Should I be listening to mono lps, with only 1 speaker?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by chewy, Jul 23, 2017.

  1. chewy

    chewy Forum Resident Thread Starter

    West Coast USA
    Is there too much of a pseudo-stereo effect if you have two speakers-- i DO have a mono button as well on my receiver i use But is 1 speaker the way to go- what is the general consensus on this? Different opinions for blue note monos vs. The Monkees debut lp? (examples i played today....)
  2. MYKE

    MYKE Analog Upstairs, Digital Downstairs

  3. Thorensman

    Thorensman Forum Resident

    I listen to mono a lot. A close friend advised to listen with one speaker only. I tried it and I think he is right !
    A very natural sound. A little known fact is that with the advent of stereo reverberation and other effects were added whereas mono was untouched..
  4. Sure, if you want to.
  5. Gavinyl

    Gavinyl In And Around The Lake Resident

    No, one ear...
  6. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Fullerton, CA
    I suppose it is personal preference. I have tried both ways to hear mono, and I prefer 2 speakers.

    One speaker just sounds "too mono" for me. With two speakers, playing mono, I can appreciate the difference in the recording techniques used for the mono vs. the stereo versions. I still get the full, room-filling sound, just not the right/left imaging.

    One speaker alone sounds lacking in richness to me. And, it is amazing how clean the room ambience sounds on mono records, when played through two speakers. This ambience, to my ears, disappears through only one speaker.

    In the beginning of stereo, totally independant microphones and tape recorders were used for the stereo and mono recordings. So they most-often sound VERY different, not just the difference between mono and stereo. That is the aspect that I enjoy hearing.

    Yes, this is a major factor in a more natural sound from many recordings.

    But also, the story I heard, was that in the beginning of stereo, nobody was sure stereo would really last. Maybe it was just a fad. Maybe most people would resist paying twice as much for 2 speakers and double the amplification channels. So, most studios continued to use their best microphones and recording equipment for the mono set-up. By the time it was sure that stereo was the dominant medium, I am not quite sure why they continued to record mono at all. I don't think separate mono recording set-ups lasted very long at that point.

    So the majority of mono records do sound very different from the concurrently recorded stereo records.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2017
  7. Tim Irvine

    Tim Irvine Forum Resident

    Austin, Texas
    An early sixties mono system with a single corner horn sounded awfully good when I was a kid.
  8. Hubert jan

    Hubert jan Forum Resident

    Mono on one loudspeaker omits the combfilter effect. For some this combfilter effect represents a kind of spaciousness or spread of the music while it is fake and is not in the recording.
    Unfortunately summing stereo recordings to mono is hardly possible because of the phase differences left and right. Real mono: what you hear is what you get, like it or dont.
    HDOM, Thorensman, Shawn and 1 other person like this.
  9. RhodesSupremacy

    RhodesSupremacy yeah, man

    I suppose when you listen to someone talking you need to have two of them to satisfy your two ears?
    Hubert jan and dchang81 like this.
  10. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    A mono recording should sound right through one speaker. After all, if we have a monaural recording engineered through one monaural monitor, then reproduced again through one monaural speaker, we should hear a close approximation of what the sound engineer heard. This is the objective of high fidelity, as we attempt to reproduce the dynamics and timbre of live instruments and voice. (either studio created or live setting)

    High fidelity in monaural is easier to achieve IMO, and for several reasons. A single speaker is far easier to place in the room. The listener isn't "chained" to a sweet listening spot, as all frequencies disperse more evenly throughout the room. We have no time smear, nor phase coloration to muck up the midrange. A monaural groove tracked by a monaural cartridge produces far lower background noise and lowered distortion. And of course we have no channel balance problems.

    All is not perfection however. A vintage monaural recording should play through one speaker very nicely. A stereo speaker pair, one speaker playing may not fare as well. In my experience, I am set up for stereo, so I am seated between my speakers. If I choose to listen to one speaker in mono, I'll be turning my head to the left, or right, to naturally have the sound arrive at both ears at the same time (how we locate sound in the real world) This would be uncomfortable. Both speakers in mono, produce that wonderful phantom speaker in the middle, while the stereo pair disappear in the sound field.

    The second complication with using one speaker in a stereo pair for mono, some mono recordings are mastered using two monitors. As a matter of physics, two speakers sum the mid bass vs one speaker. This can vary according to speaker separation and location from perhaps +2 db to +6 dB. This is normal for reproduction of the sum signal (mono component) in a stereo signal.. as we also reproduce it the same way in the typical stereo system. So, If we consider a later mono recording (perhaps 1965 and later) which may have been engineered on two monitors, then change the way we listen through one speaker, it may lack weight and substance. This isn't the fault of the speaker, but a non-flat condition by how the recording is reproduced vs how it was made.

    For mono listening, IMO the ideal would be one speaker centrally located, and some form of eq compensation (bad word) for any later mono recordings mixed and mastered on two monitors. Does it make that much difference? I think so. For the serious mono aficionado, maybe a system built for mono would be the ideal. My preference is to use both speakers since I'm set up for stereo. If a vintage mono sounds too rich, or too warm... I have my bass and treble controls if it doesn't sound right to me.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2017
  11. Hubert jan

    Hubert jan Forum Resident

    Real mono from 1928 on is capturing as natural possible the music/vocals. Stereo is a manufatured signal, not really bettering the musical experience (for me). A big box or big open baffle suits real mono best, besides its easy and mellow to the ears, no phasing effects, no combfilter effects, no fake ambiance, no listening fatigue.
    Again, like it or not.
  12. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    Yes, a good argument in favor for mono. Stereo is an aural hologram, a "fake out" if you will. I do love stereo, but more difficult and quirky vs mono.
    Hubert jan likes this.
  13. Bingo Bongo

    Bingo Bongo No music, no Life

    I'll have to give it a try, with mono button and my balance to one speaker, but just seems so wrong.........
  14. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    Other observations, a little off topic, an argument in favor of stereo:
    Place aside for the moment all of the quirks of stereo, phasing problems and comb filtering, the "improper" ways of listening to stereo, a stereo recording in itself has one major redeeming quality. Stereo has life and dimension. A mono recording places all the demand on one speaker, a complex waveform to be resolved as accurately as possible by one speaker. If we create a stereo recording, we have a simpler waveform on each channel (ideally) so then the demand on the system and speakers are less.

    Any speaker does a better job in the reproduction of a simple waveform, a single instrument, or voice. As we add more, and more instruments and vocal harmonies, the waveform becomes cluttered, more difficult to amplify and reproduce into physical sound. Stereo divides the work, then mixes the waveform in air. In this regard, stereo will be the superior platform for cleaner sound, lowered distortion.

    Stereo and mono each have their strengths. If we notice, the best pop (or jazz) mono mixes bring forward the lead vocal or particular instrument that drives the song, such as drums. A great example is "Love Child" by The Supremes.. the drumming and bass line prominent in the mono mix, powerful, great rhythmic energy. The background vocals are pushed back... perhaps as they should be. The stereo mix has more sparkle and detail, both well done IMO.

    if this makes any sense... :cool:
    Steve VK
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2017
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  15. JohnO

    JohnO Forum Resident

    Washington, DC
    I think if it is an original mono studio recording, for total purity it should be (mastered and) played from stylus to speaker in a full mono chain of mono components, and the "speaker" should be big, 4x4 feet or 5x5 feet. The number of speaker drivers in such a box alone introduces some problems, but the least of them.
    If it's a multitrack recording that was mixed down to mono, that's a different story.
    But listening to true mono through a stereo component chain for output to one of a pair of bookshelf speakers is simply no good; go ahead and play that through both speakers, and worry about something else.
  16. Bender Rodriguez

    Bender Rodriguez RIP Exene, best dog ever. 2005-2016

    New Jersey
    You can use two speakers for mono as long as you listen with only one ear.
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  17. Hubert jan

    Hubert jan Forum Resident

    No, it still has the combfilter effect. It would work if that ear is at the same distance and in the middle/front of those 2 speakers.
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  18. rjp

    rjp Senior Member

    yes, same thing coming out of both speakers, right?
  19. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Fullerton, CA
    All very interesting and all worth considering. But, I don't agree with this small point (above). From what Steve has told me, sound engineers have almost always heard recordings through absolutely terrible speakers and amplifiers. Now, I am sure there are some purists/enthusiasts who collect the old Altec, Bozac, or Tannoy speakers, from the mono days, and appreciate the REAL sound that those original engineers heard. From more recent history, there are certainly enthusiasts who collect various JBL and Yamaha studio monitors, and love them. But, even then, most engineers never listened to the speakers that we now consider the "best" from any particular sound era. They mostly listened through audio systems from which most of us would run out-of-the-room. The vast majority of us prefer our carefully and personally chosen speakers and amplifiers, and want to hear them sound their best, to our expectations.

    My point is that for most of us, the objective of high fidelity is to hear sound that we like, not re-create what the engineers heard. There are plenty of personal preferences, theories about sound, and ways to listen that we can ALL respect, and ALL discuss, without any one being "Right" or "Wrong".

    I guess I had to write this, because I am 100% sure I enjoy 2-channel mono much more than 1-channel mono, and I really don't care which is more "correct", or "original". I respect the purists who try to hear recordings in their engineers' original form. I just don't care to hear them that way in my audio system.
  20. 808_state

    808_state Former Resident

    One giant speaker to rule them all.
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  21. Hubert jan

    Hubert jan Forum Resident

    If you are a fan of the oldies from the mono fifties and did not live those times try a good valve amp, a big 100 liter full range loudspeaker box or a large open baffle.
    Those big valve table radio's and a mono pickup was the way to go, nobody had troubles, no listening fatigue, infinit musical satisfaction.
    Stereo was the end of natural HIGH FIDELITY, too much signal processing and artificial reverb / spaciousness that blurred everything. Recent dynamics compression on CD is the definitive end of music entertainment.
  22. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    Yep! Not surprised at all. I for one have used the "bitchbox" an 80's boom box or cheap radio shack speaker as a cheap reference. By the sound of many 60's- 70's top 10 tunes, they could have been mixed on a transistor radio. I've read some engineers crafted a "sound" that presented well on AM radio.
  23. Thorensman

    Thorensman Forum Resident

    Sadly its becoming clear. Mono was for me superior.
    I got brainwashed . Side tracked for too many years.
    I recall "Livin,Doll by Cliff Richard.
    The opening bass line were magic om my late fathers
    Mono creation of big driver /Cabinet with 2.5 watt single ended
    Amp . Never the same with stereo
  24. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC

    Fullerton, CA
    If anyone in Los Angeles, Orange County, or San Diego county has a big driver, high efficiency, single-ended mono audio system, with mono records, that REALLY sounds satisfying and impressive (no big boomy bass, rolled-off highs and aggressive upper midrange) please invite me to visit. I would really like to hear it. This is a possible adventure that I would like to experience. Private message me.
  25. RhodesSupremacy

    RhodesSupremacy yeah, man

    Yes! We need more converts to the mono parish! :righton:

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