I'm in the process of buying some H8 Monitors (Yamaha) - In like a week or two - YES I KNOW :) and THX! However, I don't want to wait till I get my monitors to start the mixing process.

Can I pan properly or at least half decent on standard stereo headphones?

Just wanted to get a leg up before I get my monitors.

Cuz I don't wait around - I GRIND! :)

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    One issue with doing your panning with headphones is that when you're done panning things, you should check for mono compatibility, and headphones can decieve you into thinking you're more mono compatible than you are. Headphones also exaggerate the stereo spread. If you keep those things in mind, you can pan effectively with headphones but you should always double check the panning and mono compatibility with speakers at some point. Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 17:00

1 Answer 1


You might be able to, but note that with headphones, since they are directly on-ear, 100% L/R will feel weird (except if there is an even volume balance of sound in either ear, and the stereo spectrum is appropriately filled out).

On the other hand, 80~90% L/R would generally feel less awkward. In fact, when panning on speakers, past approximately 90% L/R, you shouldn't hear a difference in panning, but for headphones, you should hear a difference.

So, "can you do it decently"? Sure. Are there caveats? Yeah, like how >90% L/R can feel awkward sometimes, especially if the volume isn't perfectly balanced on either side. Just keep that in mind.

Here's an example of a song that utilizes the full stereo spectrum (0~100% L/R):

For example, the hi hats and soft noise cymbals are panned quite far left/right.

Here's an example of a song that utilizes approximately 0~90% L/R, but never goes all the way to 100% L/R (unless the sounds used were already like that to begin with; I know because I made this!):

For example, the electric piano throughout has an auto-panning LFO (low-frequency oscillator), and the main electro house bass is fairly wide.

It might be subtle, so pay close attention to the far left/right-panned sounds. You may have to compare back and forth a few times.

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    hmmmm - Well first thx for your reply and sharing your insights - I have a question . . . Is there a plugin or close to it that can help us identify various elements on a song as far as panning goes? Like imagine loading up your favorite song and this plugin tells you exactly or close to where the hihats are at or the bass line or the synths, etc - That would be so PIMPED!
    – JayBii
    Commented Jun 19, 2016 at 6:18
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    Not that I know of. If you want to do that, I would suggest paying close attention to the soundscape. It used to be kind of a blur for me 5 years ago, but over time it became easier. Something you could do in the meantime is consider what frequency range a particular instrument should occupy. For instance, hi hats should be mostly above 8000 Hz (treble), and most basses occupy 20~200 Hz (sub bass, bass, low-midrange) and sometimes 300~1000 Hz (midrange). Familiarizing yourself with the frequency ranges should help you pick out the instruments that you are hoping to find.
    – timaeus222
    Commented Jun 19, 2016 at 7:20
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    @JayBii There is an amazing audio analysis tool that is freely available to almost all people and should be heavily used by anyone doing any sound or music work. This tool can definitely help you analyze panning. You might know this tool by its common name: a pair of ears. It might take you some years to hone your particular tool so it can measure and analyze all the things you want it to, but once you've done that, you'll find that no other tool will suffice. Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 17:03

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