Width and Depth in an audio mixing will create the illusion of three dimensions on a stereo field. Below you will find some good audio mixing tips on how to get width and depth in your mix. Also, you can read about pitching techniques, panning techniques, delay, reverbs, a bunch of useful plugins, and more. At the end of this article, you will find links to some great stereo VST effects used in professional studios and by many sound engineers to create width and depth effects. Enjoy!
Pitch and formant shifting is handy for quickly widening mono synth, vocal, and guitar tracks. Create two copies of a track, pan them hard left and right, then apply slightly different pitch shift or format shift values to each copy. Duplicate additional tracks with an alternative pitch and formant settings for an even wider effect.
To widen a stereo track, flip the reverb or delay effect so that the effect from the right channel is played in the left and vice versa. Set up a 100% wet reverb or delay effect on a bus and then flip the L/R channels using a utility plugin.
Try rotary audio plugins and auto-panning effects on mid-/high-frequency percussion like hi-hats, shakers, and bongos, giving the tops width while the kick and snare stay dead center. Subtly lower the highs and boost 200Hz to add distance. Auto-panning plugins work particularly well on hi-hats, creating movement in the high frequencies – use them subtly!
The human ear can make out only a few different panning positions at the same time!
Use this knowledge to keep the panning of individual tracks nice and simple. Using just 5 panning positions will keep your mix clean and increase the separation between instruments. The positions hard left, mid left, center, mid right, and hard right can be used exclusively, so don’t be scared of hard panning.
Collapse the majority of the track’s elements to mono to enable the stereo and panned instruments to really stand out. Alternatively, use a multi-band imaging plugin to switch all the frequencies below a certain range into mono. This will allow the mid-range and high-frequency instruments to become more prominent.
To create a wider-sounding guitar riff, take a mono guitar sample and duplicate it onto three separate tracks. Pan one left, one right, and one center, then apply guitar cabinet audio plugins to the 3 tracks using different settings on each. Keeping a “clean” sounding center channel with two different distorted cab emulations panned left and right sounds especially good.
To make the chorus parts of a song really stand out, widen the stereo field during that part and narrow it again for the verses. Use a mid/side plugin with an adjustable width setting on wide-sounding instruments. Then automate this width set to reign in the stereo effect during the verses and widen during the chorus sections.
Careful EQing is one of the simplest ways to create an impression of depth in a mix. For sounds you want to place close to the listener, set the EQ curve to brighten them, exaggerating their dominant frequencies. For ‘farther away’ sounds, roll off the top-end around 2kHz and slightly boost the low frequencies below 200Hz.
The human brain is rarely able to pinpoint more than two or three positions of distance simultaneously!
It’s easy to create a basic perception of depth with just one reverb instance to save on the CPU and keep your mixer routing simple. Firstly, set up a bus with reverb set to 100% wet. You can then vary the send’s level depending on how far away you want each track to sound.
Now you can use this knowledge to simplify the depth-staging of your mixes!
Below you can find our list of Stereo Depth & Width Plug-ins that can be used to create, expand, enhance, control, and analyze stereo fields inside your mix.
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