What's the Deal with Mono?
Stereo vs Mono. The age old-debate might just be settled here once and for all. Which one is better and why?
Ever notice the cost of original Beatles albums? Not too surprising. Ever notice the cost of original Beatles mono albums? Its crazy! Collectors regularly pay dear sums for vintage mono vinyl. Why? What’s the attraction? Certainly, the development of stereo was meant to usher us into the bright new world of sound, without ever looking back. But again, what’s old is new again.
Full disclosure: I’m no expert on this subject, yet. I’ll add what I know and then hopefully our intrepid readers can weigh in with more facts.
When a band recorded music back in the day, analog tapes were used. So, the originals or masters are in mono. This matters because mono tracks will output the same audio from both speakers. Engineers essentially split the sound into two to create stereo tracks driving different audio signals through the left and right speakers. The process is arbitrary and in every sense, the stereo version becomes a manufactured, interpreted version of the original analog master. Stereo became de facto format while mono fell out of favour. Quadraphonic took the split further by spreading the sound to 4 speakers. So while stereo is generally considered better by the unwashed masses, the conversion and debate about mono has come roaring back as audiophiles seek to get closer to the true intent of the artist who originally laid down that track.
Groups like Beatles were notoriously sloppy about making stereo mixes of their music and as vinyl collecting increased in popularity, the demand for the real sound was loudly heard.
Today, we see record companies re-releasing mono versions of big artists from back in the day.
As digital recording became the norm, the debate moved to whether the CD or the vinyl platter was better. Since you’re here and and records are now outselling CDs. I think we can safely say that choice (on this front at least) is clear.
Beyond the question of mono vs stereo, there’s also a question of how to play mono to best reveal it's depths. Although many like myself might have thought that it was only necessary to flick the switch to “mono’…Apparently, there are special styluses and components that should be deployed to get the most out of the mono experience.
What are your thoughts? If you have a mono obsession, can you share it with Vinyl Pursuit below? If there’s enough content, we’ll update this article and repost for all.
Now, drop that needle.