Did I mention that I’m currently obsessed with shaping the stereo field? I should also mention that the stereo-izing of mono tracks has been part of that width obsession, too. Day after day, I’m called on to make bland lead vocals into sexy, stereo, shimmering images of intrigue. Thankfully, Joey Sturgis Tones’ Side-Widener helps do just that.
My money channel typically holds a de-esser to start, some subtractive EQ to get rid of trouble spots and resonances, an electro-optical compressor to smooth, my stereo-izer element, some optional “color” EQ (likely Pultec-ish), and some limiting to cap it all off. With SideWinder in that fourth position, I have three algorithms of widening, all mono compatible, with a Tone control, output level control, bypass and the all-important Width adjuster.
It’s quite easy to use. Comparing SW settings without needing A-B comparison settings and the goniometer pretty effectively illustrates what’s going on. What is going on is anything from subtle enlarging to radical side-spreading that is way over the top (without any chorusing) with mono sources like vox and mono vintage lead synths. Subtly stereo sources feed SideWidener nicely, too, so don’t be surprised if it works well on a background vocal, guitar or keys subgroup. I noticed repeatedly that bland, nearly-mono stereo sources—poorly placed overheads, sorta-stereo guitars, piano—responded to widening really nicely.
There are a couple of advanced features that could make SideWidener even more useful, like a variable high-pass filter and a mix control for parallel-processing might be rad, too (but then again, maybe not). One little bug: when in bypass, the track is panned to the left. Hopefully they’ll catch this in the next update.
If you don’t have a processor like SideWinder, you should try it…and even if you do have something similar, you still ought to add it to your toolkit for its sheer versatility. Based on what I’m hearing in many top hits, ample (perhaps even excessive) stereo-izing is the soup du jour. Grab a SideWidener ladle and start scooping out some soupy center and swirling it to the sides!
Joe Sturgis Tones
Rob Tavaglione owns and operates Charlotte’s Catalyst Recording and has been a long-time Studio Contributor. twitter.com/robtavaglione