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Since Martha Davis can't tour, she's releasing a new track every month - some new stuff, some old. She liked the mastering I did for her jazz album (which had been intended only as a demo), so she asked I'd master the monthly releases.

This month's song was from 1989 and all I had was the finished two-track, not the original tracks. There were a lot of technical issues. It had been limited, but the right channel was limited more than the left one, so the stereo placement was skewed. Also, Martha's voice was simply not loud enough. EQ'ing voice brought up other instruments in the same frequency range I didn't want to hear.

While screwing around with fixing the stereo placement, I put the song into mono and suddenly, the whole thing fell into place. The stereo wasn't an issue, her voice benefited from the 3 dB center buildup, and the song in general had a lot more power and oddly enough, depth.

I sent her the best stereo version I could do, and a mono one. On first listen, she liked the mono one better as well.

The first Beatles albums were done in mono and only turned into stereo because, well, you needed stereo back then. A lot of the songs we now consider classics, like some Beach Boys cuts, were mono.

I remember the whole "back to mono" thing from a few years back, and dismissed it more or less as nostalgia. But I'm going to try doing some more mono mixes of my own material, and see what happens. This could be interesting, or it could suck. Maybe songs that don't have a lot of tracks might be a good place to start.

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At the very least, a song should sound great in mono.

The stereo imaging of the speakers in laptops and computer monitor screens is questionable unless you position them (or your head) carefully.

Even if the music is played back in stereo, often it is coming from a distance and is essentially mono at that point.
Retail outlet sound systems are all mono.
Cell phone dropped into a large drinking glass for more "bass" is mono.
Out on my friend's deck with the "stereo" coming through the window (30 feet total distance from speaker to ear) is mono.

No harm in putting bits and dabs in the stereo field but vocals, bass and kick should stay near or in the center.
My excellently sub-par reference "stereo" has a pair of speakers set side by side. If you lean way over the kitchen sink and put your head about 1 foot away and in the center, they are stereo.

If you get a great seat at the symphony, it is better than stereo. If you are back and to the side, it's not.
Rock concert? Mostly no. I did see ELP on the Brain Salad Surgery Tour and that was in Quad with 4 stacks spread through the arena. Still, a huge reflective building with crap sound so big whoop.
Prety impressive if one's perceptions were "enhanced". laugh


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When recording a string band, I'll often start with all the instruments panned to the center, get a good balance, then spread them out a little and, if necessary, beef up something that's starting to get buried.

Given that everyone is playing together and at "acoustic distance" rather than "social distance" there's always some leakage, and panning things around can either lose the enhancement you get when leakage between mics is in phase, or lessen the cancellation when the leakage is out of phase.

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Part of the original attraction of stereo was the novelty of it. We've had stereo so long now, and stereo treatments have become somewhat conventional and predictable - it could be that mono brings a little bit of something fresh (as odd as that sounds.)

I use the Avantone Mixcube for supplemental monitoring. I like it so much, that I find myself using it for background music often. Something about the lack of a crossover, the simple clarity of midrange scratches an itch for me. There are certainly very bad speakers that reproduce all ranges badly - but the Avantones are not that. They are excellent-sounding midrange.

Stereo is of so little use in the wild, the way people listen now.

I tend to very much like material that has a lot of mic bleed. So much so that I experiment with fake mic bleed in my mixes. Probably 'cause it sounds more like what I listened to as a kid. I feel like I might as well mix my material the way I like it, since who sits down and listens attentively to stereo tracks in a good environment? Besides engineers and such.

But then I'll tire a bit of mono and mono-ish material, and I'll go back to stereo and it sounds all fresh and amazing. So I'm happy all day smile

nat

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Because I'm the vice president of getting terminology correct around here, I must point out that "stereo" has a very specific meaning, and it doesn't mean that the sound comes out of two speakers. In order to be real stereo, the recording must be made with a stereo microphone that captures the sound of the room which, of course includes the music.

Pan pot stereo is really a form of mono recording.

But then, the term will live on to mean whatever the custom is, no matter that it's technically incorrect.

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Originally Posted by Nowarezman
I tend to very much like material that has a lot of mic bleed. So much so that I experiment with fake mic bleed in my mixes.
One of the elements I like about Studio One is their Mix FX. These are somewhat like console emulation, but more complex because they insert into buses, and take into account all the signals feeding the buses. One of the controls can increase crosstalk among channels. I wrote up a
post for my Friday Tip of the Week that covers how to use with electronic drums to have them not sound so effing sterile, and it's surprisingly effective.

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Originally Posted by Mike Rivers
Because I'm the vice president of getting terminology correct around here
That didn't sound right, so I checked the minutes of the board meetings. You are still the president, so I don't know why you think you were demoted. That means you still have access to the corporate jet and the condo on Kona. I think Trixie, Heather, and Shane have the condo booked for this weekend, but it's free after that.

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Yes, changes in spatialization are quite interesting to the ear in any direction (down to mono, up to surround). But sometimes, it takes a moment to realize that what has changed is the spatialization.

I had a friend over recently, we were going through some synths and sound libraries to select some things to sample into her Kronos for further manipulation. She was sitting at my composing rig, and I was off to the side just acting as scribe for the "patches that are interesting". It took a few minutes, but I noticed that some of the patches had very similar names, and that we both preferred the second one of every patch like this. All the "favorite" patches were the surround version of the patch. I have surround monitoring in the studio, and the stereo version of the patch just wasn't as engaging. None of this was crazy swooping panning stuff. But when the sound envelops you, it just feels better.

I have had the same experience with the VSL Syncron Steinway. It is glorious in surround, and a significant improvement from stereo.

But mono is powerful too - concert sound is often in mono (or practically so anyway as an attendee fixed in one spot not on the centerline).

Tell us what you find - there have been amazing recordings made around a single microphone. Watching a top bluegrass band trade off around a mic is pretty cool.

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Originally Posted by Nathanael_I
But when the sound envelops you, it just feels better.

I agree, and I like SACD, too.

But surround for audio has been around since, well, forever, but people don't seem to be interested. Why?

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Too hard to setup. Too expensive (2x speaker cost). And in a living room, the effect is really best in a very small area. It is something that has been much better done in movie theaters, honestly. Most home setups are never calibrated right, so it is questionable how much people have actually experienced it.

It will be interesting to see if Avid's big push on Atmos for music mixing goes anywhere in the market. They are promoting the idea of "mix to Atmos once, deliver to any format". Dolby is pushing that also. Some soundtracks are remixed for stereo release, others are just down-mixed on the dub stage. The new ProTools Atmos tools let you specify what formats you want to output, and it will run out whatever stems are needed for however many formats you choose. I haven't heard it. I haven't tried it. But they are definitely selling it at their Nashville and LA pro audio events. I've caught a few of the YouTube broadcasts and am "following it from a distance".

But yeah, today, music only distribution to surround sound is pretty much non-existent. No one has the playback environment. But the engineers who have done surround music mixing all seem to be big fans of the sound they get and the freedom it gives them. The last one I watched, the mixer had taken a rap/urban kind of track and done it in Atmos. His first observation: There is so much room to position things that I hardly used compression. Without trying to squeeze things into a horizontal panorama, the mix could breathe more and still have definition and punch. The film guys say they don't use a lot of compression on Atmos music, but acknowledge that typically it is pretty well compressed before the stems get to them.

Still early days - I am watching with interest. I just know that we don't hear in mono or in stereo, so "more immersion is better", but will it ever be practical? My crystal ball is hazy. If they ever get it right in headphones or wearables, I think it will go mainstream. In living rooms? Hard sell unless "Atmos soundbars" can do enough with room reflections to matter....

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Originally Posted by Nathanael_I
Too hard to setup. Too expensive (2x speaker cost). And in a living room, the effect is really best in a very small area. It is something that has been much better done in movie theaters, honestly. Most home setups are never calibrated right, so it is questionable how much people have actually experienced it.

It will be interesting to see if Avid's big push on Atmos for music mixing goes anywhere in the market. They are promoting the idea of "mix to Atmos once, deliver to any format". Dolby is pushing that also. Some soundtracks are remixed for stereo release, others are just down-mixed on the dub stage. The new ProTools Atmos tools let you specify what formats you want to output, and it will run out whatever stems are needed for however many formats you choose. I haven't heard it. I haven't tried it. But they are definitely selling it at their Nashville and LA pro audio events. I've caught a few of the YouTube broadcasts and am "following it from a distance".

But yeah, today, music only distribution to surround sound is pretty much non-existent. No one has the playback environment. But the engineers who have done surround music mixing all seem to be big fans of the sound they get and the freedom it gives them. The last one I watched, the mixer had taken a rap/urban kind of track and done it in Atmos. His first observation: There is so much room to position things that I hardly used compression. Without trying to squeeze things into a horizontal panorama, the mix could breathe more and still have definition and punch. The film guys say they don't use a lot of compression on Atmos music, but acknowledge that typically it is pretty well compressed before the stems get to them.

Still early days - I am watching with interest. I just know that we don't hear in mono or in stereo, so "more immersion is better", but will it ever be practical? My crystal ball is hazy. If they ever get it right in headphones or wearables, I think it will go mainstream. In living rooms? Hard sell unless "Atmos soundbars" can do enough with room reflections to matter....


As always, an interesting and informative post. I've always preferred to play music in another room and listen to it off yonder a bit. That is another argument for mono AND another way of using surround sound since the sound of the music is profoundly affected by my proximity in an environment. All that said, I am still playing with "dual mono" which I believe is a term that Mike Rivers will approve of and I concur.

I do think you can (and must) record stereo with two mics though. Even a stereo mic is two mics in one chassis in the end. This is a great thread!!!!


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Originally Posted by Anderton
I checked the minutes of the board meetings. You are still the president, so I don't know why you think you were demoted.
.

Well, they told me that I didn't get paid as president, and they told me that I wouldn't get paid as vice president either. So I figured I'd take the demotion to the lower paying positin and save them some money to keep the jet gassed up.

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Originally Posted by Nathanael_I
Still early days - I am watching with interest. I just know that we don't hear in mono or in stereo, so "more immersion is better", but will it ever be practical? My crystal ball is hazy. If they ever get it right in headphones or wearables, I think it will go mainstream. In living rooms? Hard sell unless "Atmos soundbars" can do enough with room reflections to matter....

Ultimately what will make it happen is if there's a "helmet" made for VR that's big enough to incorporate surround. People are getting so used to headphones it wouldn't be much of a stretch to put a Buck Rogers-type space helmet around your head.

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Originally Posted by Anderton
Ultimately what will make it happen is if there's a "helmet" made for VR that's big enough to incorporate surround. People are getting so used to headphones it wouldn't be much of a stretch to put a Buck Rogers-type space helmet around your head.


[Linked Image]

( I hope Twiki's photo appears here)




Ohh please....... i still have cant believe they gave that poor robot "Twiki" a helmet as such.

At least i now know why they did .......for the ahead of its time (in robot technology) suround sound.

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Personally, given that I love early recordings in general, mono has a power that is unique, and I feel that if one uses it today, it's a bit like someone shooting a film in B/W in 2021.
On one level, it makes people pay attention because it is different, but psychologically it also carries a lot of history (remembered or not) with that sound signature (it's 'old' and 'new' combined) and that too can influence the listener.
A theory, anyway...

C.

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Originally Posted by Claus H
Personally, given that I love early recordings in general, mono has a power that is unique, and I feel that if one uses it today, it's a bit like someone shooting a film in B/W in 2021.
On one level, it makes people pay attention because it is different, but psychologically it also carries a lot of history (remembered or not) with that sound signature (it's 'old' and 'new' combined) and that too can influence the listener.
A theory, anyway...

C.

And an interesting one. I kind of split the difference - a lot of tracks with stereo ambiance, but panned more or less to center. The music seems more "real" that way than having sounds in the extreme left and right, unless of course you're trying for a particular effect.

I also understand your analogy to black and white film. It does have a certain power where you have to look, maybe because it's not what real life looks like.

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Mono is underrated, surround overrated.

I've never heard anything in surround that wasn't either gratuitous at best, if not outright annoying.

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Since most of my recent work is for live performances mono is all that I'm concerned with. Although my wife and I each have our own amps for instruments (except my keys because my Korg is also used on backing tracks but that's a different story) our vocals and our tracks go to the rather wimpy Eon One Pro and through that to a single Mackie Thump speaker I recently bought out in the front.

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I pan everything to center on the gig. I figure not everyone gets to sit in the 'sweet spot' and many are close to one channel.

When ripping things for my Digital-Walknan to play in my car, I started ripping them in mono. With road noise it's easier to hear all the parts if they are coming all on my side of the minivan - especially when it's full of band gear.

BTW I like Black and White pictures and films. Not for the nostalgia effect, but in B&W the composition is more important. Color sometimes mutes a great composition that B&W will illuminate. Not everything looks better in B&W, but some things definitely look more interesting to me that way.

I certainly wouldn't want to go back to the B&W days, as other things work better in color than monochrome.

The trick (or talent) is to know when to use B&W and when to use Color and even when to use certain lens filters.

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Originally Posted by analogika
Mono is underrated, surround overrated.

I've never heard anything in surround that wasn't either gratuitous at best, if not outright annoying.

My experience is exactly the opposite. I find mono almost unlistenable. Everything is all bunched up, and small. The orchestral and sample libraries I have in surround are only more natural in surround. I never "hear" the surround speakers anymore than I "hear" the mains. When properly set up, they disappear as point sources. Playing the VSL Syncron Steinway at my desk is pretty close to playing a real concert grand. The envelopment definitely helps, but I don't perceive surround from the rear, just a more engaging experience. I full understand the live situation from mixing FOH, playing and being in the audience. I would do whatever it took to hear my keys in stereo or I would seriously consider whether it was worth playing. My IEMs are NOT happy with tinny mono pianos. I've played with stereo IEMs for years, and having drums, keys, and guitars panned makes it sound great! This is all possible with a less than $1k Behringer XR18. The band template is very stable, we each control our own mix.

The Broadway theaters already have this sorted for even very large rooms. They are moving to fully immersive systems with MANY speakers, all carefully digitally controlled with sophisticated audio processors. Every seat in the house has a fully immersive experience. The ambience of the room and localization can be adjusted arbitrarily over the whole room or just tiny parts. This work has been going on for 20 years and is now commercial reality at the high end. Atmos will alter the movie theaters. There is substantial work going on to sort out how to do immersion given only IEMs or over-ear-headphones. It is possible to send in molds/scans of one's pinnae so that the correct response can be modeled and then the profile loaded into a media player or plugin.

The promise of Atmos is very different from 5.1 surround. Atmos lets the production team mix on a 7.4.2 system and deliver those stems as a software package. Atmos decoders then sort how to best get the spatial information to you whether you have TV speakers and and simple bar, headphones, or a full Atmos setup. Atmos mixes collapse into mono, stereo, 5.1, quad, 7.1 - whatever. Object-based audio as a technology is ground-breaking and will change how things are done. Abstracting the recording and production decisions from the speaker layout is genius, and will help solve the problems that 5.1 could never overcome. This channel vs object model is a big deal. It's the same audio, but WAY more flexible to fit WAY more real-world situations.

Immersion is the big topic at all the major tonmeister engineering programs. Great work is being done at McGill University, in Japan, several places in Europe, at big manufacturers like Harmon, AVID,Steinberg, etc. Netflix wants Atmos mixes. Professional, paid audio will head this direction for one simple reason. It isn't a gimmick. It works, and vastly improves the experience. And it will get to the place where it is better than stereo on headphones within the next 2-3 years.

None of this will change local "speaker on a stick gigs" anytime soon. But most are small enough that room reflections take care of most issues. Many truly stereo things like reverbs and things work fine though speaker on a stick and still sound better than mono, even if the dry is all center panned.

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Here's Morton Lindberg, one of the finest acoustic music recording engineers in the world talking about immersive and what it means and how he uses it. Note that the value is emotional transfer, not localization.


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Originally Posted by Nathanael_I
Originally Posted by analogika
Mono is underrated, surround overrated.

I've never heard anything in surround that wasn't either gratuitous at best, if not outright annoying.

My experience is exactly the opposite. I find mono almost unlistenable. Everything is all bunched up, and small. The orchestral and sample libraries I have in surround are only more natural in surround. I never "hear" the surround speakers anymore than I "hear" the mains. When properly set up, they disappear as point sources. Playing the VSL Syncron Steinway at my desk is pretty close to playing a real concert grand. The envelopment definitely helps, but I don't perceive surround from the rear, just a more engaging experience. I full understand the live situation from mixing FOH, playing and being in the audience. I would do whatever it took to hear my keys in stereo or I would seriously consider whether it was worth playing. My IEMs are NOT happy with tinny mono pianos. I've played with stereo IEMs for years, and having drums, keys, and guitars panned makes it sound great! This is all possible with a less than $1k Behringer XR18. The band template is very stable, we each control our own mix.

I appreciate your lengthy response, and I'm sure there are setups and content where surround is just immersive and extremely transparent. I'm certain that we are worlds away from the supershitty surround bullshit of the Special Edition Empire Strikes Back, which mainly differed in crappy redone digital sound design and the fact that there was pointless water splish-splash and drizzle noise coming from behind me, at right, about a meter above ear level. Wow, yeah.


But here, we're talking about completely different contexts. You're talking about translating stereo content into a mono playback. That sucks. I also hate mono IEM, not least because panning the guitars hard left and right both gets them out of the way and lets me differentiate between them. And of course stereo samples and reverbs etc. tend to suck when collapsed into mono.

I'm talking about mono content.



There is nothing a stereo recording would improve about that performance.

Note that I'm not saying that there is no benefit to stereo: I'm literally just saying that mono is underrated.

I will say that mono is indeed better suited to some content, or that stereo is in some situations just unneeded or not beneficial.

We've done mixes in mono where the stereo just wasn't as cohesive.

Some of my absolute favourite recordings I've played on (as yet unreleased, but coming), the drums are in mono (two mics, into a mono tube mixer). Sound great. Depth, dynamics — wonderful. Just no clutter. :-)

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Movie theaters, yes...but as long as Dolby Atmos for the home runs from $1,200 for a bare minimum system to as high as $7,000, and then you need to add in the cost of projector, screen, etc. for a home theater setup, it's going to be out of the reach of any kind of mass market. What's more, you need a room and acoustics that can handle home theater, and depending on where you live, tolerant neighbors smile

Inexpensive virtual reality setups might be the gateway drug for immersive sound, but even that hasn't gotten the traction companies had hoped for. It likely will someday, probably sooner rather than later, but I don't think we're there yet.

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That is a great recording. There is no question that the less gear and processing, the more natural the result can be. Interestingly, Morton Lindberg engineers in the exact same way - he moves musicians closer or further away from the array to control levels, and he aims microphones for EQ. It's very much just a larger version of how the old mono recordings used to be done.

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Originally Posted by Nathanael_I
That is a great recording. There is no question that the less gear and processing, the more natural the result can be. Interestingly, Morton Lindberg engineers in the exact same way - he moves musicians closer or further away from the array to control levels, and he aims microphones for EQ. It's very much just a larger version of how the old mono recordings used to be done.

It goes all the way back to the days of cylinders and discs...Fred Gaisberg, doing Caruso and others. I love Lindberg's thinking and approach, a true symbiosis of cutting-edge technology and old-fashioned understanding of acoustics and rooms.

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Do we have one ear or two?

I rest my case

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Most things in nature are mono. Even concerts, if you are far enough away from the stage.


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Originally Posted by BMD
Do we have one ear or two?

I rest my case

Guitars and Minimoogs have only one output. I rest my case smile

Hey, how's the piano tuning gig working out?

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Originally Posted by BMD
Do we have one ear or two?

I rest my case


Do we sing with one mouth or two?

I rest your case. :- D


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Originally Posted by analogika
I'm talking about mono content.

(Peggy Lee song)

There is nothing a stereo recording would improve about that performance.


Sounds great, but it sounds like whoever uploaded that maybe did some M/S stereoizing.

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