Thursday, March 17, 2011

Safe Sound Audio Stereo Toolbox

The Stereo Toolbox is an API™ 500 series compatible dual width module with a stereo buss compressor capable of processing in either left/right or mid/side. A stereo width control, fully sweepable from mono through stereo to extra wide, is available in all modes of operation independent of whether your processing in L/R or M/S.

The unit accepts balanced Left/Right stereo audio and delivers transformer balanced Left/Right stereo audio outputs at levels up to +28dBu.

So if mixing in the box has become a chore - break free with an easier way to mix out of the box.


Quality precision stereo compression

•compress in LEFT/RIGHT or MID/SIDE

•side chain filtering for that big bass sound

•glue those stereo stems into the mix with confidence - every time!

Stereo width control and MID/SIDE processing offer a whole new palette of tonal shaping

•a very controllable way to sit stereo subs into the mix

•precision SIDE signal filtering guarantees rock solid bass imaging within the stereo mix

•compress centre image whilst retaining full stereo dynamics

•precise control of stereo effects elements with the mix

Do your mixes sound dull and flat?

•stereo width manipulation will bring your mixes to life

•fully sweepable from mono through normal stereo to extra-wide

Why compress and balance in MID/SIDE?
With the increasing track count available in today’s DAWs, it's all so tempting to constantly tinker with individual track elements within the mix even during the final stages of mixdown, and before you know it, the coherence of the mix which you’ve been working so hard to achieve, has been lost.

Mid/Side processing allows you to work on the width, depth and dynamics of the stereo sound field during the latter stages of the mix and is especially useful when working with stereo stems (subgroups) which are then mixed into the final stereo mix.

Let's take the example of a stereo drums and bass stem

So you’re pretty happy with the balance of the individual elements of the drums and bass but they sound too flat and dull within the overall mix. We can apply some gentle widening of the stereo image width which will push the stereo overheads outwards. This will add a little depth and brightness without any overall level increase.

The stereo content (side) is better now but the drum/bass mix still sounds a bit boomy. As the bass guitar and kick drum are usually panned to centre, we can use the on-board filter to roll off some of the low frequency from the SIDE audio and that will create some more frequency space for the kick and bass.

Finally we can fine tune the levels of the drums/bass submix using the MID and SIDE output level controls.

And remember we haven't even touched the compressor controls yet!

Balancing lead and backing vocals

A typical vocal submix mix would place the lead vocal centre stage, with some double tracking, probably with delay and reverb, panned right of centre to thicken up the lead vocal. Then a variety of backing vocals coming in on certain lines of the verses and in the choruses, panned left and right. You've got the idea.

So you get to the final mix and what you thought was thickening the vocals nicely has actually made them unintelligible and the backing singers sound like they’re performing in another country - they’re so far out of the mix. Oh dear!

Sometimes going back to the individual elements and changing levels, channel compression and reverb settings doesn't easily fix the problems within the overall mix.

Using M/S we can reduce the stereo width (of the vocals submix) a little to bring the backing singers back in from the cold.

Now let’s compress the centre placed 'clean' lead vocal to bring it up in the mix a little without increasing the peak vocal level. That will gain us some intelligibility back without losing the thickening effect (from the doubled tracking in the SIDE signal). The side audio is left uncompressed as it's already heavily processed.

As before, the side audio with its usually more heavily processed effects, is cluttering the mix; so we can apply some gentle side signal low frequency cut and create some more space for the centre vocal to sit within the mix.

There are many applications to compress and level balance within the MID/SIDE domain which allows fine tuning of the stereo width and depth of a mix during the mixdown stage of the production. It’s allows you to move forwards with the mix rather than a constant revisiting of the track elements and will help speed your workflow especially when dealing with very busy large track count mixes.

So what if I want to compress in LEFT/RIGHT?
No problem! The stereo toolbox has all the facilities you'd expect of a precision bus compressor, linkable sidechains; sidechain filtering; and plenty of dynamics control from the 41 position rotary controls.

And no matter what dynamics control you decide to dial up, you've got the added feature of transformer balanced output stages, on-board selectable to be driven from low impedance for transparent audio when required, or increase the drive impedance to access a range of mid to low frequency coloration from the classic CINEMAG steel-core transformers. And with +28dBu output levels available, you can be confident in driving any subsequent processing stage as hot as you need to.

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