Last Updated on February 13, 2023.
When it comes to producing high-quality music, knowing how to deal with the stereo image of your song is essential.
I found a couple of stereo imaging/expander plugins that are awesome, and some of them are even free!
However, if you don’t already know what stereo imaging is, then here’s a quick explanation:
What is stereo imaging?
Stereo Imaging is, essentially, the manipulation of a signal within a 180-degree stereo field with the intention of creating a perception of locality within that field, and it’s used during tracking, mixing, and mastering with the intention of creating a sense of space for the listener.
Stereo imaging plugins are quite important for the mastering phase (see my article about the best mastering VST plugins here), and it’s something that you should eventually master if you want to take your mixes to the next level.
Best Commercial Stereo Imaging plugins
Here are four stereo imaging plugins which I think are awesome, plus they are very affordable as well.
S1 Stereo Imager by Waves ($39.99)
Waves is probably the best-known company when it comes to high-quality plugins.
One of their more useful -and yet overlooked- plugins is the S1 Stereo Imager which is excellent for widening or narrowing the stereo image of your mixes, as well as correcting or enhancing stereo, or even a mid-side image.
- Enhances stereo spatial effect.
- Remixing and rebalancing existing stereo mixes for remastering.
- Retains mono compatibility.
- Avoids phasiness effects.
- No alterations of tonal quality; no unwanted added effects.
- Simply brings out what is already there in the stereo mix.
You can find out more about the S1 Stereo Imager here.
Pro Q by FabFilter ($160)
Despite being an EQ plugin, the PRO Q also has a stereo imaging function which you can access by changing the channel mode to mid-side.
This will allow you to EQ in a stereo fashion; If you put the PRO Q on your output you can then, and in most cases should, cut the low end on the side channel.
This will give you an increased perception of the low-end in the mid channel, which is where the bass, and other instruments that live in that low-end, should be.
It’s also very useful for creating room for other elements of the mix that are in the middle and need to stand out more.
Simply cut the frequencies of that element on the side channel to make it pop out more in the middle.
This is seriously one of the best ways to give your mixes a sense of space and making room for the important elements.
You can find out more about Pro Q here.
Doubler by Waves ($29)
Doubler is a simple yet powerful double-tracking plugin that allows you to add additional voicing to any track.
Additionally, you can control the placement of said tracks in a 90-degree stereo field.
This means that you can have individual control over the stereo placement, modulation, tuning, and gain of each single track, giving you loads of possibilities over their sound.
It can even work as a tremolo or chorus effect, depending on how much or how little modulation and tuning you apply.
- Double-tracking / chorus plugin
- Add shimmer and presence
- Create the ‘80s harmonizer and pitch detune effects
- Double vocal parts automatically
- Add flam-like effects to drums
Find out more about Doubler here.
Panpot by Goodhertz ($49)
This plugin was founded on the principles of how humans perceive different sound sources; that is, to identify the size, location, and distance of a sound in space.
They manage to mimic these conditions by introducing three new types of panning;
Delay, Spectral, and Phase.
Now, we all know how traditional panning works; we turn the knob left or right and it pans the source to either of the sides.
Panpot allows us to do much more “realistic” panning, if we want to, or even create something completely “unrealistic”.
If you truly want to be able to take your panning skills to a new level, then Panpot is an absolute must.
Find out more about Panpot here.
Free Stereo Imaging Plugins
Despite being free, all of these plugins are excellent, and I mean excellent!
Make sure to check them out!
Ozone Imager 2 by iZotope
Like all other iZotope plugins, the Ozone Imager is a very visual plugin since it features a vectorscope which meters your stereo width and allows you to literally see if the left and right channels are lining up properly.
It also comes with the “Steorize” function which allows you to turn mono into stereo, with no need for reverb or doubling.
It can be used as a subtle enhancement or for creating a full blown-out phasing effect.
Lastly, you can control how wide or narrow every element of the mix is; Do you want to spread out a narrow-sounding synth? Ozone Imager can do that.
You can download it here.
Wider by Polyverse Music (Free)
This is a simple free plugin that widens your stereo signal…
The added benefit of Wider is that it does this without causing phase issues when you listen to the mix in mono because any widened signal will always remain in phase.
It’s extremely easy to use because you can only control one parameter; the width.
And that’s it!
It creates a much wider stereo feel and it doesn’t mess with the phase at all!
Excellent plugin that I absolutely recommend!
You can download it here.
A1Stereo Control by Alex Hilton (Free)
Often times you’d want to give your mixes a wider and expansive sound…
This is where A1Stereo Control comes in.
One issue does normally arise when doing this using other plugins which is “widening the bass end”, since the bass should always be in the center.
However, this plugin comes with the “Safe Bass” algorithm which centers everything below a user-configurable value.
This gives your tracks the solidity and definition you want while preserving maximum transparency and sharpness.
Simply turn on “Safe Bass” and adjust the frequency if needed and that’s it… It’s really that simple.
You can download it here.
This is one of those cases where the premium plugins aren’t necessarily that much better than the free ones.
I think most people will be more than happy with any of the free stereo wideners I listed.
The only premium plugin I would absolutely recommend over all the others is Panpot.
I hope this information was useful.
Have a wonderful day!
1 thought on “7 Best Stereo Imaging VST/AU Plugins: Updated 2023!”
Sin duda el que más me ha gustado ha sido el Wider, me ha sorprendido la calidad de sonido y el cuerpo que le da a la mezcla. Aun así sigue gustándome más uno que has pasado por alto, el Panagement que hasta ahora, sigue siendo mi favorito. Échale un vistazo Facundo, en la próxima entrega, seguro que no te olvidas de él.