Q: Panning law, stereo - speakers / in-ears

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RobC
Posts: 1204
Joined: 10 Mar 2018

Post 07 Oct 2019

Panning laws (such as adding 0 to 3 dB from center to hard panning respectively) make the most sense to me when it comes to speakers. When it comes to in-ears though, I'm kind of unsure. I always have the feeling that it rather puts extra pressure on one side, which is rather unpleasant.

I also notice that especially hard panning is not very good for dynamics (mostly in case of in-ears). I experimented a lot with this, and it does no good for a modern (hard, punchy) kick, snare, bass. So I'll probably not break those rules.

What I'd like to know is, if sticking to 0 dB panning law makes sense in case of in-ears?
Also, if it's how our brains 'compress' dynamics and compensate when panning, what kind of weakens the punch of sounds (again, mostly true in case of in-ears)?

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selig
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Post 07 Oct 2019

The first pan law you mention is the only one that puts more level (pressure?) when panning. All other pan laws subtract level when in the center.

BUT, and this is extremely important ALL pan laws INCREASE the level when panning when compared to center panned. That is in fact the entire point of pan laws!

Also… Panning is LEVEL, period. If you believe pure level changes in a mix affects dynamics on playback, then panning is the same thing.

No panning law matters when speaking of static pan positions, since they are all simply different ways of adjusting L/R levels. The point of pan laws is two fold: to make changes to panning less impacting on overall levels when mixing (from the engineer's perspective), or to make auto panning effects appear smoother (from the listener's perspective).

0dB pan laws won't change anything from the listener's perspective, unless you are auto-panning, in which case the signal will become much louder as it passes through the center position (with in ears or speakers).

I've never once found any advantage to treating phones differently than speakers, other than to consider that hard-panned instruments )that were important in the mix) will sound a bit odd in phones. Meaning, if it sounds good on speakers it will almost always sound good in phones (but I always check, just to be sure). But that doesn't stop folks from doing it for effect, for example "Vertigo" from U2, which considering the title is a fully intended effect on the listener. ;)
Selig Audio, LLC

RobC
Posts: 1204
Joined: 10 Mar 2018

Post 08 Oct 2019

selig wrote:
07 Oct 2019
The first pan law you mention is the only one that puts more level (pressure?) when panning. All other pan laws subtract level when in the center.

BUT, and this is extremely important ALL pan laws INCREASE the level when panning when compared to center panned. That is in fact the entire point of pan laws!

Also… Panning is LEVEL, period. If you believe pure level changes in a mix affects dynamics on playback, then panning is the same thing.

No panning law matters when speaking of static pan positions, since they are all simply different ways of adjusting L/R levels. The point of pan laws is two fold: to make changes to panning less impacting on overall levels when mixing (from the engineer's perspective), or to make auto panning effects appear smoother (from the listener's perspective).

0dB pan laws won't change anything from the listener's perspective, unless you are auto-panning, in which case the signal will become much louder as it passes through the center position (with in ears or speakers).

I've never once found any advantage to treating phones differently than speakers, other than to consider that hard-panned instruments )that were important in the mix) will sound a bit odd in phones. Meaning, if it sounds good on speakers it will almost always sound good in phones (but I always check, just to be sure). But that doesn't stop folks from doing it for effect, for example "Vertigo" from U2, which considering the title is a fully intended effect on the listener. ;)
I'll describe what I planned at some point:

I mixed everything in mono. Then, with the turn of a button, every sound's position was set. It was the time when I was experimenting with centering 80 Hz, and above that frequency range, bass synth went hard left, kick went hard right. It worked well when I tried acoustic samples. (That reminds me! Last time I tried, I didn't like it, because I placed a kick in center, and only a bass instrument to the side - so of course it sounded weaker.) Other sounds went 50 % to the left and right, as well as to the back with the "virtual surround" effect [was common in tracker DAWs, such as ModPlug I think] where you swap the polarity of one channel. It was kind of a very simplified positioning, where sounds were placed every 45 degree (8 possible positions). Sub was centered. Vocals were center with about 30 ms delay mix of a duplicate, which was in the back (yes, the fully out of phase position).

With the press of a button, every sound was positioned in stereo. Now, if there was a pan law, things sounded like they fell apart - the more to the sides, the louder they were with in-ears. Thus I chose the 0 dB mode, where as something goes to the left, the right side simply drops volume.

I kind of liked this 0 dB law when auto panning, cause it gave a bit of "3D" feel, that the sound is going farther away from the center (where it truly is the loudest) ~ at least in case of in-ears. But it could be that it's the same, or similar smooth feel like when the 3 dB law is used.

I mostly watched what's best for in-ears ~ since it was mostly a project intended for in-ears.
For a speaker mix, I'd probably add the 3 dB pan law, so it sounds about the same. (One website said that if we cut a speaker, then the other one(s) need +3 dB total, so there's the same amount of energy.)

P.S. the other experiment was dividing 45 degrees by as many sounds there are in the song. Then, putting sounds as far away from each other as possible, beginning with the low end of the spectrum. So kick was center, bass was on the side, then a modern snare was 50% panned, then male vocal 25 % between the kick and snare, etc. So, a logical scattering, which considers dynamics and dominant frequencies - and that it's easier to localize higher frequencies than lower ones for a human.
After that I would have decided what goes to the other side, and what goes behind (that "surround" effect again).
Then there was a third experiment, which only added the 3D depth to this, where sounds could also go away in the distance, as well as above/below. However, things get crowded pretty quickly in the stereo field this way.

I'm kind of looking for what's the most efficient way to tell sounds apart. For some reason, I get the feeling, that changing only amplitude, and maybe polarity is the cleanest way to do this.
Most people can easily tell the 5 frontal and side directions apart. Rear ones are rather just a bonus (they can sound interesting with the polarity flipping "surround effect"). [Using the haas effect can also be interesting, although that kind of gives a bit of 'everywhere' feel, cause it touches the side for a moment; it kind of is in the center, like a dual mono effect; but it also sounds like it's between the side and center.] Distance can be felt if there's reverberation or echoing - even in mono (from my experience).

That's about all the info of what I experimented with.

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