# Can you help me to learn when I want stereo combined panner?

I am having difficult to understand the logic and the usability of stereo combined panner.

First thing I’d need to know is this:
If I want to do a “standard” mix and I want to pan a stereo track hard left or right, I go with balanced pan.
Is this uncommon or the common way?

Stereo balance panner gradually mutes the opposite side of the signal, when panned other than center
Stereo combined panner gives you control over panning of both channels.

Hard panning with the balance panner on a stereo source will allow you to hear only the left or right component of the signal.

The Stereo combined panner allows you to control both the width of the source’s stereo field. and it’s position, without affecting the relative amplitude of L+R signals

Examples:

You want your drums to be in stereo, but not occupy the whole width of the stereo field as this would sound unnaturally wide.

You want a stereo piano, but want to place the piano toward one side of the soundstage.

I use the combined panner a bunch because it makes it easier to hear multiple instruments in a mix. A lot (most, all?) of stereo VSTi’s have their sound panorama spread all the way from the left to the right speaker because it makes the instrument sound good when listening to it alone. But often this makes it harder to mix. For example, using clock positions to describe pan positions, if you have a piano spread between 9:00 & 3:00 it will sound good. But then if you add a stereo guitar playing in the same range that is also spread between 9:00 & 3:00 it becomes hard to hear each instrument clearly and distinctly because they tend to cover each other up. Even if you pan them mid-left and mid-right that only sets the center of the stereo field and not the edges. But if you use combined panners you can have the piano take up the space between 9:30 & 11:30 while having the guitar between 12:30 & 2:30. Now it is easier to hear both instruments because they aren’t stepping on each other. Both instruments will still sound stereo and not mono, just not so wide. And they will sit easier in a mix.

Try this experiment using headphones. Make a project with a single track of an instrument with a wide stereo image like most pianos. Duplicate the track and set one version to be a balanced panner set to 10:30. Set the other track to a combined panner set to 9:30 & 11:30. Now A/B between the two to hear the difference.

1 Like

Does Stereo Combined work like a Mid Side?

No. M/S works on a different principle. Both the Balance Panner and the Combined Panner deal with L-R placement of sound sources across a stereo field. M/S processing deals with the relative levels the centre and edge components of the field.

^^ Completely true, but at the same time you can use M/S to help “make room” when two signals are occupying the same point in the stereo field. For example, if you have a VST piano across the entire stereo field, and want to make room for a vocal in the center - you can turn down the Mid piano signal one or two dB. This isn’t quite the same as panning since whatever frequencies are in the middle of the piano field will be lowered, but used subtly, it can definitely help make room in the center.

I also believe some plugs will actually let you pan the Mid off to the side (rather than just reduce its volume), so in that sense the answer to your question whether M/S is the same as panning would be yes. The Voxengo M/S free plug may do that, but I haven’t tried it personally, so can’t say for sure.