Pan law

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Pan law, or pan rule, is a recording and mixing principle that states that any signal of equal amplitude and phase that is played in both channels of a stereo system will increase in loudness up to 6.02 dBSPL, provided there is perfect response in the loudspeaker system and perfect acoustics in the room.

Often, the acoustic summing of a room and system are much inferior to the ideal, so the specific relative level will change from −3 dB to 0 dB as the mono signal is panned from center to hard left or right, and this sounds natural. The idea is that when one directs signals left and right with the pan pot, the perceived loudness will stay the same, regardless of latitude.

However, both the direction of attenuation throughout the panoramic sweep and the amount by which the signal is attenuated vary according to pan rule. For example, the Yamaha digital consoles employ a typical (compromise) 3 dB pan rule, however, the signal is at full level at 12:00 and becomes progressively louder (up to + 3 dB) as it is panned to the right or left.

The 3 dB pan rule is a commonly applied compromise to comply with the mediocre acoustic summing capabilities of most control rooms. However, the console manufacturer SSL used to employ a 4.5 dB pan rule, because it was believed that their expensive consoles would normally be used in tuned rooms that had acoustic summing capabilities closer to the ideal.

Many consoles that have only one pan rule employ one such that a signal panned hard left or right is at full level and becomes progressively lower in level as the pan is directed to the center.

According to mastering engineer Glenn Meadows, the Kinoshita-Hidley rooms at Masterfonics (Nashville, Tennessee), produce close to 5.9 dB acoustic summing when both loudspeakers are presented with the same in-phase signal.

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