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Mid Side EQ:
Controlling The Spread

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Minor miracles can be accomplished with mid side EQ!

We can widen (or narrow) the stereo image at selected frequencies.

Shuffling Along...

This technique is also called Shuffling or Stereo Shuffling.

This is a process that allows one to 'remix' a track - if that's called for.

And although we're just dealing with frequencies, we can get the effects like these:

  • Spreading out the cymbals
  • Raising the bass
  • Sharpening and enhancing the vocals.
  • Tame a boomy mix without losing punch.

Virtually all of today's EQ software includes this option. This wasn't always the case. Once upon a time, I'd have use this setup described below whenever I needed to do something like this.

Mid Side EQ: The Setup

I started with the basic outline I've described here.

I prefer Voxengo's free MSED plugin because of it's simpler interface:

  1. The first instance of MSED is set to ENCODE
  2. Follow with an EQ that has separate left/right channel control - like the Waves Renaissance EQ
  3. I finish with a second instance of MSED set to DECODE.

The right channel of the EQ will control the centre or mono element of the file. The left channel will control the stereo or side element - the spread.

NO Left/Right Controls? No Problem!

We start with my 'DAW' set up (described here).

In this DAW set up then, we follow Voxengo's MSED plugin on each track this way::

  1. In the top track (the mid channel) we place an EQ to control the mono (or centre) element.
  2. In the bottom track (the side channel) again we place the same EQ to control the stereo (or side) element.

In any mid side set up this is always an INSERT effects chain.

Each track's full signal goes directly in through their respective chains, without using send faders!

With this setup something like Waves' Linear Phase EQ can be used in a mid side environment - even though it has no option for this on its own!

What We Can Accomplish With Mid Side EQ:

Remember...what we have now is a width control confined to selected frequencies.

So we can now:

  • Reduce frequencies below 75 Hz on the side channel to tighten up the bass in a mix.
  • Give more definition to vocals (when needed!) by cutting in the range from 500 – 1000 Hz on the side channel, usually with just a half to one dB.
  • Boost those "vocal" frequencies in the mid channel too if they're really low.
  • Increase frequencies with a low shelf below 600 – 650 Hz on the side channel to give an increased sense of space.

To mention just a few things...

But Always Be Aware! Always Use Caution!

Any mid-side technique is something to be always use sparingly.

For instance, let's return to that last point I made above.

If there's already a lot of signal content below 650 Hz, especially at the midrange around 250 Hz, lots of playback problems can happen on cheaper boom-boxes. Like excessive rattling!

Is This Really Necessary?

Of course, nowadays, virtually every program designer includes a mid side mode in their EQ's. Everyone from PSP, Ozone, Voxengo, T-Racks, and even Waves, to name a few.

So is there even a use anymore for a setup like this?

I Have A Few Tricks Up My Sleeve!

Remember when I mentioned how we can shift the panorama of a mix without moving the mono element?


Let's go back to the DAW set up.

If we insert an EQ with left/right controls into the 'side' channel, we can do something like pan-shift the cymbals in a mix. This technique can really help balance out a frequency-based lop-sided mix and give it more fullness.

Voxengo's Soniformer plugin actually has a primitive way to accomplish this. However Nugen Audio's StereoPlacer simplifies this in one compact interface.

So if you've lost your mix project, there is a ray of hope!

More Cautionary Tales!

Lessons well learned long ago!:

Whenever using mid side EQ, linear phase models are the best choice.


I explain this all in great detail right here.

But sometimes, minor miracles can happen!

Get in touch with me and we'll talk one on one!

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