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I make ambient music with usually about 4 - 6 vst instruments (maybe 1 or 2 arpeggiated synths, 1 pad/strings, a lead, a bass, sometimes a little drums/percussion). I've been running vst synths from Komplete and Omnisphere as stereo VST's's. Since doing some research I've discovered that in Logic the pan on a stereo track is just a "balance" and a simple click can change it to "true stereo panning". I've been reading that many producers mix almost all synths in mono to create more space, but I really like the sound of stereo synths. So I'm wondering...

  1. In what situations (if any) is it ok to use "stereo" VST synths and hard or soft pan them using pan set as balance?
  2. In what situations is it ok to use "stereo" VST synths and hard or soft pan them using pan set as true stereo panning?
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If you're planning on doing any pan automation, working with a balance control is a lot quicker and easier.

  • Makes sense, but with "true stereo" panning but I've noticed that when I pan a stereo synth hard left/right with "true stereo", it sounds so much bigger / fatter than when it's panned hard left/right with balance...and it's not just a volume thing as I've tried using balance and making the volume the same and it sounds so thin and weak in comparison. Do you know why this is so? – John MC Jun 21 at 0:47
  • If you mean "hard left OR right", then yes. What I mean is, if you're trying to have a synth come from only one side, you will get different results by sliding both pan sliders to one side than you will turning the balance control all the way to one side. The reason is that in the first case, you're getting the left and right channels of the synth output coming out of the same speaker, essentially a doubling of sound. In the second case, you don't get the doubling effect, it just turns down the side you don't need. – Data Processing Jun 21 at 15:27
  • Sorry for such a late reply Data Processing, life has been crazy for me recently. This makes perfect sense, thanks! Would be right in saying that in the case of a synth, you're not only getting a doubling of sound, but also preserving the stereo information between the left and right channel in terms of stereo effects...and if you use balance you're losing that important sonic information/effect that is created by the interaction between the left and right channel? – John MC Sep 13 at 9:27
  • Yes, you've got the right idea. Say you put a stereo chorus effect on a synth, so there are warbly pitch effects happening, and importantly, different warbles happening in each channel. If you then overlay the two channels so they come out of the same speaker, you're hearing both sides worth of effects summed together. – Data Processing Sep 13 at 17:11
  • This is not the case with a balance control. As you can see, they are pretty different approaches to stereo control, can give very different results, and it's good to know both. It's a nice feature if a DAW lets you pick which one you want on a per-channel basis. However, even if your DAW doesn't do that, through the use of plug-ins you can have any type of panning you want on any track. – Data Processing Sep 13 at 17:32
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There's really no answer to this other than to do what sounds right to your ears. Either way is OK, so do what you think sounds best. Nobody is going to question your technical choice.

  • Thanks, nice to hear as I do like to think that way. – John MC Jun 21 at 0:45

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