Stereo Imaging is a technique used to control the 180-degree stereo field to help place instruments better in the mix. The stereo field consists of width, depth, and height and there are various techniques as well as different plugins used for this. In this article, we’ll cover the top 10 stereo imaging plugins to help you get a better stereo field throughout your mix!
Top 10 VST plugins used for stereo imaging in 2022
1. Little MicroShift by Soundtoys
With a method of pitch shifting and delay that over time varies, Little MicroShift is a great stereo imaging plugin used to create a rich and full stereo width in your mixes. It’s really easy to use and fit’s perfect for almost any instrument, whether it’s for background vocals or just creating more stereo richness on a specific signal. MicroShift captures the character of the originals including saturation and even the different de-glitching algorithms used by these units. So now you can have the big, wide sound of the original hardware with a simple and refined interface that makes getting those tried-and-true sounds faster and easier than ever.
2. Stereoizer by NUGEN Audio
This plugin by NUGEN Audio does exactly what it stands for, whether it is about expanding your stereo image to super-wide or something in between. With this plugin, you’ll achieve the stereo-width you’re looking for without having to add all those reverbs, delays and choruses on your channel and the sound you’re putting this plugin on will still sound great in mono.
3. S1 Imager by Waves
4. ANIMATE: GROW by Mastering The Mix
This plugin by Mastering The Mix is quite a unique stereo enhancement tool. It is using a psychoacoustic precedence formula and lets you decide which specific frequency range to control, which can be very helpful if you for example, just want to widen the higher range of the frequency spectrum in a vocal, guitar, or synth.
5. StageOne by Leapwing Audio
This plugin by Leapwing Audio is a great tool for any instrument. Whether it’s to give mono-signals stereo-depth, widen the stereo-image or add perceived depth to the signal without causing phase issues. This is one of the more expensive stereo-imagers on the market, but the algorithm behind this plugin is worth paying for considering what it offers you to do with your signal.
6. Energy Panner by Sound Particles
This plugin by Sound Particles enables you to add dynamic depth to your panning techniques as well as controlling its movement. By controlling the movement of the signal, you can get very creative with this one, create your own FX, add interesting characters to your drums or add some movement to your pads, you’ll not be disappointed.
7. WidthShaper 2 by Cableguys
WidthShaper2 lets you define your stereo image in full detail. It allows you to take control with three bands of mid/side stereo adjustment, each driven by its own drawable LFO and envelope follower. This plugin works great on anything that you wanna create more attention to, for example, you could draw in a specific shape to target the midrange of a snare on a certain beat, have a synth slowly swell over time, or pump the stereo width in time with the beat while leaving the low-end untouched.
8. Ozone Imager V2 by iZotope (Free Plugin)
Ozone Imager by iZotope is a great plugin for stereo enhancement, it is easy to use and offers a spectrum analyzer to pay attention to any potential phase issues. Turn a mono signal into a stereo signal without the need for delay, reverb or chorus. This plugin offers two different modes, stereoize I and stereoize II, use stereoize I for a colourful phasing effect or stereoize II for a more subtle stereo-enhancement.
9. Stereo Tool v3 by FLUX
Stereo Tool V3 offers individual knobs for both the left and right channels, ultra-precise control of input gain, accurate visual feedback in the spectrum analyzer, and phase correlation. As you can see in the bottom corners, this plugin offers a built-in preset manager and the preset morphing slider, provides instant and intuitive control of all parameters and controls. In a second, with a simple one-click operation, everything is copied from one of the two preset slots to the other, this feature can also be applied during playback.
10. Brainworx bx_panEQ
The features in this new plugin by Brainworx is a brand new way to approach stereo-spatial processing. It gives you the ability to EQ individual instruments and how they are panned in the mix while looking at the beautiful panoramic spectrum analyzer display. For example, you can stretch the width of a stereo acoustic guitar track by boosting progressively higher frequencies at pan positions from left to right.
Image credits: Plugin Alliance, FLUX, iZotope, Cableguys, Sound Particles, Leapwing Audio, Mastering The Mix, Waves, NUGEN Audio, Soundtoys