Mono vs Stereo
Do you also fall under the category of music producers who get confused about the difference between Mono and Stereo? Well, you are not the only one in the chaos of Mono vs Stereo, and most importantly, trust me, there isn’t any shame in not knowing anything, but the shame is in not wanting to learn about it.
If you are willing to learn about anything that you don’t have knowledge about, you surpass many of your competition. It’s because making the correct decision and working in order to achieve it is the most important step.
Today, in this blog on Mono vs Stereo, you are going to learn everything about both Mono and Stereo audio, the difference between them, and which one is better to choose. In short, here you will get each detail on Mono vs Stere.
So stick with us till the last, and gain the knowledge as much as you can.
Who doesn’t like music? People like to enjoy their music as much as possible. that also means making sure the gears are of the best quality possible.
Now, in that quality, there also comes a part where comes the two main types of audios: Mono and Stereo.
If you want to find out what exactly is the difference between mono and stereo, stick with us and keep reading the article.
The difference between Mono and Stereo – Quick Summary
The difference between Mono and Stereo sound is the number of channels that are used while recording the playback audio.
Audio that is recorded or played back using a single audio channel is called Mono Signals wheres, Audio that is recorded or played back using two audio channels is said to be the stereo audio.
When you listen, and if you are a good listener, you’ll understand the difference between mono and stereo audio. This is because the stereo sounds are capable of producing the perception of width but mono sounds are simply not.
Simply you can understand the difference between Mono and Stereo in this way – Mono tracks are those which send only a single channel for every speaker. whereas, stereo tracks send two different channels. on each speaker.
So here you can understand what is the simple difference between Mono vs Stereo audio in a quick summary.
Now, Let’s understand the Mono as well as the Stereo in-depth in this blog “Mono vs Stereo”.
What is Mono Audio?
As you learned earlier, the mono tracks are the one that sends only a single signal to both left as well as to right channels.
Mono audio can be produced using several speakers, but every speaker will still produce the same signal.
Just take a reference from the above diagram:
Well, the term mono comes in mono audio that doesn’t mean only a single speaker is used to play the mono audio. Mono recording audio can be played out of one speaker, but there isn’t any limit in using the speakers as much as possible. The sound will still be called the Mono Audio.
If the mono audio is played on the five different speakers, each speaker would play the exact same thing.
What is Stereo Audio?
Unlike Mono Audio, Stereo Audio signals on the other hand contain two different channels. They are termed as – Lest and Right.
When you talk about the stereo audio played through speakers, each speaker could play something different. But you require an amplifier in order to use this Stereo audio.
If you want to optimize the stereo audio, you can have your speakers set up in a specific way. The best way is that you can separate your speakers in such a way that they together should form an equilateral triangle between the speakers and the position of your listening.
Using the stereo channels, you can create directionality, perspective, as well as a simulation of the real space. But in today’s time, the use of stereo signals is done in creating more depth.
There are also ways through which you can convert your mono audio signals to stereo ones using some plugins. You can widen the width of them and many more… Later in this blog you are going to get everything, so remain along with us till the end.
Mono vs Stereo Recording
When you record any sound using a single microphone, basically, you are capturing a single channel of audio. Now when you’ll play the same recorded audio using a speaker or a pair of speakers, that playback will be a mono audio playback.
In order to capture the stereo recordings, you are required to use two microphones. When you go for a stereo recording, you will be needed to pan two microphones. One to the left, whereas the other to the right.
There are many handheld recorders that can provide the ability to record in stereo on their own. They capture the sound using a pair of built-in microphones. The information captured by the left and right microphones is saved to the left and right channels respectively.
Here’s one recorder that can give you the stereo audio on its own: Zoom H4N Pro
Mono vs Stereo Playback
Stereo systems are the ones that can create the impression of sound source localization. Now, what is sound source localization? Sound source localization is a human ability to locate the position of any source within a space.
Let’s take an example: If you hear a dog barking, it’s comparatively easy to determine the direction from which the sound is coming, and also the distance between the source(Dog) and yourself. Even if your eyes are closed, you would be able to localize the sounds with decent accuracy.
If you think that in the stereo system, you’ll hear the sound from both sides i.e Left and Right. It’s reasonable to assume this, and under some situations, you will perceive the sound coming from both directions, but this isn’t the case always.
When we talk about human brains, they are simply easy to be tricked because they do not complicate the concept to localize sounds. That concept is based on the timing difference between sounds reaching to your left as well as the right ear, sound wave frequency, dynamic range, etc.
Stereo systems exploit the nature of your brain in order to create an impression of sound source localization between the system’s left as well as the right speaker.
Let’s take an example to explain this, When the left and right, both speakers play the exact same signal, you’ll get the source of sound to be positioned differently between the speakers. Now the below image is referred to as a phantom mono sound source because its true sources (the speakers) are positioned out to the sides.
The brain relies on the sound wave difference of timing in order to decipher the position of the sound coming from (Which can be from left and right). In a mono audio system, a sound source closer to your ear will produce sound waves that will reach your ear before reaching the right one. Although the difference of timing is very less, the brain can localize the sound.
When you place the sound system using a second speaker and form a mirror-like position at the same distance, your brain automatically assumes the sound source is in front of you.
This was the difference between the Mono vs Stereo audio playback.
Mono vs Stereo Audio Files
Mono audio files are files that contain only a single audio channel. As you can see below in the image, there is only one waveform of an audio recording.
The playback system, where two speakers are used, is said to be the stereo audio system. Stereo audio files, such as stereo MP3 and WAV files, contains both the channels information that provides the information to the left and right speakers when to pull or push the air.
In the below image, you will see the stereo audio files. In the image, two different waveforms are seen. This indicates the stereo audio files that provide more depth in audio.
Mono vs Stereo Audio Comparison
With the help of two speakers, it becomes easy to create a wide image. You do not comprehend sound as originating from one speaker or the other, but from the space that lies between them.
Depending on the blend between the two speakers and adjusting the level of distance between them, you can get the stereo sound audio.
By playing a few cues, we are able to create the stereo image that we humans could use in order to localize the sound. Also, we can detect the direction of that sound coming from using those cues.
Interaural Level Difference
Like the other cues, the Interaural level difference is one of them. So what is an Interaural Level Difference? Basically, It is a difference in the level of a sound between both ears.
As we all know that over a distance, the force of the sound is subdued. It becomes quieter as it goes further from the source.
If the sound originates directly from in front of you, the sound will take the same length to both of your ears. Because of this, you’ll hear the same sound from your left as well as your right ear.
There is most common method that is used in order to create the stereo image is Panning.
If the signal is sent to both the speakers, left as well as right, but the signal sent to the right one at a lower level, it will fool your brain into thinking the voice is coming from the left side.
This is the Interaural Level Difference.
Interaural Time Difference
Another cue that is used by humans to get an idea about the sounds is an interaural time difference or ITD. So, What is Interaural Time Difference? An ITD is a difference in the time taken by the sound to reach each ear.
Suppose a speaker is placed to your right side ear. Now when it will be played, the sound will reach to your right ear before your left ear. Due to this, the brain understands that the sound is coming from the right side and must have originated from the same direction.
Is Stereo Better than Mono?
It is not necessary for a stereo to be better than mono audio. Although, the stereo sounds wider, more detailed, as well as more realistic. However, the comparison between which is better mono or stereo totally depends on the place of being played. Sometimes, stereo conceives phase cancellation concerns that make it sound hollow and weird. Stereo is better when you choose the correct environment for the same.
It’s not mentioned anywhere that stereo is better than mono, but the answer depends on your situation and your perspective. But, it’s true that if you want to enjoy the width of any song and you want to listen to it more deeply, here Stereo is better than mono.
As a music producer, you’ll be required to produce both Stereo as well as Mono tracks. However, Each instrument has its own jobs to do in the mix, Some of them should be stereo, and some should be mono. So there isn’t the correct answer to the question – Which is better Mono or Stereo.
Should You Record Vocals In Mono or Stereo?
In simple and short words, I would tell you that – If you are recording a single vocalist, the vocals should be mono. However, If you are going to record many vocalists, or the track demands some unique acoustics, the vocal should definitely be stereo.
Let’s understand this, Recording vocals in mono makes them sound powerful, upfront, and clear whereas recording vocals in stereo makes them sound wider, larger, and softer at the same time.
When you are scheduled or about to record just a single vocalist, you have no one extra vocalist to support the lead one and give the stereo effect that will make a difference between the left and right channels.
But when you are recording with multiple artists at the same time, you are required to record in stereo in order to get the difference of volumes between the elements among different channels.
There will come a time where you will feel cherished recording the vocalist in stereo, but the process sometimes becomes difficult in the mixing part and you may be needed to be more careful with the same.
How to Record in Stereo?
We’ve been talking about mono vs stereo since the beginning. Let’s talk about the procedure of recording the vocals in stereo too:
Things Yoou Require
- The first and the most important thing that you need here are the two omnidirectional microphones.
- Secondly you will need more than one vocalists who are going to record teir vocals.
Position Of Microphone
The next question comes here is how to position the microphone while recording the stereo audio. So basically, you’ll need to position each microphone towards the opposite part of the vocalists who are gonna lend their voices.
Then you are needed to record them both simultaneously.
Using this method, you get ‘A’ and ‘B’ parts that you combine and create a whole beautiful stereo image.
How to mix your stereo Track?
So you got the stereo audio, now it’s the time we enter the mixing part of your stereo audio.
The best method that works for me here is panning the ‘A’ channel till about 75% left and then doing the same with the ‘B’ channel to the right side. And then just do the fine-tuning from there,
Remember one thing – The higher the percentage of your panning, the bigger the stereo image you’ll get. Also along with this, you’ll get a higher risk of phase issues. So, there are some things to keep in mind while panning the stereo audio track.
How to Convert Mono Recording To Stereo?
If you don’t feel confident on recording the stereo vocals, or already recorded the vocals in mono, now you want to give the vocals a wider effect and convert it into the stereo, well the good news is – You can!!!
There are two methods through which, you can make your mono recordings stereo. Let’s talk about those two methods in detail.
Vocal Doubler Plugin method
The first and the easiest method to convert mono audio into stereo is by using the plugin called – Vocal Doubler.
If you are not an expert in this field, you’ll love this plugin every time you’ll use it. Using this, much better results will be achieved since the plugin was built by professional sound and mixing engineers, particularly for this matter.
I would recommend to you the plugin called – VoxDoubler Plugin by Sonnox.
Here is the review of the VoxDoubler Plugin by Sonnox. You can watch it and can get an idea of how much better this plugin is and how does it help in detail.
The plugin lets you control the widening in an upper-level and customizable way. It comes with two plugins called – VoxDoubler Widen, and VoxDoubler Thicken.
Let’s understand what are these two sub plugins you get in the bundle.
- VoxDoubler Widen – It generates two new mono audiosand pans them automatically to the left as well as to the right of the original vocal. The new version will sound wider, and better in stereo, but less mono compatible.
- VoxDoubler Thicken – It generates a new stereo doubled voice and overlaps it woth the original audio. This version generally sound a little narrower than the above one, but it’s super compatible with mono.
We now know how to convert the mono into stereo using the Vocal Doubler plugin, Now let’s talk about the other method.
Using this method will require you to do more work, But you can do it for free as long you have a DAW with yourself.
Let’s see how you can do it:
Steps to convert Mono audio into Stereo Manually
- Create two extra channels – The first thing you require to do is just create two different channels. One for the left signal, and the other for the right signal. The original channel that you already have will be your main vocals cannel.
- Copy Your track to the channels and pan them accordingly – As I already mentioned above, the panning should be done 75% to the left and the same to the right and then just fine-tune them.
- Add a small delay between both the channels – I would suggest you to set the left channel to start 10 – 20ms before the main channel and the right channel to start 15 – 30ms after the main channel.
In the end, and in the conclusion, Let’s just summarize the difference between mono vs stereo – Mono sound is when you use only one signal for a sound, whereas, stereo audio is when the multiple signals are used to convert multiple signals to sounds.
It’s totally based on you what do you want to prefer. Like every sound is different, so is everyone and their taste of choosing the procedures and requirements.
So this is all you get in Mono vs Stereo. Before ending the blog, let’s focus on some of the FAQs given below and the questions that are asked generally.
I would like to answer this question in a very simple way. If you’re recording vocals in a booth and using only one vocalist, you should record in mono. But, if you have many vocalists, and acoustics, then definitely go for stereo recording.
The most important benefit of listening to the mono sound is that everyone hears the very same signal, and in a properly designed system as it is. Every listener will hear the system at the same sound level.
Well, you get both types of headphones – Mono as well as Stereo. Mono audio requires only a single channel and here, the same sound is sent to both the speakers in the system. Two or more signals are used in the stereo system. A unique sound will be sent to each speaker of the headphone.
So yes, Headphones are mono or stereo.