Out-of-phase sources

Computer Music - - Make Music Now / Stereo Mixing Strategies -

A stereo au­dio sig­nal with iden­ti­cal fre­quency and vol­ume in­for­ma­tion in the left and right chan­nels, while still tech­ni­cally stereo, will be per­ceived as mono. Take the left chan­nel, al­ter its time in re­la­tion to the right, and the sig­nal will be­come out of phase, and there­fore stereo – you’ve cre­ated a phase dif­fer­ence between L and R. A com­mon way to do this is us­ing the Haas ef­fect: de­lay the left chan­nel later in time by a few mil­lisec­onds, and a pow­er­ful widen­ing ef­fect is cre­ated. This is a pop­u­lar trick for ‘stereoi­sa­tion’, but of­ten comes at a price: sum the re­sult­ing sig­nal to mono, and the mid sig­nal will fea­ture ob­vi­ous phase smear­ing and fre­quency can­cel­la­tion. Mix this de­lay ef­fect in par­al­lel and per­form a mono check to bal­ance mono com­pat­i­bil­ity and width.

We of­ten work with mul­ti­sam­pled sound li­braries (pi­anos, strings, etc) and ready-rolled soft­synth pre­sets. For ob­vi­ous rea­sons, these are de­signed to im­press you straight out of the box – and one guar­an­teed way sound de­sign­ers grab the lis­tener’s at­ten­tion is by giv­ing these sounds su­per-wide stereo in­for­ma­tion. This se­duc­tive width can be­come ad­dic­tive when brows­ing through patches, but will harm your mix in the long run – one sure­fire way to ex­pose a rookie pro­duc­tion is to sum the mas­ter bus to mono, only to hear these amaz­ing sounds col­lapse into a blurry mess!

Tread es­pe­cially care­fully when us­ing these sounds: watch out for out-of-phase synth patches with loads of spread-out uni­son voices, cho­rus or other widen­ing ef­fects; or mega-phat pi­ano patches with Haas de­lay ap­plied. Overtly stereo sig­nals will phase-can­cel when folded to mono, weak­en­ing your mix.

If you want to sum the sound down and use it as a mono sig­nal, try solo­ing the left or right chan­nel, rather than sim­ply mix­ing down to 0% mono. One side (ei­ther L or R) will al­most al­ways sound more solid and con­sis­tent, com­pared to the blurred, out-of-phase mono sum of L and R.

In­stead of fold­ing down the left and right chan­nels, iso­late ei­ther L or R for more solid mono power

De­lay a sig­nal’s left or right chan­nel by a few mil­lisec­onds to create Haas width – but check in mono!

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