Need Pros/Cons Of Recording - Mono Source to Stereo Track

Hi guys, after all that’s been said there must be no doubt about the differences between using stereo or mono tracks!

What I’d like to add is that nowadays it is possible to record mono audio in a stereo track, and I believe Steinberg enabled this to avoid bigger problems for the users who do this incorrectly (adding stereo tracks to record mono signals).

In the past, this would result in a stereo audio file with the signal in the left channel only, but now it records a mono audio file normally as expected (by the user who does this way). I believe this change was made to avoid big problems, or for using factory VST AMP Rack plugin which should be added to a stereo track eventhough the input signal is usually mono.

Still, in my opinion, you should choose carefully whether you want to use a mono or stereo track depending on the post-processing you will make (insert plugins). By using mono tracks and mono signals, you have less DSP load and avoid routing problems inside plugins as mentioned before.


Good point… Thanks :wink:

Regards :sunglasses:

As you can probably tell from my post, I never use a stereo track for a mono file. I need to experiment with this in cubase to see what is happening. If as you say (I am not doubting you) the file stays mono I can not see the point of the stereo track because as you know stereo has to be two files one to the L and one to the R…hence why mono on a stereo track should be two identical files.
I can maybe see the point of using the stereo track, mono file to go to a mono input stereo output effect like a delay, chorus, flanger for example though I would route to a group.
But what is happening with say an EQ or compressor…it is a single mono file going through a stereo dynamic effect. I gather it must be going to the 2 inputs equally and the same with the outputs, room for error and phasing.

Interesting conversation and I will look more into this “mono on a stereo track stays mono".

What most of you people are missing is: there is a difference between recording from a mono input bus, and recording from one side of a stereo bus. The first will record a mono file, the latter will record a stereo file with sound on one side only and that is not a recent change but has been in Cubase for a very long time already.

Stereo does not have to be anything: Stereo allows you to have 2 channels, there is no law, you need to have a stereophonic signal on your stereo busses, otherwise you would not be allowed to mix mono signals to a stereo bus, which is just the same: inputting a mono signal to a stero bus.

The same thing that happens to an insert on a stereo group that is fed by a mono signal.

Your point about recording from one side of a stereo bus (which will happen if you record a mono source thru an assigned stereo buss) is hopefully informative for those that did not know about this. So thank you :wink:

But I am also glad you brought it up because I missed specifying something in my original post. This topic was supposed to be about recording from a mono source (like a guitar) through a properly assigned mono VST Connection input buss to a Cubase stereo audio track versus recording to a Cubase mono audio track.

Unfortunately I missed adding the “through a properly assigned mono VST Connection input bus”. So I apologize if I confused anyone.

Try this short experiment for yourself to see and hear what I mean (I just did):

1 - Start a project with (1) Stereo audio track and (1) Mono audio track both set to 0dB in the mixer. Make a quick recording of a guitar to both of those tracks at the same time. Your guitar needs to be connected to your audio interface through a standard mono 1/4 jack connection and that input used must be assign as a mono input buss in the Cubase VST Connections menu.

Notice you will now have (2) tracks with a mono recording on each. If you check in explorer they show to be the same size files. When I play them back together and separately, for me, in the mixer they look and sound the same. Hopefully they do for you too.

2 - Next, assign the same VST guitar insert to each track. Choose a nice clear amp effect and add the same to both tracks. Amp settings must be the same.

3 - Next, add some kind of stereo guitar pedal (like a flanger) and add the same to both tracks. Adjust the flanger depth setting to max. Flanger settings must be the same.

Now, take a listen to each track together then separately. When played together I can plainly see in the mixer that the stereo effect on the mono track is playing back differently than the stereo track. When I listen to each track separately I can easily hear that the mono track is missing some of the stereo effect that I can hear in the stereo track.

This, my friends, is why I always record my mono sources (on a mono input bus) to a stereo audio track.

If you look on page 439 of the Cubase operation manual you will see this short note…

NOTE If you apply an effect to mono audio material, only the left side of the effect’s stereo output is applied.

The paragraph this is listed in is not “exactly” the same topic being discussed here. But… it makes me wonder.

Of course this same issue will happen for whatever audio you record on a mono track.

So why do it? Ever?

Regards :sunglasses:

With your flanger experiment you are talking about a mono in, stereo out effect. If you recorded through this type of effect hardware yes you would output the effect to 2 channels of your mixer and pan them hard L and hard R. or send them to a group.
You are still asking why use a mono track and the reason is the dynamic effects. When I mix a vocal before it gets to any stereo type effects reverb or delay it often goes through a filter, compressor, EQ and tape saturation all of which I want to keep in mono. When I want to go to the stereo type effects stereo groups and sends is the way to go.

Just for interesting reading here is a couple of links on this subject.

Anyway I have put too much time into this now and I wish you happy music making.
Regards Ian.

Just a final thought for you:
In Cubase you can do exactly the same thing that you describe starting with a mono file recorded on a stereo audio track.

Regards :sunglasses:

Kinda off topic… But,
Has to do with mono to stereo bus…
(There are some nice tricks that you can do with plugins that let you unlink L/R) - alternative would be to use two mono channels and two mono reverbs?)
Anywho… Why did i even post this…?…

I haven’t fully understood what you’re doing since you haven’t said where you are putting effects.

In my own normal setup, I’ll record a mono source to a mono track. I’ll put mono effects in the insert chain (for example, an amp sim, a compressor, maybe a limiter). The output of the mono track after the last insert goes to the stereo master bus, or perhaps to a stereo group.

I’ll use a send slot for stereo effects, such as reverb, chorus, delays.

I guess I’ll have to try what you’re suggesting and see if I can duplicate the concern, but I have in the past played around with stereo inserts on a mono track, and I recall that as long as I sent the output to a stereo master bus, it worked fine. But since I don’t normally put a stereo effect in an insert slot, I could be wrong.

Well I guess you’re right; I just put a stereo delay on an insert on a mono track, and indeed only the left side is functioning. But as I said, I never put stereo effects in insert slots. So the point is, to put it into my words, if you always use a stereo input track for mono sources, then you can feel free to use a stereo insert effect.

I really don’t know if there’s a downside in terms of processing power; that’s the only drawback I can think of.

I do mix tracks very similar to the method you describe but I start with mono recorded to a stereo track. Why, because most of the time I’ll just add a few inserts to the track itself and be done with it.

But when the need arises to put mono effects in the chain prior to adding stereo effects to the output of that, then starting with the stereo track works the same as when starting with a mono track.

So recording to a stereo track from the get go lets you to do both methods the same (as far as I can tell). So that’s why I ask the question… Why is there a need to EVER record to a mono track?

So far in this thread this is the only possible pro I see for starting with a mono track. I guess I’ll check it out one of these days to see if there is a difference. My guess it’s negligible but, you never know until it is tried. :wink:

Regards :sunglasses:

I suppose the bottom line is that it is up to the user to do whatever works for themselves. There isn’t necessarily a wrong or right here.

But, I will say that it could make things very confusing for those new to recording. Way less complicated things can confuse a dood new to recording than this.

The simplicity of basic recording to mono tracks from a mono source just makes more sense to most and also to me as well. For you Prock, it makes sense for the way you work.

Other than ‘on the fly’ situations, I typically do not use inserts very often other than the usual mono eq/compression tools. I find it best for myself to create groups and FX tracks.

I don’t find that the way you are working is wrong, just not the way my head wraps around things.

Best to you and your projects. :slight_smile:

Hey @Prock,

i believe those two reasons are the main ones: less DSP load and having absolutely no problems in terms of cabling/routing, like @mrhehon said…

If you always use the stereo track, you will have to listen 4x more carefully and worry at least twice as much with every plugin you insert in that track…

When you are able to use a mono input in a stereo effect - e.g. amp simulators - the fx plugin either gives a manual option about how many inputs it will use (only left in, or “# inputs” for example), or it does that automatically, depending on the detection of input signal.

Many plugins that aren’t made with special care for mono input, like modulation, delays, anything pretty much except guitar fx, you have a big chance of having routing issues like one channel comes out clean, or out of phase, or whatever, when inserting plugins of a different configuration of its track, so like its been done since the 60’s, we usually go for the most perfect setup, like using mono tracks for mono inputs and stereo tracks for stereo inputs…

if you’re a modern one, you actually do record a mono guitar to a stereo track, in order to use an amp simulator in that track… but audio guys will mostly route the mono track to a group channel, and insert amp simulator there. It’s much smarter, bringing many more possibilities, than adding the amp plugin to a single track… (that would be the virtual version of soldering a physical guitar to its amp)

I believe that’s pretty much it… but depending on your style, if you know what you’re doing, you can break any rules man just make the track happen, that’s the most important part

Good summation. Thanks again.

Regards. :sunglasses:

My understanding is that Reaper has no distinction between mono and stereo…I guess if given a mono source it is doing exactly the same thing as being suggested here.
By forcing you to this behaviour I’d argue things are less confusing for newbies. They only need select mono/stereo in one place not both as input and channel as we are used to doing in Cubase.

As to mono effects on mono signals only…well I’m not convinced that a stereo compressor on a mono file/stereo track will produce any different effect than a mono compressor on mono track. Even if the plug has unlinkable channels it will apply the same effect because it has the same input. Maybe this is worth a null test for confirmation at some point.

So for me the last reservation for not using stereo tracks fed from mono is I think the CPU use. I may run a test project and see just what that difference is but it seems to make sense that 2 channel of effect will use more than 1.

Adding another fader and another channel to clutter your project is only really smarter if you actually need it/use it.
If you don’t need to use these “many more possibilities” then you’re missing nothing and if you do you can easily route to group and drag the amp sim over when and if you need it.

Many plugins that aren’t made with special care for mono input, like modulation, delays, anything pretty much except guitar fx, you have a big chance of having routing issues like one channel comes out clean, or out of phase, or whatever, when inserting plugins of a different configuration of its track, so like its been done since the 60’s, we usually go for the most perfect setup, like using mono tracks for mono inputs and stereo tracks for stereo inputs…

I think you’re perhaps making a wrong assumption here…My thinking is that we don’t need to care at all about mono input as even though the file is mono it is already seen at the plugin input as stereo (or dual mono technically) because it’s on the stereo track.
If you can name any one of these plugs built with no care for mono input I’d love to confirm this.

At this moment, I have a problem panning a mono track, which basically fades out completely as I pan to the right. In comparing it to recordings from the same mono input to a stereo track I see I can pan the instrument anywhere I like (using a stereo track). I can make it sound perfectly in right ear or left ear - or anywhere in between.

So I think from this discussion (this whole page of posts) I need to record onto a stereo track in future. This will allow me to pan - what I think is called COMBINED PANNER so the result is I can move the instrument - intact- wherever I want.

With a mono input to a mono track - I seem to be stuck with fading out the left ear only as I pan the instrument to the right.

Is this correct?

And my fix for current situation is to create a new stereo track, and drag the mono track onto it, which will allow me to pan the instrument with full sound - intact - anywhere I want. (I must test this tonight.)

Thanks to all for your valuable help!

Generally speaking… I say yes, this would be one method to use. Especially when you want to use certain (most) stereo VST effects as inserts in an an audio track. But, as you can see by the above posts, there are other ways that will work depending on your VSTs, effects, etc… basically what you want your final desired sound to be.

So, it can’t hurt for you to try it for yourself… Record a mono instrument (like a guitar or mic) through a mono bus, to a Cubase stereo audio track.

BTW… I typically use the standard “Balance Panner”. But again, it depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

Regards :sunglasses:

No, there is something weong in your setup

Hi, I’m recenly thinking abt similar questions.

Yes, I could understand the concerns Mrhehon had pointed out, but I’m kinda at the side of the OP though. Here’s my view:
In Cubase we have Instrument Tracks, and they are default stereo no matter it’s a Piano VI or a Bass VI (please let me know if I get it wrong). And if we insert some “mono” plugins, such as EQ/comp, chances are that the we are making the signal stereo before it gets into the stereo FX such as chorus. A Bass VI on a Instrument Tracks should be the same as a Mono Source recorded on a Stereo Track, right? (As far as I know there are even more “bass on stereo” samplers such as Kontakt or Halion Sonic SE)

Just my 2cent, and I’m really open for further discussion.