Mixing in Mono

Just wanted to share my experience mixing my music in mono. While this may seem elementary to some, I’ve never really understood the concept until now and all I can say is WOW! If you’ve never done it, I know what you’re thinking “No one listens in mono”. Yes, that is true, but if you can make it sound AMAZING in mono then it’s going to sound SPECTACULAR in stereo.

I have a switch on my mixer to switch the signal to mono but you could use a plugin on your master bus. Zero everything out, remove all effects, and then put everything on mono and listen to it.

Next start bringing up levels and doing a bit of EQ work. Finally, add compressors.

Once your mix is sparking in Mono, then proceed as normal but make sure you’re switching back and forth throughout the rest of the mixing process because what you want to check for issues like phase cancellation. This is most problematic when layering similar sounding synths for example. There are various things you can do to correct phasing issues including EQ and phase reversal.

Most importantly, once you get done with your stereo processes and panning, flip it back to mono and check it out. You’ll be AMAZED at what you hear. Some elements will disappear all together due to phasing and others will come up to the front where they are supposed to be in the back.

One of my main problems has been getting vocals to sit right. They sound “good” in the stereo mix but they just didn’t seem right and wouldn’t translate properly to other systems outside of my studio. Once I flipped it into mono… HOLY CRAP the vocals were LOUD! I turned them down in mono and they finally sounded right in stereo.

So… mono is a HUGE tool for your mixes.

Hope you get something out of this. Cheers.

Wise advice. Thanks.

“No one listens in mono”

Unfortunately and very respectfully this is incorrect…

Sales of Bluetooth speakers and ‘home assistatnts’ which as far as i’m aware are all mono are through the roof now and have you never noticed the amount of younger people who predominately listen to music on one mobile phone speaker?
mono is very rapidly becoming the ‘new stereo’… over bluetooth…

…so in real terms mono mixing, at least for popular music, is as relevant now as it was in the 60’s and 70’s.

Exactly what I was going to write.

What a sad world its become… FFS

Why do you say that? The recording industry started in mono, and mono has never died. Stereo is great, but some people consider mono to be superior. It doesn’t try to wow the listener with aural summersults, constantly moving sonic elements around like a child just learnt how to pick up toy bricks and move them. It can get fatiguing when a mix engineer insists on panning everything to within an inch of it’s life. It doesn’t add anything musical to the equation - if overused it can subtract from the music. I’m not dissing the clarity that stereo can provide, but mono mixes also have their place.

Definitely not true, as others have said. It’s very important to check all your mixes are mono compatible before finalising them for the markets outlined above.

The people who feel mono is superior also feel that the Earth is flat. Just saying!

Thanks for offering your comments. Also, to the many good comments in this thread. I’m glad that mixing in Mono helped you get better mixes and there’s good logic about it. You’re not the only mixer who recommended this. I need to work more on mono mixing and checking my mixes for mono compatibility.

What about mixing in mono did you find most helpful? What would be the top three or so reasons mixing in mono is a good idea, apart from comparability checking?

Interesting comment about the Bluetooth speaker sales. I have a little bluetooth speaker and for casual listening – music or speech – it’s completely acceptable. Obviously not for critical listen or listening to the stereo system for focused enjoyment of music recordings.

More from the mono is everywhere motif … all that music we hear in restaurants, malls, airports, and the like - we are never in or close to the stereo sweet spot - we’re as likely to be listening to something that is almost mono than hearing well-mixed stereo!

this is why everyone always says “play your tunes on as many speaker sets as possible”… in the car, on your ipod, on that shitty boombox you’ve had forever, bounce it to mp3 and WAV and play it on everything you can. it’s the tried and tested A/B test. it really doesnt matter what speakers you use, and in fact the more variety the better. By hearing all the nasty problems that pop out on “shitty” speakers, you will get a better understanding of what to keep an ear out for and what to fix. this is why most studios will have multiple sets of speakers (and usually 2 or 3 Avatone Mixcubes)

It’s strange and, yes, sad, too. While touch, taste, smell and sight are hyped, sound is kind of “ignored.” Anyway, there’s a big market for the battery-operated bluetooth speakers; so, most of the listening public is going to hear things first on “hi-fi” mono systems. As the OP says, and as I need to work on myself more, I think, mono mix, or mix version, for such a speaker is probably good practice in some instances. I do check mixes on a little bluetooth speaker, along with headphone, Sony 7506. I need another set of small speakers and I need a Sub and a better room.

I wonder though if those single-speaker devices only sum stereo to mono when playing back, or if any processing takes place. If processing takes place it could hypothetically be counter-productive in those cases to adjust for mono compatibility.

Great question. I realize I’ve never looked up the Bluetooth audio spec. It must be a pair, no? Maybe there’s some bluetooth summing processing performed in the transmitting device? (going to search).

P.S. – https://www.bluetooth.com/bluetooth-technology/topology-options