Three Quick Tricks for Better Stereo

Apr 18, 2022 5:30:00 PM

Here are three tricks to improve the stereo image of your mixes and masters.
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It's true what they say, that starting the mix process in mono is beneficial for the overall end results, but when you're done with it,  and you switch back into stereo, it's your job to take care and treat the stereo sound as well, whether with using M/S equalizer or M/S compressor, so lets take a look at three tricks we use in order to get a nice sounding stereo image.

Saturation

One of the quickest and easiest ways to get improve your stereo image sound quality is to use a saturation plugin in M/S mode. There are few options on the market but we're gonna focus on iZotope Ozone Exciter – because who haven't heard of Ozone.

  • Put an instance of Ozone 9 on your insert and use Exciter module.
  • You can use Exciter as standalone plugin if you have Ozone 9 Advanced.
  • Set the plugin into M/S mode and click on "Side".
  • Set your crossovers to set boundaries on frequencies you want to process. A good starting is 100, 600, 3000 Hz.
  • Select "Tape" for each band you would like to process.
  • Increase the amount until you hear very noticeable effect and then turn it down until the effect is tame.
  • Remember, that less is more!

Summary:

It's possible to recreate this effect with any saturation plugin working in M/S mode, but be careful – not every saturation mode is suitable for this kind of processing. Take your time, listen to the effects the plugin is giving you and decide whether or not is this helping your sound.

Again, do not overdo it. The goal here is to enhance the side signal, not to bring it to the "in your face" levels. First, it would sound bad and second, it could start to break the phase correlation.

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Equalizer

Another very quick trick you can utilize to enhance the stereo image of certain parts of your signal is by using an equalizer in M/S mode. We will use Melda's Equalizer (free).

  • Put the MEqualizer on your insert and se the whole plugin into M/S mode in the menu on the right.
  • Enter the edit menu of the band you would like to use to boost the stereo with – in this case, we're using band number 6.
  • Select "Side" and exit the menu. This band will now cut/boost in sides only, leaving the mid-signal unaffected.
  • Setup the band's Q to your liking and then boost.
  • Optionally, you can introduce a touch of saturation at the top to prevent the EQ from sounding too digital.
  • Again, less is more!

Summary:

Boosting the side signal with EQ is perhaps the most common technique, but be careful, as it's pretty easy to overdo it.

We cannot stress this enough! Lesser adjustments go a long way, especially in this case. It's very easy to overdo this in Equalizer, so be extra careful.

Compression

By compressing the side signal ergo increasing its RMS loudness, we can make it to be tastefully better. Any compressor plugin working in M/S mode will do the trick, however if you want to have more control over what areas you want to process, it goes without saying that you'll need a multi–band compressor.

  • Put the plugin on your insert track, set it in M/S mode and click on "Side"
  • If possible, set the compressor to work in RMS detection mode.
  • Ratio is best set from 2:1 to 6:1 for this kind of processing.
  • Lower the threshold until your dB reduction meter shows around -4dB reduction and then compensate with makeup gain.
  • Experiment with the settings and pay good attention to the side signal, because the results tend to be really subtle.

Summary:

Using this technique will get you the most subtle changes – if you do not over boost the makeup gain that is. Using compression is about bringing loud and quiet signals together, ergo raising the RMS level higher and making the sides sound a bit fuller than before.

How do you improve the stereo image of your mixes and masters? We would love to hear from you, so LET US KNOW!

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