So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

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JES
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So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by JES » Thu May 07, 2020 10:37 am

As more and more modules go to stereo, I'm wondering this for myself, so I decided to put it out there. When does stereo really make a difference to the music coming out of a Eurorack setup?

In many live performance settings, stereo will often be lost on audiences (though not always). In recordings heard through headphones, they will be heightened. And let's just stipulate that stereo effects are cool.

For those of you who have made the jump to stereo mixers and VCA setups (which is really just double the VCAs and some multing of CVs), what musical difference has it made to you? Other than weird stereo effects, have stereo filters enhanced your music somehow, and if so, how?

Do you have stereo modules that you tried in stereo and then just decided..."meh, I'll stick with mono"? I'm not 100% sold on stereo for my granular modules, for instance. Basses are fine in mono, for me.

I know there's a recurring metathread about reverbs and stereo inputs; I am not trying to shit-stir here. I honestly want to know what people are thinking in relation to their musical goals.
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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by DSC » Thu May 07, 2020 10:47 am

JES wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 10:37 am
Basses are fine in mono, for me.
I would second this. Stereo bass is difficult to pull off, not that it's not possible, just hard to do right.
I love mid range transients pushed through a solid stereo reverb though! But hey I'm biased :hihi:

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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by brandonlogic » Thu May 07, 2020 10:50 am

Quadraphonic - what really matters! :guinness:

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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by megarat » Thu May 07, 2020 10:57 am

This is a boring but hopefully useful answer: in my experience, I've found that slightly offsetting different voices in the stereo field results in a final mix that is less muddy. That said, swirly head-trips are fun, so it's nice having that ability as well.

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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by lisa » Thu May 07, 2020 11:02 am

When stereo modules became a big thing last year I was a bit bummed because I don't want a stereo rig. I have a few stereo modules, two delays and a few Mutable Instruments physical modelling modules and that's fine but not necessary (though, If I have channels for it I tend to record them in stereo). On the other hand, when i finalize tracks I do put effort into creating an interesting stereo image. :despair:
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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by steviet » Thu May 07, 2020 11:03 am

I don't mind the stereo stuff, especially when I'm jamming away from the computer. But generally I feed all my mono signals into the DAW (eventually) for all the "stereo" processing I want to do.

I think it comes down to where you want to do your stereo wiggling, and the idea of doing it all on the rack is pretty neat.

My opinion, it's not selling me on anything but I wouldn't complain if it was there.
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JES
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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by JES » Thu May 07, 2020 11:10 am

Forgot to mention: of course I do final mixes in stereo.
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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by starthief » Thu May 07, 2020 11:17 am

I mix on and for headphones, and the stereo image is pretty important to me. I also generally hate hard-panning and am not super fond of ping-pong delays unless kept subtle...

Keeping some things (especially bass) solidly centered, some panned just a little, some moving slightly, some spread out very wide, enhances a mix. Also, changing width can be a nice effect, for a more dramatic moment or to give fades more of a sense of distance.

Going mono-to-stereo in a DAW works, but sometimes I like to do that in hardware, right at the source with different oscillators, or maybe running the same signal through two LPG channels and using it mid/side, etc.

So I certainly don't reject effects just because they're mono, nor specifically seek things out just because they're stereo. But I'd say stereo is a welcome feature to me.

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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by Spifcore » Thu May 07, 2020 11:17 am

megarat wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 10:57 am
This is a boring but hopefully useful answer: in my experience, I've found that slightly offsetting different voices in the stereo field results in a final mix that is less muddy. That said, swirly head-trips are fun, so it's nice having that ability as well.
Love a good swirly head-trip

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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by ersatzplanet » Thu May 07, 2020 11:32 am

Id you do ambient or drone-zone music, stereo on background sounds makes a huge difference to me. Pads in conventional music almost demand stereo. I have been moving away from traditional VCOs in favor of Granular and wave players and almost all of them are stereo (Nebulae2, Nutella, STS). I do some location modulation (moving things around) when playing live and it makes a difference to the sound to me. Not big, fast sweeping stuff but subtle movement depending on the sound itself. To me stereo gives you a really wide, enveloping sound field that ambient music really benefits from. Not all sounds sources need to be stereo in the mix, all it takes is a panning module or two for them.

The biggest drag of stereo modules is that you need stereo processing after them. I have a couple of dual filters (two uHC, and Overseer) and tons of matched and unmatched separate ones (getting them to match can be challenging). I use QVCAMatrix for VCAs so there is no problem there (have used them for a quad show too).
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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by brandonlogic » Thu May 07, 2020 3:39 pm

Cv over pan is..... fun!

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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by synkrotron » Thu May 07, 2020 4:19 pm

I only have one stereo module, Elements. I sometimes use it as a stereo effect.

But that doesn't matter to me as I always go through my DAW anyway and apply software reverb and delay to the mix.

Mono bass in centre is a basic rule as far as I'm concerned. I was taught a long time ago that we are unable to discern where a bass sound is coming from so it just sits in the middle and everything else goes either side. Which is why you only get a single sub in 2.1, 5.1, 7.1 sound systems.

Generally speaking.

Of course, rules are there to be broken...

So, yeah, stereo matters a lot to me, but not in terms of my system, just the end result.

And I never play live, not with my modular system anyway, but if I did, regardless of the stereo being lost, I would probably still work the same way.

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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by Red Electric Rainbow » Thu May 07, 2020 4:23 pm

brandonlogic wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 10:50 am
Quadraphonic - what really matters! :guinness:
when i had my system I tried to run it in quad as much as possible
TOO FAR GONE

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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by thelowerrhythm » Thu May 07, 2020 4:44 pm

Though I depend on the Worng LRMSMSLR and Soundstage, they're the only stereo modules I'm really interested in. I'm almost always in the drone-zone and really like the idea of a mono signal as this monolithic object. Still, you can create a much more complex final image with stereo panning and filtering on the ass end of things. I'm into the wide landscape of sonic rocks, trees, clouds, and rivers that I can spread out in front of me. I see it as the environmental component to my sonic objects.
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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by Foghorn » Thu May 07, 2020 4:56 pm

Stereo can be as easy as using a Pico DSP at the end of the signal chain.
Mono in, and a fairly convincing stereo out if you are using any of it's effects.
I also like the DPLR for mono in, stereo out (well sort of stereo)
As noted above that worng thing seems pretty convincing also, in demos on Youtube at least.
Plus, I like the output of Elements also.
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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by brandonlogic » Thu May 07, 2020 4:57 pm

Recently upgraded to the wmd performance mixer. Cv over level and planing on all 8 channels is so nice.
Was a replacement for happy nerding panmix (I now have it up for sale) which was also great and had cv panning, just wanted more channels.

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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by Keltie » Thu May 07, 2020 6:50 pm

I track into daws, and play out with an outboard mixer...stereo isn’t often a thing for me in the modular itself, and I’d rather not double up on patching/ modules / cost, so it’s gonna stay that way, mostly.

I do use some limited stereo out of an e370 into QPAS for drones, with different cvs on the QPAS sides.

The bass in centre thing is more important for vinyl cutting... depending on the mix, panned bass can limit the cutters ability to put level onto the cut. That didn’t stop some of the early stereo records, which to my ear sound interesting but also a little odd with lots of hard pans of bass, brass, drums... there’s some Bernard Purdie records you can hear that on, and little sonny, the blues harmonica guy, has some records with kit one side, kit reverb the other ( which is bad ass for sampling). It is true that panning perception drops with frequency, but a 60s fender bass can clearly be heard panned, with a typical sound. Super subby wub wubs? Probably not so much....

For club music, which I used to mix a lot of, the issue with hard pans is that 500 people can be hearing a totally different mix from 500 other people, assuming widely spaced main speaker/ stacks in a big room. Scale it up to really big clubs and your hard panned percussion is inaudible to 1/3 the audience. I rarely panned more than 9/3 ( clockface) for anything back then, and bass, kick and main parts had to be centre. A good sound system gets round that to a degree with fills, and summed mono centres, but not all clubs had them...

I trained in old school studios back in the day (80s) and was taught that a mix needs to have clarity and separation in mono first. You can use stereo to accentuate it, for effects, etc etc, but if you were relying on that for clarity, you had some fundamentals wrong. Things have moved on of course, but I still think that’s a thought worth holding onto.

But all rules can be broken, right?

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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by Hovercraft » Thu May 07, 2020 7:34 pm

Nice post @Keltie.

For a final mix or performing, I love stereo or quad, but the drive to have a full stereo signal chain in modular is puzzling. It seems on every thread about a new module that doesn't have a full stereo path, someone wants stereo--"too bad it's not stereo or *otherwise* I'd buy it". There's so many ways to build a multi-channel field in modular--but the least appealing (to me) is building a linear chain of stereo modules. With electronic instruments, stereo and any spatial positioning is purely a construct. I love dynamic, shifting multi-channel in modular music. It's nice having some stereo/2 channel modules in a system, but I still love mono modules. Love to hear how others are creatively achieving stereo. Mono mixes live are fine, but sound unnatural on headphones--probably because as humans evolved, we wouldn't have heard anything in pure mono.

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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by Keltie » Thu May 07, 2020 8:14 pm

Cheers
Hovercraft wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 7:34 pm


...There's so many ways to build a multi-channel field in modular--but the least appealing (to me) is building a linear chain of stereo modules. With electronic instruments, stereo and any spatial positioning is purely a construct....
Yeah, this....

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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by teleport » Fri May 08, 2020 12:18 am

I think that a useful way to consider stereo is to note how (and why) it exists as a mirror of the bi-lateral hearing system.

Almost no acoustic sources are stereo per se, so unless you have a binauraly recorded sample as a starting point it's not necessarily reasonable to duplicate originating sources. Even just subtle stationary panning differences near to the final stereo mix-down can really help in providing definition that would otherwise not exist in the mix. Likewise contrasting stereo elements with mono aspects works into this dynamic.

Also the no-stereo-bass thing is only true so far as you're regarding the playback system as a transparent/unknown component - once phase distortion / loudspeaker effects etc. and playing the PA as an instrument get involved all bets are off.

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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by NoLegs » Fri May 08, 2020 12:40 am

I like stereo when it sounds good. I enjoy working with and experimenting with the stereo field quite a bit. Of course I use mono sources as well and have fun with panning.

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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by smithjohn » Fri May 08, 2020 12:45 am

Stereo bass shouldn't be an issue if you mono the bass frequencies or cut the lows from the side channel.

Some of the stereo do have individual cutoff and cut CV so you can use them with two mono signals.

+1 on controlling the width for additional sense of song dynamics.

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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by Paranormal Patroler » Fri May 08, 2020 2:03 am

Keltie wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 6:50 pm
I trained in old school studios back in the day (80s) and was taught that a mix needs to have clarity and separation in mono first. You can use stereo to accentuate it, for effects, etc etc, but if you were relying on that for clarity, you had some fundamentals wrong. Things have moved on of course, but I still think that’s a thought worth holding onto.

But all rules can be broken, right?
If I'm not mistaken in the early days hard-panning was the rule. No? I seem to recall a lot of Blue Note records with hard panning of the elements. I get the difference in audiences and systems. It's an approach that I also favor, maybe because of its simplicity. Some elements hard panned, some elements in the center, some elements moving between LR.
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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by starthief » Fri May 08, 2020 3:15 am

teleport wrote:
Fri May 08, 2020 12:18 am
Almost no acoustic sources are stereo per se, so unless you have a binauraly recorded sample as a starting point it's not necessarily reasonable to duplicate originating sources.
Simulation of acoustic sources in an acoustic space is rarely something I want to do. Impressionism sometimes, abstraction more often.

Even studio recordings with acoustic instruments (especially rock/pop/jazz) often are a compromise between clarity, impact, and the authenticity of "being there."

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Re: So....when does stereo REALLY matter?

Post by foliephonics » Fri May 08, 2020 6:43 am

I'm certainly into stereo, looking towards quad. And I'm getting the message here to spacialize sound as far/late as possible along the audio chain, which makes sense to me.
Regarding bass, I thought that 'real bass' position didn't matter because we couldn't localize it anyway with our own human senses (for 5.1 home systems, they say just put the bass loudspeaker anywhere, it doesn't matter because we can't say where it comes from anyway) ?

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