Undo L to R panning from original recording using Audacity

I’m running Windows XP. The Audacity version is 2.0.5 and I obtained the .exe installer. I’ve searched through numerous pages of topics and didn’t find one that addressed this issue.

From '89 to '96 I was in a band and during those years we recorded lots of songs using different studios. I’m currently going through those old recordings and I’m using Audacity to breathe new life into them. So far I’ve been very pleased with the results. Some of the songs are sounding better than ever. There are a couple however, that have me stumped as far as audio editing goes. On a couple of songs our guitarist/vocalist, or possibly the engineer, decided it would sound cool if he panned the entire mix back and forth from channel to channel in certain places. For example, the audio is panned to the left channel (track 1 in Audacity) for about a half second and then it’s panned to the right channel (Track 2 in Audacity) for about a half second. It continues going back and forth for a total of about five seconds, but it happens twice in two different songs. I assume one of them just turned a knob from left to right in certain parts of the song thinking it sounded cool or something. Being all of 17 years old at the time I wasn’t really worried about it. However, when I hear it now it really bugs me.

So, my inquiry is: Is there a way to “even out” that dizzying L to R panning so that the result is no panning at all? I read about a couple of Nyquist plugins that sounded like they could possibly be used to solve this problem, but given my current level of Audacity expertise, I wouldn’t know where to start. I’m comfortable using a lot of the Effects but the ones I read about seemed a little more difficult to execute. I’ve been using Audacity for a few days a month for the last 2 to 3 months. If someone could point me down the right path with some clear instructions I think I could figure it out. I’m just trying to avoid as much tedious work with the waveform as possible.

Thanks in advance for any help provided. In the meantime, I’ll move on to the next golden oldie.

P.S. Just in case you were wondering, I do not have the master reel to reel tapes. I wish I did.

That’s not such an easy task. A attached sample would be helpful.
The outcome depends on various things. It is easier to correct this issue if the whole stereo master has been panned as one.
In this case, both tracks have to be compressed individually such that the overall amplitude will be evened out.
You could do that manually by splitting the tracks and using the envelope tool. The curve should resemble a mirrored version of the original one.
Automatic corrections are possible too, such as AGC or a slow compressor.
If there are instruments that do stay in place, they will of course be moving after the correction, you will have to make compromises there.
It could be worthwhile to extract the center panned audio and treat it as a 3rd channel.
A first Nyquist approach could do the following:

  • Take the overall shape of the audio (left + right) and divide it by two.
  • Compare each channel with this envelope and boost or cut where necessary.

I don’t know exactly how to do this an Audacity, but it should be possible to blend (mix) the left & right channels into a mono track (either a true mono track, or identical sound in both channels). Or you should be able partially blend the tracks, leaving a small amount of panning & stereo.

Someone here should be able to tell you exactly how to do it… One approach would be to copy the left-channel only into a separate file, and the right-channel only into a separate file, them mix them into a new mono file.

Hopefully the volume will stay constant when you remove the panning.

Note that mixing is done by addition and it tends to boost the volume. To prevent clipping (distortion), it’s a good idea to run the Amplify effect to check your peaks and bring your peaks down to 0dB (if necessary) before saving.


I also use [u]GoldWave[/u] ($60 USD after free trial). It has a Channel Mixer feature built-in, so you can make the new left channel 50% of the original left and 50% of the original right, or 70% of original left & 30% original right, or whatever you want. (And, there are some presets, including “mono”.)

I believe the free trial version allows you a certain number of operations (rather than a 30-day tme period or other limitations). The trial version should give you plenty of time to remove the panning and make a mono (or nearly mono) file.

Install and use the “Channel Mixer” plug-in: Missing features - Audacity Support

Installation instructions: Missing features - Audacity Support

With the Channel Mixer you can either mix the left and right channels so that the sound becomes mono (same sound in both channels) or you can just “narrow” the stereo spread so that the panning is less severe.

@DVDdoug You should have a go with the Channel Mixer plug-in. It can often come in very handy for all sorts of diverse jobs - one of my best tools :wink:

Thanks to everyone so far. I have an audio sample to attach but before including it I wanted to ask something. I think I read a reply somewhere in this forum that one should export their sample/selection as a .wav file and attach it to their reply as such. Should I do that? Also, is it better to change the format of my songs from .mp3 to .wav prior to importing them for audio editing in Audacity?

Robert J.H., when you mentioned “the whole stereo master” did you mean the final mixed version? I’m not sure but I think that’s the case here. Hopefully you’ll be able to tell after I figure out the best way to attach a sample. One last question, what does AGC stand for and how could it help?

Once again, thank you in advance for any help you can provide.

The max file size for upload is about 1 MB. A MP3 or ogg file therefore be much longer with regard to play time, so choose one of those if the passage is longer.
Any mp3 you import into Audacity is automatically converted to raw data (similar to wave data, but with 32 bit precision).
Multiple mp3 compressions degrade the audio continuously, you should always start with a uncompressed format (wave, flac).
Since your old songs are only available as mp3, you should export a wave backup from within Audacity for future manipulations.
AGC means automatic gain control and averages the sound such that the overall gain fluctuates less. It is the same as compression but has a longer timing and the sound is normally amplified to be close to 0 dB. It is often used for video cameras in order to maintain a certain level.

Yes, I mean the final mix down into 2 channels.
I look forward to listening to your sample.


I had to use mp3 format after all b/c the size of my sample in wav format was 1.93MB. While I was getting it ready, I was zoomed in to figure out the best place to stop, and for the first time I could see the differences in the left and right channels where the panning occurs. I’m just hoping that fixing it, taking away the differences, doesn’t turn out to be too tedious. I’ll try whatever it takes I guess. It’s really not that big of a deal, but I would like to lose the panning if it’s not too difficult. There is another song or two from these sessions with L to R panning. So hopefully I’ll be able to apply any knowledge gained here to those other songs as well.

So here it is, the intro to Dark Night of Soul/Awake (no laughing):