Giving Stereo Depth to Mono Tracks

My vocals are recorded in mono, but I heard about a technique to give them (or any other mono track) some depth and a stereo-like effect. There are several ways to do it, but basically you duplicate the mono track and apply about 2-hundredths second delay to it. You can use the delay effect or the Time Shift tool. Then either pan each track left and right or combine into a stereo track.
When experimenting with this it does seem to add some depth to a track, but I wonder if I’m not doing it just right. Anyone have a formula for taking a mono track and squeezing some stereo depth out of it.

That’s ADT:

I’ve used this technique myself, many times. It’s not limited to vocals either, I occasionally beef up rhythm guitars by making two copies, delaying one of them a tiny bit, and panning them off to either side.

There’s no real formula for it. From your description, you have a good grasp of the basic idea, so I don’t think you’re doing it “wrong.”

Experiment, try different delays, try making more than 2 copies, try applying slightly different reverbs to each track, try panning them to the same spot.

But don’t forget to also try it the old fashioned way. Just record two takes and play them at the same time.

Download the “Left Right” clip and listen on headphones to the last segment. This whole track is never more than one voice (me) in two track mono. Two identical copies on left and right and panning my brains out–except for the last one.

That’s what it sounds like when you take one of the blue waveforms on the timeline and flip it top to bottom. Technically, a 180 degree phase shift, but only on one channel–say, Right. This one is different from the dual tracks with timing differences trick because the timing is perfect and there is no echo. It’s not always musical, either, so you may want to mess with this a little.

Another thing that kills you with this trick is that the performance vanishes on a mono sound system. That’s something you want to check out with all your effects.


Do you make a stereo track with the original on the left and the delayed on the right? Or do you leave them both mono and pan them individually?

If you are DTing more than one instrument, do you need to balance and put the delayed track on the right for some and the left for others?

It works quite well if you have the original track centre, then a delayed track panned right, and a third track delayed by a different amount panned left. Mix down all three tracks into a single stereo track.

Having the original track in the centre helps to avoid weird things happen if played in mono.

You can also add a bit of reverb to the stereo track.

Note that the delayed tracks need not be as loud as the original track, reducing the level of the delayed tracks by say 10dB will help keep the voice/instrument clear and not muddy.

You can repeat this procedure for whatever instruments you like, and the stereo tracks can then be panned to wherever you want them.

I leave all the tracks mono and set the gain/pan settings individually. That makes the project files bigger, but you have more freedom.

I also tend to pan the original slightly to one side and pan the delayed version further away from center on the other side, but it’s not wrong to do it some other way. I don’t have a good rationale to do that, it’s just habit at this point. I’ve occasionally left the original track panned all the way to one side and set the delayed track in the center.

It’s at this point that I raise my bloody paw and insist that you listen to the work on Very Good speakers or Top Quality headphones. The average computer speaker system will not pass the most basic, simple audio tests for quality.

You can’t do audio special effects unless you can hear what you’re doing.

An illustration of this problem is delivering a sound file to someone that has rumble or sub audio pumping in it enough to push their oatmeal off the table, but it’s OK with you because you can’t hear it on your $14 speakers.

There was a posting here from someone trying to make a voice clip sound like a telephone. We have a cheap speaker system at work that would prevent the questioner from doing all my suggestions. The speakers simply won’t produce telephone sound characteristics. I checked it twice.


The trouble with Headphones, even really good ones, is that the sound is injected directly into your ears. Just a little stereo panning will sound massive on headphones - conversely, if the stereo separation sounds “right” on headphones, it’s likely to sound almost mono through speakers.

(Ignore this post totally if you’re doing binaural recording :slight_smile: )

<<<if the stereo separation sounds “right” on headphones, it’s likely to sound almost mono through speakers.>>>

Yes, up to a point. I agree that stereo separation tends to be more pronounced through headphones, but I’m staring at several shelves full of CDs on the other side of the room that manage to sound just fine either way. That and a reasonable pair of headphones is (are?) far cheaper than a minimum quality sound system. If you start mucking around with bass notes, then you might have a case. Part of the bass experience is feeling it through your clothing and it’s hard for headphones to do that.