5 Mixing Mistakes To Avoid: Using Panning & Imaging Tools

Placing sounds in the stereo field is a hugely important part of mixing. Joe Albano is back with 5 common mistakes every producer should avoid when using panning and imaging tools on their tracks.  

Joe is a musician, engineer, and producer in NYC. Over the years, as a small studio operator and freelance engineer, he's made recordings of all types from music & album production to v/o & post. He's also taught all aspects of recording and music technology at several NY audio schools, and has been writing articles for Recording magaz... Read More


With regards to "Don’t Confuse Stereo Panning and Balancing," can't the same effect be achieved with less steps (i.e. adding a Dir Mixer insert) by setting Logic's channel strip to Mono? Unless I'm mistaken, doing this causes the "balance" pot to become a true "pan pot."
In Logic 10 you cannot change a channel strip to mono, you can only change it's input to mono, Once a track is recorded in stereo, or created by submixing some elements this audio element will stay in stereo and will be played back on 2 channels and the pan pot will act as a balance. You could of course choose to output both channel to a single output, but then your pan pot would dissapear obviously, the two channels would only be merged in one mono output.
Thanks for the feedback Pierre. Does what your saying also apply in cases where the audio source/region is Mono as is the setting for Logic's Channel Strip? From what I read in the manual, I interpreted that the Pan Pot would act as a true Panoramic Pot (not a balancer) in the previously mentioned example.
When applying these tips what happens when you check your mix in mono? Serious question. I'm sure more would like to know. Sure the post is 2yrs old but its still here and the comment section is still on so I take it you can get around to answering. Thanks.
Joe A
Hi RGabriel -

By "what happens" do you mean how might mono playback affect a mix made for stereo? Well, aside from the caveat about polarity-flipped fake stereo potentially canceling out in mono, in general, in mono playback you may lose some of the clarity you might have gained (thanks to the psychoacoustics of stereo hearing) by spreading the tracks out, and the center elements may be slightly more prominent, though the overall balance should still work just fine. The difference is usually subtle, and often not really a big cause for concern, but it was enough that when remastering the older Beatles catalog material that was originally mixed for mono distribution, there was much discussion about whether stereoizing those mixes was not being true enough to the originals, and they ended up releasing them both ways..

If mono reproduction may be a significant part of how the public first hears your music/mixes, then you might want to take a little extra time checking and possibly subtly tweaking a mix to insure that it will come across as well in mono as it does in stereo, just like we tweak a mix to work on different-sounding speakers and headphones -- there may be some small compromises, but it's part of the job when mixing for a commercial release to anticipate how the mix will sound on different playback systems in different environments, and make sure that while it sounds best in the primary format, it still works reasonably well even in less-than-ideal scenarios, of which mono playback might be one.

Btw, as you pointed out, this article is two years old, and re the comments about pan vs balance control in Logic, it’s worth noting that in the interim Logic introduced true stereo panning for stereo tracks, negating the need for the Direct Mixer in most cases. It uses one knob, but provides the same functionality as Pro Tools’ dual stereo pan knobs, and is well implemented.


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