Part 5: Width Placement


Width is the position of the layer within the stereo field, i.e. whether the sound appears to be coming more from the left or right of the listener.

1. Decide where the layer should be between the L and R speakers

There are no hard and fast rules as far as positioning sounds within the stereo field. Some prefer to spread sounds evenly to achieve good stereo width, whilst others stick to centrally panned sounds to deliver more power! However, it is general practice to centrally pan lead and bass sounds as well as kick and snare drum sounds. Most stereo instruments (including drum kits and ensembles) are positioned as the listener would hear them standing at an appropriate distance. For example, hi-hat panned slightly to the right, low tom to the left, etc.

2. Position the layer within the stereo field

Stereo sounds can be positioned at the recording stage using an appropriate stereo recording technique. Mono sounds an be positioned effectively using one or more of the following techniques applied at the recording stage (using two tracks) or at the mixing stage:

  1. Amplitude Stereo: where panning is used to increase/decrease the amplitude between the left and right speakers
  2. Delay Stereo: where the mono layer is split into two tracks panned left and right and one of the paths is delayed. The sound will sound as iff it is coming from the side that sounds first!
  3. Frequency Stereo: where the mono layer is split into two tracks panned left and right and one of the paths has a low-pass filter applied (i.e. no high frequencies). The layer will sound as if it is coming from the brighter side.

Binaural stereo is a highly effective recording technique and can be recreated at the mixing stage by using a combination of all three methods along with a small amount of appropriate reverberation added to the delayed and filtered signal path!

3. Enhance the width of the component if necessary

A stereo illusion can be created at the recording stage by using double tracking with or without varispeed or other modulation effect. However, layers can be enhanced using one or more of the following:

  1. Stereo Chorus Effect
  2. Stereo Enhancer
  3. Aural Exciter
  4. Sonic Scintillator

Caution: Be careful using any effect that changes the harmonic structure of the sound as this will change its registral placement within the mix. Also, beware of simply delaying (phase shifting) one channel of a stereo pair to create a pseudo stereo effect as this will make the sound come from the direction of the undelayed signal!

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