Who mixes in mono first?

I’ve only got SX3, so it’s not an issue. But I’ve read some people say that a good way to mix is 1st in mono, then separate out for a better stereo mix. And of course a fair amount of people still hear their music in mono for at least some part of the day (clock radios and laptop speakers, for example).

For those that mix or listen in mono - does the sound come out of just one speaker, or two? Would that make a difference in how it would sound on a single mono speaker?


A big reason to check a mix in mono is to check for phase cancellation. Mono is all sound coming from both speakers, stereo is selected from right and left.

Theoretically the answer is NO. Of course it sounds different if you have 10 loudspeakers playing simultaneously but if they playback the same material (the same mono signal) then it will be MONO, no matter how many loudspeakers you have. Well, the only thing that makes it as a so-called “pseudo-stereo” is the little delay that might emerge because of some loudspeakers are further away or closer to you than the other. You might compare this to the Cubase’s built-it MONO > STEREO effect which makes a Monologous signal as stereo by intelligently adding a small delay to the left and/or right channels. I mean the monologous signal can be thought as a stereo file with having the same material on the left & right channels. Of course the Mono signal only has one channel but your, mine, and everybodys mixers split that Mono signal into two separate signals and direct the to left & right channels.

So if you have a truly monologous stereo signal (the data in the left channel is exactly the same as the data in the right channel) there is no use of keeping that as a stereo file since your ears won’t hear the difference.

Yep, a bit off-topic here but wanted to point that out. You know, one of my supposed-to-be guitar guru friends said to me some 10 years ago that “if you record your guitar as a mono recording and then split the mono into stereo, then it is a different thing than a mono recording”. Yeah, sure it’s different; it’s double in size but that’s it all! :laughing:

Oh, and to comment on the rest of your post, many bands today mix their material (especially Rock/Metal bands) so that the stereo separation is not that huge; I mean rhythm guitars are of course left and right, but the drums are pretty much in the center channel (except for maybe hihat and symbals/ride), vocals are (of course) middle, and basically all that doesn’t ABSOLUTELY have to affect the stereo image, is quite center-mixed. That’s because when listening through cell-phones (mono usually) or distant sound sources (the stereo image becomes “flattened”), it basically sounds better. So more important thing for a mix is that it sounds also good in Mono. Of course in Stereo too, but if the stereo mix won’t sound good as a mono, it is bad.

If everyone had a stereo headphones, then we wouldn’t have to worry about this at all :slight_smile: But always check your mix also as Mono. It’s far more easier to pin-point certain flaws in your mix that way.

Exactly! In a stereo image you might not hear that, since, for example let’s make a following scenario:

  • You record your song and all the instruments on it
  • You wanna be a fool and 180 degrees phase-shift (mirror the waveform) the left channel in the stereo-recorded vocals (the same material in the left and right channel)
  • You listen to it with you head-phones as a stereo and think that it sounds nicely weird (I mean nobody does this, but this is an example)
  • Then you listen it mono and you find out that THE VOCALS ARE COMPLETELY GONE!

Why? Because the left and right channels are combined for a Mono signal and since the waveform mirroring of the vocals’ left channel, the left and right channels for vocals cancel out each other.

You ever wondered how some people do those Karaoke mixes of the songs? They use this exact method of cancellation; You of course know that usually the vocals are in the middle (so there’s exactly the same material of vocals in the left & the right channel). So when you mirror the waveform (either left or right) and mix it into a Mono audio file, all the Center-channel data (including the vocals) are cancelled out! Nice, ha?

Of course that song is now in Mono, but Waves has this nice technology within their Waves 7 bundle; There’s an effect named “Center Stereo” and with that effect you can cancel out the center channel and still retain the stereo image! I don’t know the mathematics beyond that but it’s not easy believe me. It must device the whole stereo signal into parts by the frequency or something like that, but that’s á whole another issue… :slight_smile:

That waves plugin simply splits the stereo file to mid / side, leaving the mid out.
Just take a look at M/S processing :slight_smile:

Tommy, very nice report!

“cancel center stereo” (or e.g.“Karaoke”) is also simply possible with Cubase:

AUDIO > PROCESS > Stereo-Flip (Stereo-Modification) > Preset “subtract”!

“Simply”, right? :laughing: Well, tell me then the thoery about “simply” extracting the stereo image and leave the center out :wink: Like, who cares… Main thing is that it works. :mrgreen:

Further annoying EDIT:

Question: “How do you get a time dilation so that I could theoretically go to the future in time faster?”
Answer: “THAT’S SOO EASY!! Simply travel with nearly the speed of light for couple of days and come back! Simple as that!”.

Theoretically true, but cannot do that right now :laughing: :laughing: Sorry, I’m annoying sometimes… :wink:

little story on the edge: as my left speaker was broken a few years ago, I was forced to mix only in mono.
Checked this up with my (stereo!)headphone. No problem, very good mix at the end! :wink:

Hey Steve - I’ve read the same thing as you! But also, for newbies and people who aren’t quite in George Martin territory yet … they recommend mixing in mono first for the balance (tonal and volume - practice placing things on the near stage vs far away!), then going to stereo.

I guess the good guys don’t need to do that first!

P.S. I think I remember reading in the old forums that for SX3 you need to get some Voxengo plug in to put together a work-around for mono … anyone remember anything about that?


I don’t set up mixes in mono. For a subtle hi fi style, I create a virtual space in a stereo soundfield and place my musical elements within that space. If it’s power and impact that are the most important criteria, then I mix to match the balance of other material of a similar genre.

Checking mono compatibility is important though, centrally placed elements in a stereo soundfield will appear louder in mono and so may need to be adjusted to be acceptable in both mono and stereo situations

There used to be another important factor and that is that out of phase elements will disappear (that is when left speaker is moving forward and right speaker is retreating - it creates a very odd sensation in your ears).

Not only does this mess up your mix balance but in extreme cases it used to cause problems when cutting vinyl masters. The cutting lathe engineer in that instance would be faced with the possibility of needles jumping out of the groove or running out of space!


I will sometimes set delays, pans and wideners in mono.

Yeah, all you have to do is go through the mixer clicking on everything pan/wide you see while holding [CTRL] down. Perfect mono! :laughing:

I had to read that 3 times to understand it then I laughed out loud!

Thanks for the helpful replies!

A question I had was … is there a difference in how a mix would be made based on a mono coming from a single speaker, vs. two?

Yes. You should mix in mono on one speaker.
I’ll share this with you from ‘Mixing With Your Mind’ by Stav.

“True Mono.
Mono monitoring is more than hitting the ‘mono’ button on your console. True mono occurs only
when you listen from just one point source speaker. (This is the reason why every photo of a pro
mixing room shows a little single coned speaker on the meterbridge.)
In fact, 2/3rds of my mixing is done quietly in mono. Why? It’s easier to judge the precise balance of two instruments when they are superimposed one on another than when they are held six feet apart.
When the perception and depth works in mono, it always just gets bigger and cleaner as it separates into stereo.”

The way to acheive this in Cubase is to begin your mix in stereo and pan things as you like them for separation,
then if you right click in the panning area of the main output buss and select ‘stereo dual panner’ - then you can
move both of the panners to either the left or right side, thereby having mono coming from one speaker.

I mix in stereo, but listen in mono while I am at it from time to time to check that phase is more or less right.

Frankly I don’t care about/cater for mono listeners, my music was always meant to be in stereo, hehe

Come to think about it, I can’t even remember when I last listened to a mono source in a real life setting. I mean; even small kitchen radios has stereo speakers nowadays? At least the one I use.

Kim :mrgreen:

Agree, even my shower radio is stereo :laughing:

Although I do also flick into mono every now and then, and if I know I’m mixing to vinyl I’m more careful about that sort of stuff…

I’ve got a Yamaha Motif, very nice piano sounds.

When I collapse to mono (using Mix6to1), it sounds much cheaper and tinnier.

I compared to the “L/Mono” output of the Motif, and it sounds about the same as the Mix6to1 result.

IF I wanted to make the piano sweet-sounding in mono -

… are there any tried and true ways to process the Motif stereo output to minimize the (presumed) phase interference?

I’ll put a thread on the Motif forum too, but I think this will come down to a Cubase issue.

Thanks -