Mixing in 3D?

I keep seeing charts like this. Which is cool for beginning producers and rules of thumb. However, I wonder if there are any other producers here that think in 3 dimensions. I’m a pretty visual person. I see this graph as panning left to right and then front to back as “literal” front to back. Using volume / reverb / filtering. The frequency is helpful but I tend to think about top to bottom being the frequency. Highs up top and lows towards the bottom.

A metaphorical BOX to work within. Mick Harris of Scorn and John Hopkins are masters of working within this framework and can make things dance around in your face, push them to the back, raise them up and down. It’s magic really. Anything out there about working in this type of framework?

This is why the daw is a double edged sword. For me. My eyes tend to override my ears. It’s easier to get those 3D sounds in a daw because you have virtually unlimited power and helpful plugins nowadays. But again, for me at least, I work better when I’m forced into “seeing” in my head instead of on screen.


I don’t know if it’s helpful to you or not, but there’s a lot of really interesting stuff to be found if you search for ‘ambisonic’. There are VSTs, info about ambisonic mics, objects for max/MSP and loads of theory and so on.

With the max/msp implementation for example, you can tell the ambisonic sound processor how many physical speakers you have in the room and where they are in relation to the listener, and then click and drag a sound source around in 3D; the ambisonic module will position the audio for you based on your speaker positions. I’ve tried the max/msp objects with 4 speakers some time ago and it works really well :slight_smile:

Recording an ambisonic soundscape is also totally doable, with the right hardware. Once you’ve got it recorded, you can rotate it and scale it and so on.

You can even get interesting results with 2 speakers.

… hth?

Edit: re-reading your question, I may be missing some context, so I am sorry if I’m wasting your time!

No no not wasting time at all. Thanks so much for your input! Yeah it would be totally awesome to mix for surround sound, Ive had ideas for that too like having completely separate “grooves” set up that work by themselves in one corner but also play into the whole if you are center.

My setup is two speakers though. There are some super expensive isotope plugins that help with this type of mixing but they kind of try to trick you into thinking a sound is behind you. Not really insterested in that. Simply a “box” that has top to bottom, left to right and front to back. For me, much like signal flow with more than 2 instruments, it gets complicated quick lol.

I like messing with max, so if it were me, I’d think about trying to set up a streaming audio source per channel from the daw, and make a GUI interface myself in max for positioning the audio in 3D. It can render to two speakers (stereo) no problem, and vertical positioning is still possible!

That’s maybe a really hacky solution though. And it might be hard to master without destroying the 3D soundfield…

I really like the question and I’m watching this thread!

I owned NAT Spatial Audio Designer, which is really nice. I’ve sold it afterwards because i haven’t made much use of it, but IMO if you really into surround audio it’s worth checking out.

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This is very similar to the traditional template of a rock music mix, where as in the studio, usually drums are set up first: more setup time/space required and then bussed.
Then you will have the bass and guitar, guitar/synth being more able to spread out , bass elements more center as the longer wavelengths=more likely phase issues.
It probably has to do with how humans interpret depth, too.
Finally vocals.
The subtle use of phase and reverb= up/down, back/front.

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Hi there
i just posted this little video on how to use ambisonics with the DT & Touchdesigner.


Ambisonics w/ Digitakt and Touchdesigner

maybe that´s interesting for you.

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