bits of it into the center and rest of the stereo image too.


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Originally Posted by Mighty Motif Max
You can always have FX sends and stuff that bring bits of it into the center and rest of the stereo image too.

Yes, that's the usual route people take to fill in the holes. But I think a lot of whether LCR fits or not depends on the material.

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It just occurred to me that mid-side processing would be a problem with LCR. Suppose you have audio panned hard left and hard right. Since they don't have any audio in common, the sides will have them at their full levels, and they just get summed in the mid anyway. So if you equalize the sides, you're equalizing the sides, but you're not equalizing the sides that are quite present in the mid. Conversely, if you equalize the mids, you're equalizing the sides that are in the mid, but not the sides that are in the sides.

I'm no expert on this, will someone who knows more please let me know if this thinking is correct.

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The progression of record cutting as stereo happened hasn't been charted out from what I've seen. Fairchild's M/S effect on mixes have maybe had an impact on what we expect the middle to sound like.


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Originally Posted by Anderton
Yeah, LCR can definitely sound good on speakers, but I find listening to LCR on headphones fatiguing. These days, I think more people listen to headphones than speakers.

I think young people are. Older people are doing what they've always done: listened in the car on the way to and from work. Otherwise at home, while doing something I think it would be on speakers for most people.

And unfortunately I know from teaching guitar lessons - I'd say the most common way people are listening to music is on laptop speakers. A lot of the methods I use to teach listening are failing because people not only can't hear the fundamental of the bass, they're not able to hear low enough to hear the root of a guitar chord properly. Maybe half of my students only listen on their laptops and have no other means of music reproduction,OR they have some small <4" driver bluetooth speaker (in mono!).

In fact, it only occurred to me a few years ago *most people don't know what "stereo" is!*. I taught a guy that was a "big Pink Floyd fan" and I asked him if he'd ever listened to Dark Side of the Moon panned to one speaker. He had no idea what I was talking about, and revealed he didn't realize there were two speakers because *different things were coming out of each*. I then proceeded to ask some other students if they could tell me what "stereo" meant.... and it was pretty ugly. The number of people I teach that "listen" to music on a singular bluetooth speaker, or an Alexa/Google Home is insane; people not only no longer care about fidelity, they don't care about stereo.


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My aesthetic is a "sound stage". It isn't necessarily "natural" in the sense of the image a space pair would give of a 100% acoustic event, but natural in the sense of being a continuous space. I like the image to exist in the space between the speakers. I find that hard panned things tend to "stand out" and break the illusion of credible space, often accentuating the speakers as a discrete sound source. It could be a valid creative choice for that reason, but I don't see any reason to not use all the space.

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I finally figured out why people say LCR is "safer" for salvaging the imaging if a stereo system's stereo sucks. The mid is just the left and right channels summed together, so aside from the center build-up, it's pretty close to a mono representation of the music. At that point, whatever is on the left and right "accessorizes" the sound.

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Originally Posted by Anderton
I finally figured out why people say LCR is "safer" for salvaging the imaging if a stereo system's stereo sucks. The mid is just the left and right channels summed together, so aside from the center build-up, it's pretty close to a mono representation of the music. At that point, whatever is on the left and right "accessorizes" the sound.


The concept of LCR assumes one is sitting in the center, between the speakers, and listening with full attention. I put music on and wander around from room to room, doing stuff.
At that point there is no left, no right and no center. Therefore... foof.


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Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
Originally Posted by Anderton
I finally figured out why people say LCR is "safer" for salvaging the imaging if a stereo system's stereo sucks. The mid is just the left and right channels summed together, so aside from the center build-up, it's pretty close to a mono representation of the music. At that point, whatever is on the left and right "accessorizes" the sound.


The concept of LCR assumes one is sitting in the center, between the speakers, and listening with full attention.

I'm not sure about that, non-LCR certainly expects that. But when so much audio from the left and right is coming out of the center, you're probably going to hear what you're supposed to hear as you wander from room to room...basically, mono.

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Originally Posted by Anderton
Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
Originally Posted by Anderton
I finally figured out why people say LCR is "safer" for salvaging the imaging if a stereo system's stereo sucks. The mid is just the left and right channels summed together, so aside from the center build-up, it's pretty close to a mono representation of the music. At that point, whatever is on the left and right "accessorizes" the sound.


The concept of LCR assumes one is sitting in the center, between the speakers, and listening with full attention.

I'm not sure about that, non-LCR certainly expects that. But when so much audio from the left and right is coming out of the center, you're probably going to hear what you're supposed to hear as you wander from room to room...basically, mono.

Exactly. Entirely mono and off yonder. Speakers might not even be aimed towards me at that point. I've always liked the way music sounds from a distance, not sure why.


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