The MSW1 plugin by SoundSpot is a straight forward “one-knob” type approach to stereo imaging, available as a VST/VST3/AU/AAX plugin for PC and Mac based host applications. The plugin (normally priced at $29) is available as a free download via Pluginboutique until December 31st this year.
For those unfamiliar, stereo imaging involves the manipulation of differences between the left and right channels of an input signal. It differs from, say, a doubling plugin which actually creates timing and pitch differences of a mono signal. Stereo imagers like this one typically require the input signal to be stereo, or else they will not function correctly. There needs to already be differences between L and R for the algorithm to do its work.
On the MSW1, there are only two controls: the slider that controls the stereo width and a bypass button that is conveniently positioned right below the slider for easy A/B. The main controller slides right to 100% for an increase in the stereo field and left for a decrease in the stereo field with mono occurring at -100%. There is a helpful color bar that wraps around the circular display as you increase the stereo width.
This plug-in is not the first stereo imager on the market, so I tested it against the S1 by Waves. Fairly imperceptible differences between the two when the stereo width is at maximum. The only difference I noticed was that the S1 increased the gain of the output signal by several dB and the MSW1 decreased the output signal by about 1 dB. This is easily compensated for, but worth mentioning since louder sounds typically sound “better” to the untrained ear while A/B-ing.
Although limited in its features, the MSW1 does the job quite well and fits most applications for stereo imaging. Weighing in at less than 600 KB it’s a good choice for those who are careful with their RAM memory usage. If you already have a suitable imager such as the S1, there is no real reason to buy this plugin. If you don’t have one yet, seeing that it is a free plug-in from Pluginboutique (for a limited time), you may want to grab it now!
MSW1 is available for free download via Pluginboutique ($29 standard price, 32-bit & 64-bit VST/VST3/AU/AAX plugin format for Windows & Mac OS).