Mono VS Stereo


For the last few years I stopped listening to my system in stereo mode and now only listen in mono. As soon as I started listening in mono my listening enjoyment went up about 300%. No longer did I become fatigued by the (Man made) stereo (Effects) created by the engineers in the studio. I grew to hate following these effects from the left speaker to the right speaker and back again with some recordings. When you attend a live performance be it Rock, Jazz, synphony or whatever, the sound comes at you in mono not stereo (Unless of course the sound man has other ideas. But as far as the band and the actual instruments are concerned there is no such thing as "Playing" in stereo. Give it a try, listen to your records or CD's in mono ( I hope you all have a mono selector on your preamps) it will be hard going back to stereo listening plus the soundstage and the way the "Band" comes across will be really cool.
Oh dear. I am not sure what to say. You may have an issue with your system or
room acoustics - this is absolutely not a normal conclusion. Get some help with
your system. I would also have your hearing tested.
For example, are your speakers perhaps way too far apart ( I prefer them close together and much less than an equilateral triangle in order to preserve a more realistic concert like performance). I also prefer Telarc recordings that are not multi-miked but are done with careful care to preserve the proper stereo balance. My speakers are 8 feet apart and I sit 12 feet back in order to get a proper balanced far-field presentation.
Mono records played on a stereo rig are one thing, but stereo records played in mono on the same rig, do not produce the same result. One likely result is loss of ambiance and high frequency information. I agree with Shadorne, look for a system issue..
As always I appreciate all the feedback with respects to mono vs stereo. Rest assured there is no problem with my system or hearing. However I do prefer the mono "Effect" if you will as compared to the "Stereo" effect. When switching back and forth between mono and stereo there is no loss of high frequencies, no loss of anything in terms of sonics. My speakers are about 8 or 9 feet appart, but I enjoy close field listening as opposed to sitting far back. In the end it's just how I enjoy my stereo in particular. Actually I know alot of people who listen to their system in mono and they also have top quality equipment. Sorry guys, as always I appreciate and respect all your opinions. However I'm going to continue to listen in mono. All the best guys......
To each his own!
Then why not go with a true mono system?
Apparently you don't attend many live acoustic concerts, or(if you do) pay for very good seating. Anyone seated in the better seats can even "hear" the hole in the middle of the orchestral seating arrangement. That's given a decent acoustic to start with. In any decent smaller venue, say an acoustic jazz/blues club; there's also no problem with hearing instrument or vocal placement within the live soundfield, as well as the venue's ambience(what stereo seeks to replicate). When we set up(amplified) sound in a live venue: we have to consider that over a third of the audience will be seated in front of the left speaker and over a third in front of the other. There will be less than a third seated in what would be considered a "sweet spot", and able to appreciate "stereo". So- most amplified venues are run in mono. I'm certain there are many that still enjoy mono, and some of the early works that were recorded that way are excellent listens. As long as you're enjoying whatever you listen to.........
Don't know what a true mono system is and I've never listened to one. I'm happy with the state of my system and I like to listen in mono as Rodman99999 pointed out, to each his own! This passion of ours gives us great joy, in the end it's about passion and joy. Some people obtain perfect sonic enjoyment from a set of headphones (Those people are lucky because they get off cheap!), others need a system where thousands are invested. In any case the one thing all of us have in common is that we all love music, for surely without music there would be no stereo or mono!
Hi Nocaster, if you have vinyl, you really owe it to yourself to get a mono cartridge. You will totally be surprised by how different it is if you have mono recordings. Look at Art Dudley's column on his musings and joys of mono. To hear a mono recording with a mono cartridge is a wonderful ear opening experience that I could certainly get behind. Just flipping the mono switch?, no....
Sorry to confuse you. Why don't you just go with a single loudspeaker system. That would be a real mono system. I personally think mono playback can be wonderful, but you got to go all the way.
No longer did I become fatigued by the (Man made) stereo (Effects) created by the engineers in the studio. I grew to hate following these effects from the left speaker to the right speaker and back again with some recordings. When you attend a live performance be it Rock, Jazz, synphony or whatever, the sound comes at you in mono not stereo

I think this is the key to your preference for mono -- the material you are listening to, and its engineering. The sound of a classical symphony orchestra, or a smaller classical ensemble or soloist, being listened to in a good hall (and unamplified, of course), will be surrounded by a very striking hall ambience. That will be captured to some approximation by a well done stereo recording (especially if it is recorded with a minimal number of microphones, and is subjected to minimal post-processing), but will be mostly lost when you listen in mono mode. The same no doubt holds true for many well-engineered non-classical recordings.

-- Al
i prefer 'no channels' or 'NONO'....this gets rid of everything 'manmade'.
I'm learning something new here (Single loudspeaker configurations and mono cartridges) really cool. Not sure if I'm ready to go all the way with mono but for sure worth a look. Great perspectives guys, one and all.
I'm learning something new here (Single loudspeaker configurations and mono cartridges) really cool.

Not to sound like a broken record but I really would investigate further the reason for your preference - you might learn/discover something else. If you had a radioshack system then I might understand your unusual preference but with Sonus Faber Guaneri driven by Mcintosh preamp and power amp...I reckon you ought to get a fantastic stereo sound.

FWIW: Stereo recordings are meant to be heard that way. Certain effects are specific and unique to stereo and are used extensively in the industry. It is not just simple panning that is done but adjustments to phase which are made on most recordings to create soundstage width/depth/ambiance. If you convert them to mono then you will get some unintended effects.
Thank you for the info shadorne. I should be clear that my "Stereo sound" is fantastic and that my set up is great. It could just be that I prefer my peculiar way of listening to most of my material. For whatever it's worth whenever I have guests and we're listening to the system they prefer it in stereo. I realize that alot goes into a recording as you say, but for me sometimes the sum of all the parts don't add up to a whole. To be fair, next week when I have the chance I'll listen in stereo for the day and let you guys know if I've changed my mind at all. After all it has been quite some time since I have actually listened to my system in stereo for any length of time. Cheers.
In a correct stereo set-up there are instruments on the right and left and in the CENTER. That is the stereo effect. Since you prefer a "close-field" sweet spot with the speakers 8 or 9 feet apart and the music in Mono it seems there is a "hearing problem" or a neurological problem which prevents you from hearing seamless music in a stereo presentation. If you have to sit so close to the speakers to hear the music then mono might be necessary to avoid the ping-pong effect of incorrect stereo separation unless you place the speakers further apart and toe them in to create a close field position. Have you tried headphones and what result did you have?
I have a Helikon Mono cart in my system now and am enjoying my mono recordings they was they were engineered. I find that the timbre is better in mono than stereo, the depth of field is also better (in my system), but with my speakers (Martin Logans) they image really well in stereo. I usually go about 6 months stereo/6 months mono. I think you guys who are blowing off the mono opportunity ought to sell me all your mono records. you just don't know what you are missing.

for what it's worth, my collection is about 60% stereo, 40% mono. I enjoy both, but relish the great old jazz pieces in mono.

FWIW...In the late 1940s I listened (was made to sit down and listen) to a SOTA system, Mono of course. It utilized two loudspeakers, positioned just as we do today for stereo.
It also had a phono pickup which used wooden "needles" that had a triangular cross section, and were sharpened using a special clipper.

The main reason to get a Mono cartridge is to get the proper (large) stylus. Many "Mono" cartridges are simply stereo models with a jumper to eliminate sensitivity to vertical groove modulation. This jumper is in preamps that have a Mono switch.
FWIW at 8 or 9 feet apart and sitting at a close near-field position (3 to 6 feet I presume) then I fear that you will indeed over-exaggerate some stereo effects to a degree that it becomes annoying on many recordings. Sounds will be to your left and right to such a degree that you may feel that you are sitting within the orchestra (a very unusual seat for a concert goer).

I'd suggest to try placing the speakers 4 feet apart (tweeter to tweeter) if you sit 6 feet back from the plane of the speakers. If you sit at 3 feet then place the speakers 2 feet apart.
All very interesting observations. I always have like headphones, even the cheap ones! I do agree with the gentleman that the depth of fied does indeed improve when in mono. Interestingly i too prefer old jazz in mono in particular. In a perfect world I guess all our systems should image and create a soundstage as it were like headphones. But headphones have an unfair advantage in that they do not have to deal with the room or envirement they're in. My system in stereo does have great seperation, imaging, soundstage etc...Right or wrong there is just something about listening in mono that moves me more for the material I listen to.
I too like mono sound. However, not to detract from your sonic joys, but do try repositioning your spkrs, as Shadorne suggests or even a bit further away (¬5'); the experience will be better for both mono & stereo material.
Keep in mind that "mono" is often sound re-channelled through the right (stereo) channel. It could be you're enjoying an artefact -- albeit a welcome one!
As ELdartford notes there are few mono cartridges around, some of them being just modded stereos. But it's worth trying out, I think, especially on mono recordings.
Nocaster, you do realize that the people responding here are being really gentle on you? Much of what you say makes no sense at all!

In a perfect world I guess all our systems should image and create a soundstage as it were like headphones.
the depth of field does indeed improve when in mono

You've repeatedly said your system sounds fantastic with a wonderful stereo spread, yet you prefer listening in mono. That's a really bizarre conclusion. That's no just a little out of left field type statement -- it's from two counties over from where the ballpark is. Reasonable audiophiles can only conclude that something is seriously wrong with your setup. It would help if you were to post your system with pictures of your listening space.

It's not just a case of "to each his own". There is a question of fidelity. Mono recordings are best heard in mono, but to limit stereo recordings to mono is to purposely distort them. It would be like going to a museum housing impressionist paintings and wearing infra-red night vision goggles because I don't like the vibrant color "effect". I'd quickly be in a small room explaining my "preference" to security personnel.
shadorne is absolutely correct. the artists and engineers have made records for 'stereo' since 'shep was a pup'...unless you specialize in collecting 'pre rock era' stuff, its a bit like the benefits of shoving a square peg in a round hole.
Stereo recordings are best heard in stereo and mono recordings in mono.

There are many mono recordings from the pre-stereo age that are quite excellent because they were designed and intended to be heard that way (in mono).

Same true with stereo. In general listening to these in mono is a course and lacking simulation of what these products are intended to sound like.

Of course, we all have the right to listen as we please for whatever reasons make us happy.
I know I know......I have been off the beaten path for much of my life when it comes to the "Norm". Stones over the Beatles, big money on small speakers (Guarneri), really old motorcycles, film vs digital, First off I really appreciate all you guys being "Gentle" in your observations about my mono comments. I know some you are probably thinking I should order one of those jackets with the really lond wrap around sleeves and allow six to eight weeks for delivery. I figure I'm in good company, they thought Columbus was crazy too!! But I honestly do prefer listening in mono, even if technically incorrect it's more enjoyable to me at this point. As I say I will play around with my system in terms of speaker positioning etc..later this week and see what shakes. I was just thinking what a blast it would be to have all you guys at my place having copious amounts of espresso etc...having this same conversation and listening to music. Ahh the spice of life. Cheers.
I still think there is a (superbly enjoyable) artefact involved -- so mark your speakers' original positions before repositioning. Just to be on the safe side...
OTOH, if you'll allow me the comment "big money on small speakers (Guarneri)" is hardly "off the beaten track"; those are easily among the best spkrs that manufacturer has offered!
(I would love some of that espresso...)
Don't you just love it when you make a perfect espresso! You put the sugar on top and it takes almost 30 seconds before it gets through the creamy top and sinks to the bottom of the cup. That is how the Guarneri make me feel and I agree they are among (For me the best) the best model Sonus Faber has ever made. Now.......Espresso's are something I like in stereo.......Two at a time! All the best.
Yeah I'm with Gregm - the Guarneri is the most neutral and transparent of SF speakers and a real gem.
Hoestly, I have never listened to a speaker that I have liked as much as the Guarneri. I would advise anyone who is seriously considering any of the Sonus Faber speakers to make arrangements more a very lengthy audition of all the speakers your considering. I took a whole day, it came down to the Guarneri vs the Amati for me. In the end throught he same electronics the Guarneri were music to my ears. The Amati were amazing but there was a certain magic that the Guarneri had that the Amati did not. I think you could probably find many of the virtues the Amati have in more than a few quality loudspeakers, but the "Guarneri magic" is alot more elusive to come by in any speaker. After owning my Guarneri for years I have no desire to own any other speaker. The other thing is that when your not listening to them they still look like art, I've had people in my house think they were just that and not a speaker at all.
Well I started listening in stereo as opposed to mono and the results have been very interesting. For some reason I prefer stereo, yes I have changed my mind. Perhaps taking a break from stereo listening for years has made me appreciate it alot more. All of a sudden listening to stereo records in mono sound vague and somehow removed and less involving. On the other hand my new equipment (Mcintosh MC2301's and Mcintosh C1000T) sound heavenly. The improvement over the Mcintosh MC2102 and the C2200 is startling, just amazing. The last mod to my system (I know, famous last words) will be to my Sony SCD 777ES. I'll be sending it in for the VSI level seven mods and an upgrade they call "The breath of life". Apparently with these mods the SCD 777ES sounds pretty much as good as anything out there at any price. All the best.
Good news. Perhaps you should keep the system constant for a while (wait a while before doing the breath of life" mod on the Sony 777ES.. I mean going from mono for all those years and finally to stereo is already quite a leap, IMHO.
Interesting. Have you experienced the "Breath of life" mod yourself? What exactly is it supposed to do? Good advice, perhaps I should keep the system constant for a while. As I say, let me know if you have experienced the breath of life or any other mods on the Sony SCD 777ES.