There are plenty of mixing plugins that claim to be “secret weapons” but how many of them deserve that title? DrMS from Mathew Lane does and here are five reasons why.
What’s your go-to spatial imaging plugin? If you’re like us, you probably have something fairly simple in your bag of tricks, maybe a one-knob effect that pushes your stereo image out past 100%. When used sparingly, there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s also a little limited though, to say nothing of an inability to affect depth. There are better – and more laser-focused – ways to get a full, three-dimensional image. We’re talking about DrMS from Mathew Lane, a pretty remarkable spatial processor that gives you an astonishing amount of control over the whole stereo image.
The plugin has been out for a while and is a favourite amongst those in the know. In fact, it’s something of a secret weapon of mixing and mastering engineers. Yes, that term gets thrown around a lot. However, in this case, we feel it deserves it. Here are five aspects of the plugin that make it deserving of the term “secret weapon” – and also of being in your mixing arsenal.
Before we start breaking things down into categories, let’s take a quick look at what DrMS does. As the company says, it’s a spatial processor and this is true in the broadest sense. You can use it in as basic a way as M/S encoding, you can widen and narrow the stereo image, and it can perform as a utility to address mono-compatibility issues. However, it’s the way in which it performs these basic tasks that make it so useful.
There are four main sections. The first two, Mid and Side, allow you to work on the mono (mid) and stereo (side) elements of a sound. The second two, Focus and Field, are a bit more unique. With the former, you can push mono information out into the sides, and with the latter, you can do the opposite – bring side information into the centre.
Each section has two filters, a high- and lowpass with Q to give you focussed control over what frequencies you’re affecting. They each also have a Delay section in milliseconds to adjust the phase. With this, and by using your ears, you can dial in natural and deep stereo width.
That should be enough of an overview. Let’s look at the five ways that this plugin kicks ass.
1: As An M/S Processor
A good mid/side processor is invaluable when mixing. There are times when you want to focus just on the mono information – such as when working on a kick – and conversely, when you need to do some polishing of the wide side content. The fact that DrMS has filters on board to help you focus on the areas that you want to address makes it that much more helpful.
2: Single-Instrument Depth
Because of its ability to take mid information and project it into the side, DrMS can take pretty much any single instrument or sound and give it not only width but depth. Using the Delay knob to introduce latency can help ensure that the effect is balanced and natural-sounding. This makes it perfect for adding width to things that you wouldn’t normally dare, sounds like kicks, bass, and anything else that needs a solid mono foundation.
When you’re at the mastering stage it’s a lot harder to correct stereo issues. Sure, you can always go back to your mix and address the problem there but when you’re mastering someone else’s track this is not always possible. Traditional imaging plugins will let you push or pull the stereo image in or out but compared to what DrMS can do, that’s like trying to do open heart surgery with a pickaxe.
With DrMS, stereo issues can be addressed at a much finer level. With the ability to squash the sides into the middle and vice versa, as well as the Delay dial, you can finesse the image into shape with a lot more detail than normally possible.
4: Creative Sound Design
DrMS isn’t only for corrective and mixing applications. It makes one hell of a sound design tool as well. While you need to be careful when introducing latency to the stereo imaging of basic instruments – a little goes a long way – overdoing the same effect can help you craft sounds with unique stereo footprints.
We haven’t mentioned this yet but the Feedback knob can also be a sound designer’s best friend. Located in the bottom right corner of the plugin, this pushes audio from the Focus section into the Field section, and vice versa. This can result in subtle, reverb-like effects or extreme feedback.
5: As A Utility
Lastly, DrMS makes a handy utility plugin. Each of the main four sections has a phase inversion button, useful for checking phase issues. There’s a Phase Scope at the centre that displays the stereo information visually. If you need to reduce a sound to mono (or even just mostly mono), DrMS can do that for you. And, as it has LR/MS toggle switches at the input and input stage, you can use the plugin as a mid/side encoder.
At €119, DrMS is reasonably priced. It’s really the kind of plugin you need to try for yourself, so check out the demo to see if it’s worth it to you. Given that it’s capable of some very unique things, however, we think you’ll soon wonder how you ever got along without it.