Audio Panning

In audio, panning involves a moving action. An audio pan pot—short for panning potentiometer—is used in a mix to simulate the movement of a certain source from one side of the soundstage to the other. Ideally, timing, filtering, and reverberation differences should be present to complete the image of apparent movement within a specific space. Simple analog pan controls can change relative levels. However, they are unable to add reverb to replace a direct signal. They are unable, too, to modify certain stages, alter the spectrum, or change the delay timing.

Audio Panning: What Does It Mean?

Panning represents a distribution of a sound signal into a new stereo regulated by a specific pan control setting. This can be said of a multi-channel sound field as well. The most common physical recording console includes a pan control for each incoming source channel. A pan pot is an analog control that has a position indicator. Modern mixing software is able to replace pan pots with on-screen virtual knobs or sliders.

Some History

Before pan pots, people used three-way switches to assign a specific track to either the centre, the left output, or the right one. Apparently, the Billboard charts 1960s were full of this. Common examples are The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “A Day in the Life,” as well as Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.”

Wide Stereo Mixes

You create a wide stereo mix by manipulating tracks in the stereo spectrum through panning. Non-experienced engineers should know that recording everything in stereo is a big mistake when thinking about creating a wide mix. (This is our daily piece of advice for you!) If you record everything in stereo and pan it left and right, the sound settles in the centre of the stereo spectrum. To achieve an adequate wide stereo mix, it’s important to either eliminate one of the sides of the recording or to pan both tracks in a single mono position.

Finally, do not lose sight of the fact that the style of music determines the efficiency some instruments have when working as stereo instruments. Acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and pianos are common examples.