Stereo widening is the key to give character to your mix. Lead vocal, kick, snare, bass, certain percussion sounds should all be positioned in the center of your mix to have the maximum impact. But spreading other sounds in the stereo field will give depth and width (obviously!) to your mixes.
However, there’s a catch with stereo sounds. They might end up messing up your phase and losing impact when the signal is switched back to mono. You might wonder why or when your song will be switched to mono, but this happens more than you can think. That way of playing and listening to music is still pretty much present even now.
- Most club systems still play music in mono to ensure the sound is perceived the same wherever you are in the room.
- Most Bluetooth speakers sold today are, in fact, mono systems.
- Parking garages, stores, and other public places usually play music through mono systems too.
3 STEPS TO “CONVERT” A SIGNAL TO STEREO
We don’t suggest you do the following with a full mix. This is only intended to be applied to a single audio track that plays only one sound. If your mix is exclusively mono, though, it won’t hurt, but there are better ways to do the job. However, this isn’t the goal of this article.
So let’s see what those three steps are:
1 – Duplicate
First of all, you need to duplicate the audio track you want to make “wider.”
2 – Pan the original track hard left and its copied version hard right.
3 – Add and equalizer to each track and make sure to process each track differently from the other.
The EQing on the image is random and is made to accentuate and show differences from one EQ to the other.
When converted to mono, a stereo signal “folds” and combines its left and right channels to the center. Having the exact same signal playing twice without latency on either side will only boost the sum of the tracks by 3dB but will leave the mono signal to the center.
The differences from the left and right signals are the key to widening the signal and obtaining the best mono compatibility possible.
Stereo is the reproduction of sound using two or more independent audio channels in a way that creates the impression of sound heard through various directions.
If you copy a signal to another track and leave it at the same level with the same settings, there’s no way your brain is going to believe that there are multiple sources placed at a certain distance from each other. That’s why we manually add some differences to the signals to differentiate them from each other.
WHICH EQ TO USE?
Using linear phase EQ for this purpose is highly recommended as EQ introduces phasing.
Always check your mono compatibility with a correlation meter. Room acoustics can trick you very often into thinking something that’s not real. Correlation meters are the only way to ensure your mono compatibility is on point.
You may have heard or read about it already.
As producelikeapro.com put it,
“The Haas The Haas effect is a psychoacoustic phenomenon discovered by Dr. Helmut Haas in 1949. Also known as the “precedence effect,” the law states that when another follows one sound with a delay time of approximately 40 ms or less (below humans’ echo threshold), one perceives the two as a single sound.”
A delay of a few milliseconds introduced on one of the sides will widen the sound. Be careful not to add too much, though, as you’ll be introducing phasing issues.
Start by duplicating a mono audio track and pan both copies hard left and hard right. Then add a delay to one of the tracks. Experiment, but make sure to keep the delay under 35-40ms as adding more will separate both sounds and make them sound distinct. But sticking to something around 5-15 ms max is usually best, in my opinion.
We also recommend using headphones for this operation to notice the effect.
Duplicate the original signal a third time and place it in the center. In the event where the stereo is too wide, it will help attenuate phasing problems.
We regularly switch between mono and stereo in the production and mixing process to ensure we end up with the best result possible.
Making a good stereo mix will always translate well to a stereo system. But you can’t say as much as converting a stereo mix to mono if there are phase issues.
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