Their are many ways to achieve a wide mix and sound, experimenting with all of these different methods for varying elements in your record is important to get a really wide and open sound in your tracks.
1 – Track Duplicating
To start things off, we explain arguably the best technique for stereo widening, which is track duplication. Track duplication is of course an over simplified title, as after you duplicate you should hard pan the sounds to counter each other, one left the other right. At this point creating slight differences in the left and right side will really take things and open them up. Using plugins like Eq, filters, & distortions with different settings of each plugin from the left and right side will push the sound further out.
2 – Short Delays
This next tip can actually work in conjunction with the first, as their are a few ways to do this as well. To accomplish a wider sounding track, as an add on to track duplicating is to then take it a step further by delaying either the left or right side by a few milliseconds, many of todays daws like Ableton & Logic allow provide a ticker directly on the track for you to push or pull the sound by small amounts. Another way to achieve this by using any number of delay plugins, available on the market or packaged within your DAW, turn off the host-sync and work with time (ms) and again here be sure to have very small but different delay times from the right and left side of the sound.
3 – Stereo Widener
One seemingly simpler way to widening your sounds and your mix is using a stereo widener plugin. Some of our favorites are the Waves S1 Stereo Imager, Izotope Ozone Imager Module, & Brainworx Control with many more great options on the market. Even though the process and experimentation can yield faster results to get it right can still be a bit of a task, wideness without reason can also detract and even distract the listener from the rest of the song as a whole, gentle use tends to work best and keeps things a bit more cohesive in the mix.
4 – Reverb
Reverb is another great method for widening sounds and your mix. Generally used to create space and rooms to bring things forward or push things back in the mix, reverb can also be used to enhance the illusion of width and pushing things further out to the sides. Many of the reverb plugs out today have stereo/width knobs to increase the space of the verb off to the sides of the mix, if not one tip is you can drop a stereo imager after your reverb plugin on your auxiliary track and widen the reverb and you’ll hear things begin to open up.
5 – M/S Processing
Last but not least is a modern digital technique known as Mid-Side Processing. Many new plugin developers from Brainworx, Fabfilter, Ableton and more are creating many different types of M/S plugs and/or adding M/S processing options to their plugins from EQs, distortions, and compression which allow you to process the mid signal differently from the side signal. Dropping the level and frequencies of the mids signal while increasing the sides level and frequency, some psychoacoustic dimensions will begin to take place.
You truly can’t go wrong with any of these options and new technology is always entering the market place to allow us to take things even further, but as always experimentation is key and if you find that none of these are working on a particular sound you are trying to widen, try to actually do the opposite and widen everything around it to enhance the space in your mix and the impact will be as much, if not even more powerful. Lastly, and most importantly drop a mono switch on your master track and check your mono-compatibility periodically.