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 ) to create a fake double-track, and then panned the two parts to opposite sides of the stereo field (Ex18.02:WAV/MP3 ).
- 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 ; without noise Ex18.04:WAV/MP3 ). 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 ) to transform this (Ex18.06:WAV/MP3 ) into this (Ex18.07:WAV/MP3 ).
- Demonstrations Of Different Stereo Widening Methods: Here's a simple mono synth pad (Ex18.08:WAV/MP3 ), to which I've applied various different stereo widening techniques for comparison purposes: static EQ-based widening (Ex18.09:WAV/MP3 ), the classic pitch-shifted delay patch (Ex18.10:WAV/MP3 ), chorusing (Ex18.11:WAV/MP3 ), flanging (Ex18.12:WAV/MP3 ), phasing (Ex18.13:WAV/MP3 ). This mono synth lead line (Ex18.14:WAV/MP3 ), on the other hand, has been widened using fast auto-panning (Ex18.15:WAV/MP3 ). 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 ), which can be heard widened with M&S processing in this file (Ex18.17:WAV/MP3 ). Extreme M&S widening can make the stereo field appear to extend beyond the speakers (Ex18.18:WAV/MP3 ), 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 ), stereo phasing (Ex18.20:WAV/MP3 ), and the classic pitch-shifted delay patch (Ex18.21:WAV/MP3 ). This is what the full mix sounded like with them all mixed in (Ex18.22:WAV/MP3 ). Here's another example of a dry mix (Ex18.23:WAV/MP3 ), where the vocal is widened using a classic pitch-shifted delay (isolated Ex18.24:WAV/MP3 ; in the mix Ex18.25:WAV/MP3 ). 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 ; with widening Ex18.27:WAV/MP3 ). Here's the full mix (Ex18.28:WAV/MP3 ) 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 SHEPPi32-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 LE32-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 Trio32-bit (also available in an improved cross-platform version, the affordable VB332-bit). There are a few freeware plug-ins which will give you stereo filler ambiences, including Retro Sampling Audio Impurities32-bit and Vinyl Dreams32-bit; Tweakbench Field32-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 MSED, 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 StereoTool
, which also happens to have one of the best Vectorscope displays I know of. Brainworx's freeware BX Solo 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 Panipulator 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 GStereo and Tone Projects Basslane32-bit, and also Melda's affordable MStereoProcessor.
- Affordable Pitch-shift & Vibrato Plug-ins: For a straight pitchshift, try out Bitterspring's freeware 4 Band Shifter32-bit or the 'superpitch' module in the freeware Cockos ReaJS 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 Detune32-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 Reaper DAW, but you'll still need an additional stereo delay plug-in (such as Cockos's freeware ReaDelay) 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 CMX, which manages all the required micro-level pitch-shifts and delays internally. For vibrato widening, Melda's freeware MVibrato 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 2 and Melda MAutopan, and their affordable multiband payware versions PanShaper and MMultiBandAutoPan allow for a lot of more subtle auto-pan effects. MDA's simple freeware Leslie32-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 LE32-bit (the developer's site is no longer available, but you can still download it here) or the emulation in GSI's freeware Organized Trio32-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 Reaper 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 MIDIShaper 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.