Hifiology - It's All About Stereo - Part 2

Posted by The Listening Suite on 4th Mar 2022

Hifiology - It's All About Stereo - Part 2

Stereo

Stereo was invented and patented by Alan Blumlein in 1931.

Stereo provides the listener, the illusion or sense of listening to sound sources positioned to our Left, directly in front of us, to our Right and anywhere between Left and Right. The first mass-produced commercially available 12” Stereophonic long-playing record was released in March 1958 by the artist, Johnny Puleo and his Harmonica Gang on the New York based, Audio Fidelity Record Label (AFSD 5830).

Understanding The Stereo Soundstage Left - Centre - Right

Imagine yourself seated centrally in the front row seats of a theatre looking at the stage.

There are 3 musicians on stage in front of you, the first musician is positioned to the extreme left of the stage playing acoustic guitar, the second musician is the singer positioned in the centre of the stage directly in front of you with the third musician playing electric guitar positioned to your extreme right. Now close your eyes and imagine the 1st musician playing to your left, the 2nd musician singing directly in front of you and lastly the 3rd musician playing to your right. The positioning of the musicians on this imaginary stage have created what can be described as a Left, Centre, Right sound stage. Your hifi replicates this imaginary sound stage as an electronic sound stage, the Left speaker representing the position of the 1st musician and what’s known as a Phantom Centre channel representing the position of the 2nd musician and the Right speaker representing the position of the 3rd musician.

The Phantom Centre Channel & The Pan Control

The Phantom Centre or Central position is created electronically during the recording and mixing process. One of the features available to the studio sound engineer when using a recording mixing console is the Pan Control. The Pan Control allows the mix engineer to position a recorded sound at various positions between the Left and Right speakers. For example to our Left, directly in front of us (Centre), to our Right or anywhere between the Left, Centre, Right sound stage.

The Panning positions can be as follows: (See the images below)

LEFT 100% 87.5% 75% 62.5% 50% 37.5% 25% 12.5% CENTRE 12.5% 25% 37.5% 50% 62.5% 75% 87.5% 100% RIGHT

The Pan control also allows the engineer to separate the recorded sounds so that they don’t mask each other, improving definition and separation within the stereo sound stage. When the Pan Control is centrally positioned, an equal amount of electrical signal is sent to both the Left and Right channels and as a result, the recorded vocal for example, appears to the listener to be centrally positioned between the Left and Right speakers, when the listeners listening position is centred between the two speakers.

Note: The distance between your Left and Right speakers plus the amount of toe in, effect the amount of division or spacing between the panning positions 0% to 100%, the wider the distance between the speakers, the wider the panning positions and soundstage.

2008 - Shelby Lynne & The Song ‘Willie and Laura Mae Jones’

This recording demonstrates the modern form of Stereo Sound Stage extremely well. It is a recording by the artist Shelby Lynne and her cover of the song ‘Willie and Laura Mae Jones’ written and composed by Tony Joe White. Taken from the Album ‘Just A Little Lovin’ recorded at Capitol Studios, Hollywood, California, USA, in January 2007. Produced by Phil Ramone and recorded and mixed by the Grammy Award winning Recording Engineer and Mixer, Al Schmitt. The reason for choosing this recording is to help the listener understand more about the Stereo Left, Centre, Right, Sound Stage and how it is created using the Pan control.

Musician Credits:

Lead Vocal and Acoustic Guitar: Shelby Lynne

Drums: Curt Bisquera

Percussion: Gregg Field

Bass: Kevin Axt

Doboro Slide Guitar plus Electric Guitar: Dean Parks

Recording Credits:

Producer: Phil Ramone

Recording Engineer and Mixer: Al Schmitt

Assistant Recording Engineer and Assistant Mixer: Steve Genewick

Mastered by Doug Sax and Robert Hadley at The Mastering Lab.

‘Willie and Laura Mae Jones’ - Tempo BPM 83

Intro -

0:00 - 1 2 Go Count In

1 2 3 4

0:03 - 4 - Bars

0:14 - 4 - Bars

0:26 - 4 - Bars

Verse 1 -

0:38 - Verse 1 - 8 Bars

Willie and Laura Mae Jones

Were our neighbours a long time a back

They lived right down the road from us

In a shack just like our shack

0.48

They worked the land together

And we learned to count on each other

When you live off the land

You don't have time to think about another man's colour

1:00 - 4 - Bars - Doboro

1:12 - 2 - Bars

1:18 - 2 - Bars - Percussion Break

Listen to: the Bass Guitar Lick at 1:20

Verse 2 -

1:22 - Verse 2 - 8 Bars

Oh we’d sit out on the front porch

In the evening when the sun go down

Willie would play and Laura would sing

And the children would dance around

1.34

I'd bring over my guitar

And we'd play all thru the night

Every now and then

Old Willie would grin an say

“Hey, you play all right now”

1.46

And lord it made me feel so good

Chorus -

1:51 - Chorus

The cotton was high

And the corn was growing fine

Oh but that was another place another time

2.01 - 1 - Bar Break “Whist, Get over here junior”

2:04 - 4 - Bars Break (Acoustic Guitar Panned Centre)

2:15 - 4 - Bars Break “Yeah Dean”

Listen to: Dean Parks Solo picking style on the Doboro Slide guitar panned Left leading into the percussive break at 2:28

2:27 - 8 - Bars Break - Percussion Break

2.33 - Listen to: Dean Parks solo picking style on the Doboro Slide Guitar panned Left plus his Electric Guitar panned Right at 2.33 and 2:43

Also the accomanying Bass Guitar

2:50 - 6 - Bars Break Listen to: Dean Parks Dobro Slide guitar playing panned left plus Shelby Lynnes playing on Acoustic guitar panned to the centre

2:56 - (Shelby Lynne Acoustic Guitar Panned Centre)

3:07 - 4 - Bars Break (Shelby Lynne Acoustic Guitar Panned Centre)

Verse 3 -

3:18 - Verse 3

The years rolled past our land

An they took back what they'd given

And we all knew we'd have to move

If we was gonna make a living

3:30

So we all took off

And went our separate ways,

It sure was hard to say goodbye

To Willie and Laura Mae

Link -

3.41 - Link

Verse 4 -

3:46 - Verse 4 Fade Out

The years rolled by our door

And we heard from them no more

Till I saw Willie the other day

I said, “yawl stop by now

And maybe we can sit down and eat a bite

We'd sure would love to see the children’s and Laura Mae"

2002 - Cornelius - Tone Twilight Zone

This instrumental track was recorded and mixed by Japanese musician, Keigo Oyamada, ‘Cornelius’ in 2002.

It is an amazing 3 mins 57 secs demonstration of Stereo panning and positioning.

The track starts with a stereo background of bird song followed by

0.22 sec - Guitar panned hard Right.

0.30 sec - Guitar panned hard Left

0.33 sec - Guitar panned hard Right.

0.42 sec - Guitar panned hard Left

0.44 sec - Percussion panning Right to Left

0.46 sec - Kick Drum panned Centre

0.50 sec - Guitar panned Centre

Listen to the end to experience more of this detailed Stereo mix.

Note: All Images remain the copyright property of their respective owners