Open Source Everything


Podcasting: Stereo vs Mono – how about a little of both?

This is a comment I left on Colleen's blog for If you haven't checked it out yet, Colleen puts together a very funny photo-comic every few days featuring a cast of stuffed animals and the occasional cameo by a human or 17.

Colleen and her friend and upstairs neighbor Annie have started "Fluff Radio," a weekly podcast with comedy skits, funny stories, and music. They've got a nice 2 mic setup, so each of them gets their own channel, and appears to be "in that ear." This is both neat, and slightly disorienting to listen to, and they've recently posted a poll as to whether they should go mono. I've got some thoughts on the issue and a technique for getting the "best of both worlds" using audacity, so I figured I'd post it here as well.

Okay - so here's my vote on the podcast stereo vs. mono thing. I actually had to start skipping the fluff radio shows on my iRiver because listening to them in super-stereo makes my eyes water and throws off my balance. I'm constantly wondering what's wrong with one headphone or another.

I don't think the stereo is bad, per se, but what I would suggest is doing some sort of a mix of each track in each ear. For example Annie should be 60% in the left and 40% in the right, and the other way around for you.

Of course, this is slightly tricky to do, but shouldn't be too bad. Here's how I would go about it:

In audacity, copy the stereo track that makes up your and Annie's audio. Paste that to another stereo track, and then split both stereo tracks into it to two "left-right" tracks. Turn the left one to right and the right one to left.

Adjust the volume of BOTH sets of stereo tracks. They'll be added to each other in the final mix, so if they add up to more than 100%, you'll get some clipping (that harsh sound when things are too loud). I suggest bring the new tracks down to -12db and the original down to -6. This gives you mostly the original stereo, but with a bit of the other track in each ear. When you listen, it now sounds like you're a little bit to the right of center, and Annie is a little to the left of center, rather than listening to two people on opposite ends of the room. Much easier on the headphone-listening audience 🙂

Finally, you've got your music guests. If you've got them on another stereo track entirely, awesome. Just leave it be and it'll get down-mixed perfect into the single stereo track generated when you convert to MP3. If you've got the music on the same tracks as your audio, you'll need to split it out from the other tracks so that the music doesn't get mangled by our ghetto stereo down-mixing.

For the example track, I just took a copy of your original audio track and made a third stereo track. I then de-"amplified" all the non-music sections to -48 db (the standard audacity amplify effect only lets you do -24. You can do this twice to "silence" a section. There are other plugins that let you silence sections or amplify to other arbitrary values, but that's another post entirely)

So now I've got three stereo tracks - the original (set to -6 db with the little slider at the left)

The "right and left" swapped tracks, (set to -12 db)

And the music track (untouched except the non-music sections have been silenced)

Export to MP3 and voila. A nicely mixed stereo track that doesn't make eardrums bleed 🙂

Of course, this is all a whole lot of post production, and you might want to just record and go. You can accomplish this same thing by setting your and Annie's mics closer together so that you get some of both voices on each, but listeners can still "hear" where you are in the room.

Here's the final mixed track, so you can listen to what I'm talking about

Happy Recording.

Colleen and Annie in DDR costumes overlayed with DDR graphics

Okay, so while I was waiting for my wonderfully slow home computer to spit out that mp3, I had a little fun with your Dance Dance Revolutionary costume pic. Nice work, by the way. I also like your "super-villain-esque" disclosure about DDR training. Practicing some songs to hustle me? It's on! I'll be practicing with my fingers!

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