Mono Mixes

mikyok

Platinum Member
I've recently added a Mono Rubber Soul & Sgt Pepper to my collection after all my life listening to the hard panned stereo mixes and oh my days what a difference! You can see where the time was spent mixing and it wasn't the stereo mixes.

Got me thinking why did Mono mixes just stop and has anyone ever done them since the 60s?
 

JimmyM

Platinum Member
I've recently added a Mono Rubber Soul & Sgt Pepper to my collection after all my life listening to the hard panned stereo mixes and oh my days what a difference! You can see where the time was spent mixing and it wasn't the stereo mixes.

Got me thinking why did Mono mixes just stop and has anyone ever done them since the 60s?
They were considered obsolete.
 

Philaiy9

Junior Member
Mono is cool but I'll almost always prefer a well-made stereo mix. You can hear the music with much more clarity. That's why I was so excited when I discovered the Kenny Saxton Beatle remixes.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Mono mixes existed at a time when stereo equipment was new, and the labels had to appeal to owners of both. Of course you could play a stereo record with a mono cartridge, and it would sound fine. The people who could hear any sonic difference were already into stereo anyway.

I think mono went away c1970.
 
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Out of Round

Active Member
To what extent was "Back to Mono" actual push-back against stereo? Or was it more of an ironic pop culture joke at the time? I'm aware of a Phil Spector connection and have seen these in a few different contexts in photos. It's within my lifetime, but "before my time" so to speak.
miP_Q2Fs_400x400.jpeg
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
You can see where the time was spent mixing and it wasn't the stereo mixes.
They had to be mixed separately, not just combining the channels. That would result in noticeably different balances. but that's what's so cool about the mono vs. stereo mixes, there were often parts left in/out of each (by accident of course.) Some of the Beatles mixes are notorious for having different parts come up or down dearly or late in the different mixes.
 

JimmyM

Platinum Member
To what extent was "Back to Mono" actual push-back against stereo? Or was it more of an ironic pop culture joke at the time? I'm aware of a Phil Spector connection and have seen these in a few different contexts in photos. It's within my lifetime, but "before my time" so to speak.
View attachment 124848
First time I saw it was Johnny Winter in the early 80s.
 

Mediocrefunkybeat

Platinum Member
Generally it's a lot harder to mix in mono and stereo was a relative novelty then. Pink Floyd's 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' is a great example of the novelty - I have both versions and there are some really naïve stereo tricks going on in there (listen to the alternating hard-panned phrases in 'Interstellar Overdrive'). Nowadays most stereo mixes are much more conservative as there isn't much point in experimenting. The same happens with surround mixes. People bounced things around for the first few years but then the novelty wears off and it just comes about good technique and application rather than exploring the format.

Mono mixes are still important. Well - specifically, good mono compatibility is important. The vast majority of mono playback we have now is just stereo tracks combined. This brings its own challenges, especially with phase compatibility which is part of the reason that you'll generally hear the bass instruments dead centre as this brings less risk of phase issues in mono playback. There are also historical reasons for this (bass is generally better dead centre for vinyl for technical reasons) but occasionally in the past you'd hear panned bass guitar. Not so much now.

Mono has always been important and that hasn't really changed in sixty years. There was a period around 25 years ago when it wasn't so important as most cars had stereo systems by then (as opposed to old mono systems that were still available right up to the late 80s) and mobile phone playback wasn't possible but mono compatibility has increased in importance again in the last 15.

I'd still recommend learning to mix in true mono as an exercise. It's good fun and challenging and will teach you a lot of fundamentals. If you can mix well in mono, you can mix well in stereo as stereo makes it a lot easier.
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
Mono is cool but I'll almost always prefer a well-made stereo mix. You can hear the music with much more clarity. That's why I was so excited when I discovered the Kenny Saxton Beatle remixes.
Yet to check his mixes out, will have a look after work. The problem with a lot of early stereo mixes in particular the Beatles is that they sound lopsided, and the centre of the mix was completely empty.

They had to be mixed separately, not just combining the channels. That would result in noticeably different balances. but that's what's so cool about the mono vs. stereo mixes, there were often parts left in/out of each (by accident of course.) Some of the Beatles mixes are notorious for having different parts come up or down dearly or late in the different mixes.
That was the really interesting thing about the 2009 remasters. I think they used different takes for some songs as I've heard mistakes that aren't on the originals. They did re-release the mono mixes not long after which was the first time a lot of people had heard them, I'd not heard Rubber Soul, Pepper or Magical Mystery Tour in Mono. They just sound far more balanced in Mono.

They released different mono mixes in the 60s. I've got one of the first few thousand Revolvers (completely by luck) that they weren't happy with but it was too late to stop the pressing.

Not forgetting the albums the US got were different to the UK albums but that's a whole different thread!
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
One thing to keep in mind is that close-miced drums are still usually recorded in mono
Even using 2 mics to record drums is in Mono. Crazy to think that's how some of the most iconic drums sounds and recordings were made.

Abbey Road is the real strange one. They used the cheapest mics they had to mic the underside of the drums and the most expensive mics for the guitar and bass cabs. Complete reverse engineering!
 

C. Dave Run

Gold Member
Some old school transistor radios had a mono earbud port.
And some new ones do too:


This radio would confuse my kid lol. She has never seen a dial.

The mono earbud is still a thing too:


Give me stereo. I had this mono stuff as a kid. Life isnt in mono. Humans listen in stereo.
 

JoeVermont

Active Member
(Great thread, BTW)
The mono version of Pet Sounds (Beach Boys) is also fairly different sounding than the stereo version. I would not say better or worse but certainly different. (putting old fart hat on for a moment) There was a time when not every studio had the ability to mix stereo - like they only had one monitor in the control room. In that case a stereo mix would have been done in entirely different rooms or facilities - that would also change the sound of the mix.
 

cbphoto

Diamond Member
Got me thinking why did Mono mixes just stop and has anyone ever done them since the 60s?
Because stereo sounded more open. The ability to create and define a space within that stereo field cannot be done with monophonic sound.
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
(Great thread, BTW)
The mono version of Pet Sounds (Beach Boys) is also fairly different sounding than the stereo version. I would not say better or worse but certainly different. (putting old fart hat on for a moment) There was a time when not every studio had the ability to mix stereo - like they only had one monitor in the control room. In that case a stereo mix would have been done in entirely different rooms or facilities - that would also change the sound of the mix.
I don't think I've ever heard the stereo mix of Pet Sounds. I have the mono version which is a modern reissue. I thought it was only done in Mono because Brian Wilson is a massive Phil Spector fan and more importantly deaf in one ear.

I'm after the Beach Boys Smile on LP but it sells for a small fortune!
 

Mediocrefunkybeat

Platinum Member
Because stereo sounded more open. The ability to create and define a space within that stereo field cannot be done with monophonic sound.
Correct.

You can fake it a bit though. I used to do a bit of recording of large ensembles, usually with quite limited equipment. One time I was recording a 30-piece brass band and right at the beginning one of the trombones clipped the audio on my RH ORTF mic. I didn't have anything to fall back on... so what I did instead is took the recording from the LH microphone and applied an 80ms or so delay to the recording and popped that in the RH channel. Then a quick cross-fade to the original source.

Nobody was ever the wiser. I ended up submitting that recording as part of a pratical assessment at Uni (audio recording module) and did well enough with it considering I did the whole band with just four mics, each costing less than £120...
 

TMe

Senior Member
I've always seen stereo as a bit of a gimmick. And I've always been annoyed by how bad some stereo recordings sound when they're put through a P.A. or how out-of-balance everything sounds when I'm listening to stereo recordings in a car. Even when I'm at a party, things can sound out of whack (especially the drums) depending on where I'm standing in the room. Stereo seems more of a distraction than an enhancement. Better for movies than music.

I know I'm in a tiny minority, but I prefer mono recordings.
 
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