SnapperMike

Stereo or Mono?

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Please excuse my ignorance. Stereo is better than mono surely. So why are there so many recent releases of older albums that come in a mono version? I'm thinking, Velvet Underground, The Doors and John Coltrane. All have recently released new versions of old recordings in a mono version. Why are they doing this and what does a mono version have over a stereo version? It's not really making sense to me.

Edited by SnapperMike

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They were originally recorded in mono , so for people who want it like it was they have re-released them . The stereo recordings of the same albums .... well somebody with a bit more knowledge than me may explain .

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Super Wammer

The mono mixes are often different to the stereo mixes.

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47 minutes ago, bigfool1956 said:

The mono mixes are often different to the stereo mixes.

Thanks, I can appreciate that they're different. But why would someone want to listen in mono when stereo is available?

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55 minutes ago, Bazzer said:

They were originally recorded in mono , so for people who want it like it was they have re-released them . The stereo recordings of the same albums .... well somebody with a bit more knowledge than me may explain .

Thanks. Surely for the albums I mention, recorded in the 60's, they could have recorded in stereo? I don't get why they seem to make a big deal out of a mono version.

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12 hours ago, SnapperMike said:

Thanks. Surely for the albums I mention, recorded in the 60's, they could have recorded in stereo? I don't get why they seem to make a big deal out of a mono version.

Most of the buyers of Pop/Rock music back then bought and heard the LPs in mono, so the bands made the mono master the primary focus. Stereo mixes were sometimes a bit of an afterthought. Maybe some people like to relive that mono experience from their youth?

Edited by Nagraboy
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Super Wammer

There was also a lot of Pseudo stereo releases, from mono masters which were generally very poor. Here is an extract about blue note recordings, which will explain it better than I could :)

In July 1957 Blue Note recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder  first began experimenting with two-track recording. For the next year a few selected sessions were recorded simultaneously on both single track and two track tape recorders, the remainder solely on one track. By late 1958, almost  all sessions were routinely recorded to two track. By the end of that year, simultaneous one track recording was discontinued, judged superfluous, as a mono master could be created by “folding down” the two tracks. (The existence of a simultaneous back-up “safety recording”, routine practice in large studios, has been rumoured but seems not to have been commonly part of Van Gelder’s workflow).

As a result, of the 340-odd titles in the Blue Note 1500  and 4000 series up to 4250, around ninety recordings were released only in mono, around 250 went on to have both a mono and a true stereo release (based on a two-track recording mix), and a handful were released in stereo only, a practice that became standard during the Liberty years. However there were thirty five solely mono recordings from the 1500 series that were electronically reprocessed, to create a “pseudo stereo” official release. Whilst the jackets clearly state they are “electronically re-recorded to simulate stereo” or similar words, sellers will often fail to draw attention to this.Electronic-warning-1600

From a collectors perspective, it is important to be aware of and avoid pseudo-stereo Blue Note releases: many are a deeply inferior listening experience by Blue Note standards. Any release with an “8” prefix (stereo)   early in the 1500 series should set alarm bells ringing. These were recorded only in mono.

Two-track recordings not intended for stereo

The initial purpose of two track recording was to allow the engineer more control in preparing the final mono mix, and was not intended for stereo.

There are a small number of genuine “true stereo” releases towards the end of the 1500 series, recorded to two-track and mastered in both mono and stereo by Van Gelder.  However early two track recordings issued as “Stereo” often exhibit hard panning of instruments left, right or centre -the only options on some early mixing desks. They are not comparable with modern wrap-around soundstage  stereo recordings, and the mono edition is often to be preferred.

Van Gelder was a late-adopter of stereo and it was not really until around 1962,  start of the New York label (BNST 4069 and higher) that Blue Note stereo mixes came of age.

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11 hours ago, greybeard said:

There was also a lot of Pseudo stereo releases, from mono masters which were generally very poor. Here is an extract about blue note recordings, which will explain it better than I could :)

In July 1957 Blue Note recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder  first began experimenting with two-track recording. For the next year a few selected sessions were recorded simultaneously on both single track and two track tape recorders, the remainder solely on one track. By late 1958, almost  all sessions were routinely recorded to two track. By the end of that year, simultaneous one track recording was discontinued, judged superfluous, as a mono master could be created by “folding down” the two tracks. (The existence of a simultaneous back-up “safety recording”, routine practice in large studios, has been rumoured but seems not to have been commonly part of Van Gelder’s workflow).

As a result, of the 340-odd titles in the Blue Note 1500  and 4000 series up to 4250, around ninety recordings were released only in mono, around 250 went on to have both a mono and a true stereo release (based on a two-track recording mix), and a handful were released in stereo only, a practice that became standard during the Liberty years. However there were thirty five solely mono recordings from the 1500 series that were electronically reprocessed, to create a “pseudo stereo” official release. Whilst the jackets clearly state they are “electronically re-recorded to simulate stereo” or similar words, sellers will often fail to draw attention to this.Electronic-warning-1600

From a collectors perspective, it is important to be aware of and avoid pseudo-stereo Blue Note releases: many are a deeply inferior listening experience by Blue Note standards. Any release with an “8” prefix (stereo)   early in the 1500 series should set alarm bells ringing. These were recorded only in mono.

Two-track recordings not intended for stereo

The initial purpose of two track recording was to allow the engineer more control in preparing the final mono mix, and was not intended for stereo.

There are a small number of genuine “true stereo” releases towards the end of the 1500 series, recorded to two-track and mastered in both mono and stereo by Van Gelder.  However early two track recordings issued as “Stereo” often exhibit hard panning of instruments left, right or centre -the only options on some early mixing desks. They are not comparable with modern wrap-around soundstage  stereo recordings, and the mono edition is often to be preferred.

Van Gelder was a late-adopter of stereo and it was not really until around 1962,  start of the New York label (BNST 4069 and higher) that Blue Note stereo mixes came of age.

Thanks greybeard, very interesting. That explains the reasoning well.

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Super Wammer

Try and hear a mono recording on a mono system and prepare to be astonished. When I visited Robin/Wizmax last year, he played a mono copy of Sgt Pepper on his spare Technics 1210, equipped with a mono cart, and I was blown away with how good it sounded. A real eye opener :o :D

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Super Wammer
19 minutes ago, SnapperMike said:

Thanks greybeard, very interesting. That explains the reasoning well.

That's what I thought, and a damn sight better than I could :D

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I read on the Music Matters website that they’ve finally made a definitive assessment of the RVG mono/stereo question. In summary, it’s this:

‘When Music Matters researched this and after handling the original tapes they found that RVG began recording in Stereo in March 1957, and until October 1958 he ran both Mono and Stereo session tapes. After that he recorded strictly in Stereo. All Mono RVG masters produced after October 1958 were derived from Stereo fold downs. Alfred Lion’s handwritten notes on the tape boxes confirm this’.

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