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Why do people dislike Mono albums?

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Showing 1-25 of 131 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 30, 2012 6:24:37 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 30, 2012 6:25:32 AM PDT
I've been collecting and listening to 1960's albums recorded in Mono sound for many years, but I encounter a lot of people who absolutely can't stand the sound of a Mono recording. I find it interesting to hear all of the vocals and instruments coming out of a single speaker. My favorite Mono album is The Doors first album from 1967.

Why do people dislike Mono albums? Do you like Mono sound?

Posted on Jul 30, 2012 6:35:51 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 30, 2012 6:37:27 AM PDT
DFWTexan42 says:
Mono sound is flat. Stereo became the standard for good reason. It more closely appoximates what we actually hear with 2 ears. Multichannel, ie - 4, 5.1, 8.1, done properly, does an even better job of mimicing the sound we hear in an live performance venue. The only reason to listen to mono is historical accuracy, if it was originally recorded in mono. Just like old B+W films.

Posted on Jul 30, 2012 6:44:30 AM PDT
Stereo has been around since the 1950's. I have always preferred it to Mono. Most songs recorded since the late 50's or early 60's in the U.S.A were recorded on multiple tracks on audio tape. Mono was the format of singles and most albums were released in both Monophonic and Stereophonic versions. I prefer Stereo because I want to actually hear all of the instruments and vocals as close to the way they sounded in the studio as possible. Since my family had a stereo from 1963 on, the only time I ever heard Mono was through the 3" speaker in the dashboard of my Dad's Country Squire station wagon and through the speaker of my Westinghouse transister radio. I will always prefer Stereo.

Posted on Jul 30, 2012 7:17:11 AM PDT
"Mono sound is flat. Stereo became the standard for good reason. It more closely approximates what we actually hear with 2 ears. Multichannel, i.e. - 4, 5.1, 8.1, done properly, does an even better job of mimicking the sound we hear in a live performance venue. The only reason to listen to mono is historical accuracy"

Stereo became(?)....James is listening to 60s music!!

More closely approximates what we actually hear with 2 ears(?)........have you listened to the early Beatles in stereo? Music on one side and the vocals on the other. Doesn't seem to me like the reason is historical accuracy.

In my opinion, 60s music is so much better in mono. The difference is night and day!!

Posted on Jul 30, 2012 7:21:12 AM PDT
TC says:
i agree. The Beatles in mono are better for Ipods. The stereo separation is too jarring.

Posted on Jul 30, 2012 9:00:07 AM PDT
Severin says:
It depends on how the album/CD was produced. I've been listening to 2 deluxe Kinks albums "Village Green" and "Arthur" which come with both stereo and mono versions. When the stereo separation is unimaginative, no layering or panning or hidden instruments/vocals then the mono usually sounds better to me. I noticed that often the same set-up is used, drums on the right, bass on the left, vocals in the middle, etc. The producer of the album needed to take advantage of the opportunities stereo offered but often the stereo mix was done as an afterthought in the '60s by an engineer after the producer and musicians went home. As the Beatles spent more time in the studio crafting complex songs with layers of instrumentation then stereo helped the listener discover those layers.

Posted on Jul 30, 2012 10:40:41 AM PDT
It completely depends on the mix. Of course with the early Beatles albums I prefer mono - who wants to hear vocals on one side and instruments on the other? Even when listening to Revolver, I can only listen to the mono mix on my iPod, because the stereo mix is extreme, there's not enough 'centered', and the drums are panned in the strangest manner. Thank God George Martin remixed Rubber Soul and Help! for the initial CD releases - those mixes sound WAY better than the original stereo (AND mono) mixes. Just wish he did the same for Revolver.... Anyway, if the balances and panning is done well, I will almost always choose stereo over mono. Separation is always nice, and usually 'cleaner'.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 30, 2012 12:27:51 PM PDT
Really it depends on how many tracks were used in recording originally. Prior to 1965, multi-track recording machines were 2, 3, or 4 tracks only. The first 8 track recorder was made in 1965 followed by the 16 track in 1968. Few recording studios got 8 track machines until 1967-68.
Stereo mixing is about balance and placement of tracks in the stereo picture (which can include panning those tracks). There is little that can be done with placing 2-4 tracks when mixing down to 2 channels. That is why the first two Beatles albums are instruments on the left and vocals on the right; those albums were recorded on 2 track machines, and George Martin deliberately recorded them that way so he could control the balance of vocals vs. instruments when creating the mono mix. Three track recordings are usually mixed with one track far left, one far right and one dead center. Four tracks might get spread out evenly, but many of them were mixed one track far left one far right and two dead center.
Mono is more about balance as well as creating a certain depth to the sound, so it is easier to mix 2-4 tracks down to 1 and get a high quality and even deep realistic sound than it is to mix that down to 2.
Unfortunately many people even from the 60s do not believe that because frankly they bought into all the hype made about stereo. Too often we think with our wallets (this wine is more expensive than that one therefore it must taste better), and so to many since stereo records always cost $1 more than mono back in the day, stereo must have sounded better.
Eventually it did once the recording equipment caught up. And by then mono was pretty much being phased out completely.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 30, 2012 12:34:08 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 30, 2012 12:35:09 PM PDT
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Posted on Jul 30, 2012 5:04:31 PM PDT
I always liked stereo better, even the early wide separation (so called ping pong, where did that name come from?). The only time I found mono interesting is if there is something on it totally different, such as Sgt Pepper, and White Album. The sound is too flat for me as well.

Posted on Jul 30, 2012 5:35:52 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 30, 2012 6:05:07 PM PDT
Bernard J. says:
Often mono is better for 60's recordings, sometimes stereo wins.
Some of The Zombies' singles sounded awful in stereo, the mono mixes were superior.
And has anyone heard the stereo mixes of The Kinks' singles Days and Wonderboy? Pretty bad. Mono wins hands down.
It depends on the quality of the mix, Death Of a Clown was better in stereo than the mono single mix.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 30, 2012 5:54:13 PM PDT
Dee Zee says:
BrownFingersDavis has said it well. But I'd like to add that stereo came in to mimic the soundstage of a live presentation, for example a live orchestra. But it was not too long after it's development that stereo as a constructed and manipulated sound field came into being, for example Strawberry Fields Forever in stereo. In addition, 2 stereo speakers properly placed will also reveal a third phantom middle channel on many stereo recordings.

Stereo mixes from in the studio recordings up until the early 1970s were constructed from mono recordings. Often the instruments and vocals were recorded to a mono track and then mixed into a stereo sound field. I think it was the Beach Boys in the early 70s who actually began recording their instruments in the studio in true stereo. And then mixing those tracks down to a final stereo mix.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 30, 2012 7:09:26 PM PDT
Severin says:
Bernard, I just got the deluxe edition of "Village Green" and I'm still digesting it. I did like stereo for the more psychedelic songs 'Sitting By the Riverside' and 'Wicked Annabella.' It's telling in the liner notes for disc 2 (mono) under 'Mr. Songbird' that their U.S. company Reprise only issued albums in stereo by this time, even the previous album "Something Else" was only issued in stereo in the U.S. "further proof of the Kinks being slightly out of step."

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 30, 2012 7:38:39 PM PDT
Something Else was released in mono and stereo in the US.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 30, 2012 7:41:23 PM PDT
Bernard J. says:
I think mono was phased out in the US by 1968, it was still the UK for another year or two.
I guess personal taste decides which is preferable, mono/stereo, as well as the actual quality of the mix.
I like the stereo remix of 'Johnny Thunder' on disc 3 of the "Village Green" set.

Posted on Jul 30, 2012 7:41:54 PM PDT

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 30, 2012 7:47:12 PM PDT
Severin says: agrees with you. Guess Andy Miller and Andrew Sandoval who wrote the liner notes aren't the experts they think they are. You can't trust anyone anymore.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 30, 2012 7:52:30 PM PDT
The liner notes to the deluxe edition of Something Else say it was released in the US in mono and stereo.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 30, 2012 8:04:59 PM PDT
Severin says:
I don't have that one, it says in "Village Green" that "Something Else" was only issued in stereo in the U.S. I'm disillusioned.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 31, 2012 12:38:52 AM PDT
Hinch says:
I suppose the same reason some people won't watch black and white movies.

I love stereo recordings and color movies, but I prefer mono recordings if that's how they were originally recorded. I don't like fake stereo. I also hate colorized black and white movies.

I've never heard a mono Doors' album. Never knew there was one. If something was originally recorded and released in stereo, I dont see the need for mono, unless the original mono was a different mix than the stereo, for instance the white album.

I don't like mono just for mono sake, for example ABBEY ROAD was originally recorded and only released in stereo. There would be no use for a mono version.

Posted on Jul 31, 2012 6:43:13 AM PDT
Stereo was a space-age, cutting-edge, with-it, modern, hi-tech, tangy upgrade in sound recording when it was first introduced here in the U.S. on vinyl records about Christmas, 1958--it was THE new thing at the time, like CDs were THE new thing in 1984-86, and the industry hyped that you had to be special to play stereo records. For a few years, up to maybe 1962, the stereo versions of pop albums were often tweaked for maximum novelty effect to show off different sound effects coming out of the two speakers, but bouncing voices and instruments back-and-forth pretty much ran it's course by the early '60s. (If you want really BAD, annoying, OMG stereo multitrack cutesy lousy the-sound-engineer-is-running-amuck mixing for effects, try Bobby Darin's Atco 1958-61 period, especially the stereo version of THE BOBBY DARIN STORY album; the stereo takes had two boom mikes hung at the far ends of the studio room, and Darin had two mikes for his vocals places so he alternated side-to-side and "ping-ponged" his vocals between the speakers on playback. Ugh....)

Mono pop Lps generally had 12 songs at a $3.98 list price and were listed/sold as "regular"; stereo versions were a premium item and cost a buck more, going into late 1966. The mainstream pop labels gave pop (crooner with orchestra kind of pop) singers bigger recording budgets, the better/best studios and equipment; rock 'n' roll was seen in the early '60s as a fad that'd played itself out and been tamed by 1958 or so and the "teen" stuff that came after was a kind of gateway drug for kiddies on 45 singles, that they'd grow up and come to prefer pop singers with a big orchestra sound, though the vocal albums by the mid-'60s were also crafted to be, if not necessarily youth-oriented, at least (by the A&R and marketing suits) youth-acceptable. The British Invasion at the time was just another money-making genie to be co-opted, milked, expolited, and fade out in a year or two (more or less the prevailing attitude in corporate sales and marketing among with-it 30-something cutting edge guys in suits, later Nehru jackets a la Joey Bishop and Regis Philbin on TV, and Sammy Davis, Jr., etc...) and stuffed back in its bottle, like what happened to Elvis by 1960, and the small combo nature of the recordings, the lesser studios and equipment, and an attitude that it was slop the kiddies' music, gave a lot of rock/rock 'n' roll a thin sound.

By mid-'67, the recording industry indulged a "price equalization" for mono and stereo albums, which simply meant that they raised the price for mono titles by 25% to justify why no one would buy mono albums and would prefer stereo copies a few months later. Clive Davis at Columbia Records took personal credit for the idea both in a Billboard article about July 10th, 1967, or so, and in his early '70s biography, though it was probably a corporate group idea. In late 1966, mono titles sold roughly 60-62% of Lps, while the still more expensive stereo copies were about 40% of the market. The last commercial mono albums were phased out of active catalog by March-April, 1968 (Capitol), as late as November-December, 1968 (Reprise). Some of the labels still made the occasional mono special radio-only Lp promos available to AM radio as late as into 1971, such as a promo white label mono version of LED ZEPPELIN III, which dates October, 1970.

The rock/rock 'n' roll pop business was based on selling singles, and the single mono "hit" mixes were often the version featured on the mono albums, which were distributed as promo albums to radio (AM radio was mono). The 45 mono "hit" mix could be "punchier" than the stereo mix for that reason (think Motown), though by 1967-68 the monos were generally just the stereo master tape mix merged down to one channel. The pop record labels kept trying to break hipster, with-it, cool, trendy pop vocalists-with-orchestra and accomodate rock on albums by Frank, Tony, and Mel Torme' as late as 1970 --Capitol used Beach Boys and Beatles promos to get to retail accounts and get chart placement for what other acts Capitol was pushing at the time (Capitol made a big attempt to float Michael Dees in 1969, among other artists)-- but by 1970-71 acts like James Taylor, Carly Simon, and Carole King took over the easy listening charts.

Posted on Jul 31, 2012 6:51:29 AM PDT
Late mono Lps. Anyone for $250-500 Doors Lps?

And $1000 for mono Led Zeppelin promos?

Popsike will let you have a few looks before you have to log in, but these are documented sales on Ebay. You don't have to be crazy, but it helps.

Posted on Jul 31, 2012 7:10:26 AM PDT
Most of those mono promo LPs from that late 60s-early 70s were just fold-downs of the stereo mixes, and for listening purposes are of no value whatsoever (basic collecting is obviously another matter). The only dedicated mono mix promo LP I know of was Paul McCartney's Ram - the mono mix was recently released on CD in the new deluxe edition of that album.

Posted on Jul 31, 2012 7:13:33 AM PDT
Severin says:
This is from the Beatles' Anthology book, 1966 chapter:

George Martin: With "Revolver" you can hear that the boys were listening to lots of American records and saying, "Can we get this effect?" and so on. So they would want us to do radical things, but this time they'd shove in high EQ on mixing, and for the brass they'd want to have a really 'toppy' sound and cut out all the bass. The engineers would sometimes wonder whether there should be that much EQ. We would go through the complete range of EQ on a disc, and if that wasn't enough we'd put it through another range of EQ again, multiplied, and we'd get the most weird sound, which The Beatles liked and which obviously worked.

George Harrison: EQ is equalisation - when you want to add a bit of top, or roll off a bit of bottom. It's bass, treble and middle, but equalisation is the posh way of saying it. I have a very high EQ - something like 3,000 hertz. If I think too hard my brain hertz.

Posted on Jul 31, 2012 7:24:28 AM PDT
tr fan says:
Remember quadrophonic? It's funny how that didn't go over. Some said that it was a kind of "consumer revolt." People felt "first it was 45s and albums. Then Hi-Fi. Then stereo. Then tapes. Now this. Five years from
now, it'll be something else. Enough is enough."
You talk about mono and stereo. Does anybody know the reason why quadrophonic failed?
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Discussion in:  Music forum
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Initial post:  Jul 30, 2012
Latest post:  Mar 30, 2013

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