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Pro Mixing Series: Episode two: The Haas Effect

Ableton Live’s Simple Delay Haas presets

For some of us this may be a very mysterious image: “panning” presets in a delay device of a sequencer DAW…

Well it IS a mysterious image until you check this article about the Haas effect.

Have you ever been so frustrated with a mix that doesn’t have life, wide stereo image and airy, “natural” space? Are you not getting enough depth in your mix? Have you added so much stereo reverb to add “space” to your mix that you end hating what you have done? Well… I have…

It is truly horrible getting every track in a mix sounding so “mono” after panning left and right different lines or instruments. It feels truly like there is something in the way from the original tracking to your final mix. The panning of some tracks helps very much to make a clear mix but sometimes that is just not enough to make things clear and certainly deeper, spacious, open and rich-sounding.

There is a solution to this lack of depth: The Haas Effect . It can take a simple mono instrumental or vocal line and give it presence or take it to the back of the mix, depending on how you use it and what other effects you add to the chain.

Basically, what you are doing with the Haas effect is making the listener’s brain to interpret the sound coming from a certain direction and angle in a way that is more natural to the ear than a simple panning adjustment. The Haas effect takes full advantage on the fact that we have TWO ears.

In real life, when a sound comes from the left it is received by the left ear BEFORE the right ear, so the brain interprets this difference as “a sound coming from the left”. The interpretation depends on how long is the delay between the two ears the less the delay, the more centered is the sound. This very short delay can be interpreted as a phase shift because the sound reaches first one ear and then the other. So, when there is no phase shift, no delay between the two perceived signals together are interpreted as dead center, with no panning at all.

We CAN use this psychoacoustic effect (the Haas effect) to print more depth and directionality into our mixes without even moving the panning control of the console! That’s why I put the snapshots from Ableton’s Simple Delay. You can make your own Haas effect presets in any delay that permits very, really shot delay times and also inserting a time shift between the two channels. The Haas effect is performed delaying one of the two channels (left or right) just a little bit, from a couple of samples to no more than 30 milliseconds (more in depth scientific info in the article from Wikipedia referenced above); the channel that reaches our ear first is the one that dictates where is the sound “coming from”, the later channel is interpreted as the natural tail of the sound.

Haas panning presets in Live 6.0.10


As illustrated on the image above, the delay we will use MUST support 100% wet and the ability to delay each channel at different times; that is where the true nature of the Haas effect resides, in the little delay we can insert to one channel to widen stereo image and panning illusion.

If your delay does not support 100% wet setting, then it is not suitable for Haas treatment, this is because the delayed signal -since it is a very shortly delayed signal- has also a phase shift respect to the original signal, so phase cancellation will occur if you mix the original and the processed signals and you’ll end up with a strange comb filtered sound instead of the stereo expanded effect (unless this is exactly what you are looking for… you know there are no rules… If your target is the comb filtered sound then go for it).

Good amounts of delay go from just 2 samples (with the right plug-in or device) to 30 ms. More than 30/40 ms results in the brain interpreting the expanded sound as two different sounds coming from left and right, the signal is not expanded anymore, it’s clearly echoed or delayed.

I made a little demo using a mono piano loop, enhanced with a simple delay and a couple of other effects.

Piano Haas Effect Demo

(In the making of this little sample I didn’t touch the volume fader or the panning knob)

The loop is repeated four times. The first cycle is the original mono signal. The second cycle is the mono signal with a delay in the left channel of 10ms. The third cycle is the Haas effect enhanced with L/R equalization, higher frequencies are raised in the right channel and lower frequencies on the left channel*. The fourth cycle has some reverb added to get a deeper sound, more “roomy” sound.

Ableton Live EQ8 LR mode

It is important to know that the Haas effect can be reinforced by the way you make frequencies reach the ears. The brighter the sound, the more directional it is. Lets put in other way: when you hear a sound from the left the perception that the right ear has of the same sound in less bright because the head is absorbing some of the higher frequencies, that is also caused by diffraction: low frequencies can travel further and around obstacles more easily than high frequencies do. The point is that you can make a clearer Haas effect by making a difference in the spectrum perceived by each ear, so you may leave bright in the “closer” channel and more bass on the “further”. In Ableton Live you can use the Traditional EQ Eight to make a better configuration of your Haas processor. That’s what I did in the third cycle of my piano demo loop. I raised brightness in the right channel and bass on the left, so you get more “room” on the left, expanding the perceived space of the treated signal.

You can check a simple Haas processor I built in Live 6.0.10 and try new settings and tweaks to make it a better one for your goals, this one is quite basic but does the job with just one macro control (Haas panning and spectral difference).

Haas processor Ableton Live 6.0.10 Device Chain

· You can use the Haas phase shift on any signal mono or stereo. Just remember to adjust wet to 100% if you do not want the comb filtering in your audio.

· The less phase shift, the more “centered” is the sound.

· Haas effect can be reinforced with selective EQ on each channel.

· Using the Haas effect with some amounts of lowpass and reverb will send your sound to the “back” of your mix. The more reverb you use in a Haas processed signal the more it goes to the “back” of the mix.

· To get the “in the next room” effect lowpass at 600Hz and add a second delay with a time of 50ms or 60ms with ground 40% wet to make artificial reflections and a reverb to make the sound muddy.

· If you are trying to get the comb filtered sound by setting the wet knob below 100% you have to know that at different delay times different frequencies are cancelled, so explore a little to get what you really are looking for.

Mixes full of depth are the holy grail of home recording mixing, it’s one of those little details that separate amateurs from pros. Make sure you apply this tweak with good criteria. A track by track hard “Haased” song also sounds artificial and hollow, some mono sounds wont be bad at all, you can create huge soundscapes and powerful productions but just don’t overuse this tool if your aim is a natural sounding mix. Of course you can do what you want with your music, just make sure it is what you really want :D

0p0::::



14 Responses to “Pro Mixing Series: Episode two: The Haas Effect”

  1. Marco says:


    Thanks for the nice summary. I had read about Haas before but your article made it very clear.

  2. Rob says:


    Great article! I’ve just discovered this site, please keep these articles coming.

  3. dan b says:


    Great article, and very clearly explained. It’s been a pain in the Haas trying to create depth in my mixes, until now.

  4. SCOTT EL says:


    AWSUM READ MATE WELL IN GOOD INFO

  5. Alex Fader says:


    Sorry mate, but this is a very dangerous practice.
    First af all, depth is always achieved from clever use of mono sounds and mono reverbs. Carefully distributed instruments/sounds acros the panorama always do the trick for my mixes. And it`s not even so much about panning as about producing the right type of sound for the mix. The most common problem many people have is that they try to apply lots of effects on their tracks to make them sound bigger, which is completely wrong and gives away their poor programming skills. Which leads to my second argument.
    Many experienced producers, including myself, spend hours and sometimes days to create the sound which fits the mix. This takes incredible amount of tweaking on one synth or more, if you decide to employ layering technique, which makes the job even harder, but gives much better results.
    What you`re suggesting here, is to use EQ to achive a wider, deeper sound, by boosting/cutting the frequencies which makes stereo separation more evident.
    Now, I could maybe agree with cutting, but boosting is something evereone should keep their hands off, and only boost ( especially the low range ) if it`s absolutelly necesarry, and even then, with extreme caution and no more than a few dB.
    Sure, what you`re suggesting will sound nice`n`wide, but it will completelly destroy a character of the sound that you may have spent hours to program. What`s more, is that instrument may sound nice in isolation, but when you add it in the mix, you will ruin it`s spectrum. Imagine if you already have an instrument playing somewhere on the left side of the panorama, which contains lots of low frequencies in its spectrum. Then you add your nice`n`wide sound that you have boosted in the low end on the left side as well. What happens? Muddied, distorted sound that overclips and many other nasty things.
    So, really, this is one bad idea in a list of all bad ideas you could possibly do with your mix.
    If the mix lacks in depth and energy, that is more likely because of poor programming of your instruments, or because of little instruments playing in your mix. Don`t be afraid to add an extra instrument or two, as long as it doesn`t hurt the overal mix. Cleverly pan all your sequencer tracks ( preferably mono ) acros the panorama, and you will achieve the depth you are looking for.
    No offence man. Just sharing my experience.

  6. 0p0 says:


    Oh sure man! no worries.
    It’s a great add you made to the post. Thanks a lot!
    what I intented to make clear about this article was the ability of a little milisecond-delay in a mono signal can make it a very different thing when some one is lacking depth in their mixes.

    I’d rather not to treat the soun enyways but not all of us have the studio we dream about or have the money to pay a great recording in a super duper ballroom filled with 3000 bucks mics.

    I just shared a little trick. It’s not like I tell everybody to Haas all of their sound, I’ve done it in experiments and I really know how hollow it sounds when everithing goes through the “milisecond-delay”.

    Then again thanks a lot for your tips too! they are great tricks when you have the time and the performance and/or synth programming ability ;)

    0p0.

  7. Ike Mhlanga says:


    Hi

    Both Alex and OpO have great things to contribute. I personaly take the Haasing proccess as part of creating the sound. That way you are not destroying a sound that was created mono or created stereo hard panned L/R. Listening to mixes,its not uncommon to find the tail in one speaker and the body in the other. It depends on the effect one is shooting for. And mind you mixing is a very personal thing and so is musical taste.

    To further add on what OpO said, it is often neccessary to seperate the sounds through panning. If all sounds are Hard L/R and you Hass them, they all end up cluttering the same sonic landscape.It is essential then to pan different instruments to different parts of the Sound Stage and to place the Hassed component on the other channel or even placing the body at 9.00 O clock and the delay at 11.30. The stereo field might be narrow but an imression of depth is achieved. The ears will naturaly sum the two and locate the sound as coming from somewhere between the two but towards the undelayed source.
    The Haas effect works well on panned sounds. It is a Psychoaccoustic effect which if applied well can enhance and add depth. What OpO was impying is factual. Ofcause in a short presentation one cannot go into the nity-grities on knob settings. My understanding is that the filter would be applied to TASTE without destroying the character of the sound in any way. However if agressive EQ is the way to take the track somewhere, who can ague with success? Bob Dylan & Hendrix were not great singers but????

    In the “Haas” effect Nearby sounds sound bright and distant sounds lose high frequencies due to attenuation. To make a sound distant it needs some HF cut of some sort, appart from the delay ofcause. All Haasing is doing is locating the sound somewhere in the sound stage. PANNING 4 L/R and REV/DEL(Haas) 4 Front to back perspective.

    Ike

  8. The Haas effect | Nyquist Recording Studio says:


    […] Another ultra-cool mixing tutorial may be found in this article Pro Mixing Series: Episode two: The Haas Effect | EMusicTips. […]

  9. MAAT HOTEP says:


    Telling everyone to never boost eq on this or that is not wise. Folks with experience do all sorts of things that they “are not supposed to do”. It is often part of their secret sauce, part of what makes them “better”/in more demand than others. “Why don’t my mixes ever sound like so and so’s?” Many hits that are awesome mixes have things in them that folks say don’t do. Good article. Good added suggestions. Contrast. Contrast. Contrast. Dry dark mono, bright verbed mono, dark small room, low volume highs rolled off sounding far away, HAAS, chorused….etc. Each fx is a way to create contrast from another fx. Thank you for this haas article.

    MAAT Hotep

  10. LoudHailer says:


    Helped me get a sound I’ve been after for a ong time. Thank you so much for taking the time to do the article, and good luck!

  11. stevey b says:


    there are no rules people

  12. stevey b says:


    but all tips are worth experimenting with to get the sound you want

  13. Eldridge Garmon says:


    I have learn some excellent stuff here. Definitely value bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how so much attempt you place to create this type of great informative site.

  14. Mules says:


    Some genres of music rely on EQ boosts to obtain the desired sound. Saying EQ boosting is “bad” or “not right” is like telling the designers of this equipment their wasting their time putting +gain controls on their gear. There is no rules to this art and that’s how new techniques and skills are created. It would be a very boring industry if we all kept to these so called “rules”


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