Understanding Mono and Stereo - Which is Better?



If you are a musician, you would be interested to find out what mono and stereo are - because they affect the quality of sounds through the speakers. Want to find out their exact difference? Read on to find out.


The key difference between mono and stereo is the number of channels that they send to the speakers. Mono tracks send only one channel for all speakers while stereo tracks send two different channels, one for each speaker. Most people today prefer stereo because it sounds wider, more detailed, and generally more realistic compared to mono.


Understanding Mono


Mono audio refers to having only one signal being sent to all the speakers. The same signal can be reproduced through several speakers. But as there will not be any difference between the sounds, it will not create a stereophonic wide effect. Mono sounds the same with one signal and when you send it through several speakers, it only makes it louder.


Mono audio comes across as narrow, and a bit unclear. However, there are different situations where mono audio can be really useful. Clubs, restaurants and bars have many speakers that are directed in many different ways, so it is hard to define which speakers are the left ones and which are the right ones. Therefore, these places play everything in mono to avoid phase cancellation and other issues.


Understanding Stereo


In contrast to mono, stereo sends two signals - one for each speaker. It uses two different channels, one for the left and the other for the right speaker. Stereo channels are used to create directionality, perspective, and a simulation of real space.


The primary use of stereo signals is to create width. The majority of audio systems today support stereo signals and are becoming a standard audio system today.


Is Stereo better than Mono?


You might conclude that stereo is better than mono, but that’s not true. Although stereo sounds wider, more detailed, and realistic, it can create phase cancellation issues depending on where it is played. Phase cancellation can make stereo audio sound hollow, empty, and weird.


Whether stereo sounds better or not depends on your environment. For an average listener, stereo sounds do provide a better sound quality overall. Moreover, most audio producers and mixing engineers produce stereo tracks as well.


How your music sounds depends on how the producer and audio engineer has taken advantage of the mono and stereo audio fields.


Should you record in mono or stereo?


If you are recording one vocalist, the recording should be mono. Recording vocals in mono makes the sound powerful, clear, and upfront. Whereas stereo makes the vocal sound wide, large and soft. If you are recording two vocalists or more in a room with unique acoustics, the vocals should be in stereo.


When you are recording multiple elements, you would rather record in stereo to get the difference of volumes between the elements in the different channels. For instance, if you are recording in a room with unique acoustics, you might want to record the lead singer in stereo. But this can make the mixing process more complicated and you may end up with phase cancellation, so do take note.


We hope by understanding mono and stereo will help you record better sounds for your performance. If you are looking for a space to jam together with your friends, check out our studios at Ritmo Music Studio in Singapore.


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