Difference between stereo and mono audio

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Difference between stereo and mono audio

In: Technology

Mono is only one audio source, Stereo is two.

If you have a Mono track playing in stereo, it will be exactly the same on both speakers. Stereo has 2 different signals, like guitars on the right or singers on the left or something like that.

So basically Stereo is just 2x Mono. And 5.1 surround is 6x Mono.

Mono is only one audio source, Stereo is two.

If you have a Mono track playing in stereo, it will be exactly the same on both speakers. Stereo has 2 different signals, like guitars on the right or singers on the left or something like that.

So basically Stereo is just 2x Mono. And 5.1 surround is 6x Mono.

Stereo has 2 channels of audio, usually referred to as left and right, while mono has one. Stereo headphone jacks and connectors have 3 separate wires, one each for the left and right speaker and 1 ground shared by both.

Mono has a signal for one speaker. If you have more than that (e.g. two earbuds, or a surround-sound setup), every speaker will play the same signal.

Stereo has two signals, left and right. That way, a movie can have the character on the left side of the screen be louder through the left speaker, an album can have the guitar sound like it’s to your right, etc. Or they can have a sound start off being only on the left, then have it be loud on the left and quiet on the right, equal on both, quiet left and loud right, then only right, so it’ll sound like it’s moving from one side of you to the other.

“Surround sound”, “5.1”, “7.1”, etc audio is the same thing but with even more signals, for a larger number of speakers (e.g. front left, front right, behind left, behind right, center), so you can have videogames where when an enemy is behind you the footsteps play only from the speakers behind you, etc.

Mono means one – so all of the music is summed up in one output. This means you only need one speaker to play it correctly, and in the case of most hi-fi’s and headphones that use two speakers, each one will be playing back exactly the same thing.

Stereo means two – so the audio is recorded and mixed in such a way as to use two different speakers. This means that each speaker can play different things – in a band setting this might mean you will hear different combinations of instruments in each ear (to create a more immersive sound, feeling like the band is positioned all around you), while with a TV it means they will choose to play sounds in either or both speakers to help it appear like the sound is coming from either side (or the centre) to match what you are seeing on screen.
If you only listen using one speaker (such as only using one earbud) then you may miss certain elements of whatever you are listening to that are only played back through the missing earbud.

You can go further than this – Disney’s Fantasia was famously designed with quadraphonic sound (using four speakers) which was too elaborate and cumbersome for the technology of the time.

Modern home cinema is also typically designed as 5.1 surround sound – this referring to having five speakers spaced around you and an additional subwoofer, and dedicated cinemas can go even further.