Mid/Side stereo, a great tool for home recording

Mid/Side stereo schematicRecording at home (yours or someone else’s) as opposed to a commercial studio has many advantages, cost, comfort and available time amongst them, but disadvantages too in terms of recording environment. One of the main disadvantages can be that the rooms performances are captured in are designed for living in rather than recording. This can cause some interesting issues when trying to record a stereo room sound with phase issues. Mid/side (M&S) recording can be a great way to deal with these issues.

M&S has several advantages,

  • Bulletproof mono compatibility
  • Equal focus on the center and sides
  • Control over the width of the sound during post-production
  • No need for expensive omni pairs

These advantages are very useful in a home recording environment. In an asymmetrical room complex phase relationships can develop, often frequency dependent ones. With M&S you have great mono compatibility with your middle channel. Mic placement still matters but there is always a fallback to pure mono. This can be a take-saver in a room that may sound great but is hard to record in with other stereo techniques like spaced omnis or XY stereo. The mono fallback allows you to make your mic placement decisions based on what sounds best rather than what minimises phase problems. Continue reading Mid/Side stereo, a great tool for home recording

Hearing When It’s Wrong and Using Reverb to Tie it All Together

"Constructive Interference" by Clearly Ambiguous made available under a Creative Commons Attribution license
"Constructive Interference" by Clearly Ambiguous made available under a Creative Commons Attribution license

In a previous post I rehearsed some arguments about why direct to stereo recording may be a desirable recording method. There are two main reasons for this, the first is that it gives a chance to capture a live performance giving the listener all the subtlety of musicians making music together, the second is that our hearing skills are sensitive and subtle. It is, I believe this second aspect that makes highly produced recordings sound “wrong”, “unnatural” or fatiguing to listen to.

Human hearing is an incredibly powerful sense, not as precise as bats or dogs but still a powerful tool,

  • We can distinguish the voices of different people with amazing accuracy even over the restricted bandwidth of a telephone
  • Mothers can tell the cry of their own baby from others even over great distances
  • We can place the origin of sounds in space with great accuracy, as long as both ears are working

These skills are there for almost all of us not just musicians or recording engineers. We may not be aware of them or consciously use them but they are there. They are vestiges of important survival skills from the history of our evolution. They used to be vital for hunting and avoiding being hunted by predators and human enemies. These skills are not analytic but we know when something sounds wrong and it can be unsettling. Continue reading Hearing When It’s Wrong and Using Reverb to Tie it All Together