Mastering with iZotope Ozone 5: Stereo Imaging (Part 6)
[song being mastered]
The stereo image is very important in a great mix. However when you’re working on the mastering stage, the stereo is something that’s very to screw up. Especially with things like compressors and limiters that can change the stereo image in a bad way. Always use them very carefully and intentionally. However, you can change the stereo width of your mix in a good way, especially at specific frequency regions that can take a good mix and make a great mix. Let’s look at the plugin.
I’m gonna switch to the module. This is a multiband processor, just like the dynamics and the harmonic exciter, so you can change the stereo width of different frequency regions. You’ll notice the visualizations, this is the energy that’s happening at different frequency regions. I can also switch to this view, a stereo spectrum, and you can see how wide the stereo image is in each one of these regions. You can also watch the correlation trace, this is gonna tell you if you’re two channels — your left and your right — are out of phase which can be a problem, especially with mono compatibility. So you always want to watch this. Another great visualization.
I know one important thing that I always recommend for pop/rock music is you want your low frequency to be tight and in the center. These are things like your kick drum and your bass guitar which are almost always panned to the center. So you don’t want those being very wide. you don’t want them going to the left channel and right channel differently. You want them to be exactly the same. It’s almost always my recommendation to make this narrower.
[song being mastered]
It can sound funny or loose if you make it wider here. Tightening it up right in the center sounds much better. Just another trick to tighten up the low end. This low-mid frequency region is where a lot of my vocals and my melodic instruments are living. Up here I have more of the cymbals and harmonics of different instruments. And high frequencies, that’s really the brightness and the brilliance of the track. So it’s a matter of figuring out, well, for instance do I want my vocals to be wide?
You know, this is even something that could be automated during the verse I tighten up the center of the low-mids, and during the chorus I bring it out. My reverbs, do I want my reverbs to sound extra wide on the vocals or do I want them to sound narrower? Depends on whether I want to widen or narrow it.
Then you have cymbals and high-mids. Do I want cymbals to be extra wide? That’s a typical thing, drums that are larger than life. This is a great area to widen them. Then the high frequencies it might be the case depending on what energy and what instruments are living up there, you might want to widen it, you might want to narrow it.
[song + stereo imaging]
So what I’ve been able to do here, especially using this upper-mid frequency region, is it’s really just gonna make the mix open up. Let it breathe. It has more space for different instruments now in the stereo field. I don’t get too crazy in the low-mids because that’s where my vocals are and I don’t want the vocals to sound anywhere but in the center. I get more creative here with the higher ones and I like what that’s doing. It just seems to open up the whole stereo field, just providing more interest, more space for different instruments to fit in.
[song + stereo imager]
Without doing anything too crazy, I think what I’ve done it been able to really enhance my mix and open it up and make more space for the different instruments. And that’s all there is really to it. It’s just a matter of trying it out, experimenting, you know, this module is very simple. Easy to use. And there’s nothing with wrong your mix figuring out what works and what doesn’t work. Trying out different things and experiments. Stay tuned for the next video where I’ll discuss how to use EQ to balance the frequency spectrum of your mix.