Why Aren’t All Simple Solo Vocals Recorded in Mono?

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
15,275
4,678
940
London
#21
What do you mean exactly by "better recording quality"? Can you point us a few of these "better recordings" that support your preference?

IMHO we can not compare mono recordings to stereo - the same way we can not compare stereo to surround sound.
More dynamic range, for instance. Recording without delimiters and making each groove of a different size by hand to account for dynamics. Some in those days were 240g LPs.
 

RogerD

VIP/Donor
May 23, 2010
3,667
221
565
BiggestLittleCity
#22
So mono gives the vocalist more saturation,power,clarity,and presence? Are not these markers possible in the phantom center stereo image?
Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys thought mono was better....could have been right,but he was deaf in one ear.
A true mono recording could be a better source for recording a single vocalist, but as pointed out above there are trade offs.
As long as the stereo image is reproduced faithfully as the microphone(s) are able to pick up all the information. The weak link I think is in the setup of the playback system. Just my opinion.
 
May 30, 2010
16,982
1,753
720
Portugal
#23
Mono you will often find more coherent, instead of separated stage, and more depth. Just seamless and speakers disappear easily. Very few people have access to good monos. Most mono recordings in the modern era are done in stereo and then copied to mono. The mono recordings to get are from the mono era. But very few will be in good condition
Interesting but it looks you are just addressing a psychoacoustic preference for the absence of envelopment and spaciousness. Probably these mono recordings were carried in tape and the tape machines had less dynamic range that those used in later recordings, I can't see why mono's are more dynamic.

The soundstage of a mono recording will be completely illusionary , created by the imagination of the listener - there are no physical locations in such acoustic signal and I can easily see a knowledgeable trained listener can get much more enjoyment from it than from a technically built soundstage. An interesting approach to this hobby, but with no relation to sound quality comparisons.

More dynamic range, for instance. Recording without delimiters and making each groove of a different size by hand to account for dynamics. Some in those days were 240g LPs.
Can you list a few of the great mono recordings you are addressing?
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
15,275
4,678
940
London
#24
Interesting but it looks you are just addressing a psychoacoustic preference for the absence of envelopment and spaciousness. Probably these mono recordings were carried in tape and the tape machines had less dynamic range that those used in later recordings, I can't see why mono's are more dynamic.
.
That's fine, I can't help you with your lack of willingness to listen
 
Likes: RogerD
May 30, 2010
16,982
1,753
720
Portugal
#25

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
15,275
4,678
940
London
#26
Fortunately this guy was more helpful than you. http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/music/1104/classical/mono.htm . But I would still like to know your recommendations.
The good monos are the best kept secrets. Unfortunately recommending them on a forum adds a free zeroes to their price. It is not like hifi. You can recommend AR preamps all day long, the used market gets stronger and everyone benefits. Recommend monos, and buying a few could put you out of budget.

Incidentally I bought some recommended in many Roy Gregory reviews you can read and try. None of them worked for me.

There are many mono threads on various forums.
 

RogerD

VIP/Donor
May 23, 2010
3,667
221
565
BiggestLittleCity
#27
It would be interesting to see what Julie London recording were used. London was recorded using mostly Ampex mono and 3 channel machines using 300,350, and 351 electronics. The Ampex recorders were famous for a bump in their mid range frequency.
London’s 3 channel stereo recordings by Liberty records seemed to me that the center channel was mixed more balanced with the L & R channel.
Her earlier 1950’s recordings she was placed more forward as most 3 channel recordings were mixed that way.
 

Blackmorec

Well-Known Member
Feb 1, 2019
340
431
68
67
#28
Although a single vocalist is a point source, unless he is singing in an anechoic chamber in real life we will not be listening to just the point source - you will be listening to all the reflections of his voice in the boundaries that create the atmosphere of the event. The points where these reflections occur have a defined localization, a mono system will not show it.

Also IMHO, if the ears get exactly the same signal from one or from two speakers I can not see how the brain can distinguish if they were produced by one or two speakers, except for the change of frequency response created by the different speaker placement.
I agree with your first point. Its why we have chosen to listen to stereo rather than mono systems.

Similarly, I agree with your second point. The idea of 2 perfectly matched channels is that they should consistently create the illusion of point sources, unless the sound engineer intended otherwise. The better the system, the more exactly the speakers are positioned and the fewer loses/aberrations of phase, timing and amplitude, the better the illusion. When a 2 channel system is working optimally I often find the extent of the created soundstage quite breathtaking.
 
Likes: RogerD
Feb 8, 2011
24,311
1,249
435
Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada
#29
Stereo/Mono, Mono/Stereo ... when, where, what's best ...


Bruce is our local professional music recording engineer; he knows best.
_____



https://thehub.musiciansfriend.com/audio-recording-buying-guides/buying-guide-microphones

I don't have many music, vocal mono recordings in my music collection, less than a fraction of 1% (even from my own solo recordings - I use stereo microphones).

I like mono recordings played back through a single mono speaker; using the center channel only Mono mode from a Multichannel Surround Sound Processor/Preamp.
Like Dolby Pro Logic sans les autres enceintes d'écoute reproductive, seulement le canal central avec son enceinte spécifique, dédiée.
But I rarely use that mode, except for some films. And for mono music listening (less than 0.0000000001%) from mono recordings, I still use two stereo loudspeakers.

Plus, you do need a mono cartridge for those albums. ...And a whole lot different mono setup.
This is 2019, not 1919. I was born in the stereo area. And from there I expanded to multichannel, not retro.

But if mono turns your mojo, go aggogo.
_____

* Man it's super hot here today; the hottest day so far this year.
I was going to wash the car but soon that I stepped out outside...forget it!
 
Last edited:
Likes: RogerD

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
8,220
2,641
730
Beverly Hills, CA
#30
It would be interesting to see what Julie London recording were used. London was recorded using mostly Ampex mono and 3 channel machines using 300,350, and 351 electronics. The Ampex recorders were famous for a bump in their mid range frequency.
London’s 3 channel stereo recordings by Liberty records seemed to me that the center channel was mixed more balanced with the L & R channel.
Her earlier 1950’s recordings she was placed more forward as most 3 channel recordings were mixed that way.

About the Blues, released in mono and in stereo.
 
Last edited:
Likes: RogerD

asiufy

Industry Expert/VIP Donor
Jul 8, 2011
3,637
620
485
San Diego, CA
almaaudio.com
#31
"reprocessed for stereo sound". There's the problem, IMHO.
Like any technology, stereo can be used poorly, or wisely. It took a while, but we did get there.
I do like mono, mostly when the stereo versions are hard panned left/right. The hard panning makes it harder for our brains to put together a cohesive sonic "picture", and fortunately, recording engineers learned that quickly, so by the 70s, things sounded a lot more "whole".
Sonny Rollins "Worktime" is a fantastic jazz record in mono, highly recommended if you want to check out how much better jazz can sound in mono vs the hard panned stuff.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
8,220
2,641
730
Beverly Hills, CA
#32
Sorry, Roger. I initially posted the wrong album we used for the comparison.
 
Likes: RogerD

RogerD

VIP/Donor
May 23, 2010
3,667
221
565
BiggestLittleCity
#33
About the Blues, released in mono and in stereo.
Thanks Ron,
I didn’t have that one in the collection,so I ordered it. Sounds pretty good and great music..The recording is on the Capitol label. In my experience Capitol recordings of that time have excellent forward projection of the vocalist and everything else for that matter.
It is a remastered stereo disc, but it should sound wonderful.
I can see why you and others were impressed Capitol made great recordings during that period imho.
 

zerostargeneral

Well-Known Member
Apr 14, 2018
408
395
68
#34
Dear Sirs,

Mr Resnick has posited a very important question,I believe from a genuine perspective.

However the answers have been loose at best.

The main difference between mono and stereo LPs is post production.

The mastering machinery and the mastering engineers had more to do with the overall sound.

RVG from BlueNote implemented multiple microphones to produce stereo recordings in the late fifties.

Said recordings became MONO pressings first e.g;Blue Train -Coltrane.

No modern repress can touch the third stereo press let alone the mono original.

The same applies to kind of blue.

In order to fully grasp the panacea of factors one must research, without bias toward new is better.

Kindest regards,G.
 

RogerD

VIP/Donor
May 23, 2010
3,667
221
565
BiggestLittleCity
#35
I came across a mono recording of Maria Callas on musical heritage society. I must say I was impressed like Ron and his friends were. Very focused, and powerful. Not all mono recordings are of this caliber, but this is a great recording in mono. callas.jpg
 

JackD201

WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
11,734
721
660
Manila, Philippines
#36
I would guess that most solo performances are indeed recorder in mono....i.e a single microphone producing a single track on ........
Bingo!

Reverb is distributed in stereo and sometimes panning is accidentally or deliberately off.

Stereo vocal recording/micing is usually reserved for speakers giving addresses on podiums to accommodate for the speaker's movements.
 

Atmasphere

[Industry Expert]
May 4, 2010
1,017
227
485
St. Paul, MN
www.atma-sphere.com
#37
It would be good to know which Julie London recording. It appears that her earlier recordings were done in mono- and a stereo version would have been 'rechanneled for stereo' which isn't a good thing. Liberty may not have marked the cover that way, so you have to do some digging. If it was a later recording it might have been done in stereo, but now is it stereo mixed from mutiple microphones or was it 2 channels only? This too is a problem; if it was a true stereo (2 mics only, or perhaps a 3 mic recording with the 3rd mic not a spotlight) then I would expect the stereo to simply be more lifelike than the mono version. But I really doubt that Liberty was recording their popular stuff in true stereo.
 
Likes: dan31

Tech7738

New Member
May 17, 2019
2
0
1
65
#38
This is an interesting discussion, but it seems a bit polarized in the sense that (as usual) two-channel stereo or mono are both somehow considered "true" or "pure", even if other words are used. There are problems with both.

Early stereo experiments at Bell Labs in the 1930s concluded that acceptable stereophonic recording and reproduction required at least 3 channels, and that two was inadequate. (The word "stereo" does not mean "two".) They also concluded that ideal stereophonic recording required a matrix of hundreds (or thousands) of microphones, recording channels, and reproducing speakers in corresponding locations. We got two-channel stereo for practical reasons only, not because we have two ears. 3-channel stereo records would have been a problem not easy to solve.

Two channel stereo has some very important and significant flaws. One is, the "phantom center" image is quite fragile, and is easily blurred, made non-palpable, or vanish entirely by many factors, mostly acoustic. In an ideal room with two speakers, the phantom center image only works in listening positions along a line perpendicular to the line between the two speakers, and centered between them. Moving even slightly off that line causes the center image to collect closer to the closer speaker.

But, even with a mono signal driving two speakers and a perfect seating position in a perfect acoustic environment, there's a big problem. The sound from both speakers arrives at both ears, but not exactly at the same time. The difference in timing creates a comb filter effect that alters the frequency response at both ears, with the maximum effect occurring with a mono signal. Not a small dip either, -3dB to -10dB at just below 2kHz. (see "Sound Reproduction - Loudspeakers And Rooms" by Floyd Toole, section 9.1.3)

A center channel, or a single mono speaker, solves both problems. A mono speaker only cannot adequately represent the acoustic space the recording was made, nor handle more than a few point source signals very well, hence the need for L and R. Since reproducing an acoustic space (real or imaginary) isn't done well with 3 speakers, you need to add at least Ls and Rs. Then there's height...you see where this is going? It really gets down to, "If you want a sound there, you have to put a speaker there", because phantom images are just that, never really solid, and never in the same place for everyone.

You can argue that mono is better, and for original mono recordings played on a single mono speaker, you'd have a good argument over two stereo speakers trying to do that job. But neither two channel stereo, nor mono, can present a believable acoustic space without demanding quite a bit of the listeners imagination.
 

MrC.

New Member
Feb 16, 2019
11
12
3
#39
I
A high-end audio reviewer friend of KeithR, Jeff_T and mine introduced me tonight to the wonder of mono recordings. He played a female vocal with simple acoustic accompaniment (Julie London). He had the same song recorded in both mono and stereo versions.

The stereo version sounded like an audio system conjuring up and recreating the sound of a venue and the voice of a recording. The mono version sounded like an audio system beaming a live singer into the room.

The latter is hyperbole, of course, but the mono version sounded simpler, more real, and more in-the-room present. The mono version more effectively suspended disbelief than did the stereo version.

Then he played a big symphony orchestra recording. Here the mono version didn’t work for me at all.

The entire recording sounded like a miniature version of an orchestra being projected from a television set between the speakers. It sounded like we were listening to midgets in a diorama, rather than full-size musicians on an orchestra stage. The sound was constricted and the performance seemed to be emanating from a box.

When our ears listen to a live single performer singing and playing a guitar we have two sound receptors (our ears) acquiring sound from a single source (a mono performer). Why did anybody ever think that a girl with guitar performance is going to sound better if you record it in two channels rather than if you record it with one channel in the way we actually hear it live?

Why did anybody ever think that a two channel recording of a single vocal performer sounds better than a recording of that performer in mono?

Isn’t recording a single vocal performer in mono more consonant with how we would experience such a performance live?
I’ve personally never had the experience of being able to isolate instruments or singers during an orchestral piece or opera in a live setting and would think a properly made mono recording would be superior there too. Because of the cutting method I think mono LPs always have the potential to sound better than the stereo version except where you want room ambience and directionality for some purpose. FWIW, my mono jazz, vocal and rock albums sound better than their stereo counterparts of the same recordings- although there are a lot of variables that can play into this.
 

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high-end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. A place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss existing and new audio products, music servers, music streamers and computer audio, digital to audio converters, turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel to reel, speakers, headphones, tube amplifiers and solid state amplification. Founded in 2010 What's Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing