Mid/side Processing In Practice

So, I have recently started using a plugin on the master track thats doing m/s processing.

Widening the stereo field a little, adding some color to the center.

Now, I can understand that in real life studios, there is probably more than just a plugin involved in this process, and that this is a process that needs to be applied at the mastering stage.

Now my question is this:
If I am still in Renoise (or any other sequencer/tracker), where I have full control - why should I use any m/s plugin on the master, instead of just modifying the individual channels?

I mean, is m/s processing doing anything other than widening/narrowing the stereo field, and modifying the weight of the center channel?

In fact, in more general terms - why should ANY effect plugin should be on the master, with the exception of a limiter? I mean results can be much better if you just do your touchups on the individual tracks, no?

CPU cycles? Not enough or hardly any benefit for the trouble?

I mean, you CAN do it, but isn’t it really for affecting the whole mix? If so, isn’t master the most logical place to do it, after all the balance and stuff is already controlled during mixing phase?

I usually have some Maximizer and EQ on master channel. For touching up the general sound and loudness.

Lets assume CPU horsepower is not an issue - I mean, sometimes it is, but for my mixes, I usually have enough juice to put more effects on individual tracks.

It makes sense to me to put a loudness maximization and limiting on the master, because it is difficult to achieve this by individually adjusting the tracks (although not impossible).

But for everything else - including equalization and stereo field - it makes more sense to me to fix the individual channels rather than the master.

If you have too much bass in your mix, go to your bass-intensive tracks, and equalize them carefully, instead of applying a “lowest common denominator” type of solution, and equalize the master.

I mean, I can understand applying a very gentle EQ cuts or a very gentle stereo widening on the master, but still, I see it as a lazy mans solution.


Anyhow, I was especially wondering if m/s processing has any other meaning than simply creating a different feel for stereo field - if its just that, than I do not understand why not just use a stereo widener, and why not do it on individual tracks.

I think that in a good mix, much skilled job is done both on individual tracks and on master track. Some things must be done to individual tracks, while some other must be applied to the whole mix for a satisfying result.

Moreover, many plug-ins are there to ease the workflow actually, not to add something totally new/different. Recently I’ve achieved very interesting results using Rescue VST on the master track, that can be hardly done without this VST.

I get what you are saying Icarus. Here are some points to consider:

  • If you’re reaching for dramatic settings using a mastering tool (outside of gain mark-up) then chances are you’ve got a mix problem that needs solving at a channel level. All M/S, EQ and Exciter settings should be subtle if you’re working with a wonderful mix. Same goes for knee compressor settings.

  • In commercial mastering sometimes you have to working with ordinary or terrible mixdown material and you don’t have access to stems or the mix. This is where mastering tools can save a song, or at least attempt to. And yes, sometimes settings need to be dramatic - so you want to hope your tools are quality.

  • Even when you’re working with a near perfect mix having a quality tool going over everything just provides that subtle necessity for finish and tightness. I too am a user of Rescue VST, but I’m only doing miniature adjustments with it, just a touch of gain on the sides, sometimes a little boost on the punch. It something you can’t really replicate on the channel levels as it has a nice ‘fusing’ feeling.

  • Don’t forget that most ‘big name’ commercial mastering operations extensively use outboard analogue gear. This is totally about adding ‘overall magic’ to mixes that just can’t be done at the channel level. VSTs on a master channel is a mere imitation of this, and doesn’t come close to the quality you can achieve.

I am also a user. This tool is nice and definitely helps with the workflow - but anything above minor adjustments, and it is as noticeable as too much additive EQ is noticeable. I think better results can be achieved if you widen the individual tracks - I mean, put this Rescue effect, listen to what you like about its result, then go and reproduce this effect by touching your individual channels.

Foo - totally hear you, and I think you strengthen my case.
As you are talking from a mastering standpoint, I totally agree that having as much tools in your arsenal can help.
But, when you are the artist AND the sound engineer, then if anything can be changed and fixed on the channel level, then it is preferred. At least I do not hear you say otherwise… :)

Well, I usually produce my tracks with one monitoring. Either speakers or earphones. Then when I am finished, I want to touch up the track, and listen with all different devices. So I get a generic idea what I have put too much and what is too little. Touching up all different tracks is ofcourse an option, but they are usually good enough. The slight EQ on master gives overall sound the right touch without messing around too much with separate tracks.

I’ve really tried, but I admit that it is usually too hard to acheive exactly what Rescue adds to the whole mix by working on individual tracks, at least for me. :)

Waves is the tool for tracks
Ozone Isotope is the tool for master

People with good ears, can do it all with the built in Renoise DSP’s