Audio mistake that's been on my mind for years: An ultimate-nerd challenge.

Ben Harmless

Poster Extraordinaire
Mar 10, 2003
Salem, Mass
Is any of this applicable to home recording and people listening on their phones? I'm totally lost. I'm not sure what the difference between M-S and X-Y is.


Wikipedia actually has a bunch of articles on stereo mic'ing, and they're pretty decent. I recommend diving into that rabbit hole. In a nutshell, all stereo microphone techniques involve compromise in one way or another. X/Y is one that is pretty neutral. M/S has a single case where the problem becomes, IMHO, catastrophic if you need the stuff on the extreme ends of the stereo field. Don't worry though - you can't do it by accident.

Panning won't create a problem on it's own. The real issues arise when you have signals that are within a few milliseconds of each other, and they create weird phasing problems when combined. It's actually the same effect you'd find in a guitar phaser pedal, but unpredictable and jarring.

And yeah, actually, Bluetooth speakers are a really good example of a modern listening device with mono output. A lot of them are stereo, but the little ones are typically mono, and will absolutely cause the same issue.

The big thing is that all this stuff is why experienced recordists will tell you to "always check your mix in mono." It will always sound a little different, but you also want to make sure it isn't creating odd phase-ey things or making things stand out or disappear in ways you didn't expect. It doesn't mean you should mix with the assumption that your listener is using mono, but just make sure it's not offensive.


Jul 31, 2009
Jacksonville , Fl.
I'd originally put this in one of my replies to Mjea80's acoustic guitar recording thread, but I felt like it was a little too off-topic. This is related to a realization I had a few years ago about my old job. Since then, I've been embarrassed but haven't told anyone. To my knowledge, we never got any complaints, but it bugs me because it compromised the output for some of the audience. I'm making this a TDPRI challenge with a reward of maximum audio nerd points.

I used to work a monthly show on a public radio station with a performing arts/recording studio. The hosts were a well-regarded couple who had guests playing (broadly) American folk and old-time music. Most of the performance was done with a small group around a single central mic - in our case, a Shure VP88. They'd gather around and move in and out when they were being featured or needed to drop back in the mix. It was fun. We had extremely talented performers, and they did most of the work themselves. I didn't appreciate it enough at the time. There used to be an online archive of all the shows, but it's sadly gone now.

Now, for the challenge: Where was the screwup? There are clues throughout. Get nerdy. There may be more than one answer, in which case that's additional things for me to be embarrassed about. Thanks for that.

The VP 88 is a stereo mic.. Directional issues?