Can we retire "check your mix in mono?"

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GlowSounds
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Can we retire "check your mix in mono?"

Post by GlowSounds » Mon Jan 07, 2013 7:21 am

Is mono compatibility still an issue in 2013? I ask half as devil's advocate and half genuinely curious. It's such a common phrase I wonder sometimes if it's just habit to say it, teach it and do it.

Is there a common mono playback situation I'm not thinking of? The only that comes to mind is when I see people on the subway or whatever listening to music blasting through their cell phone speaker (i.e. not earbuds). I can't imagine saying to myself that that mix sounds really flat and hollow & must have some serious phase issues.

Of course at the end of the day I know it's just a click of a button to check a mix in mono, so why not be safe, right? But just wondering if this is something that could safely be filtered out (pun intended) of common use.

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GussyLoveridge
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Post by GussyLoveridge » Mon Jan 07, 2013 8:02 am

mostly I think checking your mix in mono is about looking for phase issues. I probably won't stop checking in mono, it's as much a part of mixing for me now as the occasional twist of the control room volume.

I could be wrong but I think some radio broadcasts collapse to mono when the signal strength is weak?

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Post by Osumosan » Mon Jan 07, 2013 8:03 am

The first that comes to my mind is internet video. When bandwidth is low, audio can be collapsed to low bandwidth mono. I think a lot of people still watch mono tv as well.

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A.David.MacKinnon
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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Mon Jan 07, 2013 8:35 am

No we can't retire it.
The quickest way to tell if your mix works is in mono, on a single speaker (I prefer an Auratone) at low volume. It will instantly reveal most of the problems.
It's not so much about phase issues (although that's a big consideration) it's about being able to hear your mix with fresh ears and gaining perspective on what the really important elements are. Everything might sound great on the mains but when you go to mono on a small speaker you realize you can't hear the vocal or that the bass doesn't translate at all, or that the swirly, washy reverb/effect treatment you work on for hours just makes everything muddy.
Also, while it's true that pretty much every playback system these days is stereo anything where the speakers are close together (ie: iPod docks, laptop speakers, tvs etc) is effectively in mono as soon as you're a few feet away. I'd argue that with the exception of headphones the average person is listening to to music on a mono-ish playback system.

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Post by vvv » Mon Jan 07, 2013 9:17 am

I do it every mix, for the afore-said reasons.

And it is so very effective - yesterday alone I dropped a lead vocal 3dB - an issue I completely missed in the stereo monitors.
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Post by drumsound » Mon Jan 07, 2013 9:26 am

It's a useful tool even if you don't believe anyone will ever listen in mono.

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Post by Nick Sevilla » Mon Jan 07, 2013 9:59 am

Nope, cannot get rid of that very useful tool.

Why?

When you are in a public space with less than optimal speaker placement, plus unknown acoustics, you can bet a proper mono compatible mix will sound better.

Why?

Because large spaces with bad acoustics tend to mono-ize mixes anyway.

These public spaces are never going away... malls, big stores, little stores, offices, etc...

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Post by telepathy » Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:28 am

Messrs. MacKinnon & Sevilla hit the nail on the head, here. we're listening to music out in the world in situations that approach acoustic mono more often than we realize.

personally I love checking for vocal clarity in dense mixes by listening in the hallway. if the mixes make their way through the control room doorway (another sort-of-mono situation) with their enunciation intact then everything's usually OK.
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Post by ChrisNW » Mon Jan 07, 2013 11:11 am

Occasionally I still put on the mixing hat and lately, I've been starting mixes in mono. I balance levels, EQ, compress, and adjust reverb entirely in mono. Then in the last hour or two of the session I pan things out. I'm often impressed how much more punchy and clear everything seems to be. Works for me anyway!
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Post by curtiswyant » Mon Jan 07, 2013 12:01 pm

If it sounds good in mono, there's a better chance it will sound better in stereo.

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A.David.MacKinnon
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Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Mon Jan 07, 2013 12:51 pm

ChrisNW wrote:Occasionally I still put on the mixing hat and lately, I've been starting mixes in mono. I balance levels, EQ, compress, and adjust reverb entirely in mono. Then in the last hour or two of the session I pan things out. I'm often impressed how much more punchy and clear everything seems to be. Works for me anyway!

^^^^^^^ this.
It's because mixing in mono makes you think about putting the elements of the mix in their place by using eq and front to back placement instead of panning. When you've got elements of a mix that are masking each other panning can help give each element it's own space but it doesn't really solve the problem.

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Post by digitaldrummer » Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:40 pm

my kids have these little bluetooth speakers for their mp3 players. they are MONO. one speaker.

or they blast their iPhone into distortion (but that's another issue). I believe it is mono too though, right?

yeah, I think the sound sucks, but apparently the kids don't care as long as it is loud. Then again they probably won't notice phase issues either.

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Post by Nick Sevilla » Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:46 pm

digitaldrummer wrote:my kids have these little bluetooth speakers for their mp3 players. they are MONO. one speaker.

or they blast their iPhone into distortion (but that's another issue). I believe it is mono too though, right?

yeah, I think the sound sucks, but apparently the kids don't care as long as it is loud. Then again they probably won't notice phase issues either.

:x
Correct.

The iPhones are as far as I can tell from mine, "Stereo" only because they do have two speakers, however their placement effectively renders ANY Stereo imaging useless while playing back in those phones.

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Post by GlowSounds » Mon Jan 07, 2013 3:06 pm

A.David.MacKinnon wrote: It's because mixing in mono makes you think about putting the elements of the mix in their place by using eq and front to back placement instead of panning. When you've got elements of a mix that are masking each other panning can help give each element it's own space but it doesn't really solve the problem.
Wow had never thought of it this way^^^^^^
All excellent points. Insight gained!!!

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Post by JGriffin » Mon Jan 07, 2013 7:49 pm

Since most of what I do is mix for broadcast (radio) and iPhone/iPad/internet, I say always check in mono. A quick scan of my apartment reveals 6 devices through which to hear music/advertisements/program material, and 4 of them are mono.

+1 on what Mssrs. McKinnon, Sevilla, vvv and telepathy said. We encounter enough mono listening situations in our lives that the need for checking mono compatibility isn't going away anytime soon.
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