What's a good recipe for remixing early stereo ?

What’s a good recipe for remixing early stereo where the recording engineers split the stereo sound stage too wide. This normally sounds ok on loudspeakers if you don’t listen too closely - but on headphones can sound rather odd.

A good example of such a recording is Rubber Soul by the Beatles - where John and Paul are place on different sides, but at the extremes of the stereo image - so the effect is to get one of them in one ear and the other in t’other ear. Okish when both are singing, but with only one singing it can sound distinctly odd on headphones.

You get a similar effect sometimes when listening to old singles that were originally recorded in mono and later re-issued in stereo - I normally deal with these simply by turning them back to good old mono (the way the original sound engineer intended …).

I realize that I probably have to take a bit of L track and mix it in witth the R track (and vice-versa) but by how much - and once I’ve mixed L into R then R is changed so I probably need a second copy to work from. How should I go about this? All insights gratefully received.


Here’s a thought that I haven’t tried, and I’m at work and don’t have Audacity here:

Split the stereo track and use the L-R fader for each track to adjust ‘mostly’ left on the original left track and ‘mostly’ right on the other one. How much is ’ mostly? I don’t know, but would just adjust until it sounded right to me. When you export, shouldn’t it now take the fader controls into account?


No. We’re looking for another way. When you split the tracks, they stay on Left and Right. They don’t mix. If you convert to mono, they do mix and all the separation goes away.

There is an insanely complicated way to do it with L+R and L-R channels (like stereo FM does), but I’m looking for another way.


Nothing easy.

OK, so here’s the insanely complicated way. FM radio broadcasts two channels of audio, but they’re not Left and Right. They’re L+R and L-R. They’re called the Mono and the Separation Signal. They put L-R in the FM radio channel where old Mono FM radios can’t see it. They just see the regular mono show. Stereo Receivers see everything because they know where to look. They add the two signals together to get Left and subtract the two to get Right. I once had to fix an FM receiver that had controls that allowed the users to adjust that arithmetic–effectively tuning separation.

As you increase and decrease the level of the L-R signal, the “depth” or stereo separation of the show will come and go.

Making L-R is easy. Split the channels, invert the R, add them together and export. Say Sep.wav. Making L+R is easy, too. Split the channels add them together and export. Mono.wav. You will have to reduce the levels 6dB here and there to keep from overloading.

Mount L-R by itself, reduce the volume to, say, half, and export that under a new filename. Reduce it again by half and export that. That should be good for experimenting. So now you have Sep.wav, Sep2.wav and Sep3.wav. Each one half the level of the one before. I wouldn’t put the number symbols inside a filename.

Mount the mono show and the half-level Sep2.wav and add them. Export as NewLeft.wav

Mount the mono show and the half-level Sep2.wav, invert Sep2.wav and add them. Export as NewRight.wav

Put NewLeft and New Right on a timeline as left and right and you will have your show with half the stereo field–reduced separation.

Then you’ll have to go somewhere and lie down for a bit. This whole thing happens in real time inside stereo FM receivers, but to do it manually is a little nuts. The act of changing the size of the L-R signal affects separation. You can reduce it as much as you want. You can also go over rather than under and really create stereo craziness. If you’re really insane, you can compress and manipulate the stereo separation signal before you put it back in.

I’m hoping somebody comes up with a separation tool before you’re reduced to doing all that.


You also understand that this is going to reduce everything. It’s not going to reduce the vocals and leave the orchestra alone.



Thanks for the recipe - and the related insight into FM broadcasting, most interesting.

And yes I do realize that your recipe will affect everything - I’m not trying to produce a voal or musical Karaoke - I’m just curious to see what some of these early stereo recordings would sound like if they had been mixed a few years later with a less extreme stereo separation.

The FM receiver that you had - did that let you do this job in hardware on just the FM broadcasts - or did it work on LP/tape/CD inputs too?

Interesting to see if this thread attracts any other recipes posted - I shallgive yours a try (won’t be before late next week - or the following week) and report back.

And yes I know it would be easy if I had access to the master tapes - but do you think George Martin will let me have access to those ? :slight_smile:


The insanely easy way:

  1. Record or import the stereo track.
  2. Split the stereo track
  3. Set each track to mono
  4. Pan the old “Left track” some way to the left, and the old “Right track” the equivalent distance to the right. (listen through headphones for the desired mix)
  5. Export.

There’s an old Jimmy Hendrix track that has his guitar on one channel, and his voice on the other - most odd.

I was hoping for “insanely easy” - but I think I’ll still give the Koz method a try too.


I’ve just tried koz’s method, and pleased to say it works exactly as expected. When you work it all out, both methods do the same thing, which is to vary the amount of original Left and Right signal in each of the new Left and Right channels.
It is very easy for koz’s method to be implemented in hardware as it just requires a few inverters and a mixer, but doing it manually is something of a headache.
I think I need to lie down now.

See, Koz took the words outta my mouth. That dude’s a genius :smiley:.

I was about to say, just split the channels and make one go all the way to the right, and the other all the way to the left.

Nice job. Hope your stereo technique works man.

Btw, Cream does that alot in their recordings. They’ll have the drum kit on the right, lead singer’s bass on the left, clapton’s guitar either in the middle or off to the side and vocals up front.

Simple yet genius. I could be wrong about the positioning but then again, alot of 60’s records naturally do that because as someone said, when they converted mono to stereo, its usually different which isn’t entirely bad imo cause stereo makes it more life life.

I forget how mono is better though.

Some Pink Floyd fans would already know that The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn Album sounds way better in Mono than Stereo. I guess its more intense.

<<<but I think I’ll still give the Koz method a try too.>>>

The mystery is why didn’t that work for me? I tried that and it failed, which is why I wrote the long way. When I panned the left mono track, it stayed on the left and just got quieter.

I wonder if this is a version issue.


By the way, if you made it through that FM stereo thing, you know how analog colour television works. They broadcast black and white in addition to a hidden colour separation signal. Black and white TVs see black and white. Colour TVs, which know where to look, find the signals to take that lady’s gray dress and bump up the reds and pull back on the blues and greens. Instant red dress.

Amaze your friends.


That’s because you forgot to change the track channels to mono. (step (3) in my previous post)