Center is a very useful, one-of-a-kind mixing tool that can completely mess up your mix, especially when you hear the mix in mono afterwards.
So here, in part one of this blog, are two safe ways to use it in a mix. You can download the first part of this blog.
Decide what you want to do with a track first.
A) Improve the center? Control the ambience? Process the Center and the Sides differently?
In that case:
* Create two parallel tracks with each an instance of Center. One with Sides turned down, one with Center turned down.
* Place a plugin on the next buss or the master buss that makes the mix mono. You need to hear what Center does in mono.
* Add the same plugins to both parallel channels, tweak their settings. You can use stereo compressors, equalizers, effects, anything!
* Play with the Center and Sides faders of both instances of Waves Center. Maybe the result improves with a slightly different balance.
B) Change balance between center and sides? Manipulate the spread of high, low and transients? Make space or narrow space?
In that case:
* Put Center on the track
* Listen to what you're doing in mono, place a plugin after Center that makes the signal mono.
* Tweak the Center and Sides faders.
* Decide where you want to move the high frequency content – further to the sides or further in. Tweak the knob.
* Decide where you want to move the low frequency content – further to the sides or further in. Tweak the knob.
* Decide where you want to move the transients – further to the sides or further in. Tweak the knob.
* Tweak the Master knob until the output is as loud as the input – use bypass to compare.
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Download this guide:
A lot of people do not fully understand Waves Center.
Center is not a mid-side plugin. Traditional mid-side processing uses a mono mix of left + right for mid and a mono mix of left + right with one channel phase inverted for side. Mid only has the sounds that are not cancelled out when mixing to mono. Side does the opposite, it cancels the sounds out that appear in both channels, leaving the difference between left and right instead.
M = L + R
S = L – R
The good thing of mid/side is that you can work on two levels: what you do with the mid channel, affects the sound in mono, what you do with the side channel affects both left and right without messing with how the mix sounds in mono. Boosting the Side makes the stereo image wider – because the differences between left and right become bigger – and lowering the Side makes the image narrower. This is what stereo widening plugins do. The mid/side matrix causes sounds left and right that are not cancelled out by the other side to still appear in the mid. It is not possible to process sounds that for example only appear in the left channel without also processing the sounds that only appear in the right channel. You can't do that with a stereo plugin either, it will process what appears in mono in parallel.
Waves Center tries to solve that. The Center channel is not simply L + R, it's only what's both in left and right. Sounds that are only left and right stay away from Center and appear in the – stereo – Sides channel. Again, in M/S processing, the Side is a mono signal. In Waves Center, Sides is stereo – left and right are still there!
To demonstrate, a little loop made with the 80s EP FM Pro. It's a great test track because it uses detuning with one voice panned hard left, one to both channels and one hard right, like the TX802 and TX816 modules do. I've got three different versions: one with all three voices, one with the left and right voices – leaving 'center' open – and one with only the right voice. They sound like this:
First, let's see how the three voice loop sounds in Mid and in Center.
Mid is clearly all three voices mixed into one, the left and right and right voices only cancel each other out a little. The result in Center is not great, it is not entirely capable of filtering the left and right voices out and at the same time the middle voice does not sound like a full voice at all.
Next, let's see how the three voices sound like in Side and Sides.
Sides – in Waves Center – sounds nice, it's close to the two voice version. However, mixed to mono it's not that good.
With the 2 voiced loop Center sounds even worse. It’s understandable, a source with two hard panned voices doing the same thing is not supposed to have a Center. Here Mid first, then Center:
Here Side first, then Sides, mixed back to mono.
With only the right voice, first clean, then Mid, then Center:
All gone in Center!
Again, only the right voice, first clean, then, Side, then Sides:
And Center plays it back at the right! Note that a signal panned hard right, sounds the same in Mid and in Side. M/S processing is not capable of separating hard panned signals that are not cancelled out by the other side. Waves Center is!
It's obvious Center is not good at seperating sounds from a complex mix and make it sound good. You can run two parallel tracks with Center though and open the Center fade on one and the Sides fader on the other. On their own the faders don't sound good, but in parallel they complement each other. With parallel processing and some stereo plugins you can treat left, center and right independently. Hear for yourself, all three files, first the original, then split over two parallel tracks. No loss in quality:
It opens up possibilities like adding Stereo Delay to the Center and Stereo Reverb to the Sides, or the other way around!
Center on its own can help with mixing too. Here's the 3 voiced loop – first clean, then treated by Center and then 150% widened by bx_solo. Note how the bx_solo m/s widening just makes the signal more 'phasey'. Center doesn't really widen the signal either but it makes the stereo field sort of three-dimensional, without using reverb or delay. I lowered the Center fader -1dB, pushed the Sides fader 1dB up, set Low, High and Punch at 55. A little goes a long way.