Do we really have to care about mono compatibility?
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Sound Design, Mixing, & Studio Techniques Need to know how to make a specific sound? Want to improve your mix? Need advice on micing-up a drum kit? This is the area for you.

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Old 09-12-2016, 12:01 PM   #1
Sons of Achab
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Icon5 Do we really have to care about mono compatibility?

So here is my problem: I am mixing a track and I really like how the drums sound, and it fits really well in the mix. But as I turn my master channel to mono to check the mono compatibility (I heard here and there that this is a good thing to do), all the mids on the drums disappears!

So my question is: do I have to rework my drums, even if it doesn't sound as good in stereo, or can I just say "f**k it, this track is meant to be played loud on a stereo system!". And what will be the consequences in a live context?

Thanks guys!

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Old 09-12-2016, 04:51 PM   #2
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Re: Do we really have to care about mono compatibility?

My take on that is - if you make music thats to be played in clubs on big systems - yes, mono compatibility matters. Otherwise a lotta of the goodies you put in a tune may be very likely left burried by mixing issues.

The most important thing is when we listen music "outside" [ as opposed to me listening music in the perfect sweet spot between two monitor speakers or headphones, where the stereo image is most recognizable] - on the bus, in a club , etc - we listen IN MONO because we're not in that perfect equal distance from both speakers anyway [ if there are two speakers at all]



Why dont you try with just monoing the low end - i usually mono everything below 70 - 300 hz (depending on particular tune and what are the sonic qualities in the elements in it - kick , bass , other low hz sounds in that range, )

Just keep your kick, snare and bass in the center for a starter , and play with the other elements - spread them accross the stereo field.

Try with stacking a stereo enhancing plugin like A1, there are probably dozens of plugins that could do that

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the safe bass section does exactly what im reffering to here. You could a/b different settings and see what works good for you.


You say your drums midrange dissapears when you mono. Well, my take on that would be :

1st - try with a monoing low end on the master bus
if that doesnt work well enough
2nd - put the same plugin on your drums bus and adjust to see what happens.

i dont know what is your particular mids for the drums, but if you still can't distinguish them why not try panning a bit

There is also m/s eq thing, but hopefully someone more experienced on it will explain something, since i dont happen to use much m/s eqing .. yet...

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Old 09-12-2016, 05:19 PM   #3
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Re: Do we really have to care about mono compatibility?

Pretty much everything slugware said. I tend to make all my drum samples mono as well then pan. Helps clean things up a little I think. The one thing I learned from using hardware is the value of mono. I have far fewer mixing issues when I'm working with more mono sources and use panning. I dunno, I feel like having everything in stereo tends to make a kind of stereo image mud (not mud in EQ/mixing terms).

To actually answer you question the short answer, I think, is what slugware said: if you aren't making dance tunes that will get played on club systems its probably not an issue. I'd probably worry more about how things translate on small format systems than big format ones (bluetooth speakers, headphones, latptop/cellphone speakers, cars, computer speakers).

Like if it will sound good enough in the average dorm room at school so some brodudes can sit around drinking cheap beer and smoking bud can enjoy it, you are good to go.

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Old 09-12-2016, 05:21 PM   #4
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Re: Do we really have to care about mono compatibility?

I actually made a video recently discussing the topic and the short answer is: YES.

As Slugware said, the "studio" and the real world are completely different. In the studio, listening conditions are perfect and we are listening to our tracks in (hopefully) the best situation possible. However, in the real world, people listen to tracks on phone speakers, far away, in different and all manner of situations. Mono is something that WILL happen no matter what, and if you want everyone to enjoy your track, you should ensure that your track is mono compatible.

To answer your problem, unfortunately, there's not a lot of ways you can fix. If the issue is plugin related, say you use a stereo shaper type plugin, then turning it off may solve the issue. If the problem is with the drums itself, then you have one of two options: either use completely different drum sample and scrap your current drums OR layer your current drums with ones that sound good in mono.

There's also a third option where you can ignore the problem completely :p If you really like the drums, then you can leave it as it is. There are a few pop songs that I've heard of that has mono issues. The strings in Lana Del Rey's "[Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
" disappear completely in mono and the little sawtooth lead in Kanye West's "[Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
" also disappear in mono.

The only problem is that these are drums we're talking about here and they are a very important element of your track. It's really up to you.

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Old 09-12-2016, 05:36 PM   #5
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Re: Do we really have to care about mono compatibility?

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Originally Posted by Narukami Music View Post
I actually made a video recently discussing the topic and the short answer is: YES.

As Slugware said, the "studio" and the real world are completely different. In the studio, listening conditions are perfect and we are listening to our tracks in (hopefully) the best situation possible. However, in the real world, people listen to tracks on phone speakers, far away, in different and all manner of situations. Mono is something that WILL happen no matter what, and if you want everyone to enjoy your track, you should ensure that your track is mono compatible.
Good point here. I guess I even kind of contradicted myself lol.

I do most of my music listening less than ideal listen conditions. Several low cost bluetooth speakers and my car, which has a decent, but aging sound system. Sadly the best speakers in the house mostly get used to watch Netflix...

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Old 09-12-2016, 06:03 PM   #6
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Re: Do we really have to care about mono compatibility?

Since mono compatability comes down mostly to ensuring the left and right channels don't phase cancel each other, you could try processing the left channel of your drums such that they contain some frequencies and the right channel has the others, though that could end up just sounding weird. Another option would be to try inverting phase in one of the channels. I'm just thinking out loud here, I've never done either of these things, so they could just be bad ideas, but it would only take a few minutes to find out.
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Old 09-12-2016, 10:22 PM   #7
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Re: Do we really have to care about mono compatibility?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sons of Achab View Post
So my question is: do I have to rework my drums, even if it doesn't sound as good in stereo, or can I just say "f**k it, this track is meant to be played loud on a stereo system!". And what will be the consequences in a live context?
The thing is - if you fix phase issues, offsets and stuff so that it sounds good in mono, then it will sound even better in stereo.

Like that saying "if it sounds good on that crappy mono speaker it will probably sound good on good speaker pair".

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Old 10-12-2016, 05:34 PM   #8
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Re: Do we really have to care about mono compatibility?

I have to admit that when I posted this thread, I was secretly hoping that someone would say "neh, forget about mono compatibility", but in the same time I knew that nobody here would seriously say that...

All of your answers taught me more than I expected, and by using a mix of the technics described above I finally made the midrange appear again in mono without affecting to much how it sounds in stereo!

So, many thanks to you all, I really appreciate!

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Old 11-12-2016, 06:57 AM   #9
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Re: Do we really have to care about mono compatibility?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sons of Achab View Post
So here is my problem: I am mixing a track and I really like how the drums sound, and it fits really well in the mix. But as I turn my master channel to mono to check the mono compatibility (I heard here and there that this is a good thing to do), all the mids on the drums disappears!
Okay, well firstly we need to correct your thinking so that you approach your problems more like a producer and less like an artist.

I really like how the drums sound

So you're honestly saying that you have bounced the track and listened to the track in the lounge room, the car, your friend's place, down at the cafe, outside, on a set of big speakers, inside, underground, on the roof and all of the other places you should listen to your music... you're honestly saying that you listened to your mix in all of those places and you were happy with the sound and didn't find anything wrong with it?

I thought you just said it sounded shit when you played it in mono!

And if you didn't spend a week or two playing your mix on every set of speakers you can access... then do that first before making any assumptions about its quality.

it fits really well in the mix

No it doesn't. If they fit really well in the mix, your drums would sound more or less the same when you summed to mono. They don't.

all the mids on the drums disappears!

That's because your mix is shit and at this point you may as well reset everything to unity and start again from scratch... bounce the current mix to MP3 for reference and then delete all instances of the project files save for your reset version.

Then you can spend some time getting a good mono sound first.

...

Also, lesson for the future: If something sounds great in the studio always prepare yourself to be disappointed when it sounds shit everywhere else. Instead of trying to get things to sound great, focus on making things sound average... because the more average your sound, the more consistent it will be across a range of listening environments.

Don't bother trying to sound good until you master being average.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sons of Achab View Post
So my question is: do I have to rework my drums, even if it doesn't sound as good in stereo, or can I just say "f**k it, this track is meant to be played loud on a stereo system!". And what will be the consequences in a live context?
If your mix sounds shit in mono it doesn't sound good in stereo. It only sounds good in your stereo. You can almost guarantee that anywhere else there is going to be some kinds of inconsistency in the playback of your sound.

If your mids drop out when summing to mono, that tells me you've got some serious phase issues going on. You basically need to spend a day or two trying to determine which sounds are introducing phase issues and bring them under control.

Honestly, stereo is basically twice as hard as mono... and then some. Get good at mono first. Learn how to position things in two dimensions before adding a third. That kind of thing.

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Old 11-12-2016, 01:32 PM   #10
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Re: Do we really have to care about mono compatibility?

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Originally Posted by Jaded View Post
Don't bother trying to sound good until you master being average.
QFT

This kind of mentality reminds me of guitarists who sacrifice quality for a speed they can't really attain. Average quality for an amateur should be more celebrated and encouraged than it often times is.

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Old 07-05-2017, 10:32 PM   #11
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Re: Do we really have to care about mono compatibility?

The more you play with stereo width, the less of an impact that sound will have in a mono environment, so sounds that hold the mix together like kicks and bass should definitely sit right in the middle
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Old 09-05-2017, 06:33 PM   #12
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Re: Do we really have to care about mono compatibility?

Coming from someone still learning about this, I've noticed that it really does matter.

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