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What is mono and stereo?

Most equipment you look at will have a combination of mono and stereo features that will allow for a deeper reproduction of sound through the use of various channels all at once.

In order to truly understand their effect, a deeper understanding of what mono and stereo entails is as follows.

What is mono?

Mono, or monophonic, is the reproduction of sound through one channel. This deals with the depth perception of the listener; all the sounds seem like they are centrally located. Even if you were to transport this audio to other outlets like headphones and speakers, a monophonic recording will always be played, and perceived, the same. This type of sound is usually preferred for radio, public addresses and telephone networks since they relay a more centralized sound.

Mixing in mono is a popular technique which mix engineers can utilize to focus on balancing their levels.

What is stereo?

Unlike mono recordings, stereo is the reproduction of sound through 2 or more channels. This allows for the perception of sound coming from various directions. Stereo adds a certain depth to audio which emulates the natural hearing of an individual.

If used particularly for music, stereophonic equipment allows the engineer to hear every aspect, or instrument, clearly and distinctly.

Mono and stereo application in headphones

Professional audio equipment like studio headphones, speakers, EQs and such allow for a mix of channels to be heard and recorded by the user. This type of channel isolation is also known as crossfeed; all the sound channels (left, right and central) are merged.

This way, mixtures of monophonic and stereophonic recordings are heard at the same time, which limits the depth perception, although not eliminating it. However, for instances when an expert needs a more specific and detailed listen, there are settings, through which, the audio can be separated. This will help point out flaws and inconsistencies in a recording.

How has the mono and stereo system evolved throughout the years?

Back in the mid-90s, monophonic sounds were the popular method of recording even though the two-channel system has been introduced to the public back in the late 1880s. While it was the popular method of sound recording, mono did not do justice to the depth of sound that music and even movies possessed. Thus, it was in 1931 when Alan Blumlein created a multichannel stereo system after he was fed up with the one dimensional audio of movies. It was the first time that audio provided a sense of relative space.

With the creation of magnetic tapes, the compact disk and digital recording, a new era of stereo recording took hold; it still dominates the world today. Increasingly, different types of technologies are incorporating a mixture, if not just stereo, of both the types. Features like these are what sets audio equipment of today’s era apart from the rest. Furthermore, developments are being made in the form of surround sound; the recording of a sound from different locations to give a 3rd-dimensional reproduction of sound. It’s as if every sound is being heard live.

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