Author Topic: Any advantages/strength of monaural recordings over stereo recordings?  (Read 1220 times)

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Offline 71 dB

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I read an article by Fine's son who explained that the positioning wasn't based on the "aural focus point" (which doesn't exist) but the distance at which the proximity effect of a concert hall (the tendency of a microphone to become more sensitive to bass as distance is increased) would cancel the distorted frequency response of the microphone itself to produce a natural tonal balance.

Proximity effect means getting bass boost due to microphone being very near (hence the word 'proximity') the sound source such as mouth. This boost is caused by the sound waves not being very flat which affects acoustic impedance and how microphones react to the sound. Sound radiates from "small" sound sources spherically and the those waves become flatter as the radius increases and the proximity effect dies out. Speaking to a cardioid and especially a figure-8 mic very close makes anyone sound like Barry White.  ;D

Microphones hanging from the ceiling don't suffer from proximity effect. This is about the ratio of direct sound and reverberation. Reverberation time increases toward lower frequencies meaning the reverberation has more bass and less treble than the direct sound. Moving the microphone further from the sound sources will increase the reverberation compared to direct sound.
Spatial distortion is a serious problem deteriorating headphone listening.
Crossfeeders reduce spatial distortion and make the sound more natural
and less tiresome in headphone listening.

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Online Mandryka

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The single instrument approach brings up the question as to how well piano is recorded. I feel that a lot is down to the recording venue. You can hear some notable differences between live and studio recordings. The width of the piano sound is the first thing you notice in many live recordings. It's narrower and has more focus whereas on studio recordings it seems much wider and in many cases unnaturally so.

A lot also depends on the acoustics of the venue and when you see images of the microphone arrangements for piano recordings it makes you wonder - "In a concert would I be sitting that close to the piano?" And if more than a single mike is used you have to ask - "How wide are my ears? Certainly not the width of the microphone placements." Then there is the issue of room acoustics, especially reverberation which is virtually non-existent in a studio but very real in a concert hall or chamber. Add in the fact that you are listening to a piano side on, would you really be hearing the bass notes on your left and the treble on your right. There is a recording I heard recently where somehow this was reversed and it sounded so weird.


This is why I can happily listen to historical piano recordings because regardless of the venue, mono does not really affect the sound, especially if it is well recorded. I picked this up from my Arthur Rubinstein big box set which has some great mono sound from the 1950s.

The dynamic range of a modern piano is a problem - I wonder if anyone here has heard a piano recording through high efficiency very large horns, the sort of speakers which are built into the structure of the building.

By they way, you can buy kit which will adjust the width of the sound image - I don’t have it but I’m tempted because I get slightly irritated by it sometimes.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2021, 09:24:05 AM by Mandryka »
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Offline Dry Brett Kavanaugh

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They don't contain spatial information and invite you to use your imagination. When listening to a mono recording of a great performance I find myself unconsciously reconstructing the sound field that would have produced the mono recording I am hearing.

I was thinking about the same. The less conscious, the more effective.

Offline geralmar

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In the 1950s and '60s when monophonic and stereo L.P. versions of the same performance were common, I wondered if there was a noticeable difference in sound between the mono and stereo releases of a solo instrument recital:  guitar, violin, flute, etc.  I could understand that a piano recording could have "spread"; but a "pinpoint" instrument like a violin?  Did "ambience" justify an extra dollar for a guitar recital?  And what would ambience sound like?  I didn't have much " college student " money to experiment; and so it remains a mystery.  I presume the monophonic recording of a solo instrument was not used in the eventual CD reissue.

Offline 71 dB

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In the 1950s and '60s when monophonic and stereo L.P. versions of the same performance were common, I wondered if there was a noticeable difference in sound between the mono and stereo releases of a solo instrument recital:  guitar, violin, flute, etc.  I could understand that a piano recording could have "spread"; but a "pinpoint" instrument like a violin?  Did "ambience" justify an extra dollar for a guitar recital?  And what would ambience sound like?  I didn't have much " college student " money to experiment; and so it remains a mystery.  I presume the monophonic recording of a solo instrument was not used in the eventual CD reissue.

Instruments aren't recorded in anechoic chambers. There is not just "pinpoint" sound from the instrument, but also early reflections and reverberation which are "diffuse" acoustically and contain extreme amount of spatial information. Everything is spread because of acoustics. Even when you play a monophonic recording using just one speaker the sound gets spatialized by the room acoustics. Our hearing is just able of decode the spatial information to determine it just one sound source, the speaker. The idea of stereo sound is to fool our spatial hearing so that a signal played a bit differently from two speakers sounds like originating somewhere around/between those speakers.
Spatial distortion is a serious problem deteriorating headphone listening.
Crossfeeders reduce spatial distortion and make the sound more natural
and less tiresome in headphone listening.

My Sound Cloud page <-- NEW track "Jazzz"