Why most VSTs have stereo output if sources say to mix mono?

I’ve been reading bit about mixing lately and mastering. Almost every source tells to convert your stereo sounds to mono and then mix but run that mono file through stereo bus so you can pan them separately LCR etc. and apply effects.

So why are we then given option even to play our VST instruments in stereo if anyway we “have” to convert them to single mono file?

Shouldn’t they just have a mono sound in the first place? Like Xfer Serum, has lots of stereo spread in the preset sounds. And other synths have too.
I don’t make my own presets yet, so I understand you have more control when you make sounds from scratch.

I am still learning to do better mixing, so far i’ve been using stereo files and very, very little panning. But I am trying to understand why some use mono sounds/files even if our VST instruments output sound out as stereo.

I just feel goes to waste if I play with my stereo synth and convert that stereo sound to single mono file. Yet i’ve read that few people mix in stereo and do not convert any files to mono etc.

I know there is no wrong or right way to mix. As far as I am happy that is the most important part. But I am just trying to figure it out. I mean this is 2018, we have these all high tech DAWs and 64-bit outputs etc. but still some sources say you should convert your stereo output to mono.

I understand the mono compatibility, your mixes have to sound good in mono too.

I am just very confused. Maybe someone wiser can help me out :slight_smile:

I think the article you were reading might be referring to hardware not software. In the software world
These things have been simplified.

For example with hardware synths and drum machines you have L/R outputs. When you record those with hardware you separate L/R to 2 or more mono tracks to make them stereo.

Same with live drums for example 8 mono sounds on 8 mono tracks to mix in stereo. In cubase you have stereo and mono tracks. But the older hardware mixers had mostly 24-48 mono channels, stereo group channels, and one master stereo bus/output.

Finally the stereo to mono is a test/speaker to hear how the mix sounds on am radio or other mono devices.

You have to remember that the width of an output doesn’t really tell you what the signal in it is, whether it’s stereo or mono. Having two channels tells you the “maximum width” is stereo (unless you encode the signal). So a stereo channel can contain a mono signal just as well as a mono channel can. Of course the mono signal can be panned in that stereo field. I know you know this though but the point is that for some instruments it would be possible to pre-pan the mono signal in a stereo VSTi output.

So think orchestral libraries for example. I would expect them to give the option of having instruments panned according to where the instrument would be located in the real world. So the source of a violin in a VSTi could be output through a stereo channel (VSTi) but it would be panned to the left somewhat. So it would be a mono source in a stereo channel.

It changes once you add something that is truly stereo of course, like reverb to the above violin for example. Now the source is by definition a stereo source (mono violin + stereo reverb).

So why switch that or a stereo synth patch to mono? Well, it’d be for aesthetic reasons. If you don’t think you benefit from doing it, then don’t. It’s just that simple. From a practical standpoint it might help if you think about your sources as individual instruments on a stage. And if you do surely not everything will be stereo. If you go to a concert and watch a band play you’ll hear different instruments from different parts of the stage. So you can use a similar line of thinking when dealing with ‘general’ music mixing.

So another note on both aesthetics and being practical is the amount of “space” you have available in the mix. You may find that it’s easier to fit multiple instruments if you give them a defined narrow location rather than allow them to be spread out.

It’s tempting to try to make everything smooth and even. But it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more appealing. If you want to listen to some good hard panning (in my opinion) listen to Devo’s “Time Out For Fun”.

So you just do what is appropriate. Some sounds maybe you keep stereo, some mono.

This probably has little to do with that.

Thank you for the answers @MattiasNYC and @AP :slight_smile: I appreaciate it.