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In parts I & II, 721 WAV samples demonstrate the discussed topics; a few of them are presented on this page.

All samples on this page are 128 kbps MP3s.

Concepts - Stereo Panorama

The sound stage of a mix is the illusionary space we perceive as if existing between the two speakers. We can position sounds anywhere from left to right, and most often we want the horizontal axis of the stage to be full, with no lacking areas (just like an orchestra would be organized on stage). Put another way, we want a balanced spread of sounds across the stereo panorama.

Full Stereo Spread
This sample demonstrates a full stereo panorama with no lacking areas.
The W-Mix
The W-Mix, unless intentional, is a very common mix problem. It involves emphasis on 3 areas: left extreme, center and right extreme, with nothing in between these areas (eg, halfway left and right). It is mostly the outcome of people's tendency to pan all stereo track hard to the extremes, but can also be the result of lack of stereo effects.
The I-Mix
The I-Mix involves a mix where most sounds are panned around the center, with very little filling the sides. While this mix is not monophonic, it can appear as such.
The V-Mix
Although a very rare type of problem, the V-Mix involves emphasis on the extremes with a weak center. It is mostly the result of stereo-effects overuse, mostly delays.
Right Hole
Some mixes suffer from an empty area somewhere along the horizontal dimension. In this mix, there is a weak area on the right side.


Concepts - Depth

Just like sounds can be panned left and right on the sound stage, they can be panned front and back. Reverb are first in command over depth panning, but we also use equalizers and dynamic range processors for the task. The following samples provide the most basic depth demonstration.

No Depth Demo
All instruments in this composition are dry, so the mix does not present any spatial properties. Mixes as such are considered two-dimensional, and could come across amateur and unappealing.
Depth Demo
The synth is panned front, the congas are panned behind it and the flute-like synth is panned way to the back of the mix.


Phase

Two demonstrations of the Haas trick:

Original dGuitar
The original mono distorted guitar.
dGuitar after Haas
The guitar after the Haas trick, which in this case was applied to fatten the sound and create a wide stereo image.
Original aGuitar
The original mono acoustic guitar, panned to the left for comparison with the next sample.
aGuitar after Haas
The Haas trick was applied here at subtle amount to create a more realistic panning effect and an overall richer sound.

And a demonstration of the out-of-speakers trick:

Arp Mono
The source composition. Both the beat and the arpeggiated bass-line are mono here. The bass-line involves a band-pass filter swept up and then back down.
Arp after Out-of-speakers Trick
The out-of-speakers trick was only applied on the bass-line. This creates the impression of sound arriving from outside the physical position of the speakers. Note that the image narrows as the band-pass filter sweeps up; the reason for this is explained in the next sample.
Arp Toggle
The out-of-speakers trick works better with low-frequency material. Our brain's side-localization is based on phase differences between the two ears, but high-frequencies have a wavelength too short and can change phase many times as they travels from one ear to another. In this sample, the out-of-speakers trick is toggled every bar, which accentuates the phenomenon. At low-frequencies the sound image appears as if arriving from outside the speakers; this image is narrowed as the band-pass filter sweeps up and morphs into vague inside-the-speakers image.


Panning

The following samples demonstrate the wisdom in panning multiple-mono tracks. In both samples, the snare-top and snare-bottom mics are in question.

Identical Panning
Panning the top and bottom mics to the same position creates a sharper image, which is sometimes associated with tightness.
Mirrored Panning
Panning the mics to different sides of the stereo panorama creates a wider (or more open) image that is less defined.

There is no right or wrong between these two different panning tactics - it depand on the production being mixed.



Equalizers

EQ and Depth
High-frequencies are more readily absorbed than low-frequencies. This is mostly the reason why dull sounds appear more distant. We use this fact to enhance the depth positioning of mix elements. In this sample, which demonstrates the phenomenon, a low-pass filter is swept down and then up again. The lower it is swept the further away the drums appear. It is worth mentioning that this is also the consequence of the increasing level lost caused by the filter.

One of the key aspects of a good mix is definition. In the masking scene created by the various instruments, equalizers are the main tool with which we create separation. Having each instrument appearing in its own frequency space and not clouding other instruments is generally a sought after quality of a mix. Shelving filters are a great tool for tuning instruments to the frequency spectrum and by that promoting separation, definition and an overall balanced frequency spectrum. They do so by shaping the general tonality of an instrument, for example, making it brighter or darker, and by that the instrument can be nudged to appear higher or lower on the frequency spectrum. The following samples demonstrate this:

Drums No EQ
The source track for the following samples, in which only the snare is equalized. Compare each of the following tracks to this one.
Snare LSF Down
By reducing the lows of the snare with a low-shelving filter (LSF), its low-frequency boundary appears to have shifted higher. The snare could seem brighter here, although a trained ear will notice that the snare highs remained intact.
Snare HSF Up
By boosting the snare highs using a high-shelving filter (HSF), its high-frequency boundary appears to have shifted up. This sample can appear to have a similar effect as the previous sample, which demonstrates the frequency Yin-Yang - attenuating the lows can be perceived as boosting the highs; this has important consequences on the way we can equalized different instruments.
Snare HSF Down
Reducing the highs of the snare creates the impression that its high-frequency boundary has shifted down.


Compressors

Compressors are one of the most widely-used, misused and overused tools in mixing nowadays. From an impressive list of applications they have, a few are demonstrated in the following samples.

Adding Warmth:

Bass Source
The source track, uncompressed.
Bass LF Distortion
The distortion heard on this track is the outcome of very fast attack setting. It is something to watch out for but if applied wisely and in the correct amount, this type of distortion can add definition and warmth to bass instruments.

Reshaping Dynamic Envelopes and Balancing Levels:

Source Drums
The source track. In the following samples only the snare is compressed.
Snare More Attack
The snare compressor on this track was configured to add attack (or punch), and for the purpose of demonstration this was done to an exaggerated degree. Note that this also shifts the snare forward in the mix. One problem with this sample is that hits arriving shortly after preceding hits have less punch as the gain-reduction does not fully recover - essentially making some hits softer than others.
Snare Balanced Attack
To solve the uneven levels issue in the previous sample, another compressor was inserted in series. This second compressor was employed to balance the various hit levels. When more than one compression task is involved (like adding punch and balancing levels), we sometimes use two or more compressors in series, and assign to each compressor the application it excels at.


Gates

Source Beat
The source track used in the following samples.
Gated Snare
Shortening the decay of a percussive instrument can also translate in our perception to added punch. This is easily done using a gate, like in this sample where the snare's decay was shortened.
Adding Sub-bass
One popular trick involves gating an oscillator with respect to a kick in order to add some low-frequency oomph to each hit. The oscillator in this track was set to 50 Hz, so you'll need monitors that can produce this frequency in order to hear the full effect.


More samples coming soon.

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