Testing your mixes in mono

I know some of the basics … well, maybe just one basic … turn down the center channel a bit to make the song more mono compatible. For example, my voice and kick are always relatively super loud in mono, because my songs have a heavy piano component to them, and by default a lot of the piano info is pretty wide.

So to start out I narrow the piano field to L70/R70. Then when I check in mono I find I usually drop the voice and kick by 2 dB.

It still is pretty bad in mono though (the way the vast majority of my friend and family want to listen to my music - on their mono cell phone). I beg them to listen on their laptop or home desktop stereo speakers, but it doesn’t do much good. So I gotta get better.

So … does anyone know a good article or youtube they’d recommend for how to mix well in mono AND stereo?

Thanks for any ideas!

That’s odd. I can’t say I’ve really ever experienced this. I’d look at the elements in your mix. It sounds as though some of your stereo element are cancelling out too much. I would look at the treatments you have on them. You can also look into mid side mastering.

Thanks, TEEF. So just to clarify … you’re saying hitting the mono button on your stereo mixes doesn’t change the sound a lot? Sweet!

In mine, my piano has a lot of stereo info, and it pretty much disappears when collapsed to mono. To a lesser degree, I wonder about the drums too (EZ Drummer). And of course all the reverb is stereo … etc. The net effect of everything is that the voice and kick/snare are super loud in my mono.

I’d love to sit next to a good mixer to see how they do that, but in the absence of that, I’m looking for some online tutorials … anyone?


Can you post an example of what we are talking about?

It changes the sound. For sure. But I don’t get major level discrepancies. I do know what you’re talking about though with keyboard sounds. I had a group in here a month or so ago and when I collapsed to Mono, the keyboards did drop in level. It was the first time I experienced that. What I did was create an auxilary track to fill it in. If you want to investigate, open a level meter and work with just a single element. Check levels in Stereo then collapse the mono then check again. See what you can do to compensate. And again, you may want to look into mid side mastering techniques for the music you’re mixing. That may or may not help you out, but it’s worth a shot.

Thanks, TEEF, that’s exactly what I’m referring to (drop in piano volume). Would you please give a detail or two about how you use the aux track? For example, are you sending the piano to that aux (Group) track, panning the aux track output to “C”, and routing that to the Master Out … toggling between mono and stereo to find the right amount of piano to send?

Or …? :slight_smile:


Thanks for the recommendation, I have actually done some of that. To be honest, a while back I was putting myself deeper in a hole, my stereo had the piano sides bumped up 2 dB so as to let the vocal have more space in the “C” (that was my goal, and it seemed to work, but I’m not sure about the theory behind that). The stereo sounded great, but of course in mono the piano all but disappeared.

Lately I’ve not been doing that (bumping up the piano sides signal in stereo; my approach now is to pan the stereo piano more centrally, L70/R70). I think you’re suggesting to consider bumping up the piano’s mid signal, and toggling back and forth between master out stereo/mono to find the most acceptable balance? If so, I’m going to have to develop the skill of placing some EQ cuts in the piano to leave room for the voice. I’ve tried that once or twice, but at the moment it is beyond my skill level …

Thank you for your comments, and if you had a moment to clarify any of the above, I’d be grateful again!

Two words might help you. Phase cancellation. If things are collapsing it’s almost certainly related to phase cancellation. So you could try adjusting the phase relationships between the left and right signals. Or check out the result of inverting the polarity on the left or right signal. Also, taking a look at the waveforms of the left and right channels at high magnification might give you a clue about what is happening with the phase between the signals. Try shifting the left or right channel back or forth in time to line up the waveforms.

Interesting, thanks. I don’t quite know what collapsing means here, but what I am experiencing is significant loss of piano, but not of centrally panned items (voice, kick, snare), when pushing the mono button.

I figured that was because there was too much side signal on the piano (it is panned across a lot of the stereo field, deep notes way left, high notes way right). So I’ve been collapsing the panning on the piano group “submaster” channel somewhat more centrally.

I’ll look at it some more with your comments in mind, thank you!

Yes, that’s indicative of phase cancellation on the piano, or possibly with the reverb or some other effect on the piano (if you’re using it). This kind of thing is also common with widely panned guitar tracks. But IMO deep notes left and high notes right shouldn’t give phase cancellation in mono but it depends how the piano has been recorded. Is this a piano you recorded yourself with spaced microphones or a sampled instrument?

I’d suggest the following: when you mix, try mixing in mono when it comes to mixing the piano track. Get the piano to sound absolutely 100% correct in mono and only then switch to stereo.

Neither, actually, it’s a virtual modeled piano, Pianoteq 5 https://www.pianoteq.com .


Thanks for that! I had considered that, but was actually a bit concerned the piano would be too loud when I popped it back into stereo. But I’ll put that on my list as the next thing to try! I’m currently seeing how things work with panning the piano submaster more centrally (L60/R60) as I mix in stereo, flipping now and then between stereo and mono. Thanks!

Oh! OK… In that case IMO it is unlikely to have any phase issues at all, but some of those piano sounds might translate better between mono and stereo than others.

I think you’re right about the danger of it sounding too loud when switching back to stereo. This is a bit of a compromise and it depends on the piano sound. My advice was probably a bit off target.

Instead of all this I might have a much better idea as follows:
Leave the panning wide. Split the signal into mid and side and attenuate the level of the side signal around -6dB to -8dB (-6dB will probabaly be enough). It’s easy to set this up in Voxengo MSED for example. This should make the stereo and mono piano sound closer in level and tone. (This will probably seem to dull the piano a tiny little bit, when compared to the original stereo piano, and so you could brighten it back up with a touch of EQ perhaps).

Thanks, that sounds like an excellent idea.

I think a lot of the piano reverb is out there as well, I may have to compensate for that as well.

What pan law do you have set?

Hi Split!

Wouldn’t the pan law make a difference only if a track is moved/panned across the stereo field during playback? All my panning is fixed for the duration of the song.

Thanks for any clarifying!

It matters if it’s static as well, it’s not just during movement.

Hi Split or MattiasNYC - Can you (or anyone else) explain that a little more please? I have been taught and read in many places that once a mix is made that the pan law doesn’t affect things if things are not being panned across the stereo field, or as long as the pan law isn’t then changed.

Are you all saying that the pan law is also relevant when changing things from stereo <----> mono? I’m asking only because I haven’t heard that aspect of things in all the things I’ve read/seen about checking mixes in mono.

Thanks for the schooling!

Sorry, my response was really just addressing a very limited aspect of it all. Your intuition is right I think. For what you’re experiencing it makes no difference. My point was that for those of us having to deliver stems for example we have to be aware of these sorts of things because they can get generated out-of-spec if we’re not careful, and it won’t matter if the sound is panned statically or is moving in the mix itself.

But again, you’re right I think. If we’re just collapsing all content into mono it won’t make a difference. Everything will be affected the same way as far as pan law is concerned.

I would guess your problem is phase cancellation. If it wasn’t that then I would expect the sound to either just move to the center or get louder. Personally I don’t see a solution other than a) living with it or b) swapping sounds.

I mention it as there used to be a bug in the mono downmix, maybe it’s fixed but mono summing (control room function) was screwed in some circumstances!

Ok, well which ones then?

Most… there was a way of fixing it, but I’ve forgotten :slight_smile:
I’m still on good old C 6.5 so maybe it’s been addressed.
I noticed it ages ago when comparing cubases software mono summing to hardware mono summing.