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  • audio mono Feature

    Why do we record our voices in mono instead of stereo?

    It still seems odd in today’s digital age that we still do our voice over recordings in mono. When stereo sounds so much better, mono seems archaic and a throw-back to old 78 records and gramophones.

    However, there is a good reason why we record our vocal tracks in mono. Here’s why…

    The whole purpose of stereo is to create a convincing sound that fills the room. A sound that resonates between the loudspeakers and gives a sense of width to the audio.

    Stereo is about space and directionality — the ability to make the sound appear as if it was coming from a particular direction and then filling the space around the listener. This is great for music recording when you want to separate different instruments or recreate a concert sound where the sound seems to be coming from all directions instead of just one.

    Your voice however is a single instrument. Your voice is not an orchestra. You may be able to make lots of different sounds from it but all those sounds are coming from one direction – that space below your nose!

    audio mono

    Therefore there is nothing to be gained by recording your voice in stereo. You only need one microphone to record your voice because you’ve only got one mouth. This means that a mono recording is fit for purpose.

    Of course there are exceptions to every rule and if more than one voice is being recorded in a voice over session then using stereo is fine because you have more than one instrument – you have two mouths and two voices involved in the recording.

    Did you know stereo

    How a mono voice sits within a recording that has a stereo music background is a whole other subject and best left to the audio engineers! This is when acoustics, positioning of mics and the management of ambience plays a vital part.

    What are your thoughts on mono versus stereo voice recording? Do you have anything you would like to add? Please share here…


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    1. June 9, 2015

      Interesting! Any stereo subtleties would be obliterated in the typical voiceover situation, with music and FX added. But I have heard purists object to the practice of feeding a mono soloist’s mic into an orchestral mix, even when panned centre stage and given artifical ambience. Maybe listeners perceive and appreciate subtle changes in the performer’s posture and position, who knows?
      One possible voiceover use for two channels would be to provide a client with a choice of dry and processed – so they can pick the latter if their regular engineer is away. But has anyone heard of that being done?

    2. July 31, 2015

      Even when we record many voices for a project we still use one mic for each voice and record that track in mono. Like you said you only have one mouth! In the final mix the individual voices can be placed in the stereo field as appropriate for the illusion you are trying to create. Recording VO in stereo can also create “phasing” effects when mixing or creating MP3s. Stereo also requires a file that is twice the size of a mono file with no added benefit.

    3. September 19, 2015

      useful post …really appreciate ….


    4. October 6, 2015

      A further clarification: “stereo” is a term given to sound recordings that feature different yet (most often) similar audio on each of the two channels (left and right). We hear in stereo because each ear picks up different sounds from different directions. BUT… simply because we might record our voice on two audio channels (sometimes called tracks), while audio software may call it a stereo file, it is NOT a stereo recording. The recording simply uses two channels to record exactly the same audio, and that’s why recording a single voice in a stereo file does nothing but create an unnecessarily larger file.

      Similarly, just because we hear sound coming from two speakers does not make what we’re hearing stereo, either. Stereo does not simply mean two speakers. Stereo sound – again – is made up of different, yet usually similar sound, designed to entertain our ability to hear different things from each ear.

      If we were to make a recording using TWO people speaking simultaneously, each using their own microphone, recording one person’s voice on the left channel and the other person’s voice on the right channel, that would be a stereo recording. If playback facilities were set up properly, we’d hear the person on the left channel coming from the left speaker, and the person on the right channel coming from the right speaker. HOWEVER, if we were then to convert the file or switch the playback to mono, both voices would be heard from both speakers.

      For another illustration of stereo versus mono that you can do yourself, you’ll first need a sound system capable of playing in both stereo and mono. If you’ve got that, find a music recording (preferably one made no later than the 1970s [for very technical reasons]). Make sure the sound system is set up properly for stereo, and put your headphones on. Begin playing the recording. If you are able to detect different things going on in each ear, you’re listening in stereo. NOW… while the music is playing, switch your sound system from stereo to mono. The difference between what was heard from the left and right channels is now gone, as you are hearing both left and right channels MIXED into mono, but you’re still hearing everything with both ears.

      The bottom line: for recording a single voice, it is not only pointless to record using two channels (a “stereo” file), but doing so just makes the resulting file twice the size as a single channel (mono). If your audio software defaults to recording a stereo file, fine. But then convert it to mono before delivering it to your client.

      Hope that helps clear up the mystery!

    5. October 20, 2015

      Thanks for sharing information on mono and stereo sound technology. I noticed all the important points. Thanks again!!

    6. July 9, 2016

      I agree. Mono is the only way to go. It’s amazing how many people I know who record vocals in stereo. Their reason for doing this? They’ve been doing it that way so long, they don’t want to change. Crazy. Stick with mono!!!

    7. August 17, 2016

      Thanks for this clarification. I sell voice-based products (my own) for digital download and mono is much smaller. I really did not know if there was a difference. Know I do! Much appreciated.

    8. Jeannie Bolet
      August 20, 2016

      Thanks for explaining the difference. I’m fairly new to voiceover and have been going to a VO studio to record auditions. I’m setting up a home studio and wondered whether to record in mono or stereo. Based on your article, I bought a used Konnekt 6 desktop interface which, thankfully, only records in mono! Phew!!
      Thanks again… very helpful and informative!


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