The guy on the photo is Robert Henke. I met him last year when I attended his workshop for 3 days at STEIM Amsterdam. I was the only one using Reason by the way. A lot of sound hipsters are on Ableton (I admit: I’m a Ableton user since version Live 1.2, but haven’t upgrade to 9) , SuperCollider or Max MSP. Not me. I also noticed that a lot of these sound hipsters can’t play an instrument. Not me. I am mainly a guitar player and Reason is my modular 4-track 2.0.
One of the things Robert talked about is the way a speaker projects sound in a room. Robert almost always uses more than 2 speakers because that works better for him.
STEREO is far from perfect because there’s only one position in the room where the sound is perfect. ONE POSITION! Any mixing engineer will know that and I’m sure you know that too. That triangle sweet spot. And because both speakers project the same sort of signals all kinds of distortion and weird phasing can occur. Think for example about The Doppler effect which makes a siren to sound higher in pitch when it is approaching than when it is receding. Which is something we can simulate in audio systems by using panning and volume.
Check out this image I made some time ago for my Dutch blog:
The issue with STEREO is and always will be: the listener’s position. So therefore it’s tricky to pan things extremely to the right or left. Pan everything to the middle is a safe option but then you will end up with a MONO sounding mix. Nowadays lots of kids I see walking around with just one earplug in. At least here in the Netherlands. So they listen in MONO. But think about it when you’ve done a mix and you pan the guitar solo to the right, this kid might not notice the solo at all.
MONO takes half the bandwidth compared to STEREO. This is the reason why YouTube used MONO sound in its player for years and years. Almost nobody was aware of it. And this is the reason why most podcasts are in MONO as well.
I have always wondered why in clubs and concert halls STEREO systems are used because a large part of the audience has a problem because they will hear either the left or right channel way too loud. In my opinion one of the best ways to project sound in a live environment would be to use one speaker for the lead instrument(s) and one or more speaker channels for the other instruments. You could call this MONO + n. Often voices/vocals make a mix go up to bloody loud volume levels in clubs. And that gets more of a serious issue when the same speaker is also producing loud drums and loud guitars. Keep in mind that a speaker can only push the air back and forth, so it gets rather complicated when it needs to produce all kinds of sounds blended together. Using an extra speaker is just a brilliant way to create more depth while even keeping the level down.
The cool thing about STEREO is that you can play with the wideness of sound, something you can’t really do in MONO. With STEREO you can really create a space. Something which plays a huge role in movies. This way you can localise sounds and make a person walk from left to right.
Robert Henke always chooses his speaker setup based on the room he’s performing in. Something I agree with also. The room is key for projecting the sound because room reflections are as important as the speaker producing the sounds. Every room is different and therefore choosing a different setup accordingly makes total sense to me.
Forget about STEREO
For today I want you to think about STEREO as a 2 channel system. Both channels can play anything you’d like. So for today think about STEREO as a dual MONO system.
Start by using two Pulverisers instead of one. Combine the 2 of them in a Combinator. You can also use an extra mixer so you can pan the two Pulverisers. But the trick is: use differently settings for both channels/devices!
You might try out some of my ideas for this magical mystery Dual MONO Pulveriser setup:
- Add some Dirt to the left channel of a bass track and keep the right clean and add some Dirt to the right channel of a bassdrum track and keep the left clean
- Use different settings for the Squash on both left and right
- Use a slower Attack on the Follower for one of the channels
- Use different Tremor settings for left and right
- et cetera
It’s super easy to create cool sounds this way . As I told before: it’s a must to have contrast in music. Using some of these more extreme kinds of tricks will help you to create more original sounding mixes in my opinion. A flat sound will bore the heck out of everybody so stay away from flat sounding stuff! Mistakes, noise, strange panning, overdrive, weirdness… if it’s not too extreme, people will love it.