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Thread: Question about Stereo Image

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    Question about Stereo Image

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    Hi guys,

    I have a question about stereo imaging or the stereo spread. When mixing I often pan some things hard left or hard right, its just the way I like it sometimes. Anyway it seems to me that when I pan something hard left or hard right it goes too far left or right.

    What I am after is simply to have the sound coming out of one speaker, for example just having a guitar part on the left. Still, it seems that when I hear records with this kind of panning, the instruments don't sound like they are all the way to the left or right, but they're still coming out of only one speaker.

    Is it my imagination? Or do professional engineers use stereo imagers or some sort of processing to make something come out of one side but still have it sound fairly balanced instead of all the way to the side?

    Anybody else dealt with this in the past?

    BTW: I am using cubase and have the stereo pan law at -3db at the center.

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    it could be that they are too upfront. Try some reverb or delay? Either that, or the EQ -- it can sometimes make things appear higher or lower, so try messing with that. Heavy Compression is probably a no-no, unless you are using it in conjunction with one of the aforementioned techniques.

    Otherwise, there ARE plugins that can rotate signals, but i dont know how kosher they are with a coherent stereo image.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rnelson View Post
    What I am after is simply to have the sound coming out of one speaker, for example just having a guitar part on the left. Still, it seems that when I hear records with this kind of panning, the instruments don't sound like they are all the way to the left or right, but they're still coming out of only one speaker.
    If you have a mono track of, say, a guitar, and pan it centre, equal amounts of the signal are coming out left and right. When you are hard left, all the signal is coming out left, and none out right, which gives you the situation you describe (guitar in left channel, no guitar in right, which, of course, places the guitar at the extreme edge of the stereo stage). When you sweep right, you progressively add more signal to the right right and reduce signal to the left. It is only at the extreme left or right that you get no signal right or left. Because we start with a mono signal, the pan control is moving what is, in effect, a point source from left to right (or vice versa), and a partway pan makes it seem as if this point is part way along, and nowhere else.

    If a track is panned part way left or right, it will seem as if the guitar is partway left or right, and the only time you will notice that there is signal in the right or left channel is if you mute the other.

    In any case, I've never been keen on hard panning left and right; it is too easy to end up with an unbalanced mix, or one that is uncomfortable to listen to. Not only do you need to have instruments balancing each other left and right, there also needs to be reasonable sort of sonic symmetry. For example, I've heard a track where a lead guitar was playing hard left, and a piano was playing another kind of melody line hard right, and it just about tears your head apart trying to figure out which to listen to (which is a bad arrangement as well as bad mixing).

    If you hear a track that features a guitar that appears to be part way to the left, but not in the right, I think you will find that it actually is present in the right, but that its presence is overshadowed by other instruments.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rnelson View Post
    Is it my imagination? Or do professional engineers use stereo imagers or some sort of processing to make something come out of one side but still have it sound fairly balanced instead of all the way to the side?
    zzed explained it all quite well, but just to put a point on this specific question, it's literally your imagination. That's how stereo images work. They use a relative volume balance between two distinct but simultaneous sound sources to "trick" you brain into thinking you're hearing a full L to R sound field instead of two sound sources. A "stereo" sound field is just a psychoacoustic effect.

    When you're hearing a sound that doesn't sound hard panned but sounds like it's coming out of just one side (say, the left speaker), the signal is panned mostly left, but not all the way. It's really coming out of both the left and right speaker but at different volumes. Your brain just doesn't interpret it that way; it more or less ignores the lower volume signal from the right, instead merging it with the higher volume signal from the left. The result is a sound that sounds like it's coming from the left, but not all the way to the edge.

    G.
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    Guys I understand what your saying, (I've been reading a lot about panning to try and figure this out) but I still feel like there is something else taking place in these recordings that produce the effect I'm describing.

    It's pretty hard to find examples because not a lot of songs have sections were intruments are completely soloed but there is one that comes to mind. If anybody can listen to Pearl Jam's "Nothingman", the intro features only one guitar. It is only audible in the left channel (if you listen with headphones and take the right phone off you'll notice that theres absolutly no signal coming out, no reverb or anything). But still the guitar seems not all that wide or unbalanced (to me at least).

    I've tried experimenting with this and hard panning never seems to yield this effect, it mostly places intruments way "farther out" than I would like.

    If anybody has any other ideas as to what produces this effect, please let me know.

    BTW: telling me it's all in my head is an acceptable answer too, that's part of what I'm trying to figure out.

    Thanks guys!

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    Try hard panning with a reverb send to the other side.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rnelson View Post
    If anybody can listen to Pearl Jam's "Nothingman", the intro features only one guitar. It is only audible in the left channel (if you listen with headphones and take the right phone off you'll notice that theres absolutly no signal coming out, no reverb or anything). But still the guitar seems not all that wide or unbalanced (to me at least).
    I don't own any PJ myself, I could only listen to the iTunes Store's sample stream. This, unfortunately did not include the intro, but instead started a few bars into the song ("caught a bolt of lightning...", etc.).

    If the basic panning is the same at the intro to what I heard, with the jangly treble guitar on the left and the slow strum rhythm git on the right, and you're talking about the left jangly guitar, then I have to say that what I heard in both phones and monitors was pretty much a solid hard left pan to my ears. Whether it's different in the intro or not, I can't say.

    Now, the right side git, however, does have something going on in that it sounds like it has verb on it still to the right, but panned closer to the center. This has the effect of pulling that git from the far side without sending very much to the other channel.

    G.
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    Thanks a lot Glen, and yeah I did mean that janlgy guitar on the left, hehe.

    I've concluded that its probably all in my head. I mean, I doubt these guys went through the trouble of doing come weird thing to make it seem closer to center other than adding a bit of reverb (even though its not stereo verb, it still makes it seem fuller and closer to center for some reason). Especially considering that PJ are known for simple and straightforward recording without a lot of gimmicks (with the exception of the binaural album of course).

    Still of anybody has other suggestions, by all means lay 'em on me!

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    Quote Originally Posted by rnelson View Post
    (even though its not stereo verb, it still makes it seem fuller and closer to center for some reason). Especially considering that PJ are known for simple and straightforward recording without a lot of gimmicks
    One trick that's not that out-of-this world is to use a stereo reverb, but to pan the stereo image itself to a specific spread. One way to do this is to return the two channels of the stereo reverb to two separate mono mixer channels and pan those in a tight spread off-center.

    For example, you might have a hard left side guitar with a stereo reverb returned so that the left channel of the verb is (just for example) 70% left and the right channel of the verb is panned 30% left. This will give you a stereo reverb image that spreads the guitar out, but keeps it it all pretty much left channel.

    Another admittedly remote possibility, rnelson, but one it never hurts to check, is that you might want to check your monitor chain cabling and make sure you don't accidentally have the polarity inverted on one of your monitor channels. This could be messing with your imaging perception also.

    G.
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    Thanks again Glen.

    I checked the polarity yesterday and it was fine.

    Will run some more tests with verbs and such when I get home to see if my ears have been deceiving me.

    Thanks for all the responses!

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