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FAQ on recording a live show in Mono vs Stereo

Question:
If the band I am recording has a PA system that is putting out a mono signal, why would I want to record in stereo (or Binaural)? Isn't that pointless?

Answer:

Some quick definitions:

  • Mono=one channel of audio signal
  • Stereo= two different channels of audio signal, recorded with two microphones spaced apart (or with a single microphone with two elements)

Even though many bands will put out a mono signal through their PA system, it is almost always better to record in stereo (or Binaural). Here are the reasons:

  • In many cases, especially in smaller venues, some of the sound you hear is coming right off the stage and is essentially "mixed in" with the sound coming out of the PA. In this case, you are indeed hearing the benefit of multiple sound sources coming from different directions. Recording in mono would not capture the true essence of the sound you heard at the time of the recording.
  • Even when all of the sound is coming from the PA system, the acoustics of the venue you are recording in greatly affects the way sounds hit your ears. By the time the sound waves get to you, they are indeed in "stereo" and will greatly benefit from a stereo or binaural recording. Note: the exception to this would be when you are recording from a position very close to the PA speakers ("stacks). In this case, most of what your microphones will pick up is direct sound from the PA, and very little reflected sound from the room. In this case, you would still hear a small difference with a stereo recording, especially when using omnidirectional microphones, but to a lesser extent than a situation when you are a little further away from the speakers.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, please contact us.

The Sound Professionals™, Inc.
3444 Sylon Blvd.
Hainesport, NJ 08036 USA