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The Haas Effect & How To Use It For Stereo Mixes

Sometimes in a delay plugin you'll find panning presets. This confuses most first-time music producers and newcomers, because why would you want to pan in a delay unit? In this article, we're going to explain why there are panning presets and how to use them. They are using something called the Haas effect to create pseudo stereo width, without actually affecting the stereo field of your recording.

This is the perfect tool to get really wide-sounding instruments, without ruining your stereo image.

What Is The Haas Effect?

The Haas effect is an effect that adds a pseudo stereo width to your signal without affecting the stereo field. It does this using the delay to make you perceive the sound as stereo. It works because the sound arrives at one ear 1st, with the delayed sound arriving at the other ear 2nd. This short delay isn't perceived as two sounds, but rather a huge stereo merge.

If you are looking to give a simple mono instrumental line or vocal line more presence or to push it to the back of the mix, then The Haas Effect may be the answer. 

It can take a simple mono instrumental or vocal line and give it more presence or to the back of the mix based on how you use it and what other effects you add to the chain.

It is essentially the Haas effect that allows you to tell the listener that a sound coming from a particular direction or angle will sound more natural than a simple panning adjustment because it is interpreted more naturally by the listener’s brain. 

As a result of the fact that we have two ears, the Haas effect makes full use of that.

The brain interprets this difference as a sound coming from the left when it is received by the left ear before the right ear. In actuality, when a sound is heard from the left, it is received by the left ear before the right ear. 

It is important to remember that the interpretation is dependent on how much delay exists between the two ears. The shorter the delay, the more the sound is centered.

During this very short delay, the sound reaches the first ear before reaching the other one. 

Therefore, when there is no phase shift between the two perceived signals together, the sound is interpreted as dead center, with no panning whatsoever, as if there had been no phase shift between the two perceived signals.

With the help of this psychoacoustic effect, we can add depth and direction to our mixes without even moving the console's panning control!  

If you want to make your own Haas effect presets, you can use any delay that permits really long delays as well as inserts a time shift between the two channels.

There is a method of performing the Haas effect by delaying only one of the two channels (left or right) by just a few samples, up to a maximum of 30 milliseconds. 

The channel that reaches our ear first is the one that determines where the sound “comes from”, the channel that reaches our ear later is interpreted as the natural tail of the sound. 

This creates the stereo effect.

How To Set Up The Haas Effect

You need a delay plugin that allows 100% wet for this effect to work because the effect must be on the entire channel for it to sound like it is stereo. Doing this gives our track a panning illusion and stereo image illusion.

If the delay you are using doesn't allow 100% wet, then you can't use it for the Haas effect. This is because phase cancellation will occur if you do not set the effect to 100%.

Additionally, this also means that the dry/wet setting of a Haas effect is non-existent, so you can't apply a little amount of the Haas effect to a signal. However, you can use the ms control to adjust how wide the effect sounds.

Set your delay to 100% wet, and make sure the feedback is at 0%.

For the Haas effect to work, you must turn also turn off “sync”, and use “ms” delay instead. Between 1ms-30ms is as far as you can go until the sound will become two separate sounds and act as a delay instead of a stereo widener.

The sweet spot is generally somewhere between 7ms-15ms.

This stops the stereo effect and creates a delay effect instead because the brain believes this to be two sound sources instead of one stereo merge.

You can additionally create an audio effect rack in Ableton. To do this, set up two chains inside the audio effect rack, set one panned all the way left and the other panned to the right. Afterward, take the left channel and add your delay. Then follow the same procedure explained above to get your desired effect.

How Frequency Range Affects The Haas Effect

The way in which frequencies reach the ears can have a significant effect on the Haas effect. The brighter the sound is, the more directional the sound is towards our ears.

Low frequencies are more difficult to diffuse, and therefore the Haas effect should not be applied to these frequencies and will not create the desired stereo effect you want.

To circumvent this issue and avoid creating a horrible mix, you can use a mix of EQ processing or multiband solo'ing alongside an Ableton rack to make sure that the lows of your sound source are not being affected by the Haas effect.

You can additionally use an EQ to brighten the frequencies that you want to hear more of. This can accentuate the effect even more.

Another interesting quirk of the Haas effect is that with some lowpass and reverb it will send your sound to the “back” of your mix. And, the more reverb you use… you guessed it! The more it goes to the “back” of the mix.

To get an effect that makes it sound like your sound is in another room, you can use these settings: lowpass at 600Hz and add a second delay with a time of 50ms or 60ms with ground 40% wet to make artificial reflections and reverb to make the sound muddy.

You could also just use a very small reverb and put the dry/wet to 100% to get the same “in another room” effect.

Use this alongside a filter or an EQ that removes all information apart from around 3kHz and above, and you get an awesome sounding effect that transports your music from the headphones outside of them, into a different space that will leave your listener looking around the room to check if he or she left their speakers on.

Make sure that you're always using effects with reason. You must know what you are doing and why you are doing it, otherwise you can create a sloppy mix easily.

Creating mixes with depth is the holy grail of home recording mixing and is what separates amateurs and pros.

Additionally, don't think of the Haas effect as some magical tool to save all your productions and start putting it on everything. This can lead to hollow, artificial-sounding mixes. So, only use the Haas effect on things you really want to stand out and become wide, lush and to support your other arranging instruments.

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