Stereo Image vs skull acoustics?

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by falkon2, Jun 14, 2003.

  1. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    I didn't really know whether to put this in Mastering or Mixing, then I decided it had more to do with touching up rather than initial construction.

    I recently read some papers on how humans tell the direction from which different sounds come from - from slight delays between left and right ears, the timbre, relative perceived volume levels, etc. There was this part that mentioned bass frequencies travelling right through the head and being perceived by both ears, making it difficult to tell where those sounds are coming from.

    When listening to my mixes through the headphones, I found that the floor tom sounded unnatural when panned towards the side, whereas when coming through the monitors, it sounded pretty decent... Is the effect mentioned above factoring into this phenomena?

    When mastering and playing with the stereo image, is this usually taken into consideration? Would it make the mix more "realistic" and "spaced proportionally" when listened to through headphones if the bass ranges were more equal on both sides?

    Hope the question makes sense.
  2. realdynamix

    realdynamix Well-Known Member

    Feb 23, 2001
    :) Hi Falcon, I don't think it goes through the head as much as wraps around it. I have tried this in mixing. I split that tom track into 2, EQ and pan the upper sounds where I want them, and EQ and pan the bottom sounds closer to center. That way you still get the wide pan effect, but all the ooumf, is shared by both speakers.

    Just a suggestion,

  3. Chae Ham

    Chae Ham Active Member

    May 14, 2003
    Home Page:
    What you're talking about are psychoacoustic cues and binaural perception. This is a HUGE topic (part of which I did my thesis on). But to focus it more toward getting a better handle on your questions, there are a few things we must consider.

    The nature of the way headphones "produce" bass frequencies is faulty. Headphones make use of humans' "proximity effect" if you will--giving the illusion that those low end frequencies are actually being produced by the headphones, when in actuality it is how the brain is interpreting the aural information that creates the sense of extended bass from headphones. For instance, the minute you pull the headphones even a small distance like an inch away from your ears, the bass drops considerably.

    To explain the above, we have to consider that the way we perceive sound isn't very much different from the way microphones do. But instead of having side and back rejection ports like microphones, aural depth perception in humans is "decoded" by the brain--in other words, "on-axis" and "off-axis" information is gathered from the phase relationships of sounds as they get to one's ears.

    Headphones interfere with the brain's ability to do this to some extend because all of the aural information is being directly fed from the headphone to the ear "on-axis"

    We could even further this discussion to account for how bass frequencies are more difficult for the brain to interpret direction.

    That was a stripped down explanation, but I hope it made some sense. :)
    JoaoSpin likes this.
  4. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    This sounds like an interesting topic... any papers I can get ahold of for this week's potty time? :D

    Well, more immediately though... that's the problem... is there any discussions on fixing this, like any special treatment for stereo imaging with headphones in mind?
  5. Chae Ham

    Chae Ham Active Member

    May 14, 2003
    Home Page:
    Well, the tricky thing is you can't "fix" it. Part of what makes headphones effective is in "tricking" the brain to think its hearing extended low frequencies. The very nature of the way headphones work is "unnatural" 99% of all other auditory stimuli isn't heard this way(i.e, we don't put on headphones and have conversations with eachother :D )

    So, the next best thing to do (other than eliminate headphones) is if you know your audience will ONLY listen to your mix through headphones, mixing with headphones would be the most reliable way to judge if it will translate well--but that headphone mix probably won't relate well to listening through speakers.

    In life nothing's perfect, or perhaps everything is perfectly imperfect! :c:
  6. downflow

    downflow Guest

    I am "relieved" to see I'm not the only one who serves double duty on the crapper. In fact my cries of understanding: "Eureka!!", are often punctuated by an outburst of an entirely different, less intelligent sort.
  7. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Ahaha.. Now that's a scary image.

    No but really... in today's fast-paced society, the only times when you have the liberty and space to think is while driving or on the loo. And I for one don't want to read while driving. ;)
  8. Jbuntz

    Jbuntz Guest

    When drums are in a room with you, the stereo image is not very wide to your ears. Panning the toms hard will make them sound very far apart through headphones, maybe even farther than if you were sitting behind the kit. I've noticed the samething when mixing. Don't worry about how headphone mixes sound unless they are intended for headphones.
  9. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    I remember the analogy of the drummer with 20' arms. :D I rarely pan my drums more than 40-45% to either side.
  10. TACurtis

    TACurtis Guest

    Uh, I do all my mixing through my headphones. . . this is a very unfortunate bit of information, indeed. . . . :(
  11. sioux

    sioux Guest


    Have you read "The Art of Mixing" by David Gibson? It's really very good and very visual. He shows the sounds in 3D space so you can really get it. I'm still learning this too and this book is great.

    This book is listed in the recommended books by RO. Go to their book section and look in Tips and Techniques, click on the book and it will take you to the book at

  12. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Haha, as one could surmise from the topic, I mix through headphones as well. With Cakewalk. On a laptop.

    Ah well, beggars can't be choosers.

    I'll check out the book. Thanks for the heads-up.
  • AT5047

    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

Share This Page