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Should Vocals Be Recorded in Mono or Stereo? (Which is Best)

I often get asked if vocals should be recorded in mono or stereo. In this post, I will answer this question and provide some tips for recording vocals.

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When recording vocals, many people are often left wondering if they should record them in mono or stereo. Many people are also unsure how to record vocals to get the best results. So should vocals be recorded in mono or stereo?

In this article, I will cover recording in mono vs. stereo and provide some tips on recording vocals. So you can get the best audio for your projects.

Image of a man wearing headphones while recording vocals using a microphone. Source: brett sayles, pexels
Image of a man wearing headphones while recording vocals using a microphone. Source: Brett Sayles, Pexels

Is it better to record voices in mono or stereo? When only one vocalist is present in the voice booth, it is best to capture the performance in mono. However, if you plan on recording a band or choir, stereo is the way to go.

What is mono?

When talking about sound, the word “mono” (or “monaural” or “monophonic sound”) means that there are only two channels and a single entity, so the word is shortened to “mono.” The point of monophonic music is to have a single, dominant sound.

Direct-in instruments (such as bass, electric guitar, or keyboard) and vocals are recorded in mono. Yet a mono recording may be given a stereo effect to make it seem more expansive.

What is stereo?

Stereo, often known as stereophonic sound, is the term used to describe audio that uses multiple input and/or output channels. Stereo sound gives the impression of depth and width when it is used to record or make music.

Mono vs. stereo recording

When recording in mono, you may pan the two channels left and right by recording the identical segment twice on two tracks. Your mono track may achieve the same result by being duplicated. You should consider changing the second track, so it doesn’t sound like a copy.

Because you have two ears, you can tell where the left and right channels are located while listening to a stereo recording. On the contrary, when you listen to a mono recording, you experience what is known as “dual mono,” in which the left and right ears get equal amounts of sound. Therefore, if you play a song in mono, the sound will be more focused and narrow, as if it were coming from between the speakers.

Stereo is often used when recording an ensemble or an instrument, like an acoustic guitar or live drums. At least two microphones are used to make a stereo recording, and the audio is sent to two channels.

Should you record vocals in mono or stereo?

In the case of a recording with just one singer, a mon is a way to go. However, if recording two or more singers, stereo recording is recommended. However, your desired voice tone should also be taken into account.

You must use mono sound when recording a single vocalist since he can only provide a single signal. Due to this, it is pointless to record him in stereo because there will be no separation between the left and right channels.

When voices are recorded in mono, they gain punch, clarity, and front-and-center presence. And when voices are recorded in stereo, the result is a broad, spacious, and mellow quality.

But if you want to take advantage of the differences between the left and right channels of the different parts you’re recording and create width, it’s best to record in stereo when you’re recording more than one thing at once.

Image of a woman in front of a microphone while wearing a headphone and recording vocals. Source: antoni shkraba production, pexels
Image of a woman in front of a microphone while wearing a headphone and recording vocals. Source: Antoni Shkraba Production, Pexels

Best microphone recording configurations

Because humans have two ears, we can localize sounds and experience them in stereo. Consequently, if you want a stereo recording, you’ll need to use two microphones in separate locations to capture left and right channel sounds. When making a stereo recording, where the microphones are placed is what makes all the difference. For the most part, these are the most often-used methods of mic placement:

1. X-Y Position

This setup is perfect for close-mic applications. All of the microphones are clustered together. A 90-degree angle between them is the proper position. Because the microphones are close to each other, phase problems are eliminated, and a good stereo image is made. Stereo microphones that incorporate these features into a single unit are available. For this setup, small-diaphragm cardioid condenser microphones are typically used.

2. One and two channels, or a-b stereo

This is a great way to record a choir or instruments that aren’t close to the mic. Following the 3:1 rule, which says that microphones should be placed at a distance three times that of the mic closest to the instrument, will ensure that all room parts are captured well without any phase problems.

3. Decca tree

Since it was invented in the 1950s, this way of recording symphonies and orchestral works has become the norm. Three omnidirectional microphones are hung 10 feet above the conductor’s head, two mics are spaced 6.5 feet apart, and a third mic is positioned centrally, 5 feet from the others. The resulting recording will have an authentic, lifelike quality.

4. Mid-side recording

One microphone is aimed at the center of the sound source, while the other is angled out to the side at a ninety-degree angle to capture the sound from all directions. The cardioid or hyper-cardioid polar pattern is ideal for the center mic, whereas the figure-8 polar pattern is ideal for the side mics. You may have greater control over the stereo spread’s breadth than other methods, and you won’t have to worry about phase cancellation while using this method.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “Should You Record VOICE In Mono or Stereo??” from the Dark Corner Studios YouTube channel.

A video called “Should You Record VOICE In Mono or Stereo??” from the Dark Corner Studios YouTube channel.
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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about mono and stereo recording.

Should you mix vocals in mono or stereo?

When it comes to vocal songs, the mix is tailored to put the spotlight squarely on the main vocalist. In most cases, the dry lead vocal signal is mixed in mono, while the vocal effects, such as reverb and delays, are mixed in stereo.

Should I record dialogue in mono or stereo?

As a rule of thumb, monophonic recordings are used when there is only one sound source to capture, such as speech. If you want to record in stereo, you’ll need a stereo microphone or at least two microphones set up in stereo. For podcasting, you won’t need something so technically advanced.

Do mono records sound better?

When listened to on a turntable, the sound from a mono record is balanced in the center, creating a fuller, more resonant sound than would be possible with stereo playback. In addition, when listening to stereo vinyl records, the music can move and split around you, creating a sense of space.

Conclusion

The outcome of the recording will depend on the quality of your equipment, audio editing software, and how you perform. While it is true that stereo recordings have a richer sound, sometimes mono works just as well. If you are unsure which one is better for your voice, try making two recordings with the same technique. Use this for your voice track if one sounds great and crystal clear! If not, record another version in mono to get better results.

This article covered what a mono is, what a stereo is, and what a mono vs. a stereo recording is. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • The word “mono” (or “monaural” or “monophonic sound”) means that there are only two channels and a single entity, so the word is shortened to “mono.”
  • Stereo, often known as stereophonic sound, is the term used to describe audio that uses multiple in or output channels.
  • For a mono recording, just one microphone is used on a single audio track.
  • Two microphones are used to make a stereo recording.
  • Stereo recording can give you a wider or more focused sound, depending on how much panning is applied to the recordings.

So, when recording, which one works best for you? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.

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Audio Apartment Author
Written By Andrew Ash
Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I've been making music since I was a kid. I now run this blog all about home studios and music production. If you want to improve your home studio setup, this is the place for you!

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