Become a member
Become a member

or
Log in
Log in

or
learning
1 comment

Introduction to Placing Sounds in Space

How to Make a Sound Seem Close or Distant

The brain is a really amazing tool! In fact, even with our eyes closed we are able to locate the things that surround us as soon as they emit a sound. Fortunately for us, as powerful as it is, the sound analysis of our small brain can be easily tricked in order to create a virtual spatial sensation in our stereo mixes. Here are some ideas that will help you understand better the famous "3D sound" that everyone is talking about.

Nature is your friend

Placement du son

A sound will be different to our ears if it comes from the right or the left, from close or afar. To be able to recreate this in a stereo system, it is better to start by learning what happens in the real world. If the sound comes from the right, do we only listen to it with our right ear? The sense of proximity depends only on the sound’s volume? And what happens from a frequency point of view? Searching the answers to these questions, you will quickly realize that everything is linked and that placing objects in the sound filed is a matter of balancing the panning, level, delay and/or reverb.

Panorama

What could be more natural to place an instrument in the horizontal sound filed than turning the pan pot? This manipulation, as simple as it is, doesn’t do anything but send more signal to one side than the other.

Placement sonore

But in nature it is a bit more complicated than that. In fact, due to the speed at which sound propagates in the air, there is also a delay phenomenon to take into consideration. Thus, a sound coming from the left will not only arrive louder to our left ear, but it will arrive softer and with a small delay to our right ear. On the other hand, our head is a natural obstacle that will absorb the highest frequencies. Consequently, a filter that attenuates the high frequency range of the delayed signal will emphasize the sensation of stereo width.

Just a warning before we move on: the delay ought to be used with caution because it can produce serious problems in terms of mono compatibility due to phase issues. Always verify your mixes in mono.

 

Depth of field

When it comes to the notion of distance relative to a sound source there are several points to consider.

First of all: the closer the sound, the louder it is. This might sound really obvious, but it’s good to have it present. Another thing to take into consideration is the…panorama! A person who whispers to your ear is actually closer to you than someone who is in front of you.

On the other hand, the sensation of distance is greatly related with reverberation, and particularly with the difference in level between the source and the reverberated sound. The farther, the smaller this difference. Moreover, the time difference between the direct sound and the reverberation decreases when the source backs away. Likewise, the longer the distance the sound has to travel, the more the high frequencies are naturally attenuated by the air.

To summarize, to make an instrument seem farther, we have to decrease its volume, center it, increase the reverb’s level (to reduce the difference between direct and reverberated sound), reduce the reverb’s pre-delay time, and filter out high frequencies. To make it sound closer, we have to do the opposite: increase its volume, eventually pan it to the extremes, reduce the reverb’s volume and increase its pre-delay, and emphasize the high-frequency range.

Finally, also consider that an instrument will seem closer when another one is placed farther. It’s a bit like the concept of contrast in images: a white can seem more brilliant when next to a deep black. So, trying to put all instruments upfront will be counterproductive, while placing some in the background will make the ones in the foreground stand out even more.

In order for you to really grasp this “3D effect”, we encourage you to start experimenting with only two sound sources treated with a delay, a reverb and an EQ. By tinkering with all parameters you will learn little by little how to exploit the soundscape better in order to give more depth to your productions.

  • mallikarjun.melagiri 1 post
    mallikarjun.melagiri
    New AFfiliate
    Posted on 10/14/2013 at 21:20:47
    It was good to know this trick. I'm good at tweaking the synths and making new sounds. I'm also good at arranging tracks. But my final mix will not at all sound professional as it lacks depth. I would need more such tricks that can make my mix more interesting to listen.

Would you like to comment this article?

Log in
Become a member
cookies
We are using cookies!

Yes, Audiofanzine is using cookies. Since the last thing that we want is disturbing your diet with too much fat or too much sugar, you'll be glad to learn that we made them ourselves with fresh, organic and fair ingredients, and with a perfect nutritional balance. What this means is that the data we store in them is used to enhance your use of our website as well as improve your user experience on our pages and show you personalised ads (learn more). To configure your cookie preferences, click here.

We did not wait for a law to make us respect our members and visitors' privacy. The cookies that we use are only meant to improve your experience on our website.

Our cookies
Cookies not subject to consent
These are cookies that guarantee the proper functioning of Audiofanzine and allow its optimization. The website cannot function properly without these cookies. Example: cookies that help you stay logged in from page to page or that help customizing your usage of the website (dark mode or filters).
Google Analytics
We are using Google Analytics in order to better understand the use that our visitors make of our website in an attempt to improve it.
Advertising
This information allows us to show you personalized advertisements thanks to which Audiofanzine is financed. By unchecking this box you will still have advertisements but they may be less interesting :) We are using Google Ad Manager to display part of our ads, or tools integrated to our own CMS for the rest. We are likely to display advertisements from our own platform, from Google Advertising Products or from Adform.

We did not wait for a law to make us respect our members and visitors' privacy. The cookies that we use are only meant to improve your experience on our website.

Our cookies
Cookies not subject to consent

These are cookies that guarantee the proper functioning of Audiofanzine. The website cannot function properly without these cookies. Examples: cookies that help you stay logged in from page to page or that help customizing your usage of the website (dark mode or filters).

Google Analytics

We are using Google Analytics in order to better understand the use that our visitors make of our website in an attempt to improve it. When this parameter is activated, no personal information is sent to Google and the IP addresses are anonymized.

Advertising

This information allows us to show you personalized advertisements thanks to which Audiofanzine is financed. By unchecking this box you will still have advertisements but they may be less interesting :) We are using Google Ad Manager to display part of our ads, or tools integrated to our own CMS for the rest. We are likely to display advertisements from our own platform, from Google Advertising Products or from Adform.


You can find more details on data protection in our privacy policy.
You can also find information about how Google uses personal data by following this link.