Should You Record In Stereo Or Mono?

In Audio by Kantai KotikotLeave a Comment

We all agree to the fact that mirrorless cameras and DSLRs take exceptional and high resolution pictures and videos. Unfortunately, the microphones built into them are inadequate. This means that the video can’t keep pace with the video, requiring help of an external microphone.

But should you record in stereo or mono?

Mono is used for:

  • Radio talk shows
  • Public address system
  • Hearing aid
  • Mobile and telephone communications
  • Few AM radio stations

Stereo is used for:

  • Televisions
  • Movies
  • FM radio stations
  • Music players.

As a rule of thumb, mono is used when there is a single microphone or one cable, on the contrary stereo can be used for two or more independent audio channels creating an impression of sound heard from various directions. Both of them have different usages.

Always examine the source you wish to record. That said, there is still a lot more behind the features of these recordings, differences, procedures of recordings and its applications. These elements combined will help you make an informed decision and best possible results for your recording.

Features of Mono and Stereo Microphones

Mono Microphones

Precisely, a mono microphone, also known as a directional microphone, uses a single microphone capsule to record a single track of audio. This is designed to be pointed at a desired source for always facing forward this is why they are named as directional.

Additionally, they are appropriate for the situations when you only want to focus on sound coming from one specific source from the front and at the same time you wish to ignore the sound coming from the other directions such as the rear of the mic is positioned and the sides.

Key Features of Mono Microphones at a Glance

  • Mono stands for monaural or monophonic sound.
  • It only has one audio channel.
  • Monophonic sound production is usually heard as it were coming from one position or a single channel of sound.
  • Mono microphones are less expensive for reproductions and recordings.
  • They only require basic equipment and are easier to record.
  • Individual channels are required for the audio signals of the microphones.
  • It can be used where the source is one such as radio shows, public address systems, some AM radio stations etc.
  • Common examples of studio or music environment are NTK, RØDE NT1, NT5 microphones while NTG4, NTG3, VideoMicro or VideoMicPro+ are examples for broadcasts.

Stereo Microphones

As the name implies, it required two capsules to record two tracks of audio. Typically in a fixed arrangement, facing towards two different directions of the mic position, it gives you a more natural-sounding recording from both left and right sides.

In addition to this, these microphones are appropriate for capturing the natural ambiance of the environment and space when you do not need to rely on a single sound source.

Key Features of Stereo Microphones at a Glance

  • Stereo stands for stereophonic sound.
  • It has two audio channels.
  • Stereo microphones, also known as stereo is a procedure of sound production that seamlessly creates an illusion of multi-directional audible perspective.
  • These microphones are more expensive for reproductions and recordings.
  • They require technical expertise and knowledge along with skills to record, than just the equipment itself. It is necessary to know the movement of events and objects.
  • The audio signals are routed through two or more than two channels for direction and depth perception.
  • It can be used where the source is multi-purpose such as movies, music players, television, etc.
    Common examples of stereo mic arrangements are X/Y arrangement used in the RØDE NT4, Stereo and iXY VideoMic models.

Procedure and Audio Quality of Mono and Stereo Microphones

Mono Microphones

For mono sound recording, only one loudspeaker and just one microphone is required to listen to the sound. For multiple loudspeakers and headphones, the paths are normally mixed into a single path and are conveyed.

That said, the signal contains no phase information, arrival time or level to replicate the causes directions.
In this case, everyone in the public hears the same signal and the same sound level.

For instance, the sound played by each instrument in the instrument will not be heard clearly. Usually, handheld recorded ensure to do their recording in mono because it is cheaper and easier. There are no specific recording techniques or methods in this case.

Stereo Microphones

As mentioned above, stereo recording is done with two or more microphones. The microphone is carefully placed to achieve different sound pressure levels accordingly even when the loudspeakers can produce the stereo themselves.

The two signal channels have particular level and phase relationship for each other so that there is a clear image when they are played back through a suitable reproduction system. This type of microphone is pricey and also require expert skills to record the stereo sound. It cannot be done by a beginner.

Here are the methods of recording in stereo microphones:

  • X-Y Technique: Typically pointing at an angle between 90o and 135o to one another, there are two directional microphones in this technique at the same place.
  • A-B Technique: In this technique, two parallel microphones which are not direction specific are kept at a distance. This technique is known as Time-of-arrival stereophony as it captures time-of-arrival stereo information along with some difference information.
    M/S Technique: Also known as Mid/Side stereophony, this bidirectional microphone facing sideways are kept in a way that they face the sound source. One is kept at an angle of 90o. It is normally used for filmmaking.
  • Near-Coincident Technique: This is a mixed stereophony and is a mixture of both A-B and X-Y (coincident pair) techniques. The playback is appropriate for stereo speakers anyway.

That said, stereo microphones have almost completely replaced mono microphones because of the seamless and improved audio quality they provide.

Compatibility of Mono and Stereo Microphones

Both, mono and stereo are sound in compact audio, MiniDisc, cassette, VCR (NICAM Stereo) formats, TV and most of the FM radio stations. Usually found in Phonograph cylinders, Disc records and AM radio and a few radio stations, mono is compatible with these. Also, it is not used in audio CDs and 8-track tape.

Should You Record in Stereo or Mono Microphones? Understand With These Examples

If you are still perplexed to decide how should you record, either stereo or mono microphones, consider the below examples to understand better.

Use Mono Microphone

For instance, you have been given a room for an interview in an outdoor location. Here, the talent will face the camera to give the speech. The speech is the main focus of the recording.

Since, you are in an outdoor location, there must be unwanted noise and distortion of traffic and public speaking in the background which you want to avoid in the recording.

If you use stereo in this case, since it has two audio channels, you will be capturing audio from the left and right of the camera’s position. Would this work? No, it will distract the interviewee by the noise.

On the contrary, if you would use the mono microphone, with one channel, you will be able to focus solely on the interviewee speaking to the camera. Capturing the attention of the audience clearly, it would also provide a clear track for the video. This is why, mono microphone is ideal for this situation, where you only require sound in one direction.

Use Stereo Microphone

In this case, a typical live music session has to take place where a band would perform on stage. There are various instruments and equipment spread wide in front of the stage. Here, the width of the stage is important.

If we use a mono microphone in this scenario, we will only capture the specific are of the stage, ignoring the sounds from the fringes. The audio will be unbalanced and inconsistent and would not lead to an ideal listening experience.

On the other hand, using a stereo microphone is a sensible decision here allowing to capture the wider spread of the sound using both the channels. It will be a clear recording experience without any emphasis on one particular direction sound.

So, as you see stereo and mono microphones purposes matter before taking the plunge to using them. Make sure that you know and understand the reason for an excellent recording experience.

About the Author

Kantai Kotikot

A photography enthusiast, a videography connoisseur. Kantai loves the lenses, but he adores words. When he is not out learning how to shoot kick-ass photos and videos, he is creating content to guide you through your photography, and filming escapades.

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