The Logic pan pot is your tried and true way of expanding your mix’s stereo-width. With the flick of a wrist you’re able to place instruments left to right, and anywhere between.
That is, if they’re mono tracks…
Stereo tracks are a horse of another color! While the pan knob looks identical for both mono and stereo tracks – they’re actually quite different.
In today’s video and post, we explore what the Stereo Pan knob actually does, and how to get that True Stereo Panning you’re after.
Mono vs Stereo
It’s pretty easy to discern when a track is either mono or stereo. You have 2 places you can check:
- At the top of your Channel Strip, or
- At the meters on your Channel Strip
Towards the top of your instrument’s Channel Strip in the Mixer is the Input section. And next to the Input field is one of two icons. This is the Channel Mode:
One circle denotes a Mono track:
While a second circle denotes a Stereo track:
Unfortunately, in the case of Software Instruments, there are no circles. Instead you’ll need to examine that Software Instrument’s meters.
Just like our Channel Mode icons, one meter means a Mono track:
And two meters mean a Stereo track:
Got it? Good!
Stereo: Balance vs Panning
While you would think a Pan knob in either case would move a track from left to right, that’s simply not the case.
Mono tracks enjoy the benefit of panning. But a Stereo pan knob’s default begins life a little different. Instead, it’s a Balance knob.
Since a Stereo track is two signals, you’re given a choice. Would you like all of the left and right sides? Or do you want a little less of either side? OR do you want only one side or the other?
To Balance is to decide how much of the left or right signal you want to keep.
So when you turn the Stereo Balance knob all the way to the left, you’re muting the right side. NOT panning both sides to the left.
Confused? I don’t blame you, as most tend to be.
Stereo Panning – The Work-Around
For a long time Logic users had to use plugins to work-around the lack of a Stereo pan knob. To help us, Logic includes a plugin called the Direction Mixer.
The Direction Mixer has two properties:
- Direction (aka: True Stereo Panning)
- Stereo Spread
The Direction knob gives you True Stereo Panning. That is, when you turn the knob to the left, both left and right signals tilt to the left:
The Stereo Spread knob gives us the ability to adjust the width of Stereo tracks.
So if you’d like the Stereo-ness of your track to tighter, pull the Stereo Spread handles closer to each other:
Or if you’d like the track to be wider, pull the handles further from each other:
And the Direction Mixer totally works! But not as intuitive as using the Pan knob.
Plus you have to consider where the Direction Mixer sits in your plugin chain. If you use Compression, Distortion, or anything else, you don’t want to process a lop-sided stereo track.
Thankfully, the Logic team has solved this issue once and for all with version 10.3.
True Stereo Panning With the Logic Pan Pot
With the release of 10.3, Logic now has a True Stereo pan knob right within a Stereo track’s Channel Strip. To access it, you simply Control – click the Pan knob to reveal 3 new options:
- Stereo Pan
- Binaural Pan
Stereo Pan is the panning we’ve been looking for all along! Balance is Logic’s default, and Binaural Pan is for more complicated panning arrangements.
With Stereo Pan, you can do exactly the same as you were able to with the Direction Mixer. But instead of using a plugin, you can use the intuitive Pan knob.
to adjust the Panning of your track, simply click the center of the knob and drag to the left or right:
And to adjust the Stereo Width of your track, grab the left or right-most handle:
Viola! Stereo Panning exactly as you would expect it to be.
For a long time Stereo Panning in Logic was… well, not logical. Or at least not intuitive!
A Stereo track’s Pan knob actually adjusted the level of the left or right channel. So we used the Direction Mixer plugin as a work-around.
But with 10.3, we can now reliably Pan and adjust Stereo Spread, no problem 🙂
Great tip – didn’t realise there was such a simple workaround! Thanks!
You bet! 🙂
Clark Beasley says
I love this…. you didn’t share whether or not there is a preference where you can store this as the default for stereo tracks – this there a way to do that? Thanks!
Michael English says
I don’t believe so – see the conversation between Chris and myself on 29th July. I could’t figure out how to do it, and if you change plug-ins on a channel – say from Vintage EP to B3 the pan-pot reverts to balance. Quite annoying. You can save all your favourite plug-ins as channel strips and do it that way (time consuming) – but as far as I can tel you can’t do it with the create new tracks dialogue.
As Michael mentioned, there appears to be no way to set your Stereo pan preference universally in Logic. You can save patches and channel strips with a certain pan preference. Hopefully that will change in the future! Be sure to leave Apple some feedback if you’d like to see that happen.
I had no clue that this was even a thing. Very cool and very useful!
Is it also safe to say that, if we have a track recorded in mono on a stereo track, then the balance knob will be fine to panning?
Or is it not possible to have a mono recording to a stereo track and I’m confused about this?
For example, I have a lot of guitar tracks, which I believe are mono (DI). But I think they are all on stereo tracks. I would have to double check this.
Hey Corey! A Stereo pan knob will only truly pan if it’s set to Stereo Pan. Otherwise it’s a Balance knob.
So in your case of placing mono Audio Files on Stereo Tracks, I still wouldn’t rely on the Balance knob for true Stereo panning.
Instead, click on the two circle icon next to the Input to change the track from Stereo to Mono. That way you can be sure your track is panning correctly.
Just make sure your plugins have also been changed from Stereo to Mono!
ah! thats actually really smart, and I remember you talking to me about making sure to change the double rings to a single ring to get back into mono-land.
I don’t think I’ve ever checked my plugin instances for this……well at least not before today!
Of course Corey! Easy to overlook, but can make a tremendous difference 🙂
Michael English says
I’m trying to find out if it’s possible to make new channel strips default to stereo pan. Currently mine default to balance, so before I mix I have to change them all.
Hey Michael, you can! Create a new track, and save all your preferred plugins, routing, and set the Stereo Balance knob to Stereo Pan.
Then save this Channel Strip Setting. Now navigate to your new Channel Strip preset in the Library and select it.
There’s a gear icon in the bottom left hand corner of the Library. Click on it, and click on “Define as default.”
And there you have it! Every time you create a new Channel, select “Load the Default Channel Strip” in the New Track dialogue and you’ll be all set 🙂
Michael English says
Thanks Chris – this doesn’t do exactly what I’m trying to do.
When I open the create new track dialogue, which has the various track types (Software Instrument, Audio and Drummer), let’s say I select an Instrument Plug-in. In the “Instrument” drop down menu all my plug-ins are listed. So, if I select one of the Logic native plug-ins such as Studio Strings and click “Create” I get a new track, but the pan pot is set to balance.
If I save a channel strip with a stereo plug-in inserted and call this the default, then yes, the pan pot setting is recalled, but so is the instrument, which may not be the plug-in I want to create.
If I then load another instrument from the library the pan pot setting reverts to the balance setting.
For example – load one of the B3 organ patches. Set the pan pot to stereo pan. Now load another B3 setting – the pan pot will revert to balance. Yes?
The only way I can see to do this is to create the arrangement then before mixing to set all the pots to Stereo Pan. Unless I’m missing something?
Totally understand. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to force Software Instruments to default to Stereo Panning. Hopefully the Logic dev team will give us the option in the future.
You can always suggest a feature request to Apple here: https://www.apple.com/feedback/logic-pro.html
Michael English says
Thanks Chris, Things like this can be a bit frustrating, but having said that, it’s a great program!
[Sorry if I’m double-posting – wordpress wouldn’t confirm my subscription with my business email address. :-)]
Whoa. I knew about control-click to set to Stereo Panning, but somehow missed that the outer handles controlled width. Fantastic.
Any tips for mono compatibility, which I have to stay on top of b/c I compose/produce for TV? Of course I use the Correlation Meter and hunt down problematic tracks, but is there a fundamental arranging/mixing approach to achieve full, wide stereo mixes that also sound great in mono?
Hey TweeCKed, there’s a couple things I do for mono compatibility. First, I try to keep my tracks in mono as much as possible. Not the song itself, but each of the individual sounds.
Say for example I have a stereo synth bass. Most of the time you don’t need a stereo synth bass. And just about all the time you want your kick and bass coming straight down the center. Bass sounds don’t work well panned.
So I’ll convert those tracks to mono and keep their pan knobs centered.
If there’s a Stereo track I’m keen on for its stereo spatial-ness, then I’ll keep it stereo. But I’ll keep its stereo pan knob centered so it’s not swinging the Correlation Meter in a negative direction.
Another technique is if you have a sound panned hard right or left, it’s always best to have a complimentary sound in the same frequency range hard panned to the other side of the stereo spectrum.
So if you hard pan a rhythm guitar to the left, it would be wise to hard pan another guitar to the right. If you don’t have another rhythm guitar, then I would send it only 10 – 20 in either direction.
But if you want to hard pan your rhythm guitar, I would create a “second” guitar track to hard pan in the other direction.
You can do this by duplicating the guitar region on a new track and swapping the parts around.
If the rhythm guitar plays an arrangement like:
Verse 1, Chorus 1, Verse 2, Chorus 2
Then I would duplicate the guitar region, and then swap around the parts so they perform in the opposite order:
Verse 2, Chorus 2, Verse 1, Chorus 1
You unfortunately can’t just duplicate a region, hard pan it opposite of the original track and call it a day. Since it’s the exact same performance, the audio just sums to mono. Instead of 2 hard panned guitars, you just have one really loud guitar down the center.
By duplicating the region and swapping the parts around on the 2nd guitar track, you’re creating a “2nd performance.”
The result is:
Guitar 1 (hard panned left):
Verse 1, Chorus 1, Verse 2, Chorus 2
Guitar “2” (hard panned right):
Verse 2, Chrous 2, Verse 1, Chorus 1
Hope those ideas help!
Oh, more good stuff:
– Command-click the Stereo Pan dial to invert L/R; the ring turns orange.
– Move both white handles by the same amount by dragging vertically directly on the green ring.
Love it! Thanks so much for reminding me. I’ll add it to the post 🙂
Jake Godfrey says
I’m wondering about the effect that pan automation has on these stereo settings. If I automate to, say, pan -12, does that move my whole stereo image -12, including the width markers? Or does engaging pan automation somehow override my stereo settings and simply balances the LR volumes?