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Mono capability Dynamic Microphones
Old 22nd March 2006
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
Tubefreak's Avatar
 

Mono capability

How important is mono capability to you as an ME?. Is it only important to you if the music has a potention to be played on the radio/TV, or do you always look at this? Even if the music is only going to be played at home? If so, why?

Kind regards
Maarten
Old 22nd March 2006
  #2
Mastering
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tubefreak
How important is mono capability to you as an ME?. Is it only important to you if the music has a potention to be played on the radio/TV, or do you always look at this? Even if the music is only going to be played at home? If so, why?

Kind regards
Maarten
It's still important. A quick push of the mono switch does it. These days I usually only push it if I hear a particular "phasey" quality and want to make sure no element of the mix is going to cancel too much in mono.

It's important because stereo separation on the radio may not be that good, especially in fringe areas, there is still the kitchen table radio, and even when you have two speakers, in small home systems the speakers are sometimes placed so close together you might as well have mono :-)
Old 25th March 2006
  #3
Gear Maniac
 
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Now I was always wondering why, since mono compatibility is still an issue, those expensive piano libraries aren't mono compatible at all.

A concert pianst doesn't need them, but a producer in the studio, who produces music to be played on the radio, which again needs to be mono compatible.

As a maker of sound libraries I would definitelty make a piano that sounds great in mono as well, everthing else is a waste of time and money. It can't be that difficult just to use a different miking technique. Why don't they???
Old 25th March 2006
  #4
Motown legend
 
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Verified Member
The folks who make samples generally aren't recording engineers. All of that phasey stuff sounds real impressive until you go to mix it with other instruments.

A LOT of live sound systems are mono and mono low-bandwidth streams generally sound way better than stereo. Mono isn't going away any time soon.
Old 25th March 2006
  #5
Lives for gear
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob katz
It's still important. A quick push of the mono switch does it. These days I usually only push it if I hear a particular "phasey" quality and want to make sure no element of the mix is going to cancel too much in mono.
The natural question to ask now would be: what can be done at the mastering stage to fix a "bad mix" that doesn't play well in mono? Isn't it to late when the mix is already on 2 track, and shouldn't it been done at the mixing stage?

Kind regards!

/Cojo
Old 26th March 2006
  #6
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Now I was always wondering why, since mono compatibility is still an issue, those expensive piano libraries aren't mono compatible at all.
I have constantly wondered this myself. It's the single best reason to record your own pianos.

I think there are too many low-end recording engineers who think a quick way to make a few dollars is to make a sample library. Some even boast about the acoustics of the space they recorded in. Maybe its just me, but I think there is a huge difference between hearing a real piano is it's real space, and hearing multiple recordings of single notes layered together unnaturally with multiple stereo reverb tails. Phasey mush. They should boast about recording their piano in MONO in an anechoic chamber.

Too often I think they use a spaced pair, and the midrange turns to phasey mush. It enought to make me miss my mono CP70 and mono Roland pianos.
Old 27th March 2006
  #7
Gear Addict
 

I've joked before about not caring about this, but honestly...

I think I know where your heading with this..so, the reasons why you should be concerned about phasing and plain old good balance for an indie or "only played at home" is as follows:

College Radio

Hipsters listening on a run-down system at a bar.

Front of house playing a cd between sets.

Hipsters tend to think that CD-rigged crappy 50's lo-fi sets make things "sound cool".

Out of Phase/phasing sounds like butt-**** in a car. (so does strict mono).

How many hipsters move to the city and listen to everything on headphones?
Answer - all of them.

How many hipsters think that music "sounds so much better on headphones..you can hear everything"? All of them.

Who's buying this? What do they do on their free-time? House parties?
One speaker in the kitchen, one in the stairwell....

Ok, let's move on to the general public:

My father has a lot of money these days. This is how he listens to music:

In the past - One tall speaker pointed at the listener, one tall speaker hidden behind a decorative tree (yes, a tree) and sofa.

Currently - The intercom system. Or, various boomboxes with speakers situated on top of the deck, side by side. Or in-wall speakers with one being obscurred by
a shelf.

How many bedrooms have one speaker on a desk and one on top of a shelf?

Or name any other ridiculous speaker placement.

etc.

Rob.
Old 28th March 2006
  #8
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Mono incompability is a problem in a lot of mixes.

The main culprit seems to be people using some kind of plugin or delay effect to create a "stereo" sound, rather then have a true stereo source or just having 2 different sounds left and right.

These "stereo" FX always sound bad in mono (stuff dissapears)!

Also, some of these really cheap programs (i believe one is called fast-tracker or something) seem to have a built-in bad phasey sound that is disastrous in mono (and stereo for that matter) - been getting a lot of really awful hiphop stuff recently done in these cheapo programs.

I think the problem is, a lot of people have poor monitoring where the phasey-ness of their speakers is actually masking the phasey-ness in the music!

I don't know of any way correct these phase problems in mastering....maybe some future software will be able to tackle it?
Old 28th March 2006
  #9
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jayfrigo's Avatar
 

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Mono compatibility is still an issue for a number of reasons, including FM broadcast stereo collapsing as the signal weakens, the opportunity to license your music to TV and film, and others.

Aside from that, mono compatible mixes usually simply work better even if you never need to hear them in mono. Sure, technically you can put damned near anything on a CD, and using some phasey stuff for an isolated special effect is great, and something you can do now that you couldn't when it had to be cut for vinyl, but not paying attention to mono compatibility as a matter of course is shortsighted.
Old 28th March 2006
  #10
Gear Addict
 

How about digital radio? They are broadcasting at a sample rate of around 32khz, correct? If the phasing or even the balance involves frequencies that are effected by the sample rate decrease, the results could be incalculable. This exponentializes with various MP3 kilobaud settings.
Old 28th March 2006
  #11
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Whether we realise it or not, our brains are hard-wired to hear natural sounds. Although we are swamped with phycoacoustic trickery all the time, we can usually tell (at least subconsciously) if something is fake.

I recall a story of somebody who made a recording of a bird in stereo, and when one speaker was out of phase, the cat in the room paid no attention. As soon as proper speaker phase was restored, the recording of the bird drove his crazy.

I care a lot about reverbs (both hardware, plugin and real). I'm amazed out how tiny insignicant details can make a huge impact (at least subconsciously). Something i've noticed is that many, many reverbs just sound very bad in mono. And I think this translates to sounding bad in stereo - because it's just 'wrong'.

Getting back to the topic: a common characteristic i've found is that the reverbs I hate sound very bad in mono. The reverbs I love collapse to mono very well. So not only is this essential to making great mono compatible mixes (which I believe is necessary) ...

But I strongly believe that if a stereo reverb has wierd phase anomalies that are obvious when mono'd - they will sound bad (at least on a subconscious level) in stereo too.

Maybe it's just me - but I believe that stereo is abused as a way to get a mix sounding good.

It's not just reverb. What about EQ? Some people use panning to solve an eq problem. Ugh - guess what that will sound like in mono...

Some people don't create a sense of depth in mono, but use all sorts of stereo tricks to make it super wide to compensate. Gues what that will sound like in mono...

All the classic hits that I love sound great in mono, and get better in stereo (maybe).

I don't agree with the theory that we can forget mono if nobody will actually listen in mono. Stereo from a distance is mono anyway.

If it sucks in mono, it's not a good mix.
Old 28th March 2006
  #12
Gear Maniac
 
Eiko's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwiburger
I have constantly wondered this myself. It's the single best reason to record your own pianos.
Trouble is, I don't have the facilities t do so. But I would agree with you, at least if you record them yourself you've got full control over everything.


Quote:
I think there are too many low-end recording engineers who think a quick way to make a few dollars is to make a sample library. Some even boast about the acoustics of the space they recorded in.
Which I don't think is the case in all of the state of the art libraries, that usually cost a small fortune. I'm 100% sure there are some proper engineers involved. The problem is however that they are all after the most authentic, the most real sound of a piano, in which case there recording technique is fine. The question I ask myself is, as a pop producer do I actually need this last bit of accuracy? A concert pianist would, but a concert pianist would certainly have a proper concert grand to play on, so he wouldn't need a virtual one.



Quote:
Maybe its just me, but I think there is a huge difference between hearing a real piano is it's real space, and hearing multiple recordings of single notes layered together unnaturally with multiple stereo reverb tails. Phasey mush.
Yeah, but that's because a real piano is a very big sound source, while a sampled piano comes from two small sound sources namely the speakers. So it's no surprise a real piano sounds bigger and richer.

Quote:
They should boast about recording their piano in MONO in an anechoic chamber.
Yes, I completely agree.
Old 28th March 2006
  #13
Gear Addict
 

Sampling a piano in an anechoic chamber? We're tredding on stuntman territory here. heh

And for pop, yes, I guess worn out upright pianos are the first thing that come to mind. Definetely not million dollar steinways. And many would process those to the point where you'd might as well used a PCM keyboard.

Rob.
Old 29th March 2006
  #14
Lives for gear
 

I appreciate that a piano is a large sound source - but I'm comparing samples piano libraries to well mic'd up pianos. A good engineer can mic a piano so the midrange isn't phasey mush. This seems to escape most sound libraries.

I definately stand by my 'mono in an anechoic chamber' statement, for these reasons:

A sample player works very differently from recording the real thing. As soon as you play chords, you are starting to layer sounds in a very unnatural way. Any reverb sound will turn nasty when you do this. You are much, much better getting the direct sound completely dry, and then adding reverb later. If you want a nice hall, get a convolution sample of that hall at add it later. That will much better than trying to layers multiple wet samples haphazardly.

A piano also creates soundboard noises - and once again, these should not be layered unnaturally. The soundboard is basically one percussive instrument that should belong to a 'choke group' so that only one instance of the sound is playing at any one time.

Also - release noises are crazy for a sampler. A piano note decays - to a level depending on note duration. There is no realtime midi parameter for note duration (the note OFF is a future event) - and therefore there is no way of knowing how loud the release noise should be! So release noises never work properly, and should never be used. Just use ADSR to shape the release. Please.


So i'm not advocating dry piano sounds for everything - just the method of going about making the perfect sampled piano that doesn't have phase issues.
Old 29th March 2006
  #15
Gear Addict
 

Yeah, but sampling a piano (probably the most complex of the popular western instruments) as in these high-end libraries = a lot of time. I just can't see who'd agree to being in an anechoic chamber for such lengths. 20 seconds, alone, can't be a pleasureable experience. Who's going to explain the upchuck stains on the million dollar piano?
Old 29th March 2006
  #16
Lives for gear
 

Actually some of the best piano libraries are done with a mechanical robot device.

I don't think anechoic chambers are all that bad ... you could always wear headphones with a little reverb feed.
Old 29th March 2006
  #17
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Denon did this years ago.

http://pcfarina.eng.unipr.it/Public/Denon_CD/denon.htm

DC
Old 29th March 2006
  #18
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Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cojo
The natural question to ask now would be: what can be done at the mastering stage to fix a "bad mix" that doesn't play well in mono? Isn't it to late when the mix is already on 2 track, and shouldn't it been done at the mixing stage?

Kind regards!

/Cojo
Yes, It is too late. Nothing much can be done at the mastering stage to fix phase/mono compatibility problems. Oh you can do things, but they don't usually work very well. Better off advising the client to fix the mix. Sometimes helpful advice is the best thing you can do for a client.
Old 29th March 2006
  #19
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Cojo's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Masterer
Yes, It is too late. Nothing much can be done at the mastering stage to fix phase/mono compatibility problems. Oh you can do things, but they don't usually work very well. Better off advising the client to fix the mix. Sometimes helpful advice is the best thing you can do for a client.
Thanks! I was actually suspecting an answer like this!

/Cojo
Old 29th March 2006
  #20
Gear Addict
 

songs that have too much in the side channel can also be problematic during mp3 compression. many algorithms use m/s to heavily compress the side channel. with program material that is heavy on the sides, it sounds very strange on decompression. Sometimes you don't have control over what compression is used (online music services).
Old 29th March 2006
  #21
Gear Addict
 

I've been eating foot sandwhiches all day.
Old 29th March 2006
  #22
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With toe jam? Yum!
Old 30th March 2006
  #23
MGB
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hey kiwiburger from what i read of your previous replies i think you might quite like this essay which i came across a while ago:
http://www.anstendig.org/Stereo.html
Old 30th March 2006
  #24
Lives for gear
 

Interesting read. I'm not anti stereo - the way I see, we have two ears. Not one. Not five. Just two, and the information they receive is slightly different and our brain figures out what to do with it.

Accurate reproduction is overrated. Psychoacoustics have been around for so long, we have expectations about good sound that simply aren't real to start with.

My interest in mono compatibility is simply to avoid sucking. I really think it's totally possible, and necessary, to sound good in both mono and stereo. I wish all reverb and sound designers understood this, instead of copping out and saying nobody listens in mono anymore.

Even my Roland digital piano sucks when mono'd. I'd rather dangle an SM57 into an upright piano than put up with something that sounds completely unprofessional when mono'd.

While I believe a sampled piano would be best done dry and in mono, that doesn't mean the samples can't be panned artifically before applying a stereo reverb. And in my view, when each note is recorded, the mic could be moved to get the perfect sound. Purists might scream at that idea - but a sampler isn't for purists anyway. It's very artificial, and the best approach imo is to get the best sound so at least there is something beneficial.

(Is it just me, or is it really irritating when sample libraries have defects on certain notes - rattles, squeaks. The excuse that it's 'character' doesn't wash with me at all. With a real instrument, the same damn defect doesn't occurr with robotic precision everytime that note is pressed).

Sorry to get off topic. But little things like bad sample libraries and bad reverb and chorus algorithms make mono compatibility much harder than when simply recording real sounds. And I think it matters a lot.
Old 30th March 2006
  #25
MGB
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you think the same as me kiwi..i'm not antistereo either
but i can't help subscribe to the theory that if it doesn't sound right in mono it doesn't sound right in stereo
i've got friends who don't agree with me as i'm sure some on this board..that's why i thought i'd post the essay to see what people think because i find the mono compatibility topic quite interesting
Old 10th November 2006
  #26
Gear Maniac
 
Marbarbaar's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eiko View Post
Now I was always wondering why, since mono compatibility is still an issue, those expensive piano libraries aren't mono compatible at all.

A concert pianst doesn't need them, but a producer in the studio, who produces music to be played on the radio, which again needs to be mono compatible.

As a maker of sound libraries I would definitelty make a piano that sounds great in mono as well, everthing else is a waste of time and money. It can't be that difficult just to use a different miking technique. Why don't they???



I'm struggling with this one all the time.
Recently, I finally got to compose for a TV show, mainly orchestral stuff.
And though sofar my mixes translate fairly OK around other systems, my mixes on TV suck some serious balls.
(Very depressing to hear your hard work sound so terribly amateuristic)


Now before I try to get more gigs, I must first tackle this mono-compatibilty business or I'll make a fool of myself.

I hear many other great sounding orchestra pieces on TV (sample based).
I wonder what the difference is between those mixers and me)
What reverbs do those composers use, and what libraries....?
(or which ME ...?!)

My dry orchestral samples ALL SUCK in mono
My reverbs (vst) ALL SUCK in mono

I'm a very patient guy but this is becoming very depressing.



* and I agree, if it doesn't sound good in mono, there's something wrong.
Or at the very least, it's not for TV & radio.

Last edited by Marbarbaar; 10th November 2006 at 04:48 PM.. Reason: *
Old 10th November 2006
  #27
Mastering
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cojo View Post
The natural question to ask now would be: what can be done at the mastering stage to fix a "bad mix" that doesn't play well in mono? Isn't it to late when the mix is already on 2 track, and shouldn't it been done at the mixing stage?

Kind regards!

/Cojo
In general it is too late. Almost every workaround I've done has sucked. Now, there may be a dsp-based artificial-intelligence solution that hasn't been implemented yet. I know a DSP engineer who can take a solo instrument or vocal and pan it around from an existing mix, while leaving the band untouched! He uses perceptual coding techniques. It's unbelievable. The artifacts are not quite liveable, so it has to be refined, but the potential is there.

Piano out of polarity mixed in with a full band? Remix.

Phasey congas that cancel out when the rest of the band does not? Remix.

Vocal totally out of polarity while the rest of the band is in? Remix. I one tried to invert just the sections with the vocal but it changed the mix of the band versus the vocal so drastically that I gave it up and lived with a vocal that cancelled in mono. I can't believe the mix engineers did not detect this. The "hole in the head" sound is so obvious and every engineer should be trained to catch it without needing a phase meter.

ONCE, when the solo instrument in a certain section was out of polarity I was able to reverse it and crossfade and get out of it going into the rest of the band.
Old 10th November 2006
  #28
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Hi Bob.

Thanks for the late but interesting reply, that friend of yours is on to something big!

/Cojo
Old 18th December 2006
  #29
Gear Addict
 
Ravian's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Darius van H View Post
(i believe one is called fast-tracker or something)
yep. i used FastTracker in 1990.
becouse i wanne to be creative.
i dident care about the sound or levels of instuments.
used ProTracker, Octamet, and other tracker programs as wel.
it was a good start, but limited. so i moved to cubasis -> cubas VST -> logic 3,4,5 ->
pro-tools and logic pro.
Old 20th December 2006
  #30
Gear Nut
 
brandy's Avatar
 

I feel that there is a difference between mixes which are sounding "bad" in mono and mixes wich are destroied because elements are missing in mono.

Missing elements seems to be caused by phasining issues or by fx wich are messing with phase to create artificial stereo images... That was mentioned bevore.

So - that is an easy one. Just avoid those fx as well as it is not that difficult to notice a complete out of phase sound while mixing even without pressing the stereo button.

BUT:

What about those mixes which are still sounding "ok" in mono - but not very good?

I recently listened to a track of "black label socienty" - most elements where extremly dry (vox, acc-guit ..) but there was still a nice stereo image caused by some lead-guitars etc... I pushed the mono button - and everything sounded exactly as good as bevore. The Lead wich was panned @ 70% right or something like that was placed in the middle now - but the ballance was EXACTLY the same.

Everything was ballanced and clear in mono - the overall sound did not change.

If i press the mono button on other mixes (my mixes ;-) i allways have some kind of a "compromise" wich sounds... well... "ok"...


brandy
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