201: Dual Mono VS Stereo – Gain Full Control Over Your Stereo Image By Setting Up Your Compressors The Right Way


Ever felt like your mixes are just a snowball's throw away from that nice, wide stereo image you crave?  


Apply for our coaching program and book a free clarity call with Benedikt, the host of the show!

Sure, the basics like mic technique, panning, intentional EQ moves, among others are always the most important thing. But there is more. And we want to share one thing with you that you might have overlooked, so far.

Strap in, because we're whisking you up the sonic slopes to conquer the nuances of dual mono vs. stereo compression!

This seemingly small detail can be the difference between a stable, solid center in your stereo image and a wonky center that won't provide the solid foundation that your groove needs.

Or between a wide, clear mix and a narrow one.

Being intentional about this will also give you extra clarity, separation and width for your rhythm guitars, toms or any other stereo source that you're dealing with in your mix.

First, we dissect when to pan mono sources and when to bask in true stereo glory, providing a roadmap through the complexities of creating a nice, wide stereo image.

It's like choosing the right snowboard for the mountain – you need the proper technique to ride the sound waves to their fullest potential.

Finally, we're cranking up the dials on your DAW savvy, revealing the ins and outs of compressor plugins and their different channel linking modes.

Learn how to finesse your compressor settings to keep your mix wide open or dial in that cohesive, 'pumpy' feel when the track calls for it.

So, tune up your audio kit, and let's hit the play button on this episode!

Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy (click for full transcript)


Why would I want a stereo compressor if I'm not dealing with a true stereo source? Which brings us back to what we explained in the beginning. If the two have nothing in common, it's just two mono sources playing individual things independent of each other. I want to preserve their natural dynamics and I don't want the left guitar to change because of the right guitar. That doesn't make sense to me.


This is the Self Recording Band Podcast, the show where we help you make exciting records on your own wherever you are. Diy's that let's go. Hello and welcome to the Self Recording Band Podcast. I am your host, benedikt Hein. If you are new to the show, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us. If you're making your own records, you want them to sound better. This is the right place. You found the right place for this and if you are already a listener, welcome back. We're so glad to have you. Thank you for your loyalty and, yeah, for you just being a part of this.


And today we're going to get a little more technical than the last couple of episodes. So we had a bunch of interview episodes lately. This time we're going a little more technical. We're talking about a thing that is not. I think so, at least not so often talked about on podcasts or YouTube videos, but I think it's really important. We're talking about dual mono versus stereo, specifically when it comes to compression.


And before you now close the podcast app and leave us because you don't know what we're talking about, let me quickly explain why that matters. So this can be the difference between a stable, solid center in your stereo image and a wonky center. That will provide the solid foundation that your groove needs. It can also add some extra clarity, width and separation to your rhythm guitars, toms or any other stereo or double track thing that you have in your arrangement. So this stuff is important. It's often overlooked. A lot of people, I think, are confused by this, so this is why we wanted to cover it today and, as always, I'm joined by my friend and cohost, malcolm Owen Flutt. Hello, malcolm, how are you.


Hey, benny, I'm great man. Good to be back, as always. When was the end of a? What is this? This is our third year, or fourth year? Third year, right.


So the fourth year, because it's 200 episodes and the one year has 50 weeks, right, so 52. Yeah, crazy, we're going to have a four year sort of anniversary in January I think, or February somewhere. Yeah, can't wait. Yeah, totally, it's phenomenal, it's crazy to think that we haven't missed a single week since we started, and it's very cool. And also I'm kind of surprised that we still have things to talk about.


In the beginning I was worried that, like so many things to talk about In the beginning, like after the first year or so, or when I was, when we were trying to come up with topics for the first year, I was like I was like after 20 ideas or so, I was like that's all we have, that's all we know you know, and I guess nothing more to talk about Turns out there's a lot more and we'll keep going.


There's a lot, all right. So I don't know, we haven't done a true banter in a while, right? We always had these interview episodes, and so I don't know if there's anything going on in your life. That's worth sharing.


I mean, something that's exciting for me is like later today, right after we record this episode or our next episode, I'm going to be going to shoot a documentary as, like the head camera person, I've never done that before, so that's exciting for me. We're just going to I'm like self producing with a body, a documentary idea. I won't get into what that idea is yet, but I'm very excited to go and shoot it. It's going to be very fun.


I didn't know about that. That's awesome. And so you got location sound, you got music work, you got photography and now also videography why not? Why?


not Exactly. Yeah, I mean, it's all creative stuff.


Right, it's, and yeah, it's exciting, exciting, really cool. Yeah, very excited, awesome. How about?


you man. What's going on in Benny's world?


So I was. I went snowboarding for the first time with my kids this weekend. So I was snowboarding all my life. I've been snowboarding all my life basically, but this time I took my kids for the first time, which was very awesome, bought them some snowboards and we went out and did our first you know tries, and which was really, really cool.


Made me super proud to watch that.


And I decided you know, usually we, you know, we wanted to, we talked about it and, like all the kids go skiing usually and they need to learn that for school and all of that, and all the other kids do it as well. But I've never been a skier and I probably won't ever be one. So I just decided, okay, they can learn to ski, but if they're going with me, I'm going to just teach them how to snowboard. That's the only thing I know.


So and then they can make a decision about themselves.


So we go snowboarding. They wanted to do it anyways. They asked me for it, so I'm all for it. So we did that. How did they like it? They enjoyed it a lot. So before we did that, you actually I actually gave them. You know, there's different words for that. There's the like a snow snow surfer, snow skate type of thing where you don't, where you're not attached to the board, you just stand on it and you can. You know, basically, skateboard and snow. I got them two of these, just borrowed them and let them try and have fun with it for a while before we made the decision to actually buy snowboards. And they loved it and they actually did pretty well too. So then they said they want to. You know, they want to have a real snowboard. So, yeah, that's why I got them some and now we're doing it.


Little shredders? Yes, exactly.


Totally. So yeah, that was that was the main part. The yeah, that was how I spent the weekend. And also we decorated, you know, christmas stuff and the like, we kids. Well, I probably wouldn't have done it on my own, but the kids said there's no way we're not going to have a Christmas tree and all the Christmas decoration.


So we did that together, so that's out of the way too, it actually liked it. So it's great, oh great. Yeah, I'm exhausted by all this Christmas stuff. It's like there's already been so many, so many Christmas parties and stuff.


Oh man, put me back into real life soon, yeah totally yeah, that's part of it, and once you know, once it's done, or when I'm at these parties or when I'm doing these things, I actually enjoy it. I just don't want to. It's hard for me to get going or, like you know, I just have so many other things that I'd rather do in a way, but then when I yeah like exercise and eating well goes on the window in the holidays, for me, For example, for example.


Yeah, anyway, but it's, it's also cool, it's a, it's a nice cool season, yeah. Then the other thing I have to announce is I almost forgot about that in the beginning we have two more spots officially left in our coaching program, the self-recording syndicate. Before we stop registrations for a while, we need to build out some more systems, maybe expand the team, think about some things and probably also increase rates, to be honest. So this will happen in 2024 at some point, and for now, we take on two more students. I got a few more calls scheduled to the end of the year.


So if you are interested in joining the coaching program, please go to theselfrecordingbandcom slash call and apply for the self-recording syndicate. I've no doubt that I'm going to fill these two spots very, very quickly. So if you want to be a part of that, please apply and then, yeah, whoever is a great fit will get into this, and then we're going to close it for a while. So just going to announce that, because we have like 40 students in it right now, which is about how much I can I can handle at the moment and then we'll, yeah, make some decisions as to like how we can scale without compromising what we offer to students.


Absolutely. That's so, so awesome man, and huge thank you to all the listeners. That's like, yeah, that wouldn't be possible without all of you out there listening 100. Apparently, to the stats we just checked the thousands of you. It's awesome.


Yeah, really Thank you, because it's also the feedback that we get from you and the questions, the comments. This really helps us make better content for this show. That's one part of it, but it also helps me serve my students better because it teaches me a lot about the problems you have, about you know what you're struggling with, what your goals are, all of this. So, really thank you. Thank you a lot. Okay, let's get to this episode Right and let's do it Cool. Let's start with talking about the basics here, like the difference between mono and stereo, actually, because I think we need to clarify a few things before we can dive into the dual mono versus, you know, true stereo thing on compressors. Yeah, so what do you start?


Okay. So where I think we should start is trying to separate what they actually are from each other. There is some terminology that is regularly used by all of us audio recording people all the time. That is incorrect and that's okay. I don't think, benny, and I want to convince you to change how engineers and musicians communicate about recording stuff like guitars, but I think it is important to understand that it's incorrect. Yeah, why it's incorrect, and then just keep on going using the incorrect words. It's totally fine.


It gets the point across and, like, the most common example, especially in like rock music, is when you have like a double guitar performance.


You know, you record one guitar, you pan it hard left, you record a second guitar, take of that same thing, a double, and pan it hard. Right. Now you've got two guitars coming left and right and we say, all right, we got stereo guitars, right, let's record some stereo guitars, and we do that. But that's not actually stereo, that's just dual point source, mono. Right, we've got two mono performances playing at the same time coming out of different speakers, but it's not like we made a stereo recording really technically. Whereas to give you, if you're like, all right, well then, what the hell is stereo If you have an XY set over your drum kit. I saw overheads, you know two microphones capturing the same source in a stereo field. Now you have a stereo recording. You know you have captured a recording of something that has width when, if you had recorded the same drum kit twice and then panned it hard left and right, that would be again mono.


Yeah, another example would be any sort of stereo synth that you use. If that is like stereo, whatever the output of that synthesizer is, that is a stereo source. Right, it's not dual mono. It has actual stereo content in the sound itself. A piano mic with two mics can be a true stereo source. A choir if you have a group of people singing and you point, you point two mics at them and you pan those left and right, you got one performance, but it's still wide and stereo. Those would all be stereo recordings, versus a second take of the same thing recorded with one microphone will sound like a stereo thing. But it's actually dual mono, it's two mono sources. They just pan to wherever.


Exactly. Now one more bit of information to confuse you all. If you stick, let's say, two SM57s beside each other on a guitar speaker and record those, and then you're blending them, you've got them just pan to the exact same, so they're both coming up the middle, for example, and then you're just blending the volume to find a tone you want. You haven't made a stereo product then, either. No, so you've got two mics on the same source, but you've still made a mono thing 100% and yeah, no, I'm going to leave it like that.


One more thing but that would definitely be confusing. No, that's enough to grasp.


It's not actually hard to grasp, but all it's just like when you think about it, like, oh yeah, we actually haven't made stereo guitars is the typical thing, absolutely.


As long as yeah, if a thing is panned to one direction, like the center or left or right or anywhere in between, but it's just one source, it's always mono. You just pan it somewhere. And if it's like two mics or two parts of it pan to different sides of the same performance, it's going to be stereo, so all right.


So now we know that and you can make a decision of how you're going to record.


Just rewind and listen to this 15 times and then you'll get it. No, so yeah, now we got this. Sorry for interrupting. You're welcome, all right. How do we move on from here?


Well, I mean, there is okay. There's one more thing and this is probably what you were going to say, Benny decided not to but there's certain mic and techniques that are stereo right, Like X, Y, space pair kind of thing, and you can record guitars in stereo. Like, I just wanted to cover guitars in particular, because I think we've just pretty much like all of that said okay, guitars are actually mono, but you can record stereo guitars. It's just, you probably don't want to and you're probably what you're talking about doing is probably mono, Okay.


Now I'm done.


All right.


Now we have to explain, though, what that would mean, because now you just started it, so that's what I wanted to say. So any amount of close mics on the guitar cap, always mono, because it makes no sense to pan them apart. It's never going to be wide anyways. So you blend those mics, it's always going to be a mono source, no matter how much microphones you throw on that cabinet Point source mono Exactly.


However, if you put a pair of room mics into that room in X, y or whatever you know, with some distance to the cab, so that there's actual stereo information, like something our ears would, in the room, perceive as like stereo, because it's bouncing off the walls left and right and stuff, so if we captured that, then we would have, in addition to the mono recording, we would have a stereo pair, and now we could pan that mono recording to one side, but we could leave the stereo room pan hard left and right. So this would provide some sort of image, and so there's a mix between the mono guitar and then the stereo image. Same with, like drums, close mics plus overheads or rooms. You have the close mics. They are all mono, even if you pan them left and right, they are all mono sources. But then you have a stereo pair of overheads or a stereo pair of room mics. These are actual stereo recordings there you go.


Now. Here's the scenario Benny, you've got your favorite JCM 800 Marshall guitar head and it's being run into two separate four by 12 cabs. All right, yep, but those four by 12 cabs aren't in the same room. They are in different isolation chambers where, if you stick a mic on each of those cabs, there is no crossover bleed between those two cabs. No doubt that the microphones only hear the cab they're on. There's no information reaching it from the other one. What have we created?


To me, honestly, that's still mono. Me too. There's no. If they're not in the same room, there's no, you know, no stereo image. If I'm standing in front of it, there's two isolated mono sources and probably if there's no delay in between they would. Even if you pan them heart left and right, it won't really sound wide. It would still sound like a mono thing, it's the same take.


Yeah, still gonna sound pretty mono yeah.


So to me, that's all, that's all mono. Yeah, and there's trickery you can do, like some bands with one guitar player. They would play through two rigs slightly, delay one and then pan them heart left and right, which creates the illusion of like a double track or stereo thing. But those is all not really stereo, it's like you know. Yeah, psychoacoustics, yeah.


And even if those caps were in the same room, like it's still with pretty much result in a very mono vibe. So yeah, there we go. I think we've covered it pretty good now.


Exactly? Yeah, I think so too. Let's get to why this matters, or like what we actually wanted to talk about, which is like dual, mono and stereo in terms of compression.


So yes, because I think everybody's probably seen this by now and they open up a plugin and there's a switch on there or a button and that says dual mono or stereo, and like it doesn't say or, but it's a selector and you can click to put the plug into dual mono or to stereo mode. And that is what we want to kind of demystify and explain and then tell you how to use it and why you would use it.


Yep, I have to say, though it's probably different for you than it is, compared to many of our listeners, because Pro Tools handles this a little differently. So in most, you see, if you open up a plug in, I think you can change it from, you can choose between, like dual, mono and stereo, and you see these options. I think in most Dawes and I might be wrong about the Pro Tools thing, but that's how I remember it but in most Dawes you just open the plug in and it will be. There's no dual, mono or stereo option, it's just whatever the plug in is, and then it automatically turns into a stereo thing if it's a, you know, if there's two channels on the track, and it will be mono thing If there's one channel. And and there's not the dual mono switch. But it oftentimes only gives you like a link button or something where it can link or unlink the left and right, but I don't.


for example, in Cubase there's not, there's never a switch that says like dual mono. That's not a thing, unless the plug in itself does that, which is not often.


Yeah, no, I actually was referring to the plug in. Like the Vertigo Buscar, it's got a dual mono. But you're right, pro Tools does have the ability to just run two instances on any stereo track in dual mono. But that'll make more sense once we explain what this is. Okay, all right, good, good.


So in most cases you'll see yeah, in most cases you'll see linked, linked and unlinked. And there's, we got to get to that. There's two different things that this could mean. So, linked and unlinked, it might be dual, mono versus stereo, depending on how they label it. And then there's things like like the waves plugins, where you have to be careful that you actually choose the stereo version for a stereo track and not the mono plugin on a stereo track. That's with waves, at least in Cubase, if you know, I can open a mono instance on a stereo track, which won't ever work. That's a whole different thing. Just make sure, if you have a stereo instance like a plugin that is capable of processing two tracks at the same time, that this does not automatically mean it's actual stereo. It could be dual mono, it could be stereo, you could switch between the two and you can be intentional about it. That's what we're talking about here. So you want the plugin that's able to process two channels at a time, and now you have control over how this happens. This is what we're talking about, and so