Mono versus stereo

As people get started in podcasting, the question soon comes up: Mono versus stereo?

For the Movers Mindset podcast, we produce our content as mono, and not because we don’t care about audio quality—rather, because I don’t feel stereo gains me anything. Here’s a bunch of things to consider:

But first, an aside: Newb mistake with voices: Don’t put one voice in one channel, and the other voice in the other channel. This isn’t “stereo”, it’s simply a mistake.

Data file size: Stereo is roughly twice the size as mono. Two channels of data versus one, so double the size. Size directly affects download time, storage size on listeners’ devices, their cellular data usage, and relates to my personal disdain for data-size bloat on the Internet in general; all of which cause me to take that “twice the size” very seriously. If the file is going to be twice as big, I want it to be twice as good—or at least drastically better. Stereo isn’t, and so this alone is enough for me to pick mono.

Monaural listening: Many people only put one ear bud in, and some people only have one ear.

Mostly voices: The Movers Mindset podcast is mostly people talking. In fact, it’s mostly just two people talking… often just one person at a time. That single sound source is picked up by one microphone. The other voice, in one other microphone. So here again, publishing stereo gets me no improvement in the final product.

Music: is usually generated by a collection of instruments and voices and that performance does have a three-dimensional aspect. And that’s why we see music in stereo… but we also see lots of “surround sound” systems that do a much better job than a simple left-right channel setup. Meanwhile, the Movers Mindset podcast doesn’t have any music at all, so this doesn’t even factor into our decision. (We use just simple cords, played on a single guitar, recorded—you guessed it—with a single microphone. So even our “music” is already in mono.)

Immersion: If I wanted to really go all-in, to record what it really sounds like—what would it sound like if I was literally sat there—you need to use binaural recording. This involves using two microphones positioned literally like the human eardrums are. This requires either using expensive microphones that you wear in your ears, or using microphones which are built inside a mannequin head. Because it turns out that the presence of your head and bone conduction all affect how things sound to us.