How do you improve imaging in mastering?

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by soundfreely, Jul 31, 2004.

  1. soundfreely

    soundfreely Guest

    I see that mastering engineers are able to improve imaging on mixes. I was wondering what methods are used to accomplish this goal. If I had to guess, I imagine reclocking would be helpful- right? I suppose jitter would be the enemy of excellent imaging. Although, what is foreign to me is how mastering engineers are able to improve the imaging while only working with the 2 channel mix. Control of width is easy for me to grasp, but how can mastering do much more than that? Isn't imaging better addressed in the tracking and mixing stages? What specific methods are you using to improve imaging?

    Just curious,
  2. Ed Littman

    Ed Littman Guest

    I would suspect that most quality mastering houses at this point have adc/dac's that for all practical purposes jitter immune, so thats probably not an issue.

    I think think if you get your hands on a waves S1, & use it carefully You can do some good things if really needed that is.
    If used to much you loose your bottom end & middle info, & create phase problems.
    Sometimes I sum 2 tracks together. 1 spread extreme & one all centered to mono. processing them different & at different levels, a plugin version of m/s proccessing if you will.
  3. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member

    Jul 29, 2004
    Montreal, Qc, CANADA
    Home Page:

    Like Ed mentioned, use it carefully and do not abuse it. It could be a good tool to expand the stereo spectrum on tracks that might need a little expansion. I find that S1 fits better in songs with not to many instruments and not too groovy. By pushing it, it has a tendency to muff the bottom attack.


  4. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Distinguished Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    I second the notion of being VERY cautious using M/S manipulation - It's very easy to get carried away, and it can be quite time consuming to tweak - Time consuming enough that you can lose your objectivity if not careful.

    M/S processing (not the plugin type) is really it's own animal. I use an extension of Ed's technique that relies on several sets of stereo pairs of the same material running in unison. It's a wonderful way to manipulate the image on recordings that really need it, but it's definitely not something to jump into.

    On the flip-side, if I have tracks that sound fine but just need a little wide "space" introduced to the field, there's this cheesy little freeware VST plug from Silver Spike called RoomMachine844. It's basically an early-reflection generator. If you throw it on an aux, take out all of the low end and spread the width out, you can just send a little of your original signal to it like a verb unit. Obviously, other verb units can be used in a similar fashion, but that plug has a lot of parameters that can be fine-tuned just on those early reflections. And hey, it's freeware. If you've got a setup that will utilize VST plugs, give it a whirl. It's pretty nifty.
  5. soundfreely

    soundfreely Guest

    Thank you all for your responses. As far as I know, the S1 alone really only controls the width of material (although, I admit that I need to study up on exactly what the shuffling is doing to the audio). I gather, from what you have all stated, I would have to delve into some serious M/S manipulation in order to actually improve imaging and placement. Are there any suggestions that you would have to fix up a smeared image? I assume, that as Ed has suggested with summing a stereo and mono track, I'd be able to at least recover a smeared center. Is there an efficient method of manipulation something that is slightly off center? I can only think of panning the problem so it's signal is balanced between left and right, then doing another parallel M/S job on it. That method doesn't seem too efficient though. Any suggestions?

    Thanks again,
  6. Ed Littman

    Ed Littman Guest

    re mix :shock:
  7. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Guest

    Erik, what do you monitor at?
    When you compare this to mixes you like are you then comparing them through the same soundcard?
  8. joe lambert

    joe lambert Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    Oct 17, 2001
    321 West 44th Street Suite 1001
    Home Page:
    I like this question because I think the perception out there is that in general pro mastering engineers do a lot to play with the stereo image. I have worked and know several fine mastering engineers and besides M/S techniques which can be helpful there is probably a lot less playing with the stereo image than you think.

    People often comment to me that the image is much improved after the mastering. Many times it's just having the proper eq balance that creates the better sense of space and depth.
    I do have elliptical filters and a Stereo width control that is unique the Maselec MTC 2 console I use. It's like M/S but it is 100% mono compatible and from my experience less problematic with phase when using a lot of it. Which I rarely do.
  9. soundfreely

    soundfreely Guest

    Thank you all for your answers. I am not a ME, but I am so curious that someday I may become one. I was just wondering about this as sometimes I fiddle with recordings that were done with only 2 mics.

    Proper EQ balance makes a lot of sense- thanks! Especially in less than perfect rooms where bass nodes would take up more physical space than the higher frequency nodes.

  10. carlisle

    carlisle Guest

    All these ideas are helpful to me, even though I am not at a "mastering grade" studio--strictly home project studio right now. I have been experimenting with the idea of using multiple tracks to widen the image, without losing the middle, and using two tracks of the same mix, I leave one alone and widen the other. The one I widen, I just bring up slightly until I am aware of the image widening, then its a judgement call. With three tracks, I do the same thing but use the third with less stereo image and mix in to suit.

    Hey, don't hang me guys! I'm just trying to get the "idea" of what can be done and what the results are.

    So, my novice question is: am I barking up the right tree for this aspect of mastering? I, of of course, realise that my gear may not be high end--I'm just trying to understand the concepts, one by one.

    Also, is it a good idea to EQ the wider track differently, maybe rolling off the low end somewhat (I know--every track is different--just guidelines or ideas)?

    Thanks for putting up with my questions!

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