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Cubase Pro: Take Control Of Your Stereo Image

Steinberg Cubase Pro Tips & Techniques By John Walden
Published October 2021

Imager: up to four bands of stereo width control for Pro and Artist users.Imager: up to four bands of stereo width control for Pro and Artist users.

We show you how to take full control of your stereo image with Cubase’s powerful bundled plug‑in suite..

Cubase has long included stock plug‑ins for manipulating the stereo image and they all have a role to play, as I’ll explain, but the recently added Imager is particularly interesting. It allows you to process up to four different frequency bands and, as is so often the case with multiband processors, it’s a powerful tool that’s capable of great results in the right context — but it’s also fairly easy to screw things up if you don’t know what you’re doing! In this article, I’ll work through a few examples that show you what Imager has to offer, while noting some of the potential pitfalls. You’ll find some audio files to accompany each example on the SOS website at https://sosm.ag/cubase-1021.

Perhaps Imager’s most obvious application is as a mastering‑style processor, whether used on the stereo mix bus as you put the final touches to a mix, or to tweak a bounced stereo file. The first screenshot shows Imager as inserted in my main stereo bus processing chain, with a typical configuration for this kind of application that serves as a good starting point for exploring Imager’s control set.

I’ve used all four of the available bands here, but three could easily be enough in this context; you can specify the number of bands at the top‑left of the GUI. You can adjust the frequency of the filter crossovers between bands and in this case I’ve gone for 200Hz, 1kHz and 5kHz, to create low, low‑mids, high‑mids and high bands. Each active band has three controls. Leaving the Output and Pan controls untouched for now, I’ve adjusted only the Width in each band. As the control’s name suggests, it manipulates the stereo width of its band, with a value of 100 percent leaving the stereo image unchanged and higher/lower values making the image wider or narrower, respectively.

Moving from low to high, I’ve chosen values of 20, 125, 150 and 170 percent. This keeps kick and bass instruments firmly focused in the centre (generally a good thing) and gradually adds greater Width through the low‑mids, high‑mids and highs. There are no hard and fast rules here; you should judge things by ear. But I’m generally cautious about going beyond 150 percent in any band, as stereo enhancement can potentially produce unwanted side‑effects when the mix is heard on a mono playback system. Having checked the mono playback compatibility (as I describe below), I felt able to push the width a little harder than usual in this case, for...

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