Ask Weiss: Do We Mix Bass In Stereo?


Hey, folks. Matthew Weiss here —,, and

This is the Ask Weiss series, and today’s question comes to us from Alexander Hartung via The Pro Audio Files Facebook page.

Alex writes, “I like the future house style of bass. The problem is, I always see in tutorials that people mix the sub parts to mono, but if you listen to the music, the bass is mixed wide in the panorama field.”

Alright, great question Alex. I think this question applies to more than just future house, I think it applies to a whole lot of EDM genres, and actually, a lot of modern pop music as well. Wide bass is in.

The problem with wide bass is two-fold. First of all, we have difficulty localizing sub frequencies. Meaning, it’s very difficult to tell if a bass is actually wide or not. Second of all, when we fold bass into mono, because of the waveforms, we tend to get a lot more phase cancellation and problems showing up if we use stereo effects.

So that’s why people generally advise working in mono when we’re looking at the bass, specifically, the sub-bass.

Now, as we move above the sub-bass, we start getting into the realm of audio that’s more easy to localize, and that’s an important idea, because we can create wide basses by going to that next octave up – which is like our primary bass range from maybe 70Hz to like, 200Hz. That zone, that’s where we can get our width pretty cleanly.

From the programming side of things, if you have a couple of oscillators, like if you have a three-oscillator or more synth, you can simply go an octave up and do a little distune on two of the oscillators and pan them apart, and maybe throw in a filter there, and you will get a wide sounding bass.

Now, let’s look at your specific question. You said future house, so I pulled up a Tchami record called Afterlife. Let’s give it a listen.

[song plays]

So, just listening to that clip, I’m hearing most of the low information happening in the center. There is a bass layer that feels like it’s being spread out, and that main synth definitely has some spread to it, so I think that there’s probably some reverb going on, or perhaps some kind of stereo enhancement processing going on.

I’m not sure which, but I will say this. I don’t think that the bass is entirely mono. So right off the bat, we can take everything we’re reading online about mixing sub into mono with a grain of salt.

Alright, now let’s analyze this a little further. I’ve got a low pass filter here. This will allow us to hear what’s happening in the low range a little more clearly.

[song plays, filtered]

Right? So we can definitely hear now very clearly that there is bass information on the sides, but let’s take it one step further. I’m going to use some mid/side processing to eliminate the center signal, so we just hear what’s living in the stereo field.

[song plays, sides only, filtered]

So that’s what we have on our sides. Let’s listen one more time.

[song plays, sides only, filtered]

So, first of all, all of it sounds like reverb for the most part. It has this sort of ghostly, washy kind of quality, and that to me says, “Yup, that’s a reverb.”

So I think that the stereo sound is coming from a reverb return for the most part, as opposed to actual stereo stuff that’s been panned apart. What I find interesting, is that I’m actually hearing a good amount of kick drum, which means there’s probably some reverb on the kick.

Okay. One more time, let’s listen, and then let’s take a listen at another analyzer.

[music plays, sides only, filtered]

So that main synth, which has a bass element to it, has reverb on it as well, and we’re hearing that too, and that’s in our primary bass range.

But now let’s look on an analyzer.

[music plays, sides only, filtered]

So, looking at it on the analyzer, there is actual sub information that is getting into the reverb return. So there is a little bit of spread on the sub.

Now, is there a lot? Definitely not. It’s subtle. But, it is there. So, to answer your question, no, you can certainly use stereo elements on the low part of your bass to get a wider feel.

My recommendation is just be cautious how you’re doing it. Reverb is a good way of doing it, upper octave stereo kind of subtle stuff tucked in there can be a good way to do it. I don’t recommend doing very stereoized low information because it will phase poorly in mono, but that said, now at least we can hear what’s going on.

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch:
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