Stereo Imaging

Any good web stuff?

So, I’ve seen lots of talk about the concept of stereo imaging, but must confess that I’m getting dumber instead of smarter. I realize that I want things to have their own space, that panning and verb and the like play a part, but now I must ask the question: When do I know that I’ve been successful in creating a stereo image? Is it simply an issue of collapsing it to mono and the song still holding together musically? Sonically? When do I stop tweaking and say, "this was (perhaps marginally) successfully imaged?
I’m really thinking in terms of imaging whilst I’m wearing my mixing hat – NOT the master hat

Discuss… :D

when creating a stereo image, it helps to pictures a real band playing in front of you. for example, two guitarists are probably going to be on opposite ends from each other. the drums won’t be spread as far apart as the two guitars, but they’re not all panned up the middle. the bass guitar is usually panned center because it usually can’t be directionally percieved very well, meaning you just hear it, but aren’t sure where from. bass drum and snare middle, toms spread out left to right, hi hat can be on one side or more towards the middle. background vocals might be spread out. main vocals up the middle.

a good stereo mix may not sound good in mono, if you say “doubled” the guitars by adding delay. they’ll sound phasey/chorusy so it’s best to double track them (play the same part twice and spread each take out left and right. you can have some fun with vocals and backgrounds vocals bouncing around with echos and various things to make the song “move.”

I wouldn’t worry too much about the stereo imaging. it’s not an exact science, it really just helps put things in a different place like eq and reverb do. together they all work great, but each individually is just a minor part of it. I often do like to mix in mono first to ensure that my eq and reverb is doing it’s job, then i’ll jump to stereo to play with it more.

And how exactly are you mixing in mono, if you’ve recorded (even just some) things in stereo? I’ve heard this mentioned in passing, but can’t seem to locate the “mix in mono” button… :)

The mono button is in the mixer next to the master volume. Perosnally, I do my initial mix in mono… meaning I get levels balanced amongst instruments. I have found nearly 98% of the time if the mix sound sright in mono from a volume standpoint, it will work in stereo. ONce things are hip in mono I flip to stereo and do my EQ and panning stuff etc. Then periodically I flip back to mono to be sure my tweaks in stereo still sound good in mono.

As a side note, I have to express the importance of checking mono. Just a week or so back we were recording and my guitarist had one speaker in his cab that was wired backwards and the guitar just disappeard in mono. Had I not checked mono he woul dhave never known his speaker was out of phase and our recording would sound like poo on just about everything but where we were mixing.

Ah good to know! So, to sum this up, this isn’t so much a process (like learning how to limit or MB Compress) as much as it is a check item that I just need to be aware of. I had this thought that there was like a cottage industry out there specializing in stereo imaging… ???

Thanks for the clarification.

A stereo image only means how you pan things really. Is the guitar on the left or right or middle or what? Mono is everything coming out of the left and right speaker being identical where as stereo is different things coming out of left and right. Don’t over think it. Here is a link that might illustrate it better. But long story short, listen to your favorite record on headphones. Where does it sound like the hihat is at (left, right, middle, half way left etc)? Where is the gutar at?

I would suggest we all (including myself) get a decent handle on this concept (stereo imaging), because I wouldn’t be surprised that the 5.1 or 7.1 surround will soon become the norm as an audio standard (it’s already part of the DVD standard). Then we will have to become as concerned with distance front to back as we are now with left to right.

The next thing they will probably come up with will be holographic images that will be projected and will need to be synced with the music…


Nice article. And while I’m at it, tweak’s website is just a gold mine for anyone wanting to get into home recording. really great site.

Now, phase cancellation. Heard about it. Understand the concept, but don’t really see the tools in N to mess with it. Pointers?

Tools, what kind of tools? TO check if phase is funny just flip to mono. If the phase is okay everything will sound more or less similar to stereo.If the phase is out of whack, you’ll notice a significant loss of volume and content. Full phase cancellation in mono would result in silence.

Boy, there’s nothing like flexing one’s ignorance in a public forum. Thanks for the pointers. :O

Quote (billthecat @ Feb. 10 2006,14:14)
Boy, there's nothing like flexing one's ignorance in a public forum. Thanks for the pointers. :O

You can do it here, man! And the cool thing about that is, that if you ask a question, you get an answer, and then you know something! Pretty cool, heh?

Yeah, I thought so... :cool:

Now, just try this over at the Cubase forum. Muhahahahaha!!

Seriously, even if I never used n-Track, I've gotten a discount crash-course on PC-based sound engineering. But I do use n-Track. :)