Ahh yes the cheesy headline to this blog! But, on a serious note, if you're looking to add more depth and width to your mix, then understanding and using the Haas effect will assist you with this. What is this miracle effect I hear you cry! Read further for useful info and a video at the end
The super Trick!
Every now and then, you’ll hear a mix that sounds amazing, and you might be thinking; how did they get such width & depth in the mix? There must be some super ‘trick’? Well, you’re right. There is a bit of a trick. When you are looking to create mixes with width and depth; there are several tools available.
Keep it local
One of the ways to add depth to your mix is to focus on your stereo imaging.
Panning (placing sound in the stereo image, LCR) is an obvious way to manipulate the stereo image of a track. Just remember that loudness is also key to where you perceive the direction the sound is coming from(localization) and with panning, localization is achieved due to the volumes changing as you move the sound around the stereo image with absolutely no influence from delays. The listener experiences the location of the sound shifting due to a change in amplitude (level).
Another tool you can use to create space and depth, is reverb. And then, there is a third option. Delay.
Delay is a repeat of the original sound after a given time.
Panning is close, but not quite the same as,a delay that effects sound localization.
Let me explain: Let’s get a little scientific just for a moment. Psychoacoustics is the term used to describe how our brains perceive and interpret the audio our ears sense out & about in the world around us. The word 'binaural' refers to how our two ears work together to help our brains pin point the location of a sound
So far, so good.
A bit of History
In 1949, Dr. Helmut Haas was doing some experiments and he discovered some interesting things around localization (where our brain communicates to us which direction the sound is coming from) and human perception. He discovered that when one sound is followed by another with a delay time of approximately 40 ms or less; the two sounds are perceived as a single sound. In this case, the sound localization occurs based on which of these two sounds we're referring to arrive at our ears first.
Let me break it down a little more: The Haas Effect, causes the listener to perceive a space and direction of a sound when there is a slight delay between stereo channels. The direction is determined by the sound that arrives at the ear first. So basically, the brain is not able to hear the small delay but rather interprets it as width and space in the mix. As audio engineers we therefore become scientists
Ok, so, fun fact: the Haas Effect, Precedence Effect & Law of the first wave front! All refer to exactly the same concept.
How is it useful in audio production?
Panning manipulates a sound’s stereo image by affecting the levels (amplitude/volume) of the left and right channels. The Haas Effect manipulates a sound’s stereo image by affecting the timing of those channels. Panning is all about levels while delay is all about timing.
It works like this, if you duplicate the same mono track and pan one hard (all the way) left and the other hard (all the way) right, you can manipulate where the track sits in the stereo image simply by adding a slight delay to one of the tracks. If you delay the hard left-panned channel say by five milliseconds, so that it plays slightly behind the hard right-panned channel, the track will sound like it’s much more prominent in the right channel, even though the levels are the same on both.
When you start to increase the delay beyond 10ms that is where the fun begins, and your mix will start to sound ‘wide’, more than ‘directional’.
You can really add focus in the stereo image by using the Haas effect on specific parts or elements of the mix. You can also add some ‘stereo dimension’ to a mono track without having to reach for the reverb.
The Haas Effect is a great way to add depth to your mix, reduce masking, and improve the stereo imaging and space of your mix.
You can watch the video here for a quick guide to using the Haas Effect.
Be really careful with this Haas Effect technique, as you could potentially land up with some comb filtering (occurs when similar wave forms across the audio spectrum combine in such a way that their peaks and troughs amplify/reinforce and/or cancel each other out with the result looking like the teeth of a comb) & phase issues.
If your ears are still in training; you might not detect phase and comb filtering issues quickly; so you need to keep your eyes on your Goniometer and correlation meters. Watch the video and read the blog on meters for a better understanding of these meters.
To keep my stereo image & mix clean, I usually insert an EQ with a steep shelf (HPF) at around 1KHz; after the delay plugin just to ensure that I’m not messing up the low frequencies by ‘widening’ them; and introducing those pesky phase issues.
The Haas Method is a really useful tool in your mix kit to use when you want to widen any sound.