Old 02-09-2019, 09:48 AM   #1
Burnsjethro
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Default stereo/mono

I hope this question doesn't sound too daft. I have suddenly started increasingly noticing the advice to mix in mono. If it sounds good in mono, it will sound good in stereo, they say.


I had never thought about this before. I have been recording all my instruments and vocals in mono (as far as I know) and just mixed happily away ,ignorance is bliss) panning a bit here, panning a bit there, effects,... then rendering.

So as far as I knew I was mixing in mono.

But now I look at the master fader I see a mono / stereo button at the top. Is this on "mono" by default? It is dimmed but if I hover over the button it says output stereo.

I click on it and it turns blue and if I hover it now, it says output mono (L+R).

Have I been mistakingly mixing in stereo all along?


In the space between the Master and main tracks at the top of the screen, it is written: left output/right output.

A friend in England occasionally sends songs over for me to add something to.
He records on something called portastudio and his tracks invariably have two bands, so now, on reflection, he must be mixing in stereo (although when I queried him he didn't seem to know why - I suppose he doesn't see the two tracks in his device,). I generally split the tracks and use just one, probably a mistake!

Does it really matter that much if I have been mixing in stero? Should I press the mono/stereo button to make it blue from now on (presuming that it is switching everything to mono)?

I have been googling to see if there are any answers to this anywhere but I haven't found anything to explain the idea.

If it is mono or stereo the sound still comes out of the two speakers or headphones. I thought it was a matter of panning to kind of alter the stereo effect. Excuse my ignorance.

And, finally, once you have, hopefully, helped cleared up this mono/stereo question for me, and I mix in mono, how relevant would it be to conclude by switching on the stereo button?

Anton
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Old 02-09-2019, 10:13 AM   #2
ashcat_lt
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It's only Stereo if there's some difference between the left and right channels. If all of your sources are mono, and you haven't panned any of them away from center, then the mono button on the Master doesn't make any difference at all.

I can't say what your friend with the Portastudio is sending you. I guess it depends on if they've been panning things or not. It should be pretty obvious just by listening if there is any kind of Stereo spread to it. If so, I'd guess they did that on purpose and throwing away one side is at least changing the intended mix if not completely losing anything that's panned hard to the side you're not using.

I think that if you've mostly been just mixing first and waiting to pan things until it all sounds good centered first, then you are pretty much following the spirit of the "mix in mono" advice. The Master Mono button is for if you panned before mixing (or somewhere in the middle) and you want to check how it sounds when collapsed.

Now some people are going to come along and tell you not to bother because stereo is all that matters, and other people will come along and tell you that it's only really mono if it's all coming through exactly one speaker. I think they're both missing the point.
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Old 02-09-2019, 11:21 AM   #3
Burnsjethro
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Thanks a lot Ashcat.

Is the mono button on stereo by default? It is dimmed and if I click the button it turns blue, is that then mono?

Yes, I record, adjust the volumes, pick the best takes,fiddle around with the Eq and compression, add a bit of reverb or delay if necessary,... Everything I record is recorded in mono, except for my acoustic guitar, which I record using two mikes, then pan one left and one right (because one mike is on the neck and the other one is after the bridge). Midi keyboard (that is mono as well as far as I know). Midi drums?

Then I might start panning other things ever so slightly.

Do I have to bother about the mono/stereo button at all?

I don't think my friend with his portastudio does anything like panning (he is even less recording-savvy then me, if that is possible).
When I mentioned the fact that there were two tracks on his vocal, for instance, he had no idea why.
As far as I know he records his tracks, adjusts the volumes and chooses the best takes. When I talk about equalisation, compression,... he does not appear to know what I am on about, unless he is just trying to boost my ego!

I have a bit of hearing problem, so I can get a bit confused with certain sounds. Which is probably why I am harping on about the mono/stereo dilemma.

I suppose I should stop worrying as I am not about to embark upon on a recording career. I just want my amateur efforts to sound as good as I can get them.

Anton

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Old 02-09-2019, 11:27 AM   #4
Burnsjethro
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Sorry, I forgot to add this:

and if the button is on stereo by default (dimmed - says "Output: stereo" when I hover my mouse over the button), should I then click the button to make it mono (blue colour), so I am sure to be mixing in mono?

If so, do I then need to turn the stereo back on (to make the button dim/grey in colour) when I have finished? Or should I learn to stop worrying and carry on as before - in blissful ignorance of the button and the mono/stereo dilemma (and worry about learning to sing and play better)?

Anton
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Old 02-09-2019, 11:29 AM   #5
ashcat_lt
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Burnsjethro View Post
Is the mono button on stereo by default? It is dimmed and if I click the button it turns blue, is that then mono?
Yes.


When you say MIDI keyboard/drums, are these VSTis? They probably do have some stereo width to them, depending on the plugin you're using. Drums almost always. "Keyboards" fairly often.


Don't stress about it too much. As long as it ends up sounding good at the end, only real nerds care how you got there.
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Old 02-09-2019, 12:27 PM   #6
Burnsjethro
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ashcat_lt View Post
Yes.


When you say MIDI keyboard/drums, are these VSTis? They probably do have some stereo width to them, depending on the plugin you're using. Drums almost always. "Keyboards" fairly often.


Don't stress about it too much. As long as it ends up sounding good at the end, only real nerds care how you got there.


I have a couple of plugins (one called Nubile which has various hammond organ settings, a piano, electric piano), which I then play (vamp) ony a Roland keyboard.

Thanks for concern about my stress levels. You don't know if the button is on stereo by default (when the button is grey?

Anton
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Old 02-09-2019, 05:01 PM   #7
ashcat_lt
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Burnsjethro View Post
You don't know if the button is on stereo by default
I said yes. Stereo by default.
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Old 02-10-2019, 05:15 AM   #8
Stella645
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I think it's worth making it clear that the "mix in mono" brigade (for the most part) are not producing a finished mono mix.

They are setting balance and eq in mono so they can't rely on panning to separate their instruments. It may make you work harder on carving space with EQ or on automating levels to make things sit right with other instruments for example.

Once that's done you can switch back to stereo and pan things around and produce a stereo mix as before.

Also worth noting a track with two channels may still be mono (or more accurately dual mono). If not obvious to you by ear, load JS:Goniometer plugin to your monitor fx (not master fx as they are pre the mono button) and use the button while playing back.

A mono source will always show just a straight vertical line so if the button does nothing to the display the source is mono. If it's wider when set to stereo then you definitely have some stereo content.
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Old 02-10-2019, 05:17 AM   #9
Burnsjethro
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Thank you very much Ashkat and Stella for your wise words.

Anton
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Old 02-10-2019, 01:11 PM   #10
Philbo King
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If you ever want to verify mono vs. stereo, put the JS Goniometer on the Monitor FX. Mono shows up as a skinny vertical line. Anything else is stereo.

Oops, I see Stella beat me to it...
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Old 02-10-2019, 01:18 PM   #11
Burnsjethro
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No, that's fine Philbo. Thanks for your interest.

Anton
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