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Stereo Imaging In Mastering

How many of you guys use a stereo expander to obtain more clarity in mastering . and if you don't what other methods you use to clear up the two track stereo mix?


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Michael Fossenkemper Sun, 02/16/2003 - 03:23

A stereo expander can widen the image but it can also cause other problems like setting the center image back and causing some phase problems. It also tends to bring the ambience out more. High end Eq's like Weiss allow you to eq the sides separately from the center which can help in clearing up mixes. Also the higher end eq's and compressors really bring out detail.

lefty Sun, 02/16/2003 - 13:04

Does that mean you have to have you mix +2db up on center instruments , then widen them will bring them back in the mix? Is ther a plug in Eq or compressor that can do that of the Weiss?

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Bob Olhsson Sun, 02/16/2003 - 14:16

Stereo expanders can create a disaster when a recording hits a radio or TV station's audio processor because they all presume that anything important in the music is going to be in phase.

You can hear some of the problems they create by listening in mono.

lefty Sun, 02/16/2003 - 18:55

So you're saying along with panning and Eq ,stereo imaging can prevent masking that panning and eq couldn't quite clean up. So checking the mix in mono is a sign to ensure mix is not damaged? And how do I know if it'll translate well on radio or tv?

Alécio Costa -… Mon, 02/17/2003 - 06:09

But wouldn´t the right name be Stereo Imager? stereo expander to me sounds like something to control dynamics, with a threshold and so...

Waves has the S1 stereo Imager and let you monitor phase coherence.You can enlarge or not...
But Yes, listen to mono also.

joe lambert Wed, 02/19/2003 - 10:55

I think what you guys are in need of is control over the stereo width. Not really stereo expansion. There are a few ways to do this some have been covered several times in this forum.

What I find necessary many times is to adjust the amount of stereo information or middle/side ratio ( I think I just made than up) My console has a unique Stereo width control which is fully mono compatable. This is very important expecially when cutting to vinyl.
Sometimes tracks are to wide, no meat in the center. Bringing the sides in can make a big difference on the warmth.
On the other hand bringing the sides up can help if the 8 guitar tracks are in the way of the vocal. (and everything else)

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Sean G Mon, 07/27/2015 - 06:08

Dr MS by Mat Lane is a good spacial processor plug-in I use. It has some pretty good presets that vary the mid / side ratios.
"Honey In The Middle" is my favorite preset....its so sweet (pardon the pun)

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DonnyThompson Mon, 07/27/2015 - 11:07

I realize that this is an old thread, resurrected by a newer member, but I feel that it's still info that is pertinent to current mixing trends as well, so...

There are two types of plug processors that I generally avoid like the plague - the first is "spatial enhancers", and the other one is band-sensitive compression ( this one is for another thread, as I don't want hijack this topic).

I don't use any spatial enhancer plugs ... although, occasionally, I will work with M-S on the master bus, from time to time, through an EQ or Gain Reduction device that allows and supports it - something like Sampitude's Am-munition; which was designed to work with this function, ( as well as being a very good standard L-R GR device); it allows me to set different GR parameters for the Middle vs the Sides independently, and not just in ratio and threshold, but also in attack, release, and MU gain. I can "widen" mixes - slightly... always slightly - by simply using less reduction and adding more MU gain to the sides.

My own experience with any of the "dedicated" Spatial Enhancer plugs I've ever messed with, has been that they usually present unwanted artifacts ( with those being phase-related issues most of the time) and to one degree or another.

The other part of this type of processing is that you also have to take into account just what that "enhanced" or "widened" sonic image is going to sound like on multiple/different playback systems, ( like mono) as well.

It may sound good - or maybe even great - on your own system, and yet, when played on another system, definition and clarity may end up getting lost, or there may even be audible artifacts.

Also, if you're looking at potential airplay, you have to check and see if your imaging isn't going to be "widened" even further, because there are some stations that use a hyped M-S decoding on their transmission, so if you're already pushing the limits, and then it gets widened even more, it's not going to sound anything like what you had intended during the mixing ( or mastering).

One last note... Thom ( @Thomas W. Bethel ) is an actual Mastering Engineer - so personally, I'd be putting quite a bit of weight and credence into his suggestions...

Just sayin'. ;)


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Gearshoot Sun, 03/13/2016 - 23:25

I'm always really cautious with Stereo Wideners / enhancers (and don't use them in mastering similar to Thomas, and I agree with Donny's comments).
They can be fun in a mix when used as an effect (and are used for that by mix engineers I master for)... but you have to be really careful you don't overcook it.

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DonnyThompson Mon, 03/14/2016 - 06:21

Gearshoot, post: 437109, member: 49772 wrote: They can be fun in a mix when used as an effect (and are used for that by mix engineers I master for)... but you have to be really careful you don't overcook it.

I work a lot with M-S processing when mixing; usually through a GR plug that offers it as a choice. I have a few that I like; one is Am-munition, a Samplitude Limiter that allows me to use gain reduction - and all of its settings - on the middle and the sides independently; and I also like the T-Racks SSL Bus Limiter, which besides giving a nice "glue", offers a pretty decent M-S processing function as well...
Actually, that's one of the reasons why I like T-Racks plugs, because nearly all of their processors can also be used in M-S, in addition to Mono and Stereo. I think more plug manufacturers are offering it now, but for awhile, T-Racks was one of the only ones - if not the only one - that offered M-S as a feature in their processing plugs.

Now, unless I've recorded tracks with the mics set in an MS array ( acoustic guitars, guitar amps, etc.) I hardly ever use it on individual tracks... usually only on the master 2-bus - and even then, I'm very conservative with it.

Samplitude Pro X also has a built-in, single rotary adjustable stereo enhancer on the master bus ( although you can right-click on it, which opens a settings menu); so sometimes I'll monitor a mix using it, to get an "idea" of what it would sound like if the M.E. decides to widen things out a bit, but I hardly ever print a mix using that particular feature of Samp.

The thing is, I'm not an M.E., so if I'm doing a project for any type of pro/commercial release, I send the mixes out for pro mastering. And, most of the time, I'd rather just have my M.E. of choice ( @Thomas W. Bethel ) handle whatever type of processing he feels is needed, including stereo enhancement.

Besides giving me his fresh, critical ears ( he has a lot more objectivity than I do by the time I've cooked five different mixes of the same song to choose the final), and his mastering approach, where he respects the dynamic range I've mixed at, his monitoring and room acoustics are also more accurate than my own, so I trust Tom to do what he feels needs to be done.

IMHO of course. ;)

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Brother Junk Tue, 09/27/2016 - 11:52

I'm not quite sure of the name of the plug-in that I have, it's like a mastering type thing from Izotope (Ozone 5?) Is that something that people use/have confidence in?

But it may be a diff one I have, or maybe within Ozone 5, that alters that something that you guys use frequently? If so, what for? Specific types of tracks? To get a more solid vocal image? To create perceived depth?

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audiokid Tue, 09/27/2016 - 16:25

The best use of M/S for me is more about directing freqs, apposed to crunching or messing with their levels per-say.
I also use a processor in a M/S matrix to open up the acoustic space more.

The traditional M/S way to help direct width can include the method of reducing (or controlling) the bass freq on the side of a mix, putting more of the sub bass energy dead center in the middle.
I may also put more top freq on the side and keep the center top freq flat. This is a really nice way to add space. All in all, levels don't appear to change in mono,but in stereo the width can sound a lot more open and organized. Sonically "De-cluttering the center" through methods of M/S processing.
In the end I always finalize in mono to be certain I haven't wrongly increased or decreased volumes or phase.

Sequoia 13 does this exceptionally well.

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audiokid Tue, 09/27/2016 - 23:25

DonnyThompson, post: 431092, member: 46114 wrote: One last note... Thom ( @Thomas W. Bethel ) is an actual Mastering Engineer - so personally, I'd be putting quite a bit of weight and credence into his suggestions...

Just sayin'. ;)

The guys in this thread are some of the finest ME of the world. We are privileged

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Brother Junk Wed, 09/28/2016 - 06:13

audiokid, post: 441651, member: 1 wrote: Indeed.
The guys in this thread are some of the finest ME of the world. We are privileged

Indeed. Occasionally when searching and I stumble upon a great thread, I feel like I'm lucky to be a member here.

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toader Thu, 11/30/2017 - 16:32

I know a lot of people like using imaging, but I tend to not like it. Widening things can make things sound "weaker". Narrowing things is usually kind of pointless because people mix the way they want things to sound. When people send me mixes to be mastered, the stereo image is pretty much where it should be in most cases.