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Mono vs. Stereo and When To Use Them

Applies to: All Products

Things to know:

  • Monophonic audio is audio from one single source.
  • Stereophonic audio comes from multiple sources which presents the image of a 'left' and 'right' in the audio feed. 
  • DAW = Digital Audio Workstation. (i.e. Ableton, Pro Tools, Logic, Garageband, Reaper, etc)
  • Stereo Image = The Width and Depth of the correlation between Left and Right from audio playback. 
  • Pan = The placement between Left and Right where an audio signal lies. 
  • Hard-Pan = An automatic split between a Stereo signal which sends one signal fully to the Left and the other fully to the Right of the Stereo Image.  

This article will break down the difference in regards to input sources, recording techniques, and output assignments. 

  • Is My Input Source Mono Or Stereo?

All microphones (unless specifically designed otherwise) will be Monophonic. If you have a Stereo microphone it will likely be expressed on the product as well as it looking physically different due to it having two diaphragms. 

Mono Stereo
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Most instruments such as Guitars, Basses, and other electric stringed instruments are Monophonic which will be reflected in their single output port.

gtr.jpg

Keyboards/Electric Pianos and Synthesizers are mostly Stereophonic which will be reflected in their dual-output connections usually listed for you as Left and Right. Some Synthesizers however will be Monophonic and in this case are usually labeled as such along with only having a singular output. 

Mono Stereo
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  •  Should My DAW Track Be Mono Or Stereo?

When recording a Stereo Input Source you will want to create a Stereo track in your DAW. This will hard-pan the Left and Right input to the Left and Right output creating the Stereo Image that your sound source is providing. 

*Remember with Stereo channels you cannot choose which channels to sum in Stereo and will need to physically connect to your interface in order (i.e. Channel 1-2, Channel 3-4, etc)

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Pro Tools Ableton Logic

Just because an Input Source is Monophonic does not necessarily mean it cannot be recorded in a Stereo DAW Track. Though it is important to note that your audio will still hard-pan if you have a Stereo track selected. There are a few reasons you may wish to record Mono Input Sources on a Stereo channel.

  1. If you are recording two mono instruments and you know ahead of time you want one hard-panned to the Left of the Stereo Image and the other hard panned to the Right. 
  2. You are using two mono microphones to create a Stereo Image of an acoustic instrument being recorded. 

When recording a Mono Input Source alone, it is important to ensure you have a Mono Track selected in your DAW. This will start the track you are recording in the middle of the Stereo Image (Centered), which you will then be able to pan Left or Right after you have recorded it.

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Pro Tools Ableton Logic
  • If My Input Is Mono Should My Output Be Mono Too?

Most DAW's will not allow you to select a Mono Output. Do not be alarmed by this as all general audio is Stereophonic. Even if all you have recorded is a Mono guitar track, you will still want to bounce it as a Stereo file which will playback down the middle of your Stereo Image (unless you have specifically panned otherwise). Please note that general playback is Output 1-2 and your DAW will likely default to this. In addition, Mono Tracks will output in Stereo unless panned otherwise.

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