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Why is there mono switches on integrated amplifiers

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by bionic, Oct 12, 2019.

  1. bionic

    bionic Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I have heard that you are to use it when playing mono records to cut down on surface noise or is it to simply get a mono picture of a stereo record?
    McLover likes this.
  2. Big Blue

    Big Blue Forum Resident

    The first one. A mono switch is not meant to be used with a stereo source, it’s to make mono sound better.
    jonwoody and bionic like this.
  3. JackG

    JackG Forum Resident

    As BB says it's there to help with mono records. It's kind of rare on integrated amps. I had one put on my phono stage since that's the source that'll use it. Works very well for surface noise.
    zombiemodernist likes this.
  4. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    never use a mono switch on my vintage receivers...a dead button.
  5. I use it for the first and second reasons.

    Some stereo tracks - especially some 70s single mixes - can sound better in mono since they were mixed to sound good on mono radio even though they’re stereo mixes. They’re stereo because mono had been dropped by the industry as a recording format, not because the rest of the world was truly ready for that change.

    Also, some 60s stereo is horrible, including some mid-60s Beatles. In such case it’s time to use that mono switch.

    In all honesty, if you have a mono switch then work out your own rules and hopefully have fun doing so.
    Big Blue likes this.
  6. Brother_Rael

    Brother_Rael Forum Resident

    Scottish Borders
    My old NAD 3020A had one. The only time I've seen it on an amp of that vintage or newer.
  7. Thorensman

    Thorensman Forum Resident

    Stereo has 2 signals in a groove which is kind of obvious.
    What is not so obvious is that mono
    Having only one lateral will sound noisey
    When played with a stereo pick up
    As it amplifies noise on the non existant
    Vertical channel.
    Using a mono switch on a stereo cartridge
    Parallels the 2 channels and cuts this noise out.
    Can make quite a difference.
    Turning one channel off to listen
    In single speaker mode also makes sense.
    Using a mono switch on cd will cause
    Phasing issues.
    Not a good idea.
    Glass audio make a nice kit with s switch
    For Mono, mute and stereo.
    Although a normal switch will
    Be ok
    One member sells a switch ready to install routing phono leads from turntable into it and adding 2 short leads
    To go from it to phono input on amp.
    Depends how many mono Lps you play
  8. Slick Willie

    Slick Willie Decisively Indecisive

    sweet VA.

    Best to state processed stereo, not 60's stereo. Not all 60's stereo is processed.
  9. Carl Swanson

    Carl Swanson Forum Resident

    Some people just don't like the mixes.
  10. Carl Swanson

    Carl Swanson Forum Resident

    General question: Does the mono switch do a 3dB cut on the info common to both channels (i.e., "center" info) ?

    If not, that info will be too loud in a folded down signal.
  11. Slick Willie

    Slick Willie Decisively Indecisive

    sweet VA.

    What mixes? Processed or true stereo?
  12. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Katy, TX
    The switch intersects the signal to form a single stream, then it's split back to right and left. So, no.
  13. Carl Swanson

    Carl Swanson Forum Resident

    True stereo. (Fake stereo is not a mix in my book.)

    Some people don't like some of the "wonky" or "weird" mixes of the 60s, they want everything to fit the same pattern.

    I take 'em as they come.
    Doctor Fine, The FRiNgE and Adam9 like this.
  14. Carl Swanson

    Carl Swanson Forum Resident

    Then the "mono" you get will have the center info (usually the vocal) 3dB louder than what was folded down from L/R.
    sotosound, astro70 and Big Blue like this.
  15. Thorensman

    Thorensman Forum Resident

    Those 60 s 'Reprocessed stereo"
    As records were labelled in UK
    Were awful.
    Would sound better with a mono switch.
    Reproccessed sound introduces
    Phase issues.
    Piry they were not left in mono.
    JNTEX likes this.
  16. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    Yes! Because stereo was so heavily promoted in the sixties. There was a lot of confusion about what records could be played on what record player, such as, never play a stereo record on a (vintage) mono cartridge, which wipes it out instantly. Consumers confused this with the opposite, playing a mono record on a stereo, which is perfectly fine! So the record labels released some of their more popular mono albums in "reprocessed stereo" simply to sell more records. It was considered high tech at the time, at least in view of advertising and in the minds of the mass consumer. I am certain many/all mastering engineers hated it, but record sales were the bottom line. I may be missing something, but that's how I see it.

    We caught on quickly, but not everyone!

    Additionally, simulated stereo or "reprocessed" was combined with true stereo tracks on stereo albums, such as many early Beatles albums. Capitol was not sent stereo mixes of certain songs, such as "I Want to Hold Your Hand", so the folks at Capitol opted to make it fake stereo. It was good marketing strategy. If Capitol had combined true mono and stereo tracks on the same album, I do believe this would have diminished sales, and hastened objections by the consumers.... ironically.

    A confused consumer may ask, "well, it has mono and stereo tracks, but I can play this only on a stereophonic machine? what?"... "This is a stereo album so why does it have some mono tracks?" ... "Why not make the entire album in stereo?" .... how this would have opened an entire can of worms!
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2019
    Thorensman likes this.
  17. Blue Cactus

    Blue Cactus Forum Resident

    That was just laziness on Capitol's part.

    They could have obtained true stereo mixes for most songs they were lacking (I Want To Hold Your Hand, This Boy, You Can't Do That etc.) All they had to do is forward a request to EMI in London but as the rush was on to get the product out the door, that never happened.
    VinylSoul, patient_ot and The FRiNgE like this.
  18. Some processed stereo can't be fixed by using the mono switch since the processing is too extreme.

    I actually had in mind, however, things such as Beatles mixes with vocals in one channel and backing in the other. Those aren't really "stereo" at all since you'd never find Paul McCartney's head on one side of the studio and his body and bass on the other.

    Also, 1960s stereo that was engineered by Bill Porter was engineered such that the centred vocals achieved their correct level after the track is folded into mono and that 3dB drop has occurred. This has often been discussed on the Steve Hoffman Music Forum.

    In truth, however, there are no hard and fast rules and I take every track on an individual basis. I want it to be fun rather than an exercise in setting rules that there'll never be 100% agreement about.

    The one thing that I always do, however, is to use that mono switch for proper mono vinyl pressings since there's no good reason not to. If a mono track has been cut using a stereo lathe, however, then it comes back down to a case by case basis.
    patient_ot and fogalu like this.
  19. Big Blue

    Big Blue Forum Resident

    I think more priorities than laziness. The Beatles were a high-demand product for Capitol, not “serious” music requiring any real care in sound quality. Most people buying those records weren’t likely aware of what stereo really was in the first place, so Capitol probably had more to lose by delaying release to get the right mixes than they did putting out the mish-mash they ended up selling (and it did work out pretty well for them the way they did it).
  20. Wally Swift

    Wally Swift Yo-Yoing where I will...

    Brooklyn New York
    Yup, no center. Just extreme right/left.
  21. Classicrock

    Classicrock Forum Resident

    South West, UK.
    You will find it rare to buy a new integrated with a mono switch. I have an 80s Rotel that I used regularly in my main system for a while and found with modern mono Lps I prefered the amp in stereo mode.
  22. Carl Swanson

    Carl Swanson Forum Resident

    AGAIN, I'm not talking about fake stereo, I'm talking about some true stereo mixes from the 1960s that some people now consider unsatisfactory.
  23. Then we’re speaking the same language. :)
  24. Carl Swanson

    Carl Swanson Forum Resident

    Perhaps, but I'm not interested in "fixing" mixes that some people consider "obsolete" or "wonky."

    I take 'em as they came, but I don't mind a remaster that makes them more clear, as long as it doesn't crush them or crank the gain too much.
  25. A particular track that I’ve only found in original mono on one CD is “The Letter” by The Box Tops.

    Normally, we get the stereo mix with unwelcome rubbishy and pace-destroying reverb, especially on the lead vocal, slightly (IMHO) wonky sound balance, and missing the magical integration of all of the elements of the recording that we get with the mono mix. Sometimes we even get this stereo mix folded into mono, as if that’s enough. This is where a mono switch doesn’t really help. It’s poor however it’s heard IMHO.

    Conversely, the original U.K. “stereo” LP release of “Smash Hits” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience does benefit from use of the mono switch.

    The “stereo” effect simply splits the sound of the mono mixes across the stereo picture based upon frequency, and also seems to throw in some phase differences for good measure. This approach had some impact on my mum’s old Philco stereogram wherein the speakers were only a few inches apart, but it doesn’t really work with modern separates. Instead it hurts as my brain tries to resolve the information into a coherent image but fails. Fortunately no reverb was added during the reprocessing, so using the mono switch creates quite a nicely integrated mono presentation, albeit not quite as well-balanced sound-wise when compared to the pure mono version.

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