Mono vinyl, how do you know if really single channel mono or if stereo recorded to mono


I'm exploring the possibility of getting a mono cartridge. 

Please, I am not trying to start a debate about whether or not that is a good idea. I simply have a question about monophonic records.

How can you tell which records are truly mono and which are actually stereo with 2 identical channels to simulate mono?

I know that for all mono records before stereo there was only one channel cut laterally into the record .  When stereo came out some so called mono recordings were actually 2 channels just like a stereo record with both horizontal and vertical information but  L and R were the same so ended up as mono. I also know that a "true mono" cartridge only has output from the horizontal motion and that the stylus size is different than a stereo stylus, which means according to many aficionados of mono recordings,  in an ideal world you would want a cartridge optimized for mono to play true mono records

again, I do not want to debate the pros and cons of this, just want the facts about the records. If you want to debate something else please start another thread

thanks


herman
That is news to me.  If the record album says mono, I play it on my mono rig.  It sounds like you want to use your stereo cartridge on the “two channel mono” you describe.  Many albums were recorded in mono and stereo, and you can find both.  This is of course clearly labeled in most cases. Your issue is?
Actually it’s often a mono master that simulates stereo when pressed in stereo. Remember those simulated stereo when drums are in one channel and vocals are in another channel? This is how they make stereo out of mono master. This is not a true stereo record.

Regarding stereo to mono:
You can do that with one button on phono preamp (if you have mono switch).

What’s the point to make mono press out of stereo master ? Why ?

The reason labels released stereo from mono is because stereo was something new and mono masters already recorded in mono earlier.

Mono press does not have vertical modulation of the groove, only lateral. You can play it with one speaker. 

P.S. If you’re referring to stereo cutter head used to cut mono lacquer than it’s true, most of the modern mono records cut with stereo cutter head as far as I know.

State of the art mono records (made from mono master) are old, vintage. Those are true mono. If they are not pre 50’s then you can play them with modern stereo cartridge. You can also play them with true mono cartridge if you wish, but it’s not necessary to have conical tip for mono, actually advanced profile of the stylus tip is a benefit for the sound quality anyway (even for old mono, except for pre 50’s era mono with wider groove) and life span is much longer, also less record wear. Advanced stylus profile wasn’t there when mono was a standard.


It sounds like you want to use your stereo cartridge
no.. At this point I’m not wanting to do anything other than understand what is happening. As I stated in my post .... I am exploring getting a mono cartridge

What’s the point to make mono press out of stereo master ? Why ?

My question has nothing to do with converting stereo to mono. It has to do with how a mono record is made with a mono master, how the groove is cut in the vinyl... and how a cartridge "reads" that groove, , are mono records cut with stereo heads the same as those cut with mono heads, and ultimately, what kind of mono cartridge is best to get?

before stereo there was only one way mono records were made, with a mono cutting head that only moves laterally.

after stereo you can also cut a mono record with a stereo cutting head by applying the same signal to both channels. So one question is.. does this result in the same thing as using a mono cutting head i.e. only lateral motion during playback? In other words, if I used a mono cutting head to make one record and a stereo cutting head to make another from the same recording, would the grooves be identical? So I admit my initial question about how to tell the difference was not the right question, the question is, are they different?

I ask this because I don’t know if a "modern" mono recording cut with a stereo head is better off played with a stereo cartridge since it was cut with a stereo head, or does playing it with a mono cartridge offer the same advantages as playing one cut with a mono head. I ask this because there are a variety of mono cartridges, some that are actually stereo cartridges strapped to mono, and some are true mono i..e. they only have output in response to lateral motion. I ask this because I am exploring getting a mono cartridge and I’m trying to understand the differences in this variety of cartridges and which is the best kind to get. It obviously isn’t just a matter of buying a cartridge that is labeled as mono because there are different ways they are made and different stylus profiles.

thank for the responses but I obviously wasn’t very clear in my initial post so I am trying again...


A mono cartridge is a nice investment. I didn’t want to go crazy, so purchased an Ortofon mono cart (non-SE). Sounds much better than playing mono with my stereo cart (I have no mono switch on my phono stage). Just installed it on another headshell, and swap it out easily.

In terms of ‘modern’ mono pressings, I have no idea. All my mono LP’s are vintage. Most from the 50’s to early 60’s. Thus I assume they are true mono cuts/pressings. I just spent all this past weekend listing to only old mono albums. Quite enjoyable. And a very good and well engineered mono recording/pressing can almost sound stereophonic.


Lastly, a mono record cut with a properly aligned stereo cutterhead will be no different to using a mono head, as long as the signal supplied is the exact same for both channels. The cutting stylus chosen should also ensure the production of sufficiently deep and wide grooves in order to accommodate those users wanting to replay mono with a traditional spherical 25µm stylus.

I found this on the Ortofon site so answers one question.

a good resource

https://www.ortofon.com/hifi/cartridges-ranges/true-mono/

it also appears that for optimum performance a "true mono" cartridge is desirable i.e one that only generates output from lateral motion, not a stereo cartridge strapped to mono or by using a mono button on a phono stage if it has one.



If you’re using MM mono cartridge then a cartridge generator must be true mono, but you can add stereo stylus with advanced profile (or any profile you need for different mono records)! Check this thread.

If your records are new mono reissues then you don’t need those old mono cartridges with huge conical styli (they are made for mono records pressed before 1950 with wider groove).

The first question is pressing then you can choose a cartridge for them.
I wouldn’t even buy a re-issues, old mono originals are better.
New music rarely recorded in mono.

Buy original mono records if you want the best quality in mono.
One of those  "thinking too hard about it" questions that isn't clear.

Just enjoy your mono presses on your existing system. Have you even played a mono record on your existing setup? They will sound fine on whatever you have. If your nervosa is overtaking you, get a mono cartridge. 
Yes, you can get deep in the weeds trying to match cartridges and stylus to different vintages and labels of pressings in both mono and stereo.  The question is how many monos do you have or want to acquire.  I started testing with inexpensive mono cartridges and determined that they are well worth it, compared to using a stereo cartridge, or a stereo cartridge and the mono switch on my preamp.  Now my most expensive cartridge is mono on a separate TT, but I have a large collection of vintage mono pressings.   
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The Miyajima website has a nice short summary of what stylus widths work best with what vintage of mono LP. But unless one has a collection that includes 78s and/or very early LPs cut pre-1950 or in the early 50s, I don’t think this is much of an issue. Once you do decide whether you need a mono cartridge and then whether you need a "true mono" cartridge vs a stereo cartridge that has been converted to mono operation by bridging the two channels internally, then be very careful how you read the manufacturers’ descriptions of their mono cartridges. Nearly all of them are guilty of obfuscating to one degree or another, in order to allow the reader to believe that their product is "true mono". Not many actually are, Miyajima, at least one model of Denon, EMT, and a few others being the exception. For example, if you read the blurb on the Ortofon Quintet Mono, you would be forgiven for thinking they are describing a true mono cartridge. But my research suggests the Quintet Mono is a bridged stereo type. Not that there is anything really wrong with that, particularly if you are listening to modern pressings of mono tapes that were made using a stereo cutter.


I don’t know why many listeners hear a difference between using a mono cartridge, which is typically one of those bridged stereo versions of a mono cartridge, and just using the mono switch on the preamplifier (which also results in bridging of two stereo channels), but it could be that bridging before RIAA correction and before amplification of the signal makes a difference, in favor of the mono cartridge. I own a mono cartridge (Shelter 501 v2) but don’t use it much since I am satisfied with using the mono switch. I probably ought to make more of an effort.

I suggest/hope you research and find a Mono Cartridge BODY with interchangeable/optional Stylus, and let us know what you find please. Spherical/Elliptical/ML stylus types, let’s not forget 78rpm!

Anybody know???

I am finding Mono LP’s is a messy world, and information is often missing. Original and subsequent diddling around sometimes but not always noted. Some Mono don’t even say mono on the sleeve or disk label, some dated just prior to 1958 might or might not be ……?

.......................................

As for mixing Stereo into Mono, I read this:

Transition Period i.e. 1956-1958 : Major Labels had 2 recording teams: established mono team; new stereo team. They paid the musicians/singers to perform twice and sold both Mono and Stereo versions. Like R2R Tape, all kinds of propriety names had been invented for Mono LP's, then more new names for Stereo LP's

Too expensive for small labels. Rudy Gelder figured out he could make a single Stereo Recording to release Stereo in the future, and mix a mono version from his single stereo recording to issue a mono lp for sale now.


Nearly all of them are guilty of obfuscating to one degree or another, in order to allow the reader to believe that their product is "true mono". Not many actually are

Thanks Lewm, I see that. Ortofon uses the term "true mono" all over their website, but when I contacted them about their cartridges they replied

Firstly, please read some background information about the TRUE MONO concept on our web here https://www.ortofon.com/hifi/cartridges-ranges/true-mono/.


MONO models use a strapped output to deliver the same output signal from both sets of pole pins, which makes it possible to get true mono reproduction on any stereo playback system. So there is only one signal out and this is on both pair of terminals (for convenience - most people have stereo equipment and need signal for both channels).


so their use of the term "true mono" is to me.. very misleading if not basically an outright lie. 

I just ordered this to play with.. not much money and if correctly described it is a mono cartridge.. thanks so far for the info

https://www.audio-technica.com/en-us/at-mono3-lp

Due to the horizontal configuration of its PCOCC (Pure Copper by Ohno Continuous Casting) voice coils, the AT-MONO3/LP cartridge only generates electrical signal with horizontal movement, yet it also has appropriate compliance in the vertical direction, making it safe for use with stereo records.

I think it was directed at me.
please excuse my redundancy and awkward enthusiasm for mono.  
I am finding Mono LP’s is a messy world, and information is often missing.

amen

I suggest/hope you research and find a Mono Cartridge BODY with interchangeable/optional Stylus,

good idea... does that exist?
I apologize for the title of the thread, it should not say "stereo recorded to mono." that makes no sense... I was thinking about mono recorded as 2 equal channels on a stereo record... so it should be the other way around.. I was interested in mono recorded with a stereo cutting head

so again, I apologize for causing any confusion.
@herman Grace F14 LC-OFC MONO is one of the best mono MM I have ever heard, many original styli from Grace or new from SoundSmith
in case anyone is still paying attention , I decided there is only one way to satisfy my curiosity and that is to get a real mono cartridge. Consensus of the online reviews is a Miyajima Zero is one of the best so ordered one. true mono with only lateral motion. I've also been cleaning my record collection and didn't realize I have a lot of classic jazz records (late 50's and 60's) that are mono as well as a fair number of older classical. Ordered the Dylan and Coltrane mono boxes too.. OH BOY another thing to collect !!!
Enjoy it. Get some Beatles/Stones mono LP's if you're a fan. It's a breath of fresh air to hear those great songs coming from the center of your speakers instead of L&R.

I wish all my LP's were mono. Some mixes are just downright awful.
Even on Uber systems some stereo LP's are terrible.
doorbell just rang. UPS with my copy of the 3 LP set Beatles "Mono Masters"
Funny to ask here and to buy what's in the reviews online.

I can't comment on Miyajima mono.  

Anyway, Miyajima stereo cartridges are fantastic (got my Miyajima Kansui here) and I have not yet owned any MONO record that better than Stereo. I think I prefer stereo anyway.


 


Funny to ask here and to buy what's in the reviews online.

how so "funny" ?? You find it odd to seek out as many opinions as I can before I buy ??

what other sources of information would you suggest ?? Believe it or not, there aren't any bricks and mortar dealers within 200 miles of here and those that exist don't deal with analog very much if at all  .. so online reviews, online opinions here, online opinions on other forums, online whatever is all I have to go with. 

I have not yet owned any MONO record that better than Stereo.

I have many records that were recorded mono before stereo existed or was just catching on so no stereo masters exist. .Any stereo version of these is "electronically enhanced" .. tough to see how the stereo version could be better... I'll let you know. I've read review after review and many opinions from those who repeatedly attest that the mono versions of these early recordings especially played with a quality mono cartridge are absolutely better. I have yet to read where mono turned into stereo is better, I've yet to hear anybody say that they prefer these older mono recordings played with a stereo cartridge. 
Elliott, I have two recordings of Julie Christy's "Something Cool", both on Capitol.  One is stereo and the other is mono.  If you listen carefully, you can detect that Julie does not even sing the songs in exactly the same way on both LPs, and there are differences in the musical lines.  So, what you say is true, and I have read it elsewhere.  In some cases, during those transition years, studios made two entirely different recordings, one for each mode.
Sorry, June Christy, not Julie Christy.  I think I was mixing her up with the British actress of the same era.
I have many records that were recorded mono before stereo existed or was just catching on so no stereo masters exist. .Any stereo version of these is "electronically enhanced" .. tough to see how the stereo version could be better... I’ll let you know. I’ve read review after review and many opinions from those who repeatedly attest that the mono versions of these early recordings especially played with a quality mono cartridge are absolutely better. I have yet to read where mono turned into stereo is better, I’ve yet to hear anybody say that they prefer these older mono recordings played with a stereo cartridge.

You’re talking about OLD mono. If mono is the only version (originally recorded in mono) then it’s fine and it’s better to buy mono LP, right. You need only one speaker for those records and it’s OK.

But in the 70’s stereo is the way to go, I much prefer original stereo records (not fake stereo). I don’t know why do we need mono today if stereo is available? Who prefer to record in mono today and why?

For archivist of very old mono records (when stereo was not available) mono is the right format, but in general real stereo records are absolutely amazing. Maybe it was a bit weight with early stereo, but in the 60s and 70s stereo records are fantastic!

P.S. I'm not talking about reissues

"Sorry, June Christy, not Julie Christy "

lewm-
You are referring to Julie London. I bring a  1955 mint  mono copy of "Julie is her name" to demos/shows. It's on the Liberty Label. Always catches the attention of anyone in the room. It is a fine example of a mono recording. 

This is my favorite rendition of "Laura". A perfect recording. Dixie McCall(Julie in the TV show "Emergency") is in the room
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBnqZDdQ18Y

There is a 45 reissue available of this album, almost as good a clean original.

Everyone should have this album in their collection. Jazz heavyweights playing on the album.My favorite guitarist-Barney Kessel playing beautiful as always.
You’re talking about OLD mono. If mono is the only version (originally recorded in mono) then it’s fine and it’s better to buy mono LP, right. You need only one speaker for those records and it’s OK.

But in the 70’s stereo is the way to go, I much prefer original stereo records (not fake stereo). I don’t know why do we need mono today if stereo is available? Who prefer to record in mono today and why?

Here is one instance where I see absolutely no use for stereo. . think Bob Dylan on his early records when it was him, guitar, and harp. When they put some of them out in stereo they panned the guitar one way and the harp the other with his voice in the middle. Completely unnatural and distracting, much better in mono

In the early days of stereo  they tended to show it off by putting some instruments hard left , some hard right, and often left a hole in the middle. There are a lot of small group jazz recordings (trio, quartet) like that. Debatable which is preferable, but definitely not the best use of stereo.

One argument you hear for mono is it allows you to concentrate on the music because your brain doesn't have to process the stereo. Makes some sense.. at a live performance you seldom if ever get the sense of separation and the precise location of instruments in space that you get with a "well done" stereo recording. For most amplified concerts it is a wall of sound, there is no left and right. If the goal really is the proverbial "Absolute Sound" of recreating live performances most stereo falls far short in that regard.

So the question is.. do you prefer the music in stereo or is it the fun of listening to the soundstage they are creating, the unnatural soundstage in most cases. No right or wrong, but a perhaps a valid reason why some may prefer mono for recordings done in stereo.

.
Tablejockey, No, I am referring to June Christy, not Julie London. I well know the difference between them, and I own albums by both artists. June Christy started her career shortly after WW2, before Julie London hit the scene. She was briefly married to the bandleader, Stan Kenton. She started her career singing with the Kenton band. She was later superseded in that band by Chris Connors. June Christy’s album “Something Cool” is a jazz vocal classic and one of my favorites. Which is why I own both stereo and mono versions.
Once I understood and heard what mono is all about, stereo just adds to the "its not real, it's a recording" reality.

Now and then, the mix in a stereo LP is believable.  I just don't get the thinking-putting vocals on one side? Vocals should be mixed to both channels so the speakers can do their work "imaging". I do think mono thru 2 speakers is more convincing.

If you want to be real obsessive- listen to how a rock drummer blows through his kit. It should pan right to left(that's how it is live" if you're facing the band) Only if the drummers  playing orientation is the opposite should it pan the other way(not common). Many recordings are backward in this regard. Listen to the hihat. It should be on the right speaker. I don't know if this is a "reverse phase" phonomenon situation or what? Certainly isn't my particular amp. I sometimes reverse leads on the table for this.

I've noticed this years ago, and anytime my drummer friend is over for a listen he immediately notices it. 
@herman  Good choice to go to the top in buying a Miyajima Zero.  I have a Miyajima Premium and, even though it is maybe not a perfect match for tonearm, it sounds great.  Much better focus and tonality than using a stereo cartridge and a mono button.
I just bought a Phasemation mono which is even better on my Technics 1200G arm.
Nice.  I predict you will love the Zero and you will enjoy your mono collection immensely.
Those funny fake stereo mix is often related to records from the 60's. It's weird when vocal is only in one channel and drums in another channel ans so on. 

Records from 70's normally recorded and mixed in stereo properly. When we say STEREO it's a proper stereo mix, not a fake early stereo from mono master and stuff like that. 



 

 
I know everything about LPs.
See Julie Christie either as Lara in Dr Zhivago, or in Shampoo with Warren Beatty.
What are you talking about?
Elliot mentioned Julie Christie.  Is that OK?
I know everything about LPs.
ebm7,093 posts

ebm, i think we can ask you the same thing... what are you talking about? That's the second nonsensical post you've made to this thread.
"I have not yet owned any MONO record that better than Stereo."

I hate to say it but some of the earlier rock and jazz recordings of teh 50s and 60s sound the best in mono.  Its not even close.
I hate to say it but some of the earlier rock and jazz recordings of the 50s and 60s sound the best in mono.  Its not even close
.
Any recommendations, any favorites? In my never-ending quest to spend all of my retirement savings before I retire, I would love to add some to my collection.
"Ella and Louis" on Verve.  If ever you wouldn't care a fig about stereo vs mono, it is when listening to that recording.  Just sublime.  It was recorded in the 50s, only in mono.  It's been re-issued more than once in fake stereo. It's a must.
Great... I have that in mono and listened to it many times on CD. It is a double album reissue in the Verve VSP series (Very Special Performance). No idea how it compares to the originals or the 45 rpm reissues. 

Ella, Louie, Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown and either Buddy Rich or Louis Bellson... how can it be anything but great ?

can't wait to get my cartridge!
In case anybody is still paying attention. The Miyajima Zero  is here

 I can’t say definitely why because I’ve never had a mono cartridge, so is it because it is mono or because it is just a good cartridge or ??? But there is something that sounds very “right” about playing my old mono jazz and classical records with it. The horns have a bite and an “in the room” presence that I don’t get from my ZYX. It sounds like music and that's about as good as it gets.

The Original Jazz Classics I have sound very good as well as old mono classical records I inherited years ago from my grandfather. I bought the Beatles "Mono Masters" and so far it sounds like crap.. very bright, but only played side 1 so maybe it gets better. Reissue of Coltrane's mono Atlantic recordings on the way.

so here goes my retirement fund !!

regarding Stereo Imaging, this fabulous double live album is excellent engineering

https://www.amazon.com/Welcome-Home-Bon-Voyage-Sardines/dp/B07NBD1QDF

Donna has seen them live twice, I saw them live once in South Orange Theater, awesome, one of the best concerts ever

On wide stage: Left to right: Trombone, horns, tap dancer in front of horns, bass, drummer, singer in front of bass/drums (off center leaving room for tap dancer to her left) , piano/singer far right.

the double album is One: Live in Toronto; Two: Live in NYC

the imaging is reversed, piano on the left. Huh?

Turns out, NYC recording is the concert at Joe's Pub, Donna was there. Yes, that smaller stage the piano was on the left. 

Toronto was a wider stage.

So, I used my McIntosh Mode Stereo Reverse position, got the imaging trombone left, piano right as my brain was expecting! All is Well.

Had I never seen them, my brain wouldn't have searched for trombone left ... piano right


I have an Oscar Peterson Stereo LP recorded very weirdly. Great content, very weird imaging.

Drummer left, except during drum solos moved center. Bass right except solos moved center; Piano highs to lows are spread/move left to right.

Strange mic placement, too close to piano, combined with strange mixing decisions.

These kinds, terrific content, best not to listen from a position revealing imaging, I listen from a far corner. I didn't think to use my McIntosh Mode Mono position.

It's a terrific performance, I may look to see if a Mono version exists.
Toward the end of the 60s and in the early 70s, stereo had taken over at least nearly completely if not totally.  For many of the premier rock groups, it was then popular to record in an exaggerated stereo effect. In some cases, the apparent source of the instruments and/or voices would be rapidly shifted from one side to the other.  You can hear a lot of that on the later Beatles albums, when they were in their LSD and Ravi Shankar phase.  The Who did it too on DSOTM.  This studio engineering became part of the creative effort, for a while.  It's not a knock on stereo technology per se; the recording engineers were simply playing with their new toy in consultation with the recording artists.