Mix Tip: Adding Stereo Width To Your Mixes
With so many tools, options, play back mediums and contradicting advice out there it’s often difficult to know where to start when adding width to your mixes. But fear not, we’ve laid out a few favourite techniques that we find useful when adding width to your mixes.
M/S Eq & Processing
Mid Side options basically allows us to divide our signal down into 3 parts, the middle and the sides (well L& R). Now this can be incredibly powerful as it allows us to push things around within the stereo field without losing central power, a strong phase relationship in our mono bass or focus within our mix.
Note: If used too aggressively or poorly things can get weird so make small moves initially.
A great way to get into this is with Ableton’s in house EQ. On the right there’s a cool little option that let’s you flip the eq into M/S mode and move between the sides and the middle.
In the diagram below you can see that we’ve removed some of the low-mids and subs plus we’ve added a gentle boost at 10khz. This has two effects:
1 – We’ve cleaned up the bottom end removing any mud and mess from the mix which tightens our bass.
2 – We’ve opened up the top end, exaggerating the stereo nature of the reverb essentially making our mix feel wider and more spacious.
As we all know, two mono signals panned L & R just sound like they’re still in mono as there’s no difference between the L& R right. So here’s a few tricks to getting that width and how to do it:
Sample Delay Options
Delaying one side of the audio is a great way to add stereo width. Logics stereo delay does this beautifully by offering up a delay amount in milliseconds per side. Here we’re able to delay one side by small amounts presenting the illusion of width.
Note: Be careful how far you take the delay – things can easily start to sound out of time.
Top 5 Widening plug-ins
1 – Waves S1 – Simple yet powerful devise that let’s us soread out our mix but also push the whole balance of our mix from L to R.
2 – Izotope Imager – Incredibly powerful and detailed plug in The Izotope Imager gives us complete width control over 4 separate bands – super useful if we want to just open up the top end, similar to what we did previously with the Mid-Side EQ work.
3 – Sonalksis Stereo Tools – Great plug-in that has a few super useful dials. One of the most important is the ability to make all signals mono below a set frequency of your choosing. This is super important if you’re cutting vinyl or playing your tracks through a club system which are often still in mono.
4 – Voxengo Stereo Touch – This beauty converts mono signals into stereo ones. Through the wizadry of M/s and amazing for adding depth tyo sampled material, mono guitars or boring pads.
Note: It’s best to not use this on the master.
5 – Waves Real ADT – This amazing plug in is often overlooked but adds amazing charter, width and style to vocals, synths and guitars. Utilizing the old technique of pitch shifting and tape speed adjusting, you can create fake backing vocals that appear to move around behind the main vocal adding width and dimension. Always worth a try if you’re struggling for ideas.
Chorus is a great way to add width and movement to your mix. It’s the micro-pitch shifts that allow the sound to be perceived as much wider than it actually is. Although the effect can sound dated and potentially a touch 80’s, when used subtly can be a beautiful way to add that extra depth.
Tal’s Chorus plug-in is one of our favorites, adds amazing width plus it’s modeled on Roland’s classic Juno 60 chorus effect, which is even cooler.
Stereo FX & Delays
An often-overlooked idea is embracing the fact that many delays, reverbs and FX’s are available in both mono and stereo. Some even allow the width to be set to 120% so make the most of it.
Having super wide reverbs allows you to keep central focus on your dry signal but then enjoy the sonic width of the landscape it creates behind it. Playing with the pre-delay can also have large effects on how deep and wide the reverb feels. For more info on this check out our 'The Art Of Delay' post which helps you calculate pre-delay times for reverbs and delays.
Pitch Shifting & EQ For width
As previously mentioned, the difference between the L & R signal is what gives us this perception of stereo and width. Try this for adding size:
1. Double your guitar or synth channel
2. Pan each one as far L & R as possible.
3. Add an EQ to both sides but with different frequencies that complement each other
4. Add a pitch shifter to one side and increase the pitch by 15 cents.
5. Enjoy the new found width.
As always, get in touch if you like the post or have any requests on what you'd like covering in our next blog article.
The Touch Loops team.