Mid-Side EQ is an advanced audio technique that can greatly improve your mix. The stereo image is the perceived spatial location of sound sources reproduced on a stereo system. Without a strong stereo image, a mix can struggle to achieve the expansive and immersive qualities stereo systems are capable of reproducing. Mid-Side EQ can help with this.  It’s not just about going as wide and stereo as possible though. It’s just as important to balance and control the stereo wideness of certain elements in the mix in order to get a decent and cohesive result. This will be our subject for this tutorial. We will show you how to balance the stereo image of elements in the mix with Mid-Side EQ.

As usual, we will start by listening to a previously made sequence in our SoundBridge: DAW.

Photo of sequence in SoundBridge: DAW for Mid-Side EQ article.

Photo of sequence in SoundBridge: DAW.

~Full Mix – Without Shaker

As we can hear, the full mix sounds decent, but it lacks some complexity in the rhythm. Therefore, we have added a shaker loop. We can hear it in the audio example below, together with other elements of the full mix.

Image of shaker loop in SoundBridge: DAW for Mid-Side EQ article.

Image of shaker loop in SoundBridge: DAW.

~Full Mix – With Shaker Loop (Unprocessed)

We can notice the shaker loop has a very wide stereo image that doesn’t fit very well with the overall sound image. Certainly, one of the things we can do in order to fix that is to decrease the stereo image of the shaker loop. A common approach would be to use a stereo imager plugin, capable of making the full stereo image narrower or wider. A much better and precise technique though would be to use an EQ with Mid/Side processing capability. 

Basically, an EQ capable of Mid-Side processing splits a stereo signal into ‘Mid’ and ‘Side’ channels. The Mid is all the mono information. That means everything which is identical in the left and right channels of a stereo signal. The Side channel is the opposite. It contains any information which is different between the left and the right channels of the stereo signal. For the sake of this tutorial, we have chosen the Fab Filter Pro 2 equalizer. However, there are many other alternatives on the market to choose from.

Mid-Side EQ with Fab Filter Pro 2

Let’s start by placing an instance of Fab Filter Pro 2 on our shaker loop. In order to engage the EQ, we need to double-click on the yellow horizontal line. This will make a starting point on the frequency range which we can process. After that, we will attenuate the high-frequency part of the spectrum, where most of the shaker loop sound is concentrated.

Now, in the tab below, which contains control parameters for the selected frequency range, we can notice a section with three available processing modes. Those modes are Mid, Stereo, and Side. We can limit the processing of the selected frequency band just to the Side signal by selecting the third mode. You will notice comparing the pictures below that after engaging the “Side” mode, the previous green range got a blue limit line with a small “S” close to the green dot.  

An instance of FabFilter Pro-Q2 on the shaker loop for Mid-Side EQ article.

An instance of FabFilter Pro-Q2 on the shaker loop.

Showing Mid, Stereo, and Side options in FabFilter's Pro-Q2 for Mid-Side EQ article.

Showing Mid, Stereo, and Side options in FabFilter’s Pro-Q2.

Now, let’s hear the difference between the unprocessed and processed shaker loop.

~Shaker Loop – Unprocessed

~Shaker Loop – Processed With Mid-Side EQ

We advise you to check the difference by using a pair of stereo headphones or studio monitors. We have narrowed the stereo image on the mid-high and high-frequency spectrum by using this Mid-Side technique, while the mid-frequency range preserved its original stereo width.

Finally, let’s hear the full mix first with the unprocessed shaker loop and then our processing with the Fab Filter Pro 2.

~Full Mix – With Shaker Loop (Unprocessed)

~Full Mix – With Shaker Loop (Processed With Fab Filter 2)