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Chapter 18: Stereo Enhancements

AUDIO FILES (To download all WAV examples at once: 112MB ZIP)

  • Fake Double-tracks For Stereo Widening: I frequently generate additional double-track parts for stereo-widening purposes by using audio editing techniques, as in this Mix Rescue, where I edited a single guitar recording (Ex18.01:WAV/MP3 bp) to create a fake double-track, and then panned the two parts to opposite sides of the stereo field (Ex18.02:WAV/MP3 bp).

  • Sampled Ambiences For Stereo Widening: I often use stereo ambiences to expand the stereo picture when mixing. In this Mix Rescue project, for example, I used simple background noise to widen this mix (with noise Ex18.03:WAV/MP3 bp; without noise Ex18.04:WAV/MP3 bp). A more ostentatious example can be heard in this Mix Rescue, where I layered in lots of weird stereo ambient effect samples (Ex18.05:WAV/MP3 bp) to transform this (Ex18.06:WAV/MP3 bp) into this (Ex18.07:WAV/MP3 bp).

  • Demonstrations Of Different Stereo Widening Methods: Here's a simple mono synth pad (Ex18.08:WAV/MP3 bp), to which I've applied various different stereo widening techniques for comparison purposes: static EQ-based widening (Ex18.09:WAV/MP3 bp), the classic pitch-shifted delay patch (Ex18.10:WAV/MP3 bp), chorusing (Ex18.11:WAV/MP3 bp), flanging (Ex18.12:WAV/MP3 bp), phasing (Ex18.13:WAV/MP3 bp). This mono synth lead line (Ex18.14:WAV/MP3 bp), on the other hand, has been widened using fast auto-panning (Ex18.15:WAV/MP3 bp). All these effects can work for stereo files as well, but M&S techniques are very useful too. Take this stereo pad sound, for example (Ex18.16:WAV/MP3 bp), which can be heard widened with M&S processing in this file (Ex18.17:WAV/MP3 bp). Extreme M&S widening can make the stereo field appear to extend beyond the speakers (Ex18.18:WAV/MP3 bp), but at the expense of mono-compatibility.

  • Stereo Widening In Practice: This Mix Rescue involved a lot of stereo enhancements, including stereo chorusing (Ex18.19:WAV/MP3 bp), stereo phasing (Ex18.20:WAV/MP3 bp), and the classic pitch-shifted delay patch (Ex18.21:WAV/MP3 bp). This is what the full mix sounded like with them all mixed in (Ex18.22:WAV/MP3 bp). Here's another example of a dry mix (Ex18.23:WAV/MP3 bp), where the vocal is widened using a classic pitch-shifted delay (isolated Ex18.24:WAV/MP3 bp; in the mix Ex18.25:WAV/MP3 bp). For a good example of subtle general-purpose widening using ambience reverb and the classic pitch-shifted delay, compare these two files (without widening Ex18.26:WAV/MP3 bp; with widening Ex18.27:WAV/MP3 bp). Here's the full mix (Ex18.28:WAV/MP3 bp) so that you can hear the effect in its proper context.


  • Some Additional Stereo-widening Treatments: Here are a couple of extra stereo-widening treatments not mentioned in the book: the short phase-flipped ping-pong delay, as implemented in the SHEPPiWindows Logo (32-bit)32-bit plug-in; and the 'delayed Sides' method explained here.


  • Affordable Pads & Stereo Fillers: There are ridiculous numbers of freeware synths now available, and most of them can be turned to the task of making pads. However, one of the all-time great pad sounds is the Hammond organ (via its Leslie rotary speaker), and here are two good freeware instruments: fxPointAudio's freeware Nubile & Spinner LEWindows Logo (32-bit)32-bit (the developer's site is no longer available, but you can still download the files from here and here) and GSI's freeware Organized TrioWindows Logo (32-bit)32-bit (also available in an improved cross-platform version, the affordable VB3Mac LogoWindows Logo (32-bit)32-bit). There are a few freeware plug-ins which will give you stereo filler ambiences, including Retro Sampling Audio ImpuritiesWindows Logo (32-bit)32-bit and Vinyl DreamsWindows Logo (32-bit)32-bit; Tweakbench FieldMac LogoWindows Logo (32-bit)32-bit, but if you use this kind of thing a lot, then samples are the way to go. Retro Sampling offer several dedicated background-noise libraries, and many hip-hop/electronica sample libraries include some elements like this. Any source of film/TV Foley samples will usually have a selection of usable stereo background-noise beds and room tones -- try the Freesound Project or Sound Snap, for example.

  • Affordable Middle & Sides (M&S) Plug-ins: The plug-in I use all the time for this is Voxengo's freeware MSEDMac LogoWindows Logo, a simple but very effective M&S encoder/decoder. What I particularly like about it is that you can choose just to encode or decode, making it possible to separate out the Middle or Sides signals for separate processing between two instances of the plug-in. For other stereo adjustments, such as left/right-channel panning, try Flux's freeware StereoToolMac LogoWindows Logo , which also happens to have one of the best Vectorscope displays I know of. Brainworx's freeware BX SoloMac LogoWindows Logo is another useful plug-in when working with stereo width, as it allows you easily to audition and compare the Left, Right, Middle, and Sides signals. (Boz Digital's PanipulatorMac LogoWindows Logo provides very similar functionality too, although via a slightly different user interface.) There are also a fair few multi-band M&S processors about, including freeware such as GVST GStereoWindows Logo and Tone Projects BasslaneWindows Logo (32-bit)32-bit, and also Melda's affordable MStereoProcessorMac LogoWindows Logo.

  • Affordable Pitch-shift & Vibrato Plug-ins: For a straight pitchshift, try out Bitterspring's freeware 4 Band ShifterWindows Logo (32-bit)32-bit or the 'superpitch' module in the freeware Cockos ReaJSWindows Logo plug-in, although you'll need to insert a separate plug-in instance in each channel to get opposite left/right shifts for widening purposes. Alternatively, you could try Mda's freeware DetuneMac LogoWindows Logo (32-bit)32-bit, which does the opposing shifts automatically, or use two panned shifter voices within a single instance of the ReaPitch plug-in bundled with Cockos's affordable ReaperMac LogoWindows Logo DAW, but you'll still need an additional stereo delay plug-in (such as Cockos's freeware ReaDelayWindows Logo) to achieve the classic Harmonizer-style pitch-shifted delay patch described in the book -- for a true one-stop solution, try Stillwell Audio's affordable CMXMac LogoWindows Logo, which manages all the required micro-level pitch-shifts and delays internally. For vibrato widening, Melda's freeware MVibratoMac LogoWindows Logo is good, because it allows you to set up conflicting modulation in the left and right channels.

  • Affordable Auto-panning & Rotary-speaker Plug-ins: The most flexible freeware auto-panners I know of are Cableguys PanCake 2Mac LogoWindows Logo and Melda MAutopanMac LogoWindows Logo, and their affordable multiband payware versions PanShaperMac LogoWindows Logo and MMultiBandAutoPanMac LogoWindows Logo allow for a lot of more subtle auto-pan effects. MDA's simple freeware LeslieMac LogoWindows Logo (32-bit)32-bit can provide simple two-band auto-panning too if you set it up correctly, but can also achieve something more like a rotary-speaker effect by introducing level and pitch modulations. For something closer to a Leslie, try fxPointAudio's freeware Spinner LEWindows Logo (32-bit)32-bit (the developer's site is no longer available, but you can still download it here) or the emulation in GSI's freeware Organized TrioWindows Logo (32-bit)32-bit.

  • Implementing Custom-designed Modulation Effects: If you don't have suitable modulation options on your plug-ins, then there are other ways to implement the modulation you need. For example, you can also easily create vibrato widening from first principles in Cockos ReaperMac LogoWindows Logo by applying the DAW's built-in Parameter Modulation facility to two ReaPitch shifter voices. On other DAW software platforms, a MIDI LFO generator such as Cableguys MIDIShaperMac LogoWindows Logo provides an alternative if you can set the required plug-in parameters to respond to the requisite MIDI messages.


  • Stereo Widening In Practice: Many of my Mix Rescue remixes involve stereo-widening treatments of one kind or another, not least because the classic pitch-shifted delay patch is one of my default mix effects. However, this particular article focuses more than usually on the subject.

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