# Stereophonic Amplitude-Panning: A Derivation of the 'Tangent Law'

In a recent Forum post here on dsprelated.com the audio signal processing subject of stereophonic amplitude-panning was discussed. And in that Forum thread the so-called "Tangent Law", the fundamental principle of stereophonic amplitude-panning, was discussed. However, none of the Forum thread participants had ever seen a derivation of the Tangent Law. This blog presents such a derivation and if this topic interests you, then please read on.

The notion of stereophonic amplitude-panning is illustrated in Figure 1. The left and right speakers, both radiating the same audio signal at different amplitudes, are located symmetrically and equidistant from the Listener. (The equidistant speaker location condition ensures that the audio from the two speakers arrives to the Listener in phase.) Speaker gains *g*_{L} and *g*_{R} are both scalars in the range of 0 –to- 1, and they determine the energy of the audio radiated by each speaker.

When the two speakers are radiating the same amplitude audio signal (*g*_{L} = *g*_{R}) the Listener perceives the audio as originating from the direction aligned with the x‑axis.

Experimentation has shown that when the left Speaker is radiating a higher amplitude audio signal than the Right Speaker (*g*_{L} > *g*_{R}) the Listener perceives the audio as originating from the $\theta_A$ direction of the Apparent Speaker shown in Figure 1. This effect is what's called "stereophonic amplitude-panning". And in this context *panning* means controlling the apparent direction-of-arrival of an audio signal.

The most common expression relating Figure 1's *g*_{L} and *g*_{R} gain factors and the $\theta_S$_{} and $\theta_A$ angles is given in Eq. (1), the so-called "Tangent Law".

Equation (1)'s Tangent Law is routinely presented in the literature of stereophonic amplitude-panning literature, but its derivation is typically missing in the literature. I spent an entire afternoon searching the web for the derivation of Eq. (1) without success. As such this blog presents my derivation the Tangent Law.

__Derivation of Eq. (1)__

The first step in deriving Eq. (1) is to identify three unity-magnitude two-dimensional vectors *S*_{L}, *S*_{R}, and *A*, as shown in Figure 2. Forcing them to be unit-length is important because it allows us to express their *x*- and *y*-components as simple trigonometric functions [1,2]. For example, vector *S*_{R}'s *x*- and *y*‑components are [cos($\theta_S$_{}), -sin($\theta_S$_{})] as shown in Figure 2.

Vectors *S*_{L}, *S*_{R}, and *A*. are directed toward the Left, Right, and Apparent speakers respectively.

Vector *g*_{L}*S*_{L}, in Figure 2, oriented in the same direction as vector *S*_{L}, represents the audio signal's magnitude radiated to the Listener from the direction of the Left Speaker. Likewise, vector *g*_{R}*S*_{R}, oriented in the same direction as vector *S*_{R}, represents the audio signal's magnitude radiated to the Listener from the direction of the Right Speaker.

*x*- and

*y*-components of the

*S*

_{L},

*S*

_{R}, and

*A*vectors

**as shown in Figure 3.**

Equation (10) completes our derivation of stereophonic amplitude-panning's Tangent Law.

__Making the Tangent Law Useful__

The "Tangent Law" expression in Eq. (10) is important but not so useful if we want to know the *g*_{L} and *g*_{R} gains needed to achieve a desired panning angle $\theta_A$_{} for a given $\theta_S$_{}. We can determine the *g*_{L} and *g*_{R} gains in terms of angles $\theta_S$_{} and $\theta_A$ from Eqs. (6) and (7).

*g*

_{L}, giving us:

So, to achieve a desired audio panning angle $\theta_A$ for a given $\theta_S$ we use the *g*_{L} and *g*_{R} gains in Eqs. (12) and (14).

__Conclusions__

We presented a derivation of stereophonic amplitude-panning's Tangent Law, Eqs. (1) and (10). In addition we presented the dual gain equations needed to implement stereophonic amplitude-panning, Eqs. (12) and (14)

__References__

[1] A. Blumlein, U.K. patent 394,325, 1931. Reprinted in *Stereophonic Techniques* (Audio Engineering Society), New York, 1986.

*Journal of the Acoustical Society of America*., Vol. 33, (1961 Nov.), pp. 1536-1539.

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In equation 7, shouldn't the plus sign be a minus sign?

Hi Brian.

Yes, you're correct. Thanks for catching that typo.

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