Session tracks in stereo vs mono?

Hey all! On the few videos I’ve seen so far I’ve noticed the masters working in sessions where all tracks are stereo in PT. I’ve always thought it was best practice to use mono tracks where possible to avoid cluttering the mix. Am I missing something here or can someone explain why drum samples, bass, and other mono elements would need a stereo track? Is it more common to use stereo for everything? The more I research this online the more confusing and conflicting info I’m finding! I’d love to hear some feedback from one of the pros here.



Mike - my guess is since many styles of production these days are heavily sample based using sample platforms like splice, those samples are all in stereo format with some stereo effects baked in. Its just the reality of it unfortunately, but doesnt seem to cause too many problems on my end.

1 Like

Yeah a lot of samples are in stereo because they have stacks or multiple samples or reverb or chorus or something that needs to be stereo. Computers are powerful these days so the demands of having stereo tracks instead of mono tracks are dwarfed by other tasks.

1 Like

Thanks guys. Makes sense that the processing isn’t an issue or there may be some stereo elements to the sound. My concern is more around panning and too many stereo elements overlapping and causing issues in a mix. This article suggests most elements should be mono:

If everything is in stereo, it brings up more questions around how to address panning in a dense mix of all stereo tracks in Pro Tools. IE if it’s a mono element on a stereo track, does leaving the pans hard L and R put the sound dead center? I’ve read comments stating this is not true. Or if I want a stereo hat 20% right, do I set both pan knobs there? Would this cause phase issues? Or do I spread each side a bit at say 15R and 25R? Or use a plugin like Izotope Relay that gives a single pan slider? How does that handle the two channels? Etc…

I guess I need to better understand how the stereo panning works in PT with the L and R pan pots, it’s a bit confusing to me. Here is a comment from a Reddit thread that I’m not sure is accurate:

"If you want your stereo track to sound like a mono tracked panned 20% right, then set both pan knobs to 20% right. If you want to maintain the stereo sound while panning, leave the right knob panned hard right and bring the left knob to the right. You can do the math to get it perfect (explained below) or go by ear.

The controls go from -100 to 100. To pan 20% right, the left channel (-100) simply needs to go twice that distance (2x20=40) to the right. -100 + 40 = -60. So having your pans set to -60 and 100 will sound like the whole stereo source is 20% to the right.

If anyone has a good solid resource that explains stereo panning in PT, please share! A lot of the info I’m reading on articles and forums etc is conflicting or not too clear on this topic.


All this is true. And it’s also a result of the ‘stem mixing’ phenomenon as well, many platforms will export specified tracks as stereo stems to then go to another mixer. You will see guys like CLA make something mono without any hesitation at all, such as a kick drum.
Your power will always live in the centre rather than the sides. Keep stuff below 150 hz (at least) mono and in the centre. Then the stereo elements you have can be more effective because they can move in the field without being lost in the clutter, especially if there things like sound toys panner, or stereo delays at work.
The average listener can only lock onto 3 to 4 different things (at the most) when listening for the first time.

1 Like

Basses in stereo aren’t necessarily a problem. Even great mixers like Jaycen Joshua will advocate for wide basses sometimes. Classical and film scores often have bass elements panned all over the place. Don’t think to hard about mono this, stereo that, especially if you are a beginner. If it sounds good, it is good, and what think sounds good will change as you grow as a mix engineer. Have fun and see what works for you!

1 Like