Ideally, mono recordings should be heard on one speaker, not two.

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by RZangpo2, Dec 28, 2019.

  1. RZangpo2

    RZangpo2 Forum Know-It-All Thread Starter

    New York
    I have long known that this is theoretically true. After all, what sound quality advantage could there be in listening to a mono signal divided into L+R speakers, then folded back together to produce a center image? Surely it's a lot simpler just to listen on one speaker, without dividing and then recombining the center image. Logically, one would expect better fidelity from the simpler process.

    Also, there is a midrange frequency anomaly caused by dividing and then recombining the signal. I have a graph of it, and will try to post it here if I can find it.

    But knowing all this, I never, until now, tried the simple experiment of deliberately listening on one speaker versus two. Like most two-channel audiophiles, I always listened to mono "in stereo," so that the center image "floated" between the two speakers.

    I'm embarrassed that it took me so long to do it, but I finally tried the experiment. And the results are as I expected. (If you reproduce this experiment at home, don't forget to double the volume when listening on one speaker. Otherwise the two-speaker state will always win.)

    I found the center image clearer on one speaker than on two. The music really pulled me in to a greater extent than with "mono-in-stereo." I listened to a variety of music recorded in mono: classical, rock, pop, and jazz. I always found listening on one speaker to be more involving than listening on two. I could hear further into the music. The image had greater depth. This is the best way I can describe it: as an improvement in imaging and coherence.

    I am converted. From now on I'll listen to mono in mono, not in stereo. It's just better. Readers, please try this at home. It's an experiment that's easy to do and costs nothing, and could really improve your listening experience. And if you try it, please report back!
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2019
  2. Kevin j

    Kevin j The 5th 99

    Seattle Area
    double the volume when listening on one speaker? uh.....
    Grant and Lonevej like this.
  3. RZangpo2

    RZangpo2 Forum Know-It-All Thread Starter

    New York
    You know what I mean. Increase the volume to compensate for listening on one speaker vs. two. So the SPL is the same either way at the listening position.
  4. Kevin j

    Kevin j The 5th 99

    Seattle Area
    well I took your words at face value. seemed a little weird. thanks for the clarification.
  5. enfield

    enfield Forum Resident

    Essex UK
    A very interesting post.My only slight concern is that speakers can behave and sound different depending on sound pressure levels.So a single speaker playing loudly will sound slightly different to two speakers playing at lower levels.(Even if the final result is the same volume level)..How can we be sure that particular speakers do not sound better because they thrive at higher sound levels,rather than because a single speaker is better at playing mono?
  6. RZangpo2

    RZangpo2 Forum Know-It-All Thread Starter

    New York
    I suppose the remedy would be to have many Forum members try the same experiment with a wide variety of different speakers.
    enfield likes this.
  7. Raunchnroll

    Raunchnroll Senior Member

    Incorrect. You have to plug one ear to get the purest mono experience possible. Move beyond theory.
  8. RZangpo2

    RZangpo2 Forum Know-It-All Thread Starter

    New York
    Just did this again today and was really moved by the improvement. As I said, I’m too lazy to unhook one channel and move the listening seat every time I put on a mono record, so even knowing better, I usually still listen to mono in stereo. But today, I decided to record some of Miles Davis’s early-‘50s mono Prestige recordings. I connected one lead from the phono preamp to the digital recorder, leaving the other lead connected to the system preamp. While setting the level on the recorder. I listened to the music through the one speaker still connected.

    Wow! Miles was so much clearer and more present. I just listened to the same record last night, but on two speakers. Listening in true mono was so much more moving. Like I could hear so much more clearly what Miles was saying to me.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2020
  9. Carrman

    Carrman Forum Resident

    For the purposes of testing, each additional speaker playing the same material at the same volume will add 3dB overall SPL.

    That being said, unless you listen at a calibrated level, you can set a single speaker's volume at whatever you please for your enjoyment.

    "I found the center image clearer on one speaker than on two."'d have some serious issues if that weren't the case, eh? :)
    krambigmac likes this.
  10. rl1856

    rl1856 Forum Resident

    Arguments aside.....listing in single speaker mono can be satisfying. I come to this as a mono-fan, but I use a mono TT and cartridge playing through a 2ch system.

    Having read many articles from the dawn of the HiFi age, I have an appreciation for mono as a serious medium, and deserving of a higher profile. My general listening to mono has been in the context of a modestly high end system. I hear a central image, and I know it is not stereo, but I listen with the same analytical intent as I do when listening to stereo. My dedicated mono TT can delivery shockingly real images of solo instruments....well recorded solo brass, piano and voice can give me goosebumps because it sounds so real. But I don't have the feeling that the music is just "in the room".

    I recently spent considerable time listening to an Alexa based system. (I hear the laughter as I type this). I know it is meant for casual background listening. A friend has one, and we spent many an evening over the summer playing "Stump Alexa". Shout out your tune and see if Alexa will play it.....we had about a 90% hit rate. What struck me is that Alexa is mono, but puts out room filling sound that seems to permeate the area. There is no specificity of image, the music is just "there" around you.

    Alexa presents mono as a medium of entertainment. Set it up and enjoy the music. It sounds different than a stereo system used for background content. Through this experience I can understand how people found mono LP and mono radio to be so satisfying (and relaxing compared to stereo).
  11. MikeP5877

    MikeP5877 Non-essential


    I had an ear infection earlier in the month where I could not hear out of my right ear for a few days. I thought that might make it a good time to pull out The Beatles in Mono CD box, especially since it came out 11 years ago this month. I never heard it sound so good.
    bever70, Brodnation and sharedon like this.
  12. Ray Blend

    Ray Blend perfectly calm

    The Midwest
    The setup I presently have in my basement studio has 3.1 capability. Listening to mono content in that mode is revelatory - all that energy coming at you from the center speaker. It's really, really mono. None more mono.
    RZangpo2 and Brodnation like this.
  13. Rick Bartlett

    Rick Bartlett Forum Resident

    I really don't understand, but Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, would make mixes of his songs and play them in the same way.
    One speaker.
    It's over my head.....
    I love Mono in two speakers.
  14. fogalu

    fogalu There is only one Beethoven

    Killarney, Ireland
    One of my ears got blocked for a week some time ago and I couldn't listen to or enjoy any sounds.
    Well done! :D
  15. sharedon

    sharedon Forum Zonophone

    When I was a kid, my dad had a mono hifi setup with one speaker. It sounded amazingly good, just one big honking old speaker! He had a Garrard record player with a Heathkit amp, and he and a friend built a wooden box for the speaker. Those were the days!
    defmoot and wgriel like this.
  16. bhazen

    bhazen Magical Mystery Tourist

    Newcastle, WA
    Easy to do if you have an amp with a balance control, I suppose ... just roll it all the way to the L (or R). What if you've got an amp sans balance control? Unplug one of the speakers, I suppose ... any chance of damage to the amp? (I've obviously never tried this!)
    Daddy Dom likes this.
  17. drh

    drh Talking Machine

    The trouble with the "balance one way" method is that you end up with everything coming at you from the side. I've tried it, and for me, at least, that makes for disagreeable, unbalanced listening (as opposed to a disagreeable, unbalanced listener--we won't go into that! :whistle: ). And, trust me, as first and foremost a collector of 78s and "historical" recordings, I listen to a lot of mono records--far more than I do to those in stereo. To make the experiment work, I think you'll need to move the single speaker to a central location.
    jawaka1000 and bhazen like this.
  18. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    Central PA
    So...what if the only older car you remembered driving in, had a speaker in the dash, and in the back?
    Grant likes this.
  19. Pastafarian

    Pastafarian Forum Resident

    I'm not moving a speaker to a central position, to try this but why do you used folded in the original post, is this a metaphysical process?

    The major factor is I've only one album in mono, in fact I didn't realise this for months, as the soundstage fools everyone I've played it to.
  20. bgiliberti

    bgiliberti Will You Be My Neighbor?

    I love playing mono out of both speakers because it simulates Duophonic!!! ;)
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2020
    Uglyversal likes this.
  21. RZangpo2

    RZangpo2 Forum Know-It-All Thread Starter

    New York
    I move the listening seat, not the speaker. :) So that yes, I'm listening head-on.
    bhazen likes this.
  22. bhazen

    bhazen Magical Mystery Tourist

    Newcastle, WA
    Anybody with a Naim amp know if unplugging one speaker is problematic? ...
  23. Buisfan

    Buisfan Active Member

    amstelveen holland
    So true.
    One loudspeaker, is one point source, omits the blurring combfilter effect. Also room acoustics will be coherent.
    Real mono recordings have more, sometimes lifelike dynamics. Try it.
    Daddy Dom and RZangpo2 like this.
  24. Pinknik

    Pinknik Senior Member

    I prefer to listen to mono on a 5.1 setup. No weird processing, just 5 equal channels bearing down on my skull.*

    *The following statement is true: the preceding statement was false.**

    ** I know that makes an illogical loop, but I think you follow me. +

    +My sister was once bitten by a moose.
  25. rcsrich

    rcsrich Forum Resident

    I think you're fine as long as you crank the balance all the way to the connected speaker. If not, you'd be running the amp on that side with no load, which I believe is not good.
    bhazen likes this.

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