Width in a mix- Is it important to you? How do you get your mixes wide?

This idea came from a thread about wide panning toms, but I thought I would extend the discussion to talk about wide mixes, because as Jono says:

[quote=“Jonathan, post:8, topic:383”]
Wider is always better imo. I go as wide as I possibly can without loosing continuity when I switch back to mono.
[/quote] (I think he means losing) [insert facetious smilie here]

So… do you like wide mixes? If so/not, why so/not?

If you do like wide mixes, what techniques/philosophies do you achieve that goal?


I’ll open the worm can… :slight_smile:
There are a lot of ways to get width artificially and naturally. when I moved in the box I tried and cranked every stereo tool I could get ahold of. I downloads m/s encoder/decoder scripts to use with plugs without that function. I got guitars, bgvs and all kinds of things hanging wayyy outside my speakers. Wayyy cool. Not so much. Those mixes did nothing in the car and completely lost it in earbuds… that was if it didn’t make my eyes cross. So I sorta gave up on that tack and started over.
I actually gave up completely on widening plugs and m/s stuff and realized that was still getting reasonably wide mixes.
So i’ll start by going natural. Opposite panning of similar yet somewhat contrasting elements will give natural width. Hard panning double tracks that are separate performances will get natural width. Different eq settings per side will enhance width in an almost natural way.
On the artificial side, pitching up and down a few cents on opposite sides still works. When I only had one mono harmonizer, I would just pick a side and it worked.
I shy away from delays or sliding the waveform forward or back and it is more damaging to phase. But it can sound cool as an effect.
Many of the stereo widening tools do so through phase manipulation but I think they do so in small patches of the frequency spectrum so as not to get too much cancellation. But crank them and see what happens…
M/S is fun too. Turn up the sides or turn down the middle and you’ll get width.
A really cool trick is to make a parallel WIDE buss and send the elements you want to be wide to it. Insert your favorite wide plug and crank away. Push the fader to taste. The upshot on that is that you can ride it for choruses and such and write automation. I still have a template with a WIDE and NARROW buss. But I hardly ever go back to it.
I only apply widening “techniques” on purpose when I feel it’s lacking or for particular effect.
SO the short answer to the first question would be: Not that important… unless it is. :slight_smile:
have fun


my mixing skills arent too advanced so far. The only way I can make my mixes wider is to move the speakers out some…


as a side point to this conversation. What are the main uses for a “center canceller”? Seems it would be a type of artificial width thingy

I love wide mixes. I typically have guitars fully panned etc. Overheads are hard panned as are room for me. I will often narrow things done in a verse and widen them back out for the chorus.

Just my personal opinion here…

I absolutely hate them wide. I can’t even tell you they sound good on headphones. The separation is just ludicrous and disconnected to my ears. The best mixes I have ever done are where special effects are the only things panned wide. I do like toms to pan, but it just makes me nauseous when I hear toms going so far, they are no longer connected to the drum kit. Crash cymbals and hats so wide, they are becoming their own instrument. I just don’t see (or hear) the need and haven’t heard a mix like that, that has made me say “oh wow, that sounds so good I have to do it!”

I like containment and feel it is important. The more wide you go, the more artifacts and synthetic stuff comes into play. Now granted, a spacious mix with stuff panned for the song is awesome when done correctly. Notice I said “spacious”. That means “everything put in the right space” not “wide for the sake of wide.”

See, wide to me is synthetic and is not the same as “big in sound size”. This type of wide is awesome…when the instrumentation is recorded to be huge and just engulfs the entire stereo field. I have a few mixes like this that are just awesome. None of them mine of course. LOL! :stuck_out_tongue: But wide from using plugs that synthetically widen the sound…or super wide pans…ugh…total disconnection and annoying to me. I can’t even appreciate the art in it.

We live in a world of ear buds. So wide mixes and degraded audio are being accepted into the world where no one other than guys/girls like us really give a rats ass. Ask a common person about half of the stuff we deal with to make something sound good and they will look at you like a dog does when he’s confused and his head turns sideways.

No one cares about your high end hardware, or that your studio is worth 10 grand or 100 grand. They don’t care if you’ve been playing guitar for years and can blow Jeff Loomis out of the water. They don’t care that you spent $6000 on drum mic’s and another 6k in monitors and a sub. It’s all being heard on buds less than an inch in size where you can mud up your bass and it adds just the right amount of dirt. You can spread your mix so wide, it gives shock value.

All of the above said…though it sounds like I’m bashing, (though in a sense I am because I find these times really sad) this is how you have to mix to impress. Seriously. Just about no one but geeks like us will listen to music on REAL speakers. Between surround sound headphones, surround sound speakers, stereo systems that color things and buds that usually sound horrible unless you pay a few bucks, does it really even matter? LOL! Your mix will NEVER be your mix anyway after people that really don’t have a clue get done mastering your master. Hahaha!

I don’t even benchmark any comparisons any longer. I mix for what sounds good to me and the client. I don’t compare to anyone like I used to. Today, if it sounds good…go with it and move on. That said, if you think about what I’ve said, mixing TODAY is so subjective due to what people are listening on as well as the lossy mp3 formats, what justifies a good mix and to who? See my point?

If a mix sounds terrible to me because it’s wide and loaded with bass and compression, but 3 million kids love it on their buds…who do you listen to? Mix for the media you are ending up on…mix for the crowd and the genre, mix for the happiness of your client (I never used to do this. I would never let something out of my studio that sounded like ass. If my name were to be on it, it sounded good by my standards…which are extremely high. Not anymore!) and if it’s a mix for yourself…do what YOU feel sounds the best. Let YOUR music be the stuff people benchmark and compare to.

As for how I get wide mixes, it starts with recording the instruments big. Mic’s that accentuate the instrument for starters. Some sound thin, others give you size. Combine a few, get a little room ambience and you can get some pretty large sounds. Panning and EQ of instruments, room sounds and effects are crucial. Controlling the pan on effects is important too.

Stereo wideners (when used sparingly and after stereo effects) can give you a stereo image that can be really useful in certain situations. Again, too much and it will sound phased and rather synthetic. HAAS effect and EQ with the right room impulse can work wonders. X/Y mic configurations along with basic mic’ing with a double tracked instrument can be helpful. Triple tracked instruments with different EQ and panning along with stereo effects…I can go on and on…you get the idea. :wink: Those are the things that work for me.

I’ll let you guys off easy with a little post for a change. :-Þ


There’s the Danny we’ve been missing!! Good to have you here!


Good grief: I thought you’d … HEY THERE, Danny.

I’m so relieved to see what you say. I like the toms to move, but just across the kit as they naturally do. Same with placing kit mics and panning cymbals.

But most widening kills stuff dead for me. I like it when the stereo is really clear on phones and less so on speakers. So you can tell the guiatr is set slightly left but the fiddle is slightly right when on phones and when on speakers, they are well defined without setting off to the far east or west.


I’m not a fan of stereo widener style processors as a rule, except when used very subtly on one or two mix elements, like putting a bit of dimension-d/ eventide style gubbins on, say, a high passed version of a bass track or backing vocal bus.

I know this was meant in jest but it raises a very important point about translation; Width is only ever relative, and it totally depends on the playback system. If your mix depends on width for intelligibility (very common to pan apart conflicting parts to resolve muddiness) you’re in trouble if it’s collapsed to mono, which still happens sometimes, or heard on a system with stereo speakers very close together.

This is probably a good representation of my view. LCR is common practice for me, with soft panning where I think it improves things.

Funnily enough, I love wide mixes in headphones, where the sound really envelopes you. I distinctly remember walking to school and listening to my newly purchased copy of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s first album, and hearing the fuzzy, gnarly droning guitar that kicks in in the second verse over earphones was such a cool moment for me, it totally dripped with attitude and not-giving-a-f*ck. I liked that!

I do think it takes a bit more care with headphones when hard panning to make sure that the listener isn’t getting the blocked ear feeling that is physically uncomfortable…

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Yeah i find it interesting that is was not after i starting studying the art of mixing that I started to notice some of these things while listening on the exact same system. For example one song had complete separation LCR mix and i didn’t notice until i started thinking about it. sooooo
Make it sound as good as you can and have fun with it. If someone says they don’t like it but you do stick with it because these things grow on people.

I use them the Waves one on verbs and delay tails. Dave Pensado also seems to use that thing religiously. I blame him for getting me started.

Right now I’m doing a lot of parallel width processing. Been using Panther for a while. I like the workflow. Stereo with processors combined with other goodies. Here’s some examples

  • Eventide H-3000’s into a waves C1 compressor, then giving the edges a lift with the Massive Passive plugin. So I’m using about 8-15 ms of delay then, compressing then lifting the edges. All in parallel.

  • Soundtoys Microshifter, or Roland Dimension D into FabFilter timeless with a feedback loop engaged. This makes the widened signal repeat on top of itself to accentuate the wideness (as tacky as that sounds).

  • Phoenix Verb, Oxford verb, and UAD early reflection engine. Carefully tuned early reflections with short transparent room verbs. Creates illusion of width, but that’s nothing new. Sometimes I set the short verb and tune the ER’s, then push them apart with a stereo imager. So the chain would be Early Reflection Engine (for ER) at 80%, Phoenix Verb (at maybe 50%), into a Brainworx stereo maker or Boz Panther.

  • I’ve been working with the Waves 4 voice doubler, and setting the ms delay further outside of Haas range. So I might try exponentially timed increments 7.5ms, 15ms, 30ms and null. Or 6ms, 12ms, 24ms, 48ms. Or evenly timed increments 8ms, 13ms, 18ms, 24ms.
    …and this is still applying to doubling:
    EQ: I also detune and EQ each voice within the doubler. Shorter = brighter, longer = darker.
    Detune: For detune, lower delay time (in ms) = higher detune. Faster delay time (in ms) = lower detune
    Mod: Further = Slower, closer = faster

Below aren’t my settings, but I downloaded a picture and circled the parameters I’m taking about.

On Panther (which is one of the reasons I love this plugin) the key relationships is usually here

Here’s another trick I use to get a mono vocal to sound frickin wide. Its called the PS22. It splits multi bands of of EQ, then pans the split bands hard left and right in alternating increments.


I like width in the sense that @Danny_Danzi wrote about, a spaciousness. Achieving some sense of space in my mixes was one of the biggest steps forward I’ve made yet, but what I’m after is a non-shocking sense of space. I will use mid/side processing and components within channel strips that provide that function, but sparingly, combining it with things like doubling etc. as mentioned above. Sorta middle of the road across the board on this one.


You are in good company Paul.
From Butch Vigs interview in Music Radar

(Music Radar): Do you like to pan the kit in the mix?

(Butch Vig): "Usually kick and snare down the middle with the overheads wide left and right. Sometimes I’ll position them right over the drummer’s head so it’s from a drummer’s perspective. Sometimes I move the overhead mics directly over the cymbals.

“With room mics I’ll try to move them around so when you bring them up in the mix you can see the space the drums are in. With toms I usually pan left and right. I don’t usually pan them hard left and hard right. I like to get it so it make sense as if you’ve got a drummer playing ten feet in front of you.”

It is not surprising. I saw another article where he talked about how much he loves wide mixes. Interestingly, I do a version of this, close mics more centered, out to about 15-20 degrees, overheads nearer to 45 degrees and room mics hard left and right. That is for studio work and live recordings (sans the room mics in the live recording, which are replaced with the vocal mics usually as they act in the same capacity).

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Well, I thought it might be best to chime in and opine on this thread, since I started it…

Thanks for all your comments…It’s interesting to hear that it seems to be a rather polarizing subject. Those who like wide mixes seem to like it reeeeaaaally wiiiide and just go to town getting things as wide as they can, while others seen to be opposed to the “wide for width’s sake” against that approach.

My personal view is that with sound, as with many things we perceive in our mind as a result of outside stimuli, everything is comparative. Loud can’t be loud without soft to compare it to. Same goes for light and dark. Soft and hard etc etc. To my mind “width” can’t really exist as a concept without “narrow” to compare it to. If everything is wide all the time, we stop noticing that it is wide and take it for granted…

My approach to mixing is to use both approaches to create contrast and therefore interest.

I was a visual artist long before I started recording and mixing, so my approach to sound is very visual. For example, when you are far away from a figure, it appears small and narrow in the centre of your field of vision. As the figure comes closer it starts to fill up more and more of your field of vision, until the figure is right in your face and you can’t see anything else.

The same things happen with sound. Stand far away from a drum kit and it sounds like one instrument - pretty much mono. As you walk closer the different kit elements start to separate until you are standing right in front of the kit and it’s pretty much as wide as can be.

Applying this “visual” approach to mixing, you can create the sensation that the band is coming “forward” with everything separate, distinct and almost surrounding you when the choruses hit, then it collectively “backing” away and going narrower and slightly more amorphous behind the singer for the verse.

This approach just doesn’t work if everything is as wide as it can be all the time.

Of course, arrangement can play a big part in this, with different layers in the arrangement creating contrast by being panned appropriate to their role in the progression of the “width dynamic”.

For this reason, I’ve grown to favour the mono point source rather than stereo recordings of every instrument, as it seems to be far more effective in defining those moments where things spread out.

Anyhoo, that’s just my thoughts on the matter.


It’s ok when done right. I still think it sounds disconnected and lacks impact. Depends on the material.

I ‘limit’ myself to about 9 points on the pan spectrum. Then religiously use 3 (LCR) most of the time.

Why? because thats about all I can hear CLEARLY.

So yeah, wide mixing combined with good mono balances (I call it LCR) is better for me.

All the recordings that have really left an impression on me have a combination of width and depth working through them.
There also needs to be a sense of realism involved, and the width needs to be in the proper proportion. Like Danny said, if you have the snare and kick down the middle, don’t give the drummer 9 foot long arms by panning the toms out wide. Decide up front how much space the drum kit can occupy, and base your panning decisions around that space.
Carving out a defined space for each element by eq is one of the true arts of proper mixing. If for instance a rhythm guitar part is properly high passed, it can occupy a very focused space in the mix since it will not be pulled into the afea the bass guitar occupies in the soundfield. If each element has its’ own space, width becomes a natural result, since your attention is properly directed.
Without depth, however, width is useless, since the effect is that of multiple instruments lined up against a wall, all begging for attention. Earbuds can make even great recordings sound this way, but great recordings on a good playback system can make mediocre music exciting.


If I am in a particularly creative mood, panning is a fantastic tool… I love feeling like the song is a story and expanding and contracting things by volume automation of the width… maybe no-one notices but i enjoy it hugely… and moving things for the more mobile instruments… playing with width and having the sounds dance can be ever so much fun…

Just to be clear, this thread is two years old. Nothing wrong with that per se if people want to continue the conversation but actually replying to two-year-old posts is not particularly cool IMO.