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Best Stereo Imaging Plugin

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Best Stereo Imaging Plugin

If you want to take full advantage of the 180-degree stereo field in your mix, then there is no better way to do so than with stereo imaging. With stereo imaging, you can push the limits of your individual instruments to create wider mixes. 

 

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Instrument Panning Tips & Tricks

 

Beyond stereo imaging, the first thing you’ll want to do is take advantage of the pan knobs in your DAW. So many beginner producers and mix engineers are too conservative with their panning, not taking advantage of the hard left, hard right, and everything in-between.  

It’s a good idea to pan similar instruments far away from one another and keep your main instruments, such as kick, bass, and vocals, up the middle. 

If you feel like you’ve taken full advantage of your stereo panning and you’re still not getting the width you want, this is where stereo imaging can come in handy.

 

Does Stereo Imaging Affect Sound Quality?

 

If you’re not careful with your stereo imaging, you can create phase problems when your mix is summed to mono. It’s important to be careful when using stereo imaging plugins and always check your mixes in mono to see how much of an impact they are having.

Now, let’s look at some of the top stereo imaging plugins on the market.

 

Best Stereo Imaging Plugin: iZotope Ozone 9

 

iZotope's Ozone 9 is an absolutely killer plugin, one of the few that I'd unequivocally recommend. Sure, it's great for mastering. But it also includes one of the most powerful, best-sounding stereo stereo imagine plugins available!

And here's the secret: you don't have to only use it for mastering!

I insert instances of Ozone all over my mixes just to dial in some stereo imaging, saturation, or multi-band compression.

 

 

Get Ozone 9 at Plugin Boutique or ADSR Sounds

 

What I love most about Ozone's stereo imager is that it gives you precise control of the stereo width of four different frequency bands. So you can make sure your sub frequency is in mono while spreading out your meds or highs. 

On top of that, Ozone 9 includes two different stereo modes, incredibly informative stereo width metering, and a straightforward interface. Note that the version of the Imager that is included with Ozone is much more powerful than the free version.

 

SSL Fusion Stereo Image

 

Though it might be pricey compared to the many options on our list, this high-end stereo imaging plugin modeled on the mid-side circuit from the SSL Fusion outboard hardware processor is one of the best around.  

 

 

This one-of-a-kind effect can inject a unique style of depth and width in your mixes that you can’t get anywhere else, all while carving out space in the stereo field for your signal to live. Beyond that, it’s one of the most natural-sounding plugins on our list, great for organic-sounding 3D capabilities. 

 

Stereo Savage 

 

Stereo Savage is a versatile stereo imaging plugin that has plenty of complex panning and stereo imaging controls. It’s powerful yet very intuitive. There is a simple width knob beyond the Level, Rotation, and Pan controls. It’s easy to dial in just as much stereo width as you need. 

 

 

Beyond your standard stereo width capabilities, this plugin also comes with a few modulation effects, including Expand, Delay, and Vox. Overall, the plugin is very simple, and great for those who need a quick and painless way to spread your mono signals.

 

Noise Ash Stereo Finalizer 

 

The Noise Ash Stereo Finalizer is a super powerful stereo spread plugin that uses a combination of Delay modulation, Dimension, Panning, Multi-band Frequency Splitting, and the Hass effect. Whether you need to spread out your mono tracks or enhance the width of your stereo master, Noise Ash Stereo Finalizer can do the trick.

 

 

The beauty of this plugin is that it creates width while keeping the center nice and defined. Whatever style of spreading you’re looking for, there are plenty of models baked into the Noise Ash Stereo Finalizer to keep you one step ahead.

 

Waves Center 

 

Waves Center is an ideal stereo spreading plugin for mixing and mastering applications. One thing that makes it such an innovative processor is that it separates the left and right (Side) content from the center content. It’s easy to zoom in on the phantom center and bring things up or down if you need. 

 

 

One useful function of this plugin is reducing or taking the vocals out altogether without impacting the rest of the mix. It’s a favorite tool for DJs and post-production engineers. Isolating, repositioning, or eliminating all of the elements of your mix has never been easier.

 

Best Waves Stereo Imaging Plugin - Waves S1 

 

The Waves S1 stereo imaging plugin might be one of the most well-rounded stereo enhancers for single instruments and masters. S1 uses a unique psycho-acoustic imaging technique to create stereo separation, which allows you to add width or narrow your mix. You can even use the asymmetry slider to tip your tracks to the left or right.

 

 

It’s important to note that it’s easy to push the S1 too hard and end up with phase cancellation when summed to mono, so definitely consider that when using it in your mixes! 

 

OSL Side Effects 

 

OSL Side Effects is so much more than a stereo imaging plugin. This mid-side processor allows you to manipulate the stereo field using a number of creative processing methods. This plugin separates the center and side channels, allowing you to independently alter them with equalization, compression, saturation, and panning. 

 

 

Compared to regular mid-side processors, you’ll find the potential alterations on this plugin to be far more in-depth. There is a four-band mid-side EQ, tape-style saturation, and so much more! Plus, you can use multiple instances of this plugin since it’s very light on the CPU.

 

Simplest Stereo Imager VST - DJ Swivel Spread 

 

DJ Swivel Spread is just about as simple as it gets for a stereo imaging plugin. However, under the hood, it’s actually quite complex. This plugin takes your audio and spreads it out to the corners of your stereo image to give it the most accurate spread possible. 

 

 

Click here to check the price on Plugin Boutique and compare it with price on ADSR Sounds.

 

You’ll enjoy wide, balanced stereo imaging without any phase cancellation in the low end. Spread was developed to be as easy to use as possible with a one-knob design. You can quickly dial in the sound that you want without having to deal with a ton of complex knobs and buttons.  

 

FLUX Stereo Tool V3

 

Stereo Tool V3 is an ultra-precise stereo imaging plugin that provides you with individual controls for the left and right channels, as well as meters and visual feedback for phase correlation, a spectrum analyzer, and more.

We love the preset manager in the plugin, which provides you with numerous starting points. You also get a handy morphing slider, which controls all of the parameters on your plugin so you can instantly make macro adjustments.

Beyond that, the interface is sleek and modern, and easy on your CPU, allowing you to use it on multiple tracks without bogging down your session. 

 

Yum Spread 

 

Yum Spread delivers ultimate control of the stereo width across the entire frequency spectrum with four individual bands that you can optimize for the best results. Being able to spread and narrow in bands in multiple frequencies for the ultimate stereo field manipulation.  

 

 

Click here to check the price on Plugin Boutique or ADSR Sounds.

 

There are two main modes that you can take advantage of, including Haas mode and mid-side mode, which are wonderful alternatives to traditional panning methods. It’s no wonder why so many award-winning mix engineers worship this plugin. 

 

Best Free Stereo Imager - iZotope Imager Free Version

 

Ozone Imager is a free stereo enhancement tool from iZotope that is easy to use and offers a high-quality spectrum analyzer so you can keep an eye on any potential phase issues that might pop up. You can turn your narrow mono signals into stereo signals without the use of chorus, reverb, or delay.

There are two different modes within this plugin, including Stereoize I and II, the first of which gives you a colorful phaser effect and the other of which provides more subtle stereo enhancement. Just to note though, this is a much stripped down version of the stereo imager included in Ozone. While it sounds great, it offer only a limited amount of control compared to the full version.

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