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Cubase Pro: Take Control Of Your Stereo Image | Audio Examples

Hear For Yourself By John Walden
Published October 2021

These audio examples accompany my SOS October 2021 Cubase workshop on using the Imager Plug-in.

www.soundonsound.com/techniques/cubase-pro-take-control-your-stereo-image

Audio Example 01.mp3

A short ‘verse’ section of a song project is used to illustrate using Imager on the master bus during mixing. The song section is repeated four times here as follows: (a) the standard stereo mix without any stereo width changes using Imager; (b) the same standard mix played back using the Mono Compatibility Check option in the StereoEnhancer plugin; (c) the standard stereo mix but with an instance of Imager placed on the master stereo bus using the settings shown in the first screenshot within the article text; (d) as for (c) but using StereoEnhancer to check the mono compatibility of the playback including Imager’s processing.

Overall, the changes produced by Imager are fairly subtle (probably a good thing) with the slightly wider mids/highs, and narrower, more focussed lows, shown in the SuperVision Multipanorama displays (the second screenshot in the main text) can be heard.

Audio Example 02.mp3

This example uses just the lead and backing vocal busses from the sample short mix. The song section is repeated twice as follows: (a) the standard mix of the two busses with no additional adjustment of the stereo image; (b) the same mix but with an instance of Imager placed on the backing vocal bus and using two bands (split at around 300Hz) to narrow the lows and add further stereo width to the backing vocals.

Again, the differences are audible — the backing vocals are pushed a little wider making a little more space in the centre for the lead vocal — but not so extreme as to be distracting to the listener.

Audio Example 03.mp3

The same short verse example is used to illustrate applying Imager to an individual instrument bus — the guitars — to let them seem more prominent within the mix without increasing their actual volume. The audio is repeated twice as follows: the standard mix with no additional adjustment of the stereo image; (b) the same mix but with an instance of Imager placed on the guitar bus and using four bands that narrow the lows and add various amounts of stereo widening to the lower-mids, upper-mids and highs.

As before, within the context of the overall mix, the differences are fairly subtle, but it does let the guitars (particularly the arpeggiated guitar on the left of the mix) peep out of the mix a little more clearly.

Audio Example 04.mp3

The same short verse example is used to illustrate applying Imager to the reverb FX channel to adjust the stereo width of the reverb return to the main stereo buss. The audio from the reverb bus is heard in isolation here and is repeated twice as follows: the standard mix with no additional adjustment of the reverb bus stereo image; (b) the same mix but with an instance of Imager placed on the reverb bus and using two bands that narrow the lows and add stereo widening to the mid and high frequencies.

The differences can be clearly heard in the isolated reverb bus audio and the processed version appears a little clearer (and less muddy?). Within a full mix, the difference may be relatively subtle but, again, should provide a little less clutter in the centre of your stereo image.

Audio Example 05.mp3

This example fakes a stereo piano performance from a mono recording. A short set of piano chords is repeated four times as follows: (a) the original mono recording; (b) the mono recording processed through Imager with the four bands used to spread different frequency bands from hard-left (the lows) through to hard-right (the highs); the mono recording processed with Cubase’s MonoToStereo plugin; (d) the mono recording passed through MonoToStereo and Imager.

Imager on its own create a stereo image but mono-to-stereo conversion is not really what it is designed to do. MonoToStereo does a much more satisfying job, while combining the two plugins produces a very effective stereo spread and a sense of the low-to-high note spread you might get in a genuine stereo recording of a piano.

Audio Example 06.mp3

A simple example to illustrate the need for checking mono compatibility if you have performed any stereo width adjustment or faked stereo from a mono source. In this example, a short distorted guitar sequence is repeated three times as follows: (a) the original audio copied to two tracks but both panned to the centre; (b) the same two tracks but with the audio timing offset by 10ms and the tracks panned hard-left and hard-right; (c) and same as for (b) but monitored in mono via StereoEnhancer’s Mono Compatibility Check.

The ‘fake stereo’ of (b) produces an effective stereo image but, when monitored in mono (c), the guitar shows a notable drop in volume (presumable due to some phase cancelation). Within a full mix, this could potentially result in the guitar getting lost within the mix when the stereo mix is reproduced on a mono playback system.

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