FX Tips – Delay: Extra wide stereo

Here is another stereo mixing trick to go along with the Haas, cross, and panned delay tricks. This technique creates a stereo sound that fills the room and appears to come from all sides of the listener’s head at the same time. The basic idea is to start with a mono track panned dead center and invert the phase one one of the channels. Your digital home recording setup is quite likely already equipped to perform this trick.

Set up your DAW

I am usin REAPER as my DAW so this section will include detailed information on setting it up with that particular program. The technique should be easily adaptable to any capable modern DAW like Cubase, SONAR, or Pro Tools.

  • Start with a mono source track. This could be a keyboard, guitar, kick drum, or anything else you might want to apply a special stereo effect to. The only requirement is that it be a pure mono signal.
  • Duplicate the track. The easiest thing is to copy the sound file and paste it to another track, but you can accomplish the same thing with some fancy routing. In REAPER, click the track button labeled “io” to bring up the “Routing” dialog. Click “Add new send…” and choose a track from the dropdown list. Make sure the new send is configured to be “Post-FX”.
  • Pan your original track hard to one side (100% left or 100% right) and pan the duplicated track hard to the opposite side. For my sound clips below I have the original part panned 100% left and the duplicated part panned 100% right. It is worth noting it does not matter which side you pan the tracks to, so long as they are opposite. You will perceive the exact same effect no matter which side you pan each track to.
  • Now reverse phase on the duplicate track. In REAPER this is done by clicking the reverse phase button on the track (it looks like the Greek letter Phi – ?)
  • Play your mix back and you it will now sound like your chosen track is coming from all around you!

Sound clips

  • Mono clip – this is the keyboard track playing back in mono.
  • Stereo clip – this is the keyboard track playing back with the right channel phase reversed.

Notes

  • Low frequency sounds are much more affected by this technique. So if you put it on a hi-hat the effect will be much more subtle than if it were on a guitar with a lot more lower and low mid frequencies present.
  • Any track with this technique applied will cancel itself out when summed mono. If you need your mix to be mono-compatible, you should avoid this technique or create a special mono-mix without it.

Your home studio is your playground, remember to always have fun there!

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8 Responses to “FX Tips – Delay: Extra wide stereo”

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  1. FLMason says:

    But if this ends up on something mono, like a clock radio or car radio, won’t it end up silent?

  2. bvesco says:

    @FLMason

    You bet it will, hence the second statement in the “notes” section. ;)

  3. Alejandro Torero says:

    Great trick, sounds great when playing the track alone, i will test it in my songs. I think its not recomended to put any stereo effect after doing this trick. I am right?

  4. dilyanivanov says:

    Can you tell me what is the meaning of “reverse phase” and how to apply it if i’m using ableton? tnx :)

  5. bvesco says:

    I’m really talking about inverse polarity, who knows what Ableton might call it. But just because I really like being a smart aleck, here’s a link that might help:

    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=ableton+live+reverse+phase

    (in good humor)

  6. david goslan says:

    can anyone help please im using pod x3 live but seem to be getting a sort of microphonic and distorted sound on a clean patch only , is this to do with room or mic settings?
    im using a marshall j900 patch thanx

  7. alek says:

    @david – It might be your power supply. I was getting microphonics with a guitar pedal that was daisy chained with other pedals. Removing the daisy chain cleared up the problem. Even if you’re not daisy chained, you might try switching out the power supply or power strip. Good luck.

  8. Roman says:

    There is a way to make this Mono compatible. You have 2 identical Mono tracks. One channel has to stay Mono and its stereo width has to be reduced to 0 (basically Mono), second channel’s stereo width has to be 100% or less (say 50%), what you have to do is invert either left or right side’s polarity on that channel (in Reaper there is a JS plugin called StereoPhaseInvert. Now you have a wide sound source with those 2 channels which sums to Mono without any issues :)