Pan Pots

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Pan Pots (short for Panoramic Potentiometers) are used to send a signal to the left or right channel (or speakers), both channels equally, or a portion of each. Pan Pots are used to create a stereo image when using two or more speakers. Notice that in the images used below you can see 3 different measurements; the center shows pan pot dial position, the left and right meters show the signal amount to either left or right outputs, and the ‘stereo field’ with the speaker icons shows where the sound will appear to be coming from.

Panning Hard Left

When the Pan Pot is aimed to the left the entire signal will be sent to the left output or speaker. As seen here the blue level represents 100% of the signal being sent to the left channel or speaker. The stereo field will directly correspond causing the audio signal to appear as if it is coming from the left speaker or the left side of the stereo field. 

Panning Hard Right

When the Pan Pot is aimed to the right the same thing happens, except through the right channel. Notice here how the image is exactly opposite of the above example. Now the signal is completely sent to the right channel or speaker and therefore emanates from the right side.

Panning Dead Center

When the Pan Pot is aimed at the center there is an equal amount of signal sent to both left and right channels and the signal appears to be coming from the middle of the spectrum creating what is called a ‘phantom center’. It is called this because the sound appears to be coming from a non-existent speaker in the middle of the stereo field.

Panning Mostly Left

This image shows the signal panned almost all the way to the left. As the Pan Pot is moved towards the left a greater percentage of the signal goes to the left and a lesser percentage goes to the right. This creates the illusion that a signal is coming from some phantom area slightly off to the left. Even though it is still coming from both speakers, but just a little more from the left than the right.

Panning Slightly Left

This image shows the signal panned slightly left and how the outputs of each channel and the position of the sound in the stereo field correspond with the placement of the panner.

Panning Mostly Right

This image is similar to the “Panning Mostly Left” example except it is sent to the right instead of the left.

Panning Slightly Right

This image is similar to the “Panning Slightly Left” example except it is sent to the right instead of the left.

Conclusion

Panning is a powerful tool in mixing. It can create interest, excitement, or simply create a realistic panoramic view of where sounds would be coming from on a stage.

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