Why do we record in stereo?

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Why do we record in stereo?

Post by @?,*???&? » Fri May 15, 2009 7:07 am

Like the title says...why do we record in stereo anyway?

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Post by KennyLusk » Fri May 15, 2009 7:12 am

I record in stereo for width and depth.

If it's an instrument I want to have "focus" or proximity effect I track it mono.
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Post by ubertar » Fri May 15, 2009 7:16 am

As opposed to what? Mono? Six channels? Eight? Twenty-four?

I think it's because
1. we have two ears
2. two is a small, manageable number

Most people don't care enough about up/down back/front information to have multiple (more than 2) speaker systems, even if they're available. But left/right info is interesting enough to be worth having the extra speaker. With headphones and earbuds, you'd have it anyway... see #1 above... so why not make use of it?
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Post by cgarges » Fri May 15, 2009 7:28 am

I love stereo. I love the human binaural listening experience. I guess I won't ever know any different, unless I go deaf in one ear, but there's something incredibly pleasing about stereo to me. It's pretty amazing how two ears and a brain can decode so much information from what are basically two sources.

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Post by @?,*???&? » Fri May 15, 2009 7:40 am

cgarges wrote:I love stereo. I love the human binaural listening experience. I guess I won't ever know any different, unless I go deaf in one ear, but there's something incredibly pleasing about stereo to me. It's pretty amazing how two ears and a brain can decode so much information from what are basically two sources.
But 90% of recorded stereo music is not recorded in binaural fashion.

Listening with two ears is a binaural experience, yes, but most recordings are not done in true binaural fashion. So why do we do it?

How do we get binaural cues anyway?

What is the goal of two-channel recording?

What can a two-channel stereo recording achieve?

What should it achieve?

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Post by cgarges » Fri May 15, 2009 7:52 am

Regardless of how something's recorded, we hear in a binaural fashion. "Binaural Recording" (the technique) is interesting because it replicates (in headphones, mostly, to eliminate additional information, since we, um, hear things in a binaural fashion anyway) the human listening experience. But just because something isn't recorded with a binaural technique doesn't mean that we don't get the binaural listening experience.

I love the fact that with just two sources (left ear and right ear), we can get so many auditory cues, mostly based on some form of phase interference. Front-to-back depth, up and down cues, distance, etc. All that stuff is WAY cool in my book. It's also kind of amazing how well that stuff can be replicated by carefully manipulating stuff that we get from two sources (meaning two tranducers). In some ways, it's a pain because of the other factors involved (listening space, primarily), but it's SO MUCH fun to work and listen in that realm. For me it is, anyway.

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Post by newholland » Fri May 15, 2009 8:15 am

i don't always.

sometimes when a drum kit is an abysmal failing wreck... i'll record mono and go for a trashy sound to avoid shining a turd... but i don't think it's always necessary to go stereo.. sometimes limiting options is another way of limiting sonic disasters...

running live sound, most folks go mono too, and it doesn't seem to elicit any complaints most time.

and not too many people who've heard REALLY good mono systems set up with one speaker will complain about the 'lack of space' or 'air' in a mono recording..

i think it's just a defacto standard once the industry left mono!

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Post by KennyLusk » Fri May 15, 2009 8:16 am

@?,*???&? wrote:
cgarges wrote:I love stereo. I love the human binaural listening experience. I guess I won't ever know any different, unless I go deaf in one ear, but there's something incredibly pleasing about stereo to me. It's pretty amazing how two ears and a brain can decode so much information from what are basically two sources.
What is the goal of two-channel recording?

What can a two-channel stereo recording achieve?

What should it achieve?
For me, it gives me more mixing options:

1) control of stereo placement/panning of instruments
2) I can EQ one channel different than the other (per instrument)
3) I can add effects to one channel and not the other
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Post by kayagum » Fri May 15, 2009 8:19 am

Panning is one of the best tools in our mixing arsenal.

Frankly, good panning can render other tools (e.g. EQ, compression, etc.) as unnecessary (even though they're fun!).
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Post by FBH » Fri May 15, 2009 8:50 am

@?,*???&? wrote:What is the goal of two-channel recording?
For me, the goal of stereo recording is to create a product which enables a listener to close his eyes and sense that he is in a real three-dimensional space with a band, or a choir, or whatever.

Mostly, I agree with cgarges. It's fun and amazing to be able to pick out where an instrument is placed within the soundstage of a recording, especially when the instrument very clearly seems to be coming from a place other than either of the two speakers, whether above, below, between, behind or in front. There is a kind of cognitive dissonance created which is pleasant to experience. You know in your mind that all sound is originating from two moving paper cones, but you clearly hear it as if it has originated somewhere else.

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Post by Corey Y » Fri May 15, 2009 9:26 am

1. Simulation of listening to live music
2. Artistic tradition

There are certainly artistis/producers who record in mono, binaural (not the same as stereo technically, as it's specifically to be reproduced on headphones, not just two channels) and different variations of surround. Any time art and industry merge though there's usually a desire from the industrial side to create consistency and universal standards. Then once those industrial standards are in place for reproducing an artistic medium artists are generally going to work within them. There's no reason an artist/engineer can't make a record in 3 point sound or 4 point sound or any configuration they can imagine, but in order to be reproduced correctly the end product is has to be played through a system that can reproduce the intended configuration. So if it's going to be a large commercial release it's not likely to be anything but what conforms to the most established standard. There's no saying a filmmaker has to shoot a movie in any particular proportioned frame, but if they want it shown in a multiplex it's best to have it fit a standard sized screen.

Why more producers/engineers don't utilize surround sound I don't know. Maybe it's a comment on the amount of listening that's done in headphones and vehicles as opposed to home stereo/theater systems.

My short answer would probably be it's a result of conforming to an established medium and revolution isn't cost effective.

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Post by sears » Fri May 15, 2009 12:28 pm

I don't record in stereo. I do a collage of mono sources. I pan stuff hard L and R because I can.

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Post by apropos of nothing » Fri May 15, 2009 4:18 pm

The point of the story is that surround is nominally better. And it is cool. Until you can capture a 3-d chaotic flow repeatably, you're going to be flattening a hugely dynamic process down to a simplistic analog. Say, I guess that's why they call it recording and not "being there".

Are people listening to music in actual surround regularly yet? Not as I've observed. Maybe we should all go hit up Dolby to support our new 5.1 internet release. Ha. Ha.

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Post by vvv » Fri May 15, 2009 5:31 pm

What cgarges said.


Lemme also say, I don't think we ever truly listen in mono, unless it's just with one ear, or mebbe in headphones.

By what I mean, a mono signal still hits us kinda stereo, bouncing around the room and such.

But a deliberately mixed stereo track enhances the effect.


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Post by joel hamilton » Fri May 15, 2009 6:52 pm

I think it is a conspiracy, started by speaker manufacturers...

I love the surreal imaging possibilities with stereo.

Mono can sound great though. There are a lot of elements in a mix that I basically let sit as mono.

Simulated stereo imaging is really fun to mess with. The sense of depth and space lend another level of intent to the sound being rendered...

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