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Stereo vs. Mono
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Production Techniques  
Author Stereo vs. Mono
rishin
Greetings!

I seem to be getting myself all confused over something I thought I understood (the difference between stereo and mono) but maybe do not actually. So for the past couple weeks, I've been taken the 3.5mm mix output of a VCA in my modular system, connecting that to a 3.5mm to 1/4" TS cable, and finally into a Scarlett 18i8 input which gets recorded into Logic Pro X. I believe the signal that ultimately gets recorded is in Mono.

When I was playing back what I had recorded alongside all the other tracks in the song, I noticed that the Mono recorded-from-modular track specifically felt a little naked/empty. I'm not exactly sure what the cause of this is, nor do I know if the feeling is just a feeling and not based on fact, but I think the nakedness I feel with that track is due to it being recorded in Mono. So to remedy this, I tried duplicating the track (copying and pasting the audio file into another track) and panning the new track opposite the old one in an attempt to mimic a "stereo" effect. But still something rubs me wrong about it. I'm curious if what I just did here would be the same as recording the original signal in stereo or is my understanding here just way off?

Thanks in advance!
Hi5
The signal from your modular is mono. Recording it and duplicating it for stereo isn't going to make a difference outside of using more HD space. To get any width from the mono file there are a few simple tricks to fake stereo-ness. A very easy one is to offset the two mono channels or delay one buy a few ms. This will get you a fake widening of the sound. Also, add reverb/delay to the mono voice to create more space too
rishin
Thanks for the response! In this case, yes it seems the signal from my modular was mono, but some of the modules I use (i.e Morphagene) are capable of outputting audio in stereo. How would I capture/record their respective stereo-ness?
calaveras
If you want to be in stereo, then you have to pretty much do a Noahs Ark with your modular. You will need two of each module.
Now, in some cases you can get by with one Envelope controlling two VCAs, or one LFO controlling two filters. But the things the audio actually passes through, you will need one of each. Stereo sound source>2 filters>2 VCAs>2 inputs on the Scarlett.
rishin
calaveras wrote:
If you want to be in stereo, then you have to pretty much do a Noahs Ark with your modular. You will need two of each module.
Now, in some cases you can get by with one Envelope controlling two VCAs, or one LFO controlling two filters. But the things the audio actually passes through, you will need one of each. Stereo sound source>2 filters>2 VCAs>2 inputs on the Scarlett.


Let's say the signal path was Morphagene->Rossum Morpheus->Tangle Quartetts Quad-VCA->Scarlett. The first two modules have Stereo in/outs and the quad-vca of course has four inputs and four outputs (Mono I assume). To get stereo into my DAW, would I need to take the two TS mono outputs from the quad-vca and plug them into some kind of TS->TRS/Mono->Stereo adapter before into the Scarlett?

I appreciate the help!
Michael O.
rishin wrote:
calaveras wrote:
If you want to be in stereo, then you have to pretty much do a Noahs Ark with your modular. You will need two of each module.
Now, in some cases you can get by with one Envelope controlling two VCAs, or one LFO controlling two filters. But the things the audio actually passes through, you will need one of each. Stereo sound source>2 filters>2 VCAs>2 inputs on the Scarlett.


Let's say the signal path was Morphagene->Rossum Morpheus->Tangle Quartetts Quad-VCA->Scarlett. The first two modules have Stereo in/outs and the quad-vca of course has four inputs and four outputs (Mono I assume). To get stereo into my DAW, would I need to take the two TS mono outputs from the quad-vca and plug them into some kind of TS->TRS/Mono->Stereo adapter before into the Scarlett?

I appreciate the help!


You would route each of the outputs of the modular to your interface’s inputs and pan the two channels in the daw L/R to taste. A TRS cable would not be used in this situation for a stereo signal (as with headphones), but would rather be used to carry a balanced signal, like xlr terminated cables typically do. With your specific interface I think an unbalanced TS cable, from the modular and directly into the line inputs, should work.
rishin
Michael O. wrote:
rishin wrote:
calaveras wrote:
If you want to be in stereo, then you have to pretty much do a Noahs Ark with your modular. You will need two of each module.
Now, in some cases you can get by with one Envelope controlling two VCAs, or one LFO controlling two filters. But the things the audio actually passes through, you will need one of each. Stereo sound source>2 filters>2 VCAs>2 inputs on the Scarlett.


Let's say the signal path was Morphagene->Rossum Morpheus->Tangle Quartetts Quad-VCA->Scarlett. The first two modules have Stereo in/outs and the quad-vca of course has four inputs and four outputs (Mono I assume). To get stereo into my DAW, would I need to take the two TS mono outputs from the quad-vca and plug them into some kind of TS->TRS/Mono->Stereo adapter before into the Scarlett?

I appreciate the help!


You would route each of the outputs of the modular to your interface’s inputs and pan the two channels in the daw L/R to taste. A TRS cable would not be used in this situation for a stereo signal (as with headphones), but would rather be used to carry a balanced signal, like xlr terminated cables typically do. With your specific interface I think an unbalanced TS cable, from the modular and directly into the line inputs, should work.


So would the two channels record into two separate tracks on the DAW? Or is there an option in the DAW to take two inputs from an Audio Interface and I guess combine the two inputs into a single stereo track?
shreddoggie
I didn't do a detailed analysis of what your routing is but based on your description it sounds like you may have fucked up the impedance.

The most typical sign of this is needing to use a lot of gain to get sufficient level or a lot of attenuation to prevent distortion. Signals recorded this way usually sound as you describe - weak - no matter what the level is. The most common way to make this mistake is to plug a guitar directly into a line input, you can get enough level to record but it will always sound like crap.

Check the impedance on the various stages in the signal path and make sure the right cables are used.
calaveras
I see where you are getting confused. TRS cables can be stereo unbalanced. Or mono balanced.
To make things more confusing, you don’t have to use mono balanced cables on balanced inputs. You can go TS 1/8” to TS 1/4” just fine. It won’t be balanced, but most modern gear is okay with it. You just lose the ability to drive cables longer than 18’ without degradation, and a little bit of level.

In most DAW there is a way to decide if a channel is mono or stereo. But you usually (almost always) have to make the choice before recording. In Logic there is a little icon with two “O”s overlapping for stereo. Or one “O” for mono. Iirc it shows up in the inspector and mixer views. Other daws are similar.
umma gumma
I was also thinking, check the phase of your signal?

you should be able to flip phase of individual channels in your DAW, to hear if it makes a difference in the mix
rishin
calaveras wrote:
I see where you are getting confused. TRS cables can be stereo unbalanced. Or mono balanced.
To make things more confusing, you don’t have to use mono balanced cables on balanced inputs. You can go TS 1/8” to TS 1/4” just fine. It won’t be balanced, but most modern gear is okay with it. You just lose the ability to drive cables longer than 18’ without degradation, and a little bit of level.

In most DAW there is a way to decide if a channel is mono or stereo. But you usually (almost always) have to make the choice before recording. In Logic there is a little icon with two “O”s overlapping for stereo. Or one “O” for mono. Iirc it shows up in the inspector and mixer views. Other daws are similar.


Ah I see, so whether a cable is TRS or TS does not confirm whether it's Mono or Stereo. Also I checked the track on Logic Pro X where I recorded from modular, and its input was one "O", confirming that it was indeed recorded in Mono.

However, I'm still unclear as to how to get Stereo out from my modular as my setup includes several modules that have the ability to operate in Stereo. If someone could clear this up, I'd be very grateful This is fun! This is fun!
egg
stereo channel consist of two mono channel so there is no difference using two seperate mono channel or stereo channel

send two mono outputs from your modular into your sound interfaces mono left and mono right

stereo means that left and right channel should be different from each other if they are not you will only hear big mono
addendum
You should read up on some basic audio theory first before further attempting to coax something out of your modular that you don't understand. Once you know the basics, and there's not a lot of them really, it's as easy as buttering bread, and that will last you a lifetime - for just a few hours or a few afternoons of reading. There are only few options for turning a mono signal into a "stereo sounding" signal. The time offset someone mentioned (delaying one channel) is the worst because it's not mono compatible, i.e. it will result in a "flanged" sound when played back on some devices/ in some environments, plus it messes with your perception of loudness when mixing, especially with headphones. Reverb is the best method. Except for panning modules, stereo outputs in your modular are most likely not meant to be differential stereo as in transporting two distinct signals unless you also have a stereo input (usually not the case).
rishin
Thanks for the reply addendum. I know there are many resources to read up on audio theory, but is there one you'd recommend that you feel explains things very clearly?

So if stereo outputs in modular are not transporting two distinct signals, why would they have two distinct outputs?
felixer
watch out with TRS cables. some are in fact stereo but some are balanced. which often menas the two signals are out-of-phase with eachother. panning those left/right gives you a sense of space but the whole thing collapses when you go back to mono and the signal is cancelled. most fakestereo processors suffer from that. your best bet is to get a nice reverb. set it for a short verb time and see how much you can get away with before the whole thing starts to sound too washy. and if a single mono sound is too 'empty' try some eq. subtly boosting around 3-400 Hz gives things a bit more body. and cutting at 3-4000 Hz takes away too much 'presence'. makes it less 'in your face'.
there is quite a lot of material on stereo: blumlein is the pioneer. doing most of what we use today in the 30/40ies theoretically. when stereo became ripe for the livingroom a lot of mono recordings were fucked up by the wish for stereo (for commercial reasons). most sound pretty horrible. and collapse or sound very strage when going to mono (summing the two signals). any decent mixingdesk has a switch for mono to check for those kind of nasty effects.
addendum
rishin wrote:
Thanks for the reply addendum. I know there are many resources to read up on audio theory, but is there one you'd recommend that you feel explains things very clearly?

So if stereo outputs in modular are not transporting two distinct signals, why would they have two distinct outputs?


What you're missing is so basic that you're really best of by starting to google things like "stereo" and read some Wikipedia. Just invest some time and curiosity.

And again, the answer to your second question depends on the module. Is it a VCA with a mono input? Then the stereo out may be just a convenience to enable you to plug right into a soundsystem without going into a mixing console first. I'd consider this a "prosumer" feature. Or is it a panner? Then the answer is self-explanatory - you get the same waveform left and right when the panner is centered, and the same "sound" but different amplitudes when it's not centered. This is not enough for a natural sounding stereo image however.

Anyway, in order to get your mono drum track to sound "stereo" you'll have to process the signal, like said before. There's no way around that. Very strictly speaking, the same signal at two different amplitudes is not the same signal. But practically speaking, it is, so you have to change the audio for each channel, but in related ways so as to not sound just artificial and weird. Like I said reverb does that. Delay (different times for each channel) also does that, but may not be mono compatible. Dry panning as I said is not enough. There are many complex algorithms by various manufacturers that blend reverb and sophisticated delay/ chorus/ flange/ phase/ EQ functions into custom/ proprietary stereo enhancement.
ZLAL
An unfortunate quirk of the eurorack format is that pieces of a single instrument are designed by a variety of manufacturers and directed towards a consumer base that more or less spans the entire spectrum of sophistication / facility / production knowledge. Plus, many manufacturers enjoy building versatility into their products.

It is quite possible that the stereo outputs of one or more module in your system are confusing or counterintuitive in conjunction with the rest of your system.
ChewyJetpack
rishin wrote:
Thanks for the reply addendum. I know there are many resources to read up on audio theory, but is there one you'd recommend that you feel explains things very clearly?

So if stereo outputs in modular are not transporting two distinct signals, why would they have two distinct outputs?


"stereo" just means the signal has individual L and R channels. There's nothing special about it outside of that. your perception of a stereo signal being any different to a mono one lies in having differences between L and R. These differences create the illusion of width. Chorus (similar to the delay methos mentioned above) can be a great way to create stereo width from a mono signal. Mid/Side processing can help you do it in a more subtle way, too, for example by EQing the side signal differently ot the mid (if you're not familiar with mid/side, it's worth looking up).

When using chorus or detuning stereo signals, mono compatibility can suffer as a result, because the sum of a L and R channels will contain phase cancellation. If you mix the dry, mono signal with the new stereo signal then you can retain some mono compatibility. Likewise, especially for things like bass sounds, you can only apply the chorus or delay effects to a specific frequency range - it's a good idea to keep the low end mono anyway since phase cancellation is much more likely to occur in bass frequencies thanks to the larger wavelengths, so you could instead try applying chorus to >300hz, for example, and then pulling back the dry/wet a bit to let some of the original signal through. That way you'll get a balanced, mono compatible, but wide sound, which also doesn't get muddy in the low end.
ersatzplanet
I output stereo signals from my rig almost exclusively. I don't double my module count to do it either. I do it a couple of ways. I end the audio chain with a effects module, in my case I have a couple of old TipTop Z5000 effects modules and either feed them mono (seldom) or feed them stereo from the VCAMixer or Doepfer A-109 VC Signal Processor which has a Stereo Panner built in. I also have a 4ms SMR and DTS that have stereo outs.

An old trick to "stereo-fy" a mono signal is to use a Multi-Mode filter and plug the High Pass out it one channel and the Low Pass out to the other. Use a very slow LFO it modulate to enhance it a bit. It will widen most sounds quite a bit.
ChewyJetpack
ersatzplanet wrote:
I output stereo signals from my rig almost exclusively. I don't double my module count to do it either. I do it a couple of ways. I end the audio chain with a effects module, in my case I have a couple of old TipTop Z5000 effects modules and either feed them mono (seldom) or feed them stereo from the VCAMixer or Doepfer A-109 VC Signal Processor which has a Stereo Panner built in. I also have a 4ms SMR and DTS that have stereo outs.

An old trick to "stereo-fy" a mono signal is to use a Multi-Mode filter and plug the High Pass out it one channel and the Low Pass out to the other. Use a very slow LFO it modulate to enhance it a bit. It will widen most sounds quite a bit.


This is pretty much what I want to do with my first system that I'm planning. End the chain on a stereo FX module with some chorus and output straight into my DAW. I've never heard of that filter trick though - will have to try that!
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