Mono VS Stereo Sound: What are the Differences Between Them

mono vs stereo sound

Of course, people enjoy music. We want to enjoy our music as much as possible, which means investing in high-quality earbuds and headphones.

The type of sound produced by an earbud or headphone contributes to that quality. Mono and stereo are the two main types.

Mono VS Stereo Sound: Defenition

Mono or monoaural sound: When converting a signal into a sound, it only uses one channel. Even if you install multiple speakers, the same signal will be sent to both. Even if the sound is coming from different speakers, it is coming from a single position or source. 

With today's technological level, most signals are more compatible with stereo sound, than mono sound. The mono sound was commonly used for radio broadcasts in the past.

For the mono sound, you may check the Mono Amp Board here.

Stereo Sound: Compared with mono sound, stereo sound will use more than one channel when it is converting a signal into a sound. So each signal sent out is different. For example, if you used earbuds with left and right channels, and as in the classic song "Bohemian Rhapsody," it is better to use the stereo sound.

It is normal and common to use stereo sound, and the sound comes from different locations and sources. In particular, most speakers are designed for surround sound effects.

For the stereo sound, you may check the Stereo Amp Board here.

Mono VS Stereo Sound: The Main Differences

In order to distinguish mono and stereo sound, we usually will use different channels to record and playback audio.

We use a signal audio channel to record and playback mono signals. And then we use two audio channels to record and playback stereo sound.

The most obvious difference for us when listening to music is that stereo sounds can produce the perception of width, but mono sounds cannot.

Mono VS Stereo Sound: The Audio Files

Stereo systems are playback systems that need to use two speakers. Stereo audio files, for example, stereo MP3 and WAV files, contain information about the left and right channels. After that, it will tell the left and right speakers when to push and pull air.

If you've ever worked at the waveform of a stereo audio file in a digital audio workstation (DAW), you've probably noticed there are two waveforms in the audio file. Each waveform represents a single audio channel.

Mono VS Stereo Sound: The Playback

Sound source localization means the ability of humans to locate the position of a sound source in space is referred. And the stereo system will give you an impression of the sound source localization.

Such as, when you hear a dog barking, you will probably know how far the dog is and where the dog is. Even if you close your eyes, you can tell the position fairly accurately.

As normal, you will perceive the sound is coming from two different sound sources if it is produced by a stereo sound: the left and right speakers. In some situations, it is not strange if you have this feeling to perceive the stereo sound is coming from two different locations. However, this is not always the case. 

Because it uses easy concepts to localize sounds, we may be simply cheated. For example, there will be timing differences between sounds when you hear them with left and right ears. The sound wave frequency, sound wave pressure levels, dynamic range, and reverberation amount will also affect the result.

Stereo systems utilize our brain's gullibility to create the "impression" of sound source localization between the system's left and right speakers. 

For example, when the left and right speakers play the same signal at the same time, you may perceive the sound is coming from the middle of those two speakers. This situation is known as the phantom mono sound source since the sound source comes from both sides.

Our brain will use differences between sound wave timing to make certain of the sound positions. 

If the sound waves from a sound source closer to your left ear, it will reach your left ear, then reach your right ear. Even though the timing difference is minor, it will help you to localize the sound.

If you replicate this process with a second speaker and forward the same signal to both speakers, you may believe the sound source is in front of you.

When differences are introduced to one of the signals, the sound produced is perceived to be wider. But if the timing differences are introduced to one signal, you may perceive the sound will be wider.

The frequency will determine the height at which you perceive sound within a stereo field. High-frequency sounds will be located above low-frequency sounds. For example, hi-hats in a song will sound as if they are above the bass guitar.

Many factors will influence sound depth. For example, the sound's relative level, dynamic range, and amount of reverberation. If sounds with a low level and a narrow dynamic range, or sounds with a lot of reverb, they maybe appear at the back of the stereo field.

There is only one speaker for mono-playback systems, and it can only produce a two-dimensional image with height and depth. 

Also, we need to use two speakers to generate the directional timing differences. Then our brain can perceive width.

Mono VS Stereo Sound: The Recording

If you use a single microphone to record a sound source, you will capture a single audio channel. You can use a single speaker or a pair of speakers to playback a mono recording.

Mono sounds played back through a stereo system will be played back in dual-mono. After that, the audio from a single channel is duplicated and sent to both the left and right speakers.

We need two microphones to capture true stereo recordings. When you are processing a stereo recording, you will need to move one of the microphone recordings to the left and the other to the right.

Mono VS Stereo Sound: Which One is Better

In fact, there is no definitive answer about which one is better. It all depends on our own preferences and situations. For example, if you have a home theater system in your house, then you may need to use stereo sound to get a better experience with even more channels. The stereo sound is ideal for watching a movie and if there are lots of music and environmental sounds, as it allows you to immerse yourself in the story.

If you only wear one earbud at a time, you would better choose mono sound. Then you will hear the entire song and all its parts.

When converting a signal to a sound, you only need to use only one channel. When you use multiple channels to convert multiple signals to sounds, then it will produce stereo sound. Your preference for mono or stereo sound is entirely subjective, as everyone, like sound, is unique!

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