No Stereo Widener? No Problem.

Stereo wideners (also referred to spatial wideners) play a huge role in many modern mixes, but they’re often forgotten in the stock plugins offered with most DAWs. Even when you do have a stereo widener available, certain sounds just aren’t going to react right with them, whether because of phase issues or masking from other elements in your mix.

So when you’re up against a deadline without a stereo widener to get the job done, where can you turn?

Identify Your Problem

To address your concerns accurately, you first need to determine if your source audio is missing width, depth or a combination of the two.

This critical step sets up what needs to be done to correct the issue, and might even reveal a completely different problem altogether. It might sound like such a simple lapse of judgment, but one of the most common things that we mistake for a width issue is actually just perceived loudness: something that can be corrected with a little more gain or compression.

If you’ve determined that your signal is loud and clear, but isn’t quite sitting right in the mix, here is what you can do to fix it:

Missing The Body 

If your sound doesn’t have as much depth as you’d like, you’re probably experiencing the result of something mic’d too closely, or recorded in a way that doesn’t place it in a room. The solution to this problem can sometimes be found using a stereo widener, but more often than not you can address it with reverb.

By routing the sound to a reverb shared with another instrument, you’re able to glue the two tracks together in a similar space. Doing this creates realism on the thin track, placing it in a room with another common element of the song.

Sometimes, this approach just doesn’t work as a straightforward fix. Maybe you’re doing other processing on the reverb bus, or for simplicities sake, you’d rather keep the reverb on each channel instead of adding additional busses.

If this is the case, there’s nothing wrong with cloning the reverb to your source track and closely matching the settings to something else. You’ll retain more control while achieving the results of a fuller, deeper sound that sits well in the mix.

When a Wider Sound is a Must

If you find your sound already sitting well in the mix and are strictly dealing with something that’s too narrow, your salvation won’t be found in a reverb. Instead, consider using a delay to buff up your sound.

A stereo delay with minimal repeats, a super short delay time and no feedback can work wonders to spread out your sound. It adds a bit of an accent to your stereo field and can make a thin snare or tom fill out nicely in a mix, despite starting with just a mono source.

Some of the parameters such as the delay time will need to be tweaked to fit each mix, but the end results are surprisingly impactful. Check out how Fluff uses this trick in combination with JST SOAR on a thin snare:

Struggling With Thin Snares?

Sometimes, our source audio just isn’t as powerful as we’d like it to be. If your drums are recorded in a smaller room, or with a budget mic collection, there’s not a whole lot you can do to fix is at the source. But it doesn’t mean your mix has to suffer.

There are quick and dirty ways to get aggressive drum mixes. There are all kinds of techniques for dynamic drums from parallel processing to intentional clipping that you can try out in your mix. You don’t need to go it alone with bad drum tone.

If you’re ever struggling with a tough drum mix, lean on your peers to help you out. We’ve got thousands of engineers and producers in the Joey Sturgis Tones Forum that love talking mix techniques and plugins. Come join the conversation!