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the rebirth of mono

this story starts some forty years back in time. back then, in my parents house, the only music we had came from a AM radio.

this was how my mom kept up to date with the news and also followed mass every day.

and while I didn’t care much about it, it was something that kept her company during the day, when most of us were away, me at school, dad at work.

as for me, the ‘school system’ was failing on me and after some failed years, it was decided that I should join the working class.

fairly soon after starting work, I bought my first stereo system, a system that still partly works today (it provides music in my storage space up my building). boom box

being a stereo system, it meant that all FM stations amazed me everytime I tuned in, every, time, without fail.

this stereo system, pictured here, provided a pair of (detached) speakers, which made a whole room come alive with all that stereo separation.

fast forward some years and I started work in a small shoe factory that decided to expand into assembling audio equipment (taking advantage of government subsidies for local integration).

this new foray into hi-fi expanded my knowledge of electronics and also other ways of listening to music.

it may not surprise you but the audio King of this Era was vinyl (yes, that vinyl)

you can also read a bit about it in this autolink.

this was one of the best times for enjoying music, yes , yes, it was the 80’s where almost everything was possible and no-one tried to shape and over-produce music to fit ’trends’.

my record collection expanded a bit, although not as much as I would like, as it was an expensive hobby.

during this era, we were the first to see the arrival of the Compact Disk, that 12 cm wafer, full of awesome 12bit digital audio conversion of analog sounds.

being experts in analogue electronics, nothing inside a CD Player made any sense to us.

so, for the time being we largely ignored digital music.

fast forward a couple of decades and everything is now digital, first with the rise of MP3, then with streaming.

long were the days of full size stereo systems, now everyone ‘prefers’ soundbars and subwoofers, where the experience is largely inferior.

portable music listening happens with ridiculous small in ear buds or even bluetooth speakers, and this is where we returned to monophonic music.

you see, these bluetooth speaker devices are so small that even if they have separate left and right speakers, they are so close to each other that you really can’t have proper separation.

on the other hand, I’ve seen that music is mixed differently depending on what device you’ll use to listen.

some YouTube channels even dedicate whole series of tutorials on that subject.

“mix in stereo but also listen in mono, you will notice the difference”, this one of the most common advices they give you for free.

a nice information I got from those tips and tricks is an interesting fact: mixing for stereo is not the same if you listen to speakers or headphones.

with speakers both ears will have a better experience, as all the echos and room reverberation will change the perceived sound.

with headphones, each ear will get the separated channel delivered directly, without the other channel ‘bleeding in’.

this means that the mix for headphones will have an artificial left right bleed added.

and as most mobile listeners use some sort of headphones or ear buds, there’s no longer much care for ’true stereo’.

so, mono effectively won and therefore:

mix for mono!