Fascination with Mono

Lost Angeles

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Apr 24, 2008
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Can someone explain the fascination with mono. As someone who grew up in the 60s when we only had mono I think the best thing that musically happened to me was when I bought my first stereo (HiFi came later) set up in about 1970. Am I missing something or is what I listen to not suited to mono? Why don’t you just have a mono amp and one speaker? I just don’t get it, someone enlighten me please.
 

lindsayt

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Apr 8, 2011
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I have a couple of mono Chet Atkins lps.

They sound clear, dynamic, natural. Better than far too many of my stereo lps.
 

MajorFubar

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Mar 3, 2010
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In my opinion, records that sound better in mono are those particular recordings which were originally mixed in mono and which were primarily intended to be listened that way, with their stereo mixes completed as a 'gimmicky' afterthought. Generalising, that's most popular music prior to about 1965, though many albums before that were mixed primarily for stereo, and vice versa.

The determining factor is the technology used to record the multitrack session-tapes. Upto the mid 1960s, many record companies and recording studios were still using two-track, triple-track and four-track recorders. For example the Beatles were still using four-track right upto the White Album sessions.

On most albums recorded on four-track or triple-track, and certainly nearly all albums recorded on two-track, there was little opportunity with the technology to create a convincing stereo field. Often the band was panned hard left and the vocals were panned hard right (or vice versa) because there was no way to spead the various instruments around the sound-stage. Such recordings sound much more cohesive in mono.

Additionally, some mono mixes of albums are prized because they are either particularly rare in that format, or because they feature alternative mixes of one or more tracks which differ from the stereo version (eg: Beatles' Sgt Pepper).
 

Jason36

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Hi have a couple of re-issue mono LP's on 180gm Vinyl (The Doors and Cream) and find that the Mono sound is a lot better for some reason....I dont understand the technology aspects as to why....they just do to my ears ;-)
 

Charlie Jefferson

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Ditto

cf:

1) Bob Dylan's recent Mono reissues. They're great.

The acoustic songs alone are worth the price of admission and they're a good example, to my ears, of the superiority of mono over stereo.
On the more instrumentally complex songs, (Like A Rolling Stone for example), the sound is less widescreen than the stereo version but is far more detailed and transparent. Less artifice, more believable.

2) The Beatles Mono box

Less clear cut than above, but certainly up to Revolver at least, I prefer the sound and feel of the monos over their stereo counterparts.
 

audioaffair

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Feb 21, 2009
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Charlie Jefferson said:
Ditto cf: 1) Bob Dylan's recent Mono reissues. They're great. The acoustic songs alone are worth the price of admission and they're a good example, to my ears, of the superiority of mono over stereo. On the more instrumentally complex songs, (Like A Rolling Stone for example), the sound is less widescreen than the stereo version but is far more detailed and transparent. Less artifice, more believable. 2) The Beatles Mono box Less clear cut than above, but certainly up to Revolver at least, I prefer the sound and feel of the monos over their stereo counterparts.
Agreed on the Beatles though a controvertial subject. As you know some albums were mixed in both at the time (with consideration of this fact during recording, e.g. The White Album), so some albums simply depend on personal preference.

I loved the MFSL LP box set and thought these sounded stunning if a little "smiley face EQ'd". The new remastered MONO box set is arguably the most faithful to the original recordings. Glad I snapped one up when they were available!
 

mickeyjoef

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In the 1960's, up until about 68-69, mono was the main way people heard music, whether through a portable radio, or a Dansette, so most pop records from that era tend to be heard at their best in mono. In the case of the Beatles, far more time was taken over the mono mix, with the stereo mix, being almost an afterthought. I prefer The White Album in stereo, but go for mono everytime for all the preceding albums. The mono versions have more punch, and in the case of Pepper a very different mix.

The early Dylan albums sound strange in stereo... guitar from one channel, and voice in the other!

Brian Wilson is deaf in one ear, and always preferred mono, saying it gave him more control over the sound, as it is less influenced by speaker positioning etc, than stereo.
 

mickeyjoef

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Sep 10, 2008
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In the 1960's, up until about 68-69, mono was the main way people heard music, whether through a portable radio, or a Dansette, so most pop records from that era tend to be heard at their best in mono. In the case of the Beatles, far more time was taken over the mono mix, with the stereo mix, being almost an afterthought. I prefer The White Album in stereo, but go for mono everytime for all the preceding albums. The mono versions have more punch, and in the case of Pepper a very different mix.

The early Dylan albums sound strange in stereo... guitar from one channel, and voice in the other!

Brian Wilson is deaf in one ear, and always preferred mono, saying it gave him more control over the sound, as it is less influenced by speaker positioning etc, than stereo.
 

MajorFubar

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audioaffair said:
The new remastered MONO box set is arguably the most faithful to the original recordings. Glad I snapped one up when they were available!
Absolutely. Unfortunately it looks like we'll never get the mono remasters on vinyl. More's the pitty.
 

plastic penguin

Well-known member
Lost Angeles said:
Can someone explain the fascination with mono. As someone who grew up in the 60s when we only had mono I think the best thing that musically happened to me was when I bought my first stereo (HiFi came later) set up in about 1970. Am I missing something or is what I listen to not suited to mono? Why don’t you just have a mono amp and one speaker? I just don’t get it, someone enlighten me please.
Is there a fascination with mono? stereo can be very good but it s subject to horrible re-masters; some can sound unnatural, whereas mono is pretty faithful, whether it's a remix or the original from the 60s/70s.

To answer your question about why we don't just buy a mono player is you wouldn't hear the good parts of stereo.

Mono recordings, generally, sound chunkier or earthy...
 

Lost Angeles

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Apr 24, 2008
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I’d like to thank everyone for their answers. I have never been a Beatles or Dylan fan and nearly everything I listen to is from 68 onwards so I suppose I have no reason to listen to anything in mono. I know some early stereo stuff was a bit gimmicky but I’ll stick with what I’ve got. I may perhaps buy a mono record one day from a record fair just to see what it’s like on a modern system but I have no idea what I’d buy, would probably have to be something from an American soul label. I have one final question to any of you who play mono records, do you use a mono cartridge?
 

lindsayt

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Apr 8, 2011
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I've only used stereo carts so far. If I see a mono cart for my tt's at the right price I'll buy it and have a few mono listening sessions, using just the one monoblock amp and speaker.
 

audioaffair

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What do people prefer though when it comes to classic albums like The Beatles, The Who, John Coltrane etc given the MONO/STEREO choice?
 

Lost Angeles

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Co-incidence or what.

I was asked to clean an LP by a mate of mine and it was a mono Beatles compilation original copy from the 60s. It was the worst condition I have ever seen an LP in, but I cleaned it with the Knosti and it came out looking pretty good, no scratches or marks to be seen, so I thought I’d better have a listen.

Now I’m no Beatles fan, I’ve got the odd track on the Ipod but they only get played if they come up on shuffle, but I have to say it sounded pretty good. There was a bit too much Tsss Tsss Tsss from the cymbals on the first track She Love You but after that I was quite impressed and I still have my old Gale 301s set up which are very clinical sounding so I think they can take some of the blame.
I don’t think I’ll be buying any mono as most of my stuff is from a few years later but I’m not going to knock it.
A while ago someone it may have been Clare posted they’d bought a Nina Simone mono album, now if you’d got a nice old cottage with a low ceiling and a coal fire roaring up the chimney on a dark winter’s night with no lights on I bet it would sound brilliant. Glass of red wine and a bar of dairy milk I can see it now.
 

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