Cross delay is a trick that can be used on a track having different information on the left and right channels to enhance the lushness of the stereo image. You can use this trick on drum overheads, chorused guitar sounds, stereo keyboard patches, or any other non-mono audio track in your home recording. Here is how to make it work.
What is Cross Delay
Cross delay is when you take any non-mono input run through a stereo delay but you cross the echoes over to the opposite side of the input that generated them. The description sounds pretty simple, and it is, but surprisingly few delay effects natively support the functionality. Let’s break the description down a bit more.
The necessary input for cross delay is described as non-mono rather than stereo. I say non-mono to highlight the fact that there has to be some differing information on the left and right sides of the input to the delay. Sometimes a stereo track is really just the same thing recorded to the left and right channels, which is really just a mono track. Sometimes it is the same thing on both channels, but one channel is louder than the other. This is also really a mono track, albeit a panned mono track. These types of tracks will not really give you the cross delay effect. You actually need a difference of information on the left and right channels of the stereo input. This could be a guitar with a stereo chorus or panner on it. This could be drum overheads where the snare is imaged in the center but the cymbals and toms are imaged across the spectrum. So dig up a non-mono track from your home studio archives or a current project and use that to experiment with this effect.
You will need some sort of stereo delay plugin to create this effect. The necessary delay plugin will have independently adjustable controls for each of the left and right channels. I like using the Timeworks Delay 6022 VST plugin for this purpose. Cakewalk SONAR comes with a suitable delay plugin and probably most other DAW software does as well. The ideal delay plugin will give you the ability to pan the delayed output individually from the input. If your plugin offers this capability then you are pretty much set. Otherwise you will need to do some creative routing (an example using REAPER is shown below). The last delay plugin I used that offered this capability came with SAWStudio.
The cross delay effect is heard when the delay echoes from the left channel play on the right and the delay echoes from the right play on the left. This can help push the left and right channels further apart and make your track sound bigger. The stereo image will be smeared a bit but the size will be increased.
Cross delay in REAPER
Cross delay can be tricky to set up in your home studio so here is an example of how to do it in REAPER for a set of drum overheads. Set up the drum overheads with the left side on track 1 and the right side on track 2. Pan track 1 all the way left and track 2 all the way right. Create a new track named overhead cross delay and click the IO button for this cross delay track (the IO button is just to the right of the track name area). Use this screenshot as a guide to understanding the following directions:
Above, you see a view of the control panel that comes up after clicking the cross delay track’s IO button. Create two new receives by clicking the dropdown box where it says Add new receive… and choosing your overhead L track the first time and overhead R track the second time. Configure both receives to be Pre-FX (as shown) or Post-FX (but not Post Fader). Pan the receives opposite the track panning. That means the overhead L track receive is panned hard right while the overhead R track receive is panned hard left (also shown in the photo). Close the IO panel and open the FX panel.
Add your delay plugin. I’m using the VST plugin Timeworks Delay 6022. I like to spice up the delay settings just a bit. Let’s say we want just a bit of subtle slapback delay on the overheads. A bit of playing around and 100ms sounds pretty good. Set the left channel delay to 105ms and the right channel to 95ms. Notice I set one channel a little faster and one channel a little slower. Experiment to determine the settings you like most. For a nice slapback I put the feedback of both channels to zero. Make sure the mix control is set to 100% wet so you only hear the delay plugin on this track.
Play back your track and you should be hearing a slapback delay that is equal in strength to the original tracks. The sound should be very full but maybe a bit 1955 for you. Turn the fader of the cross delay track all the way down and start to bring it up slowly as you listen. Stop when the delay level sounds just right!
I hope you have enjoyed today’s foray into the world of cross delay. It is one of my favorite effects and shows up on my home studio recordings quite often!