Width Knob, contrary to what its name suggests, is not a stereo widening plug-in. In fact, it does quite the reverse (it’s just that narrow knob doesn’t sound so good). Width Knob starts at 100% left/right with continuous control to mono. However, mono isn’t where it stops. As you turn the knob counterclockwise from 100% L/R passing the center mono position to full left, Width Knob smoothly flips the stereo image from mono to 100% R/L. Width Knob is a great tool for creating contrast in a mix, enabling hard-panned harmonies to blend better, “mono-izing” low-frequency instruments, and flipping stereo channels. Combined stereo panning in most DAWs can be inelegant and clumsy. With abilities far beyond those of mortal balance panners, Width Knob gives you combined stereo panning in a single control for precision adjustment of sound field width.
Width Knob—Cracking the Code
The controls of Width Knob are as follows: starting from the center, you have a knob that controls stereo width. And that’s about it. From a functional standpoint, the knob set fully clockwise does nothing, keeping the left/right mix at 100%. Moving it counterclockwise to center reduces the stereo image to mono. Passing through mono to fully counterclockwise reverses the stereo image by degrees until you have 100% left/right panning with the stereo image flipped (right becomes left and vice versa). The design of Width Knob’s interface looks like two green triangles on their side pointing toward each other. They are not only decorative, but they also provide visual indication of the width of the stereo image as you adjust. Once you pass center position going counterclockwise, the color of the stereo field indicators changes to a reddish-brown (burnt umber, or if you happen to be scoring a Robert Rodriguez film, burnt hombre).
Width or Width Out You
Full stereo width is not the point of Width Knob. Its ability to reduce a stereo image is, enabling you to give various instruments or groups of instruments their own space in the stereo field. One example would be taking a synth bass recorded in stereo and narrowing it to mono for a punchier center image and making room for other instruments panned left and right, such as guitars or keyboards. Another use for a narrower field would be in the case of stereo background vocals that are too wide, causing the harmony to de-correlate. Narrowing the image will create a better harmonic blend while still maintaining the feel of a vocal ensemble in stereo space.
The ability to create contrast in a mix is another easily achieved benefit of Width Knob. While front-to-back depth is a subtle way to create spatial contrast, you can achieve a far more dramatic effect by taking advantage of the left/right stereo field. For example, keeping certain instruments closer to the center image during verses and then expanding outward to full left and right creates a dramatic entrance for a song’s chorus. It also makes the mix feel wider (without phase issues). For example, use Width Knob to reduce the left/right image of the drums to say, 70%, so that when hard-panned heavy guitars kick in, for example, you get the dramatic effect of the guitars filling out the stereo field, plus the illusion of the mix the moving outside the speakers (one of the holy grails of mixing).
Speaking of drum tracks, Width Knob can help you resolve the ongoing debate for mixing drums: audience perspective or drummer’s perspective. Whether you have drum overheads recorded on a stereo channel or dual-mono bussed to a group track, Width Knob makes it easy to flip the perspective of overheads. Pick a section with tom fills and cymbal crashes and see if you prefer the toms moving left to right (the way we read), or right to left. Width Knob is also very useful for stereo percussion tracks. It provides a quick and easy way to see which side of the mix various percussion instruments work best, as well as how far from each other or how close to center image supports and enhances the groove.
Regardless of the instruments you use or genres you create in, if total domination two-dimensional space is appealing to you, Width Knob is a must-have plug-in for your DAW. Best of all, it’s yours for FREE. Download your Width Knob now.