A few weeks ago I came across about a hundred old mono pop jazz albums from the fifties in storage I had forgotten about. Had some extended(3am extended) listening sessions using a Shure M78 S(sperical) tracking a little over 2 gms on my trusty Sony PS-X7 .
Sure seemed to me that mono was way cool especially in the LOW listening fatigue factor. Going on a Goodwill road trip next week-LOL,
I agree with Schubert. I always feel more like I'm listening to live music when I listen to mono--especially classical. Maybe this is because I always sit in the nose-bleed seats at classical concerts, so there is no left, right, center, etc. to the sound.
Stereo allows you to fully utilize the fact that you have two ears on opposite sides of your head. They take in slightly different information. In that difference lies the beauty of stereo, when properly mixed.
Walk around for a day with an eyepatch on and see how you like that.
You're probably not completely nuts, but then you are into vinyl so that's a big step toward the brink. :)
What you're listening to probably was not recorded using the standard RIAA equalization, but most likely a different EQ. That makes for a different tonal balance, sometimes pretty laid back, sometimes it's a knife in the ears.
I think the mono original Mercury 1812 used a different EQ, before the RIAA standard EQ was developed. Definitely a different tonal balance.
"Sure seemed to me that mono was way cool especially in the LOW listening fatigue factor. Going on a Goodwill road trip next week-LOL,"
When something is new its easy to overlook flaws. It happens all the time with equipment purchases. Sometime you like a component when you first listen to it but once you have had a chance to listen to it at length, quite often you start hearing things you don't like. I'm not saying that this is the case here, but its possible.
"07-21-13: Rrog Many people prefer mono because the sound is more natural without the phase problems you get with stereo."
Thats something that can be dealt with. If you match and set your components up properly, phase problems can be avoided.
I don't think you are nuts. I'm still amazed at the quality of some of the old recordings. Recently I was listening to some old Fred Astaire remasters in mono and the vocal presence was downright vivid. Some things to me sound better in mono. I don't know how they were recorded, but maybe they sounded better because they were recorded as a whole and not a sum of a bunch of parts. The structure of the whole performance seemed more right.
A number of years ago at a dealer with both new and used gear set up and playing in different rooms, I heard an old pops album played on a Garrard turntable through a Musical Fidelity A1 into some Epos speakers. I think the price tag on the whole damn setup was $1200. It was mono, with little detail, but the tonal structure of the whole performance was just terrific. What an epiphany that was that I sat there listening to that display for 20 minutes and didn't much care to move on the next room.
I was in Jeff Catalano's room a few shows back, and he pulled out an old mono recording and played it. It was one of those moments in my audiophile existence that definitely stands out. When it was over, he casually mentioned that we were hearing it through his dedicated mono side. A dedicated mono phono pre. This, I told him, was true insanity. He responded with, "Hey; but I drive a Honda...". I must admit, I understand his sensibilities.
The OHM Walsh speakers I use have no match when it comes to delivering the goods with mono recordings. It's like they are there playing/singing in your room. Gotta hear it to believe it. Its about as good as it can get.
VIRIDIAN, I take your point on the M78 stylus , thanks.
Going thru my stash I found a NOS N70B shure stylus with an .0006 radius vs a .0025 for the M78, would this meet your criteria? Truth be told I don't even know what a um is,all I ever studied was history.
Good mono recordings are also very useful as a reference standard to help get things set up well for stereo. If you get a solid and full nicely centered and focused image with good mono recordings, chances are the speaker setup will be pretty well optimized for stereo at that point as well. Its much harder to use stereo recordings as a reference in that there is so much variability in how the stereo channels are utilized from recording to recording.
Yrs ago I was at a flea market on the Ohio/PA border. I bought a stereo copy of Ellington's 'Indigos' from one dealer and a mono copy from another (SCORE!;)! I always preferred the mono version. Later on I read that they're actually 2 different recordings as Duke decided to re-record it in stereo. Hmmm, haven't played them back-to-back since I got them, and always leaned towards the mono, think it's time to re-visit!;)
Viridian- I played 3 records that have been in heavy rotation(oh, that Dakota Satanton)the sound is much fuller and with more detail, must be getting all of that groove! I did't notice any damage, just less surface noise.
That whole 91ED family must be the greatest buy of all-time in audio.First real table I ever bought was an AR XA that came with one. 45 TT's and twice as many carts later I should have just stopped there, have just as good sound and I'd be 30K richer .
Al, thanks for the class, even at age 78 I got a lot to learn LOL.
Imagine: If the internet had been around in the late 50s everyone would have been discussing how stereo and Solid State was ruining HiFi and young people- a conspiracy by music shops to make us buy two of everything. I had an Uncle that was into HiFi. That must be how I was influenced during my formative years... He had a stereo console in the 60s and moved up to a Pioneer Quadraphonic receiver in the 70s with a Dual tt. So extrapolating speaker count from a single in the 50s to two speakers in the 60s and 4 speakers in the 70s, we should be up to 64 speaker systems today. Let's see, if my uncle were still alive today, I could show him my 7.1HT system that is mostly for the kids. Hey, that HT system has 20 drivers when I add them all up. I guess the speaker marketing guru's have been pretty successful after all over the decades.
Tonywinsc, by your own calculation, you're 44 drivers behind schedule! ;-)
I was once ahead of it. Back in 1973 I had 18 drivers in my 2-ch setup... a pair of Bose 901s. In those days, Bose was pushing 901 owners to add a second pair, facing outward toward the side walls. They were advocating a surround field (from just two channels) decades before multi-channel became popular.
Of course the phase confusion from even two 901s was pretty awful. They were pleasant, midrangy speakers with a huge sound field, but very muddy. I can just imagine how murky four of them would have sounded. I'm now down to 10 drivers for 2 channel, and they're all facing the right direction!
For a mono source, Jeff Catalano's single channel amplification and speaker must sound sublime. Wish I'd heard that.
Just wanted to point out that OHM Walsh speaker sound quality has been refined considerably over the last 20 years or so since the Walsh 2s and 2XOs, keeping up with overall "higher end" speaker technology and sound quality quite well in general and for very attractive cost. All models sound similar and size and cost needed depends mainly on room size and need/desire for full extended bass accordingly. Definitely something to keep in mind for anyone looking for good full range sound on a modest budget. And those mono recordings to die for.....
I remember walking into the Record Collector on South Highland in Hollywood years ago (i think this was the 'old' store) and seeing these behemoth speakers (old Electovoice, if memory serves, about the size and 3/4's the height of a Sub-Zero refrigerator); one in the front room, and one in the side room. I commented to the owner that his stereo image must suck; his reply: 'stereo is a gimmick.' Since then, I have collected at least 500 or more vintage mono records. Some sound spectacular. The Starker Kol Nidre on Mercury Living Presence is one. The cello just stands out from the mix in a way that the stereo version doesn't. I am seriously contemplating a second arm with a mono cartridge to serve up these records. The (relatively) new reissue of the Julie London record is mono and pretty remarkable sounding. Ditto, if memory serves, that old warhorse of the first Nina Simone record that has stayed in print all these years. (on the Bethlehem label).
A stereo record has almost twice the amount of information packed into the groove as compared to a mono recording. Something must have been lost to gain the L+R information. Tracking has to be easier for a mono recording. It's kinda of like a high quality B&W photo; the rich textures, the sharpness and detail are so good that it is hard to imagine it in color, or if there is a color version it seems to take away from the picture. I heard some old mono recordings once on a buddy's Quad ESLs with Quicksilver amps. I could imagine a top notch mono system consisting of a Quad ESL with a mono tube amp and using one side of a dual mono type preamp. The Quad ESL being a good choice in my mind because it is a single point source- and it is fast.
If the music is cool mono can sound fine to a point...stereo sounds better though because that is how the world sounds if both of your ears are working, assuming the music was well mixed and recorded. Live music spacial cues are mostly gone from mono. When I mix live (mostly jazz these days) shows you really have to do mono mixes to each side or people sitting nearest a speaker won't get everything, so I add in a small amount of stereo reverb to make it sound more lively and it goes a long way toward tricking the audience into thinking they're having fun.
From a technical standpoint stereo has nothing to do with the number of channels as long as it's more than one. Two, four or twelve channels, they are all stereo. Most audiophiles should see the value in capturing a live performance with each instrument/section in it's own channel. The way we would hear it in a natural event. We hear in a 360 degree environment with emphasis on certain forward perspectives, but we still hear from left to right and even behind. Yes mono can be good or even great, all things being equal stereo has at least twice the sound potential, Realistically it is an exponentially better recording platform.
Wolf_Garcia otherwise explained it perfectly from a practical standpoint.
Yes, stereo has all the advantages on paper. But its how its used recording by recording in each case that matters. Other than with the rare (these days) simple two or three microphone recording techniques what goes into the stereo mix is a product of what the production crew decides to mix in. It may or may not resemble anything like you might hear live.
Mono on the other hand takes that variable out of the equation. In certain setups in certain rooms with the right acoustics, it can sound very much like what a live performance in the same space would sound like with all the stereo mixing and mastering out of the picture. At least that has been my experience.
07-23-13: Zenblaster Most audiophiles should see the value in capturing a live performance with each instrument/section in it's own channel.
Depends on what is being recorded, though. I would certainly disagree with that statement when it comes to classical music, for example. The very best stereo classical recordings are almost invariably those which have been recorded using a minimal number of microphones, perhaps just two or three, well placed in a good hall. And with minimal or no subsequent mixing, equalization, limiting, compression, or other processing.
Unfortunately, as Mapman indicated that sort of purist approach to recording is the exception rather than the rule these days, even when it comes to classical music.
" The very best stereo classical recordings are almost invariably those which have been recorded using a minimal number of microphones, perhaps just two or three, well placed in a good hall. And with minimal or no subsequent mixing, equalization, limiting, compression, or other processing."
Stereo rules in this case. Many early stereo classical recordings were done exactly this way in order to show of the medium's capabilities and are still hard to beat.
The mono recordings I tend to like best are from the 50s and early 60s and of smaller rock, blues and jazz ensembles. Recent digital remasters of most any mono recording on Sun, Chess or even Stax labels are outstanding.
Just the other day I was marveling at how good the original "Roll Over Beethoven" by Chuck Berry was sounding.
Schubert- any of the usual suspects, music direct, acoustic sounds, etc. should have it. It was done by Boxstar, which surprised me, since I was very disappointed with another of their remasters. But, make sure it is the 45rpm. I have an original Liberty pressing down in Texas, but I haven't listened to it yet (since my gear, RCM, etc. is not there yet). Good luck and enjoy. Cry Me a River is worth the price of admission.
The very best stereo classical recordings are almost invariably those which have been recorded using a minimal number of microphones, perhaps just two or three, well placed in a good hall. And with minimal or no subsequent mixing, equalization, limiting, compression, or other processing.
Only true if you attach primacy to the sound of musicians performing in a space. If you're more interested in the just the sound of the musicians performing, then you need to be open to post recording manipulation. All performing spaces don't sound great. Microphone placement is always a compromise between tonality, detail and spatial info. Even in great sounding spaces there's no agreement about the best seats in the house. Each recording is unique and may require a different set of tools.
Of course, one man/women sitting on a stool reciting poetry might favor a mono recording. The more complex and numerous the musicians the larger the hall all lend to a multi microphone/input recording.
Casablanca is magical in black and white and I would not even watch it in color, neverless hdtv.
What I meant is when you mic live musicians (other than orchestras) through a normal PA system you can't mix it in stereo because some audience members are sitting much closer to one side than the other and would wonder why the drummer's high hat was missing and demand a refund and punch me in the face.
Wouldn't ALL classical fans want to hear "musicians in a space?" What are the options? Spaceless orchestras? Orchestras in space? Orchestras revealed in a soundstage that makes them sound like they were playing in a dumpster? I have nothing against dumpsters. Just want that to be clear.
It's true that stereo playback can approach re-creating the spatial characteristics of the recording event. And as much as I like that sensation, tonal accuracy and balance is more important. I'd rather hear voices and instruments sounding real before I care about who sat where or how big the recording venue was.
Mono-mastered LPs have an inherent advantage for tonal balance and traceability because the mastering cutter and the playback stylus don't have to split duties between two channels. From what I've read, some early stereo records had trouble achieving the rich tonal balance of their mono counterparts.
In America most of the Capitol pressings of Sgt. Pepper were in stereo because the US market had already switched. At EMI, however, the engineers spent much more time on the mono mixdown than the stereo one. I finally chased down a Capitol mono pressing w/o breaking the bank, and it has none of that thin brittle sound I often associated with that record.
Right now I'm listening to Acoustic Sounds' 45 rpm re-master of the 1957 Nat King Cole record, "After Midnight" on Capitol in glorious mono. It is one of the gems of my record library.
For any of you wondering if those 45 rpm Acoustic Sounds re-masters are worth it, the answers are Yes! and HELL, YES!
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