Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio - Additional Resources

Chapter 18: Stereo Enhancements

Workflow Demonstration Video

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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 Mix Rescue October 2008, where I edited a single guitar recording ( Ex18.01: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ) to create a fake double-track, and then panned the two parts to opposite sides of the stereo field ( Ex18.02: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ).

  • Sampled Ambiences For Stereo Widening: I often use stereo ambiences to expand the stereo picture when mixing. In Mix Rescue April 2009, for example, I used simple background noise to widen this mix (with noise Ex18.03: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ; without noise Ex18.04: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ). A more ostentatious example can be heard in Mix Rescue May 2009, where I layered in lots of weird stereo ambient effect samples ( Ex18.05: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ) to transform this ( Ex18.06: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ) into this ( Ex18.07: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ).

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

  • Stereo Widening In Practice: Mix Rescue May 2010 involved a lot of stereo enhancements, including stereo chorusing ( Ex18.19: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ), stereo phasing ( Ex18.20: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ), and the classic pitch-shifted delay patch ( Ex18.21: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ). This is what the full mix sounded like with them all mixed in ( Ex18.22: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ). Here’s another example of a dry mix ( Ex18.23: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ), where the vocal is widened using a classic pitch-shifted delay (isolated Ex18.24: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ; in the mix Ex18.25: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ). For a good example of subtle general-purpose widening using ambience reverb and the classic pitch-shifted delay (from Mix Rescue November 2008), compare these two files (without widening Ex18.26: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ; with widening Ex18.27: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ). Here’s the full mix ( Ex18.28: WAV/MP3 play_arrow ) so that you can hear the effect in its proper context.

  • 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 a couple of fun freeware options: fxPointAudio’s NubileWindows logo32‑bit & Spinner LEWindows logo32‑bit and Istvan Kaldor’s DirtBagWindows logo32‑bit. For stereo filler ambiences, 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 (MS) Plug-ins: The plug-in I use all the time for this is Voxengo’s freeware MSEDMac logoWindows logo, a simple but very effective MS 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 Stereo ToolMac logoWindows logo , which also happens to have one of the best Vectorscope displays I know of. (Melda’s MStereoScopeMac logoWindows logo is another good one.) Bob Perry’s ListenerMac logoWindows logo, Boz Digital’s PanipulatorMac logoWindows logo, and Brainworx’s Bx SoloMac logoWindows logo are all useful when working with stereo width, as they allow you to easily audition and compare the Left, Right, Middle, and Sides signals. For frequency-selective MS processing, check out an MS capable freeware EQ such as Tokyo Dawn’s TDR NovaMac logoWindows logo, or use two instances of Voxengo’s MSEDMac logoWindows logo to convert to and from MS, then any EQ you like between them. For a graphical representation of stereo width against frequency, check out the MS mode in Voxengo’s freeware SPANMac logoWindows logo analyser. Voxengo’s CorrelometerMac logoWindows logo can also be useful for highlighting mono incompatibility problems visually.

  • Affordable Pitch-shift & Vibrato Plug-ins: For a straight pitchshift, try out Aegean Music’s freeware PitchproofMac logoWindows logo (although you’ll need to insert a separate plug-in instance in each channel to get opposite left/right shifts for widening purposes) or Mda’s freeware DetuneMac logoWindows logo (which does the opposing shifts automatically). 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, though – 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 PanCakeMac logoWindows logo and Melda MAutopanMac logoWindows logo, and their affordable multiband payware versions PanShaperMac logoWindows logo and MAutopanMBMac logoWindows logo allow for a lot of more subtle auto-pan effects. For something closer to a Leslie, try the freeware fxPointAudio Spinner LEWindows logo32‑bit, Mda LeslieMac logoWindows logo, or Istvan Kaldor Dirt-EWindows logo32‑bit, or the affordable Plug & Mix Ls RotatorMac logoWindows logo, PSP L'otaryMac logoWindows logo, and UVI RotaryMac logoWindows logo.

  • 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 easily create vibrato widening from first principles in Cockos ReaperMac logoWindows logo by applying the DAW’s built-in Parameter Modulation facility to two ReaPitchWindows logo shifter voices. On other DAW software platforms, an affordable MIDI LFO generator such as Cableguys MIDIShaperMac logoWindows logo or Xfer’s LFO ToolMac logoWindows logo provide an alternative if you can set the required plug-in parameters to respond to the requisite MIDI messages.

  • Affordable Specialist Stereo-enhancement Plug-ins: There are plenty of more-or-less-arcane specialist stereo-enhancement plug-ins available, each with its own subjective character and side-effects. A couple of my favourite freeware options here are Polyverse WiderMac logoWindows logo & Voxengo Stereo TouchMac logoWindows logo (both based around a Sides-signal delay and great for widening mono sources) and Open Ambience Project SHEPPIWindows logo32‑bit (which implements the kinds of Haas-delay and polarity inversion methods shown in Figure 18.5 of Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio).

Further Reading

  • 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, Mix Rescue May 2010 focuses more than usually on the subject.
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