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Mono vs. Stereo
15 February 2013
9.10am
Lorettamartin
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I have a technical/musicology question for you all.

Last year the UK albums were again released on vinyl in Stereo : Beatles remasterd on Vinyl

Now i read that the same box will be released but with the mono versions.

Can somebody please explain to me what is the difference between mono and stereo, and especially when it comes to the Beatles' records.

As somebody who doesn't know a lot about the technical aspects of recording, I would assume that Stereo would always be better than Mono, but apparently this is not the case.

So I hope that somebody can explain it to me in an understandable language (without making fun of my ignorance LOL)

 

15 February 2013
9.54am
Gerard
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Mono (Monaural) means that the sound is meant to come out only from one speaker, stereo can mean that the sound is meant to come out from many speakers.

But this is more complicated in the case of the Beatles. The Mono mixes are mixed differently from the Stereo mixes, this would be too numerous to mention. I myself prefer Mono over Stereo, but you can have your own taste.

When it comes to buying the box sets I wouldn't buy the vinyl box set because it is simply digitally remastered losing the point of releasing it in analogue. 

The Mono Box Set will be released in fewer numbers (I think) than the Stereo Box Set. Some tracks and albums wouldn't be available in the Mono Box Set, Abbey Road and Let it Be to name a few.

Hopefully this would help 

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15 February 2013
10.14am
meanmistermustard
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You can have thinks like panning in stereo where the sound moves across the speakers, two examples being the swarmandal in Strawberry Fields and "Number nine, number nine" in Revolution 9, actually many things in Revolution 9. You can also 'place' sounds in the stereo image which is not really possible in mono.

The mono Pepper and White Album mixes are the most different of all the albums than their stereo counterparts.

A few more examples include Helter Skelter being almost a minute longer in stereo, handclaps in Why Don't We Do It In Road that are not present in the mono, Help! has a completely different Lennon lead vocal, louder noises in the Pepper Reprise mono than stereo, Words Of Love and Hey Jude being around 10 seconds longer in the fade out in their mono mixes, a 'flanging' effect on Johns vocal in Lucy in the Sky.

Note also that the stereo mixes of Please Please Me and With The Beatles mostly have the vocals on one side and the instruments on the other due them being recorded on 2 track. There are no true stereo mixes of Love Me Do, PS I Love You, She Loves You, I'll Get You, and You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) and no true mono mixes of the Let it Be and Abbey Road albums and Revolution 9.

A couple of youtube vids as its easier to hear the differences when listening.

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Oudis
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15 February 2013
10.44am
Ron Nasty
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The Beatles grew up in an age when recordings were mono, and stereo sound was relatively new at the time their career began. The majority of home listening was done of equipment that only had one speaker, and was mixed for that. A recording generally has two channels, we'll call them left and right. With a mono recording you get the same sound from both channels:

    Left Channel — Vocals, guitars, drums.

    Right Channel — Vocals, guitars, drums.

When listened to on two speakers, these two channels combine to create the sound in the centre of the speakers.

      Left Speaker                             vocals, guitars, drums                                 Right Speaker

                                                               Listener

The Beatles early recordings are perhaps the easiest to explain how stereo differs, because of the relatively primitive recordings and primitive stereo mixes. A stereo recording offers the opportunity to have different sounds emerging from each speaker. With The Beatles early recordings, the stereo mixes were very primitive.

     Left Channel — Vocals.

     Right Channel — Guitars, drums.

When listened to on two speakers, especially if widely spaced, the listener will hear different sounds coming from different parts of the room.

     Left Speaker — vocals                                                                         Right Speaker — guitar, drums

                                                                Listener

As their stereo mixes grew more complicated, this allowed for more complexity for how the listener will hear it:

     Left Speaker                                                                                                     Right Speaker

      lead vocal                                                  drums                                             backing vocals

     rhythm guitar                                           lead guitar                                             bass guitar

                                                                     Listener

The Beatles paid more attention to the mono mixes up until around 1968, rarely attending when the stereo mixes were made by George Martin. This often led to differences, minor and major, between the two.

The early albums, where the stereo splits the vocals and music between the speakers, are certainly better in mono. Though the stereo are interesting in allowing you to listen to just the vocals or just the music by turning off one or the other speaker. This becomes more a matter of taste as their stereo mixes improved.

Up to, and including Sgt. Pepper, the group's interest was with the mono mix.

I hope I haven't over-complicated this.

 

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IveJustSeenAFaceo
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15 February 2013
12.43pm
Lorettamartin
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mja6758 said 
            I hope I haven't over-complicated this.

 

On the contrary, mja6758, you have made it crystal clear to me! thanks a lot for taking the time to explaining this!

I have an original EP that is Mono ( Four by The Beatles ) and I will compare those 4 mono songs with the stereo versions I have.

 

thanks again!

 

15 February 2013
4.58pm
parlance
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Thanks for the explanations and YouTube links!

parlance

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15 February 2013
10.01pm
SatanHimself
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It should also be noted that it wasn't necessarily George Martin who did the stereo mixes.  Sometimes it was whatever engineer was there.

 

To perhaps reiterate the point that was already made:  The songs you've heard on the radio and on CDs for the last 30-40 years mostly aren't the versions that the boys had in their heads and wanted their fans to hear.  They specifically slaved over those mono mixes as the definitive result of their work.

While from a sonic viewpoint the 2009 stereo mixes are absolutely superior, the *real* deal are the mono mixes.  I VERY highly recommend buying the mono masters box set.  The thick booklet inside has a very detailed essay that encapsulates the spirit of the original mono mixes.

E is for 'Ergent'.
16 February 2013
12.10am
meanmistermustard
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Should be added that whilst the mono mixes took time to get right the stereo ones would often be done much quicker, something like 6 songs in 30 minutes at one time either for the Beatles for Sale or A Hard Days Night LP, i think Beatles for Sale (i dont have Lewisohns studio sessions book handy so cant check).

The mono mixes are fantastic but the box is expensive. Definately worth it, no question, but it will set you back.

Don’t make your love suffer insecurities, trade the baggage of self to set another one free. ('Paper Skin' - Kendall Payne)
16 February 2013
12.21am
Ron Nasty
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Beatles for Sale. 27 October '64. Five songs remixed for mono between 10am and 12.30pm. Same songs remixed for stereo 12.30-1.00pm. Where I would disagree is that the mono mixes were thought about and considered, while the stereo mixes were just something that had to be done. It was not that "the mono mixes took time to get right", it was that it was the mono mixes that mattered.

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
16 February 2013
12.49am
meanmistermustard
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mja6758 said
Beatles for Sale. 27 October '64. Five songs remixed for mono between 10am and 12.30pm. Same songs remixed for stereo 12.30-1.00pm. Where I would disagree is that the mono mixes were thought about and considered, while the stereo mixes were just something that had to be done. It was not that "the mono mixes took time to get right", it was that it was the mono mixes that mattered.

Sounds like the same to me but hey ho. apple02

Don’t make your love suffer insecurities, trade the baggage of self to set another one free. ('Paper Skin' - Kendall Payne)
16 February 2013
12.58am
Ron Nasty
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Well it sounds like the mono mixes were difficult and the stereo were easy, whereas my point is that the mono mixes mattered and the stereo just had to be done. Sorry, just the way I read it.

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
16 February 2013
1.47am
vonbontee
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Think you're saying the same essential thing there: They took the time to get the mono mixes just right because they were the ones that mattered.

Me, I STILL prefer the stereo mixes 90% of the time, which is approximately the percentage of time I spend listening through headphones. But there's no denying that those mono mixes are at least fascinating to hear if you're accustomed to the stereo. (I didn't buy 'em, just downloaded illegally.)

I just want to play. I’d like to think I could work opposite Sinatra, B.B. King, the Beatles, or a polka band... - Jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk, 1967
16 February 2013
2.52am
Ron Nasty
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Hence my apology for the misunderstanding. As I said, just the way I read it. I'm thinking, and hoping, mmm understands. Just because I'm sticking two fingers out now, doesn't mean I'm aiming for the eyes! vonbontee I also switch to stereo after '63. Can't stand those first two albums in stereo though.

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
16 February 2013
3.17am
vonbontee
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Viewing those comparison videos meanmm posted up there...It's interesting how on all the songs with fadeouts rather than proper endings, the stereo versions were invariably faded faster than the monos. I'm thinking that maybe GM was trying to save a few precious seconds here and there because the stereo vinyls would be easier to master properly if there was a bit more physical space - which would be the result if the songs were a bit shorter? Yeah, that sounds plausible.

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Oudis
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16 February 2013
3.21am
Ron Nasty
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Does mono fill less space on vinyl than stereo?

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
16 February 2013
4.35am
vonbontee
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Haha, I must've sounded like I knew what I was talking about! I'm honestly not sure, that was just an earnestly honest guess. I believe a stereo groove differs from a mono one by having different...wiggles...or whatever you want to call them...on either "wall", whereas the mono has the same on both. I know that louder sounds require a wider groove, so I'm reasoning that the stereo would require a bit more room overall, since the two channels aren't going to always be exactly equal in volume. If that makes sense...

Really, it's just that I noticed it was always the stereo which faded earlier, and wondered if there was an explanation. But OTOH, the stereo "She's Leaving Home" is a semitone lower in pitch, so it must be LONGER than the mono one. And of course "Helter Skelter" is a LOT longer than the mono one. (And now that I think of it, doesn't the mono "Northern Song" fade earlier than the stereo? Can't remember...) Which would make any attempt to shorten the overall playing time counterproductive in those two cases. So who knows?

I just want to play. I’d like to think I could work opposite Sinatra, B.B. King, the Beatles, or a polka band... - Jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk, 1967
16 February 2013
9.01am
Ron Nasty
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vonbontee said
Haha, I must've sounded like I knew what I was talking about! I'm honestly not sure, that was just an earnestly honest guess.

LOL, mine was just a tongue-in-cheek response!

"I only said we were bigger than Rod... and now there's all this!" Ron Nasty
16 February 2013
10.52am
meanmistermustard
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mja6758 said
Hence my apology for the misunderstanding. As I said, just the way I read it. I'm thinking, and hoping, mmm understands. Just because I'm sticking two fingers out now, doesn't mean I'm aiming for the eyes! vonbontee I also switch to stereo after '63. Can't stand those first two albums in stereo though.

I was going to suggest we should have a long heated arguement for many pages but i cant be bothered with all that plus i get what you are saying and there is no need to apologise. The shorter fades in stereo might have been due to simply getting the mixes done, less attention to detail and less time to check the lengths, plus it wasnt a big deal. The US mono I'll Cry Instead is longer than the stereo and then the UK mono was altered to match the stereo - is that the right? If i had energy i'd get the book to check the timeline. Its not like there is a true stereo US I'll Cry Instead.

Don’t make your love suffer insecurities, trade the baggage of self to set another one free. ('Paper Skin' - Kendall Payne)
16 February 2013
3.15pm
Sky999
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I listen to stereo more cause thats the boxset I have, but on some of the songs I like the fuller sound of mono. Like on Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds the song sounds more trippy to me in mono. Other songs, however, sound almost the same.

16 February 2013
6.32pm
DrBeatle
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Dunno if I've said it before but after getting both box sets, I listen to the mono mixes exclusively for those first 10 albums and the corresponding singles and B-sides. And of course, the stereo mixes for the last few albums and singles/b-sides.

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