The Stereo Shaper is a multi-purpose stereo shaping tool, it can:
Related effects are the Stereo Enhancer and the Mixer Track Properties Stereo separation filter & Phase () switch. You can also visualize your stereo triumphs with Wave Candy Vectorscope.
Presets - As most of the standard uses of the plugin are covered, we recommend using the Fruity Stereo Shaper presets (see the 'Presets' section below).
If this is your first time to use a mid/side stereo shaping tool, it is recommended that you read the tutorial section (below), in order to get the most out of the Stereo Shaper. Try using the Presets rather than manually adjusting the Mixer matrix, all the normal MID/SIDE processing options are covered.
The sliders control the mixing, level and phase of the Left and Right audio inputs. The + and - markings to the left of the slider bank indicate that the upper and lower slider positions add (positive phase mix) or subtract (negative phase mix) audio signals. For example, dragging the left-most slider downward subtracts the Right channel from the left (blending a phase-inverted R channel into the L channel), although the overall result of this action will depend entirely on the positions of the other sliders. Use the Hint Bar to make precise settings for the sliders. NOTE: The left and right pair of sliders sum to create the Left and Right channel outputs of the Stereo Shaper.
Sliders from left to right:
Don't panic! Breath slowly and deeply, look carefully at the presets and work your way through the settings in a systematic manner, patience will be rewarded by understanding.
NOTE: Automation of Delay and/or Phase will create useful phaser effects.
The IN/OUT difference selector sends a 'difference' signal to the selected sidechain Mixer track. That is, the difference between the INPUT to Stereo Shaper and the OUTPUT from Stereo Shaper (Input - Output = Difference). The control displays (Right-click it) Mixer tracks that the Fruity Stereo Shaper's own Mixer track is sidechained TO. You can choose only one track to send the difference signal to.
1. Set a sidechain track - Select the Fruity Stereo Shaper's Mixer track and Right-click the send switch on the destination Mixer track. Select the 'Sidechain to this track' option from the pop-up menu.
2. Select a sidechain track - Right-click the 'In / Out Difference' control to see the Mixer tracks that the Stereo Shaper's own Mixer track is routed to. Make sure the destination track is set as a Sidechain (in other words, the send volume is at 0).
NOTE: The selector indexes (counts) available send-to tracks, so the numbers are not Mixer track numbers (Right-click the control to see Mixer tracks listed by name). This sidechain output path is important for a number of processes such as 'MID/SIDE processing' as discussed in the Tutorial section.
Generally the Fruity Stereo Shaper should be controlled using presets, all of the typical uses of the plugin are represented.
Adapted channels - (a) denotes one of the channels has been phase inverted to aid Left/Right stereo reconstruction. For example, aSide has its Right channel inverted so that mixing the aSide's Right channel with either Mid channel (both the left & right Mid channels are identical) will reconstruct a Right channel signal. In other words, while Left = Mid+Side, Right = Mid-Side, so the Right channel of the Side output must be phase inverted or 'adapted' (aSide). If the Right side channel was not phase inverted (adapted) we'd get another Left channel reconstructed on the Right Mixer track. See the section on Mid/Side Stereo processing for more details.
Mixing preset names - The first descriptor of any preset name pairing with splitter in the Mixing preset list describes the signal to leave the plugin on the same Mixer track, while the second descriptor of a pairing will be sent out via the sidechain track. For example, the 'Left - Right splitter' preset outputs the Left channel on the plugin's Mixer track, and the Right channel on the sidechain Mixer track (as selected by the 'In/Out Difference' selector).
This section covers some of the functions that Stereo Shaper can perform and how it is achieved. Before we start, let's consider ways Left and Right channels can be combined to create various components of the stereo mix, and their terminology. You will see these terms used in the Fruity Stereo Shaper's presets. The diagrams below depict Left and/or Right channels being intermixed, the signs at the mixing nodes (circles) are operations (adding, subtracting or dividing gain/channels) while the + signs in front of the words (channel content) indicate the phase of the sound, + is original phase, - is phase inverted.
The +1 (0 dB) shows the Right channel is being mixed into the Left channel at +1 (100%) or 0dB change in level (no change). This is a reference to the metrology used on the Fruity Stereo Shaper inter-channel mixing sliders (outer pair). Notice also that only one channel is required to represent the MID signal, and as mentioned above, the MID signal is dominated by the center pan (middle) information from the original stereo source. The middle signal being twice the extreme panned Left and Right channel information.
Like the MID signal, the SIDE signal requires only one channel to represent it, see MS Stereo coding (below). Unlike the MID signal the SIDE is indeed only the stereo information, free of any mono signals. This means any processing done on this signal will affect only the stereo (side) components of the mix.
NOTE: Did you know that you can perform all the functions present in the Fruity Stereo Shaper by appropriate routing and phase inversion of standard Mixer tracks? When you are done with these tutorials, why not try to create a MID and SIDE Mixer track from a source Mixer track using only the routing and Mixer track controls.
One of the main functions of the Stereo Shaper is to cross-mix the Left and Right stereo channels. By varying the phase and level of mixing a variety of useful effects can be achieved, including panning, stereo enhancement and MID/SIDE encoding/decoding. To understand the more complex mixing processes it's useful to have a clear understanding of how sound waves mix according to their phase. For example, when two identical sound-waves are mixed they add together to make a wave twice as loud. However, if one wave is inverted so the phase is exactly opposite, they will cancel to silence. In the case of the stereo mix, we can use this technique to cancel out the middle (center pan) audio as described later in the next section.
It's common to think about a stereo track as a Left and a Right channel, reproduced over a pair of speakers or headphones. However we can also think of it as stereo and mono signals mixed together. The center pan sounds appear to come from the middle of the speakers (i.e. mono-like), don't confuse this with the MID signal since the MID signal (as described above) also has stereo information mixed into it. 'Mono' sounds are generated when both speakers producing the exact same sound at the same level. The stereo audio is produced when the Left and Right speaker make unique sounds, or the same sound at different levels. Consider the following example;
The diagram left shows two tracks, a center panned (Mono) and a 'Stereo' track with 'Left-side' and 'Right-side' hard panned L and R. These two tracks are mix into a single stereo track.
Stereo signal - If we take the words as literally then 'Left side' is panned hard left and the words 'Right side' are panned hard right. This sounds stereo since the Left and Right channels are making unique sounds.
Mono - The word 'Mono' is panned dead center. This means both Left and Right speakers reproduce the same word 'Mono' at the same volume. This also sounds 'mono' and so panned to the middle.
Combined - When the two tracks are mixed (+) the Left channel will now say 'Left side' & 'Mono' while the Right channel will say 'Right side' & 'Mono'. Consequently, the words 'Left side' and 'Right side' appear to come from the extreme Left and Right sides of the mix while the word 'Mono' appears to come from the Center of the stereo field, the resulting mix will cover the full stereo spread (Left, Right & Center).
Our stereo track can be later panned Left or Right by one of two methods:
The Stereo Shaper allows you to pan stereo tracks using either of the methods described above. However, some of the Stereo Shaper's most interesting functions apply to its stereo processing capabilities, as described below.
This is the same process that the Stereo separation knob on the Mixer uses when turned to the left of the 12 O'clock position. In essence it is a inter-L/R channel phase-inverted cross-mix. This means common sounds (mono) will cancel while different sounds (stereo) will remain unchanged. The diagram (above) below shows happens algebraically, the Left channel = Mono + Left - 0.5 Mono - 0.5 Right = Left - 0.5 Right + 0.5 Mono and Right channel = Mono + Right - 0.5 Mono - 0.5 Left = Right - 0.5 Left + 0.5 Mono. Note that the 'Mono' (center pan) sounds are at 0.5 (50%) of their original volume and, more importantly, the L and R (side) signals are still at 100%, now 2x louder than the Mono (center) mix. In other words, we have enhanced the side component (the stereo effect).
Compared to expansion, stereo reduction is relatively simple. Here the L and R channels are simply cross-mixed into each other so that, at the extreme, the Left and Right channels are identical.
This is how the Stereo separation knob on the Mixer operates when turned to the right of 12 O'clock position. To achieve this using the Stereo Shaper place all the sliders in the 50% (+6 dB) position, or select the 'Mono' preset.
You will probably also notice it sounds slightly strange, this is due to the cross-channel phase differences, the sound you are hearing is effectively a center-pan mix of what used to be in the extreme stereo-field. Inverting the phase of either the L or R channel will make the sound less 'strange' (as both channels will then be truly identical) but the sound will be diffuse, low level and not particularly pleasing. To invert the phase of one channel, insert another Stereo Shaper after the first, select the 'Default' patch and set either the Left or Right channel volume to -0 dB.
NOTE: 'Middle Pan Sound Removal' is commonly marketed as 'vocal extraction' ( see a video here). Assuming the vocals are panned to the exact center of the speakers and they contain no stereo effects (reverb, ping-pong delay, etc.) and the music is mostly in stereo, the instruments panned around the stereo field, then theoretically it should be possible to extract the mid (vocal) from the side (music) components of the mix. Sounds great in theory, but almost always fails in practice, as the stereo-effect is removed along with the vocal, and the assumptions we just outlined are never 100% satisfied, just like customers of vocal extraction tools. As Fruity Stereo Shaper can side-chain out the MID and SIDE components into separate channels you can either preserve the MID (mainly vocal, although there will still be L/R panned music at 50%-100% of the original level depending on where it was panned) and SIDE (mainly music) components of the mix.
The MID/SIDE processing technique has a number of applications including mastering. For example, stereo recordings of instruments such as acoustic guitars can have their stereo components equalized brighter and/or have the stereo field widened. On the other hand, bass sounds (usually panned to center) can be independently compressed and made louder. To aid this process, Fruity Stereo Shaper has the ability to side-chain out the difference output, that is, the difference between the processed output of the plugin and the original input signal. If we cause the plugin to output the MID (middle) signal, then the difference (leaving via the sidechain selector) will be the SIDE (stereo) signal. Using this approach we will set the plugin to split the MID and SIDE signals for independent processing. You will require two Mixer tracks for this technique and your input audio will need a stereo component, otherwise there is no 'side' signal to separate from the MID:
In the above configuration the MID signal is passing through Stereo Shapers Mixer track, onto the Master. The stereo SIDE signal is send out to the sidechained track and then onto the Master. Right-click the IN/OUT DIFFERENCE selector to set. Here's how to set up:
Keep levels in mind - When compressing and EQing the MID and SIDE signals, make sure you keep an eye on the final level in each of the MID and SIDE Mixer tracks. If the output of either track varies from the unprocessed level (disable the 'mastering' effects to check), you will be modifying the stereo spread along with level changes caused by the effect/s (you may or may not want this). For example, if you compress the SIDE signal and that raises the track output by +4 dB, you may want to reduce the track's volume slider by a few dB to compensate and (generally) preserve the original stereo balance.
NOTE: If you made the project you have access to all the components of the mix, so it's far more effective to make any changes to compression, EQ and panning, etc. at an individual track level. You generally don't really need to be MID/SIDE mastering. The technique is used mainly by mastering engineers who are given a stereo track and don't have access to the complete mix as separate tracks (track 'stems' as they are called).
Plugin Credits: Didier Dambrin