Why would anyone ever prefer to listen to a mono recording if the same music were also available in stereo? For many music lovers, this question is nonsensical: mono is to stereo as standard definition video is to high definition video. Over and out. I'm writing this piece to explain why some music lovers take the question seriously.

It pertains only to music recorded between 1958, when stereo LPs and singles first appeared, and 1970, when singles as well as albums began to be released regularly in stereo. Standard practice during these years was to create both a mono and a stereo mix of each recording. (A few companies stopped making mono mixes as early as 1968.)

Until May 1967 albums cost a dollar more in stereo than mono. Rock and soul music were heard almost exclusively in mono on the radio, on 45s, and on LPs. The end of the album price differential effectively doomed mono LPs. Between 1967 and 1970 stereo gradually supplanted mono, first on LPs and FM radio. Stereo 45s began to appear in significant numbers during 1969.

Prior to 1967, rock and soul musicians, engineers, and producers were all focused on making the best mono mix they could. With rare exceptions, stereo mixes of rock and soul recordings were  afterthoughts, often done by assistants without supervision.

When the time came to reissue these analog recordings on CD, most record companies decided to use the stereo versions. Replacing analog media with CDs was part of a broader marketing thrust toward the latest and greatest technology, a context strongly biased toward stereo. Most CD buyers have always wanted to hear stereo versions of reissues if they exist.

However, many of us who grew up with mono as our only frame of reference hear things differently. So do studio professionals who listen with an open mind to both mono and stereo master tapes and decide for themselves which mix is more musically satisfying. Listeners in these camps are (a) able to enjoy the complexity and subtleties of mono mixes without missing the stereo effect; and replica watches uk (b) more likely to be attuned to deficiencies of misguided stereo mixes.

I thrive on music's rhythmic feel and drive--a tight, solid, punchy sound--which depends on the sound's spatial coherence. Its negation is an empty, hollow sound from inferior stereo mixes. Well-produced stereo (from Gamble & Huff, for example) sounds great to me, but many rock and soul recordings from the 1960s sound better in mono because the stereo mix just doesn't rock as hard.

In listening to music we will always have "different strokes for different folks." The mono-stereo question exists because many listeners find some mono mixes from the 1960s more musically satisfying than their stereo counterparts. The Timeline features a few samples of mono-stereo contrasts, including Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," so you can compare the two mixes directly.

I've written another piece specifically comparing mono and stereo mixes of 1960s Motown singles. For more background on sound quality, check out the music listening articles in Bits & Pieces. Please weigh in with your thoughts on this issue or with any other comments you'd like to make about your experience of Listening to Music!