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I like listening to jazz music using headphones. Most studio recordings feature panning, e.g. piano is mixed centered, bass only on left speaker, drums only on right speaker and so on.

While this is good for listening through speakers, it doesn't sound natural on headphones (and I listen to music on headphones all day). I think, for headphone mixes it is much more difficult to "pan" - not only the left/right levels matter, but also e.g. different sound arrival time or treble/bass levels.

My question is - is there any software or method to convert existing music (stereo mix for speakers) to good-sounding headphone mixes?

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You could have a look into processing the recordings with the help of a binaural panning tool such as the one included in Logic. You would import the two channels of your audio files as two seperate mono tracks into the DAW and process each of them with the binaural panner. Using Psypan by Auburn Sounds in combination with Audacity would be a free alternative and will probably achieve the same thing.

The underlying principle is that of head-related transfer functions. Although the best results are achieved when signals recorded in an anechoic room are convolved with the HRTF of your own head, synthetic HRTFs such as the ones produced by the tools linked above convolved with signals that already underwent some processing should suffice for your porpuses.

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Using any of a large number of audio processing applications, such as Reaper, Logic, Garage Band, Cubase, Pro Tools, Live, etc., you can import the audio as either a stereo track or two separate mono tracks. If you import it as two mono tracks, then you can definitely change the panning. Take the track for the left channel and only pan it 50% to the left. Pan the right channel only 50% to the right. Now you will have a little bit of the original left channel on the right and vice-versa.

There are more sophisticated stereo imaging tricks using imaging plugins, phase, reverb, delay, etc., but those will all have a larger affect on the original sound, so you might avoid that.

  • Thank you! I want to make it sound more "natural", so which more sophisticated imaging tricks could you recommend? Because I think it is something beyond simple reverb/phase/delay effects... – Matthias Nov 20 '17 at 9:33
  • There are some plugins that do more sophisticated stuff to make the experience of listening with headphones more like listening on studio monitors. Check out Goodhertz's CanOpener Studio for example. That's quite an investment though for your purposes. Reducing the stereo width using Todd's method should be good enough. – Igid Dec 19 '17 at 15:19
  • If you don't want to individually edit all the offending audio files, note that there's software out there that allows you to run your system audio through plugins. Then (if you don't want to invest in something like CanOpener) you can find a free basic stereo width plugin. – Igid Dec 19 '17 at 15:23
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If you want a stereo result, there's nothing you can do about it. That's how it was mixed.

But if you don't mind listening to mono, this is as simple as adding the 2 channels together (and dividing by 2 if you want the exact same levels) . Any piece of software should be able to do this. There should be a 'mix to mono' button/option/menu item.

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