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Author Topic:  Is stereo all it's cracked up to be?
Daniel McKee


From:
Corinth Mississippi
Post Posted 20 May 2017 3:04 pm     Reply with quote

Thats a good point about black and white tv. People watch it every day and enjoy that. One day 3D will likely be the thing and people will look back at regular color tv and think that was lame. I enjoy stereo records but only through good clean, powerful speakers where I can really have that stereo experience. Otherwise I guess it doesn't seem to be a big deal. All that being said, I do still enjoy breaking out some old 78 rpm records from time to time of the days long before stereo existed.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post Posted 20 May 2017 3:28 pm     Reply with quote

It has just struck me that the biggest revelation in my life of listening was not stereo at all, but when my Dad stepped up from 78s to vinyl LPs. You could hear just the music and stay in your seat for an entire Mozart symphony. Suddenly it was a pleasure like nothing before.
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Charlie McDonald


From:
out of the blue
Post Posted 21 May 2017 6:01 am     Reply with quote

It goes around and comes around: now we have 3/4" drivers that can capture the sound of 78 rpm records.

Stereo meant more at hi volume levels. The audiophile could now have an entire wall of sound if he had an understanding wife. Even on my used $80 Heathkit system (6x9 speakers!), we liked to listen to symphonic music loud. (It was more acceptable than loud rock n roll.)
It occurs to me that it took less power, per channel, with stereo, how it couples with a room better (or so they say), but where was the fun in less power? You needed several McIntosh amps in your wall. With cooling fans. And Altec A7's. Or go home.

Possibly the first record I bought was Copland's Rodeo w/ Antal Dorati ca. 1960--the word STEREO is the biggest script on the cover. Mercury were so proud of the recording that they included a description of the miking:
Quote:
... three microphones of the highest sensitivity were suspended in the hall at points to which all orchestral choirs were perfectly balanced, instrumental timbers accurately reproduced, clarity of inner voices effectively projected, and maximum 'presence' obtained.

Following that, it says, any mixing done was by the conductor. Those were the days.
The original master tapes were recorded on three-channel stereophonic tape machines. It's an expansive recording. Better than live! You now had 'three' sound systems instead of one! Whoa! Laughing Stereo was great when it was great big.

So you may be right: all things considered, the jump from 78's to LP hifi records would have pleased the majority of the buying public.
I don't think my parents cared much beyond that; their stereo was in a suitcase.
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Darrell Criswell


From:
Maryland, USA
Post Posted 21 May 2017 7:52 pm     Reply with quote

I know the problems with quadraphonic etc., however it seems strange that no one has come up with anything to improve on stereo to my knowledge.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post Posted 22 May 2017 5:42 am     Reply with quote

I'm not sure what's broken that needs fixing, or what else you can get out of just two channels without producers and customers both making an investment which experience has shown they won't.
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Charlie McDonald


From:
out of the blue
Post Posted 22 May 2017 6:15 am     Reply with quote

We only have two ears....
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Chris Walke


From:
St Charles, IL
Post Posted 25 May 2017 10:20 am     Reply with quote

J Fletcher wrote:
One nice thing about mono is that you can be anywhere in the room and get the same mix.
I recently bought Louis Armstrong plays W.C. Handy , recorded in 1954, so it's mono , and it sounds great. In the 60's many LP's and perhaps all 45's had a separate mono mix. There some pretty bad stereo mixes where instruments were panned hard left or right that sound unnatural.


One of my favorite albums! St Louis Blues, Loveless Love....

Armstrong's little asides between Velma's vocal lines are a hoot. Killer band.

And I surely do not listen to it thinking, "if only these recordings were stereophonic."
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Jim Smerk


From:
Ohio, USA
Post Posted 26 May 2017 9:43 pm     Reply with quote

Charlie McDonald wrote:

Plus, without it, you could never lie between the speakers and listen to Grand Funk Railroad.


HUGE Thumbs Up Exclamation

Funny thing is that I have mixed in mono 70% of the time for years, and so has a lot of pro mixers (I am not one of them!).

If you can get a good mix in Mono, hearing ALL the instruments & vocals in balance, then switching to Stereo & panning is the icing on the cake!
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Darrell Criswell


From:
Maryland, USA
Post Posted 27 May 2017 3:33 am     Reply with quote

Charlie McDonald wrote:
We only have two ears....


Yes we only have two ears but we can localize sounds from multiple sources, maybe hundreds.
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Charlie McDonald


From:
out of the blue
Post Posted 27 May 2017 5:55 am     Reply with quote

True, unless you're lying between the speakers listening to GFR.*

Jim Smerk wrote:
If you can get a good mix in Mono, hearing ALL the instruments & vocals in balance, then switching to Stereo & panning is the icing on the cake!

I think that is a good idea.

---------------
*Try spotting an airplane with only your ears. Altitude is an association from memory.
Meerkats, hearing a hawk, look up. The brain is likely responsible for locating sources, even considering ear folds.
But you make a good point.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post Posted 27 May 2017 12:10 pm     Reply with quote

Jim is so right. I think I mentioned earlier that when I was at the BBC we would get everything right in mono, whereupon the stereo would take care of itself. It does not work the other way round!
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Chris Templeton


From:
The Green Mountain State
Post Posted 28 May 2017 1:48 am     Reply with quote

My joke for you:
Q: What's another name for stereo?
A: Mono y mono.
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Charlie McDonald


From:
out of the blue
Post Posted 28 May 2017 4:11 am     Reply with quote

Laughing
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Robert Leaman


From:
Murphy, North Carolina, USA
Post Posted 6 Jun 2017 8:20 am     "Stereo means Solid" Reply with quote

Stereo does not mean solid as was posted here.
"Stereo" is derived from the international unit that defines a cubic meter.

Stere: a unit of volume equal to one cubic meter.
.
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Brint Hannay


From:
Maryland, USA
Post Posted 6 Jun 2017 10:06 am     Reply with quote

But what does that unit of volume have to do with stereo-, as in stereophonic or stereoscopic?

Here, I think, is the relevant etymology and definition, from the Webster dictionary:

stere- or stereo- comb form [NL, fr. Gk. fr. stereos solid...]

...2b having or dealing with three dimensions of space

Consider that "solid geometry" means dealing with three dimensions, as distinct from "plane geometry", which is two-dimensional.

Hence, stereophonic or stereoscopic reproduction means giving the perception of three-dimensionality in space. e.g., viewing a two-dimensional photo of an object stereoscopically gives the impression of the object being three-dimensional, i.e. solid.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post Posted 6 Jun 2017 10:46 am     Reply with quote

Brint has it. "Stereo" and "stere" are both derived from stereos (στερεός). There's an element of hype, of course, because "stereo" sound is only two-dimensional, and the term should have been reserved for surround formats. But everybody seems to think it's good value for money, which is what matters.
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post Posted 6 Jun 2017 10:59 am     Reply with quote

I agree with Brint on this, as does wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereophonic_sound. Not that wikis are necessarily authoritative, but I believe the nomenclature really is from the Greek stereos, and relates to the illusion of higher dimensionality.

On the topic:
A lot, if not most, of the music I listen to is older. So I usually strongly prefer dual mono rather than stereo because old stereo mixes were routinely crappy. If you go out and look at the value of old vinyl records, most of the time you pay a premium for mono because they usually sound (frequently a lot) better than the crappy stereo mixes of the day. Of course, there are exceptions.

To me, there are a lot more variables in stereo. If a record is really mixed well, stereo can indeed add a bit of higher dimensionality to the sound than two separated mono mixes. But dual mono also adds a lot of depth to the sound. Tell me that when you play guitar or steel through two (even identical) separated amps that there isn't a lot more depth than with a single amp. Of course, you lose that with distance, when the whole thing becomes basically a point-source. But that's also true with anything but the most extremely separated stereo sources.

I used to be more into audiophile stuff, having a chair in the middle of the room and a rockin' stereo with good, well-separated speakers. But this was back in the days when a lot of people really cared about music, had a good stereo, and high-quality vinyl. These days, the dominant format is mp3 - what's the point of discussing fidelity?

I also agree that the move from 78s through a honky horn system to Hi-Fi with a good tube amp and good full-range speakers was the true paradigm shift in recorded music.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post Posted 6 Jun 2017 11:13 am     Reply with quote

Dave Mudgett wrote:
old stereo mixes were routinely crappy

I'm assuming that Dave means the idiotic left-center-right pop records that predated the pan-pot, and not the fine classical recordings by such as Mercury that Charlie praised.

I agree that vinyl was the really big advance.
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Brint Hannay


From:
Maryland, USA
Post Posted 6 Jun 2017 11:28 am     Reply with quote

What really sucked was "Electronically processed to simulate stereo".Muttering

It makes sense that the term "stere" for the unit of volume mentioned above is itself derived from stereos, solid, as volume = three dimensions.
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Charlie McDonald


From:
out of the blue
Post Posted 6 Jun 2017 12:53 pm     Reply with quote

I think film noir wouldn't be enhanced in stereo. Bogart wouldn't have been impressed.
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post Posted 6 Jun 2017 8:23 pm     Reply with quote

Yeah, I wasn't talking about high-quality classical stereo mixes. As I said in my post, there are exceptions - and not just classical.

But a lot of rock, jazz, blues, country, folk, and so on from the golden era is, IMO, best in glorious MONO. And let's not even talk about the hideous "Rechanneled for Stereo Effect" stuff. Can you imagine someone re-channeling Rudy Van Gelder's 50s output for stereo? Next thing you know, we'll be talking about colorizing Casablanca - blecch.

And this is sort of the same type of argument as black-and-white vs. color film. There's no absolute answer on which is "best". In my opinion, some film works best in black-and-white, some best in color. Not that much of anybody making films gives a damn anymore. A ton of my favorite films are black-and-white, but that's as much a stylistic thing as anything else. And I suppose that's true to an extent for mono recording - to some extent it's a stylistic thing too.
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Charlie McDonald


From:
out of the blue
Post Posted 7 Jun 2017 5:03 am     Reply with quote

First record I bought was Toscanini directing Respighi, re-channeled (re-eq'd) in 'stereo.' The effect was positively dreamy.

But recalling Bill Haley's 'Rock Around the Clock,' the effect was immediate and direct from a single speaker.

Last night on PBS was a program about direct-to-disc mono recording featuring Jack White, Beck, Los Lobos and others.
They rolled out a mammoth old Western Electric amp rack hooked up to a lathe and these guys sang into the can, a period mic,
all of it circa 1925.
All the mixing was done by the musicians (without headphones) in the room.
None of this going into the studio without knowing what you were going to do.
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Craig Stock


From:
Westfield, NJ USA
Post Posted 7 Jun 2017 5:26 pm     Reply with quote

Charlie,

I have a few Lee Ritenour Records done direct to disk, each side done straight through, and they sound fabulous.

Not sure if they are mono or stereo. but talk about clarity, they are tops.

BTW, I'll be back in Lubbock in August, my daughter will be starting at Tech this Fall, hope to see you then, and maybe we can actually tour the Museum, actually looks really interesting. Have you been to Cook's Garage on the Tahoka Highway yet, I'm itching to go back there .
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Charlie McDonald


From:
out of the blue
Post Posted 8 Jun 2017 3:28 am     Reply with quote

Sounds like fun, Craig.

I cruised the Strip for Cook's Garage and didn't find it.
We might have to make a road trip.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post Posted 8 Jun 2017 9:22 am     Reply with quote

Dave's set me thinking - if I do my next recording in mono, how soon before anyone notices?
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