Stereo vs. Mono for the Mobile DJ – A Conversation

Sep 30, 2019 | Philosophy

Mono? Stereo? Time to ponder.

Should you run in stereo? Should you mix in mono? This is a topic about as old as the very first installations of equipment at discos and clubs. But are our judgments clouded by more personal experiences in sound?

Now maybe I am showing my age a bit, but I am a child of the 70s and 80s. The days where big hi-fi systems were ruling the living room and the quest for premium sound was at its zenith. Proper placement, equalization, choosing media to reproduce sound in pristine fashion was the great pursuit of this time. And with that the major push towards stereo recordings. While stereo was already developed by the 1930s the market really did not start to get saturated with the stereo mix until the 1960s when FM radio started. More and more recordings started to come in stereo and naturally, audiophiles wanted to reproduce that sound to the best of their ability.

But is the stereo mix the best option for a mobile DJ?

Let’s Separate / Let’s Bring It Back Together

One of the first things to realize as a mobile DJ is that the experience of stereo sound is truly different in a larger room than it is in predictable smaller home installation, or in a permanent installation. No one position on the dance floor is going to get the same sonic treatment as the other. With more heavily stereo mastered songs (especially look at stereo mastered songs from The Beatles), the separation of sound becomes very evident. If you are closer to the left speaker you hear the guitar but hardly anything on the vocals, on the right vice-versa. Because of this separation, any one person on the dance floor is going to have a different sonic experience.

Speaker pattern in a typical room with 90º dispersion

With running in mono all of the sounds arrive at the listener as one uniform sound. This is the experience we as Mobile DJs should be striving for.

But how?

There are a few ways to run mono. For starters, some mixers and controllers have a stereo/mono switch on the device that makes it really simple. In the case of software, it varies; Serato has a simple stereo/mono toggle that happens at the software layer, with Virtual DJ it’s a little tricker. There are plugins that will make it mono but they are only available in Windows. There is a way to route the output in VDJ settings but it never seemed like true mono in the slightest. But there is another way.

Invest in a mixer that works in between your “battle mixer” and your speakers. I can’t speak highly enough of the Soundcraft Ui24R and Ui16 and the digital mixer has been a staple in my setup for a very long time now. You can take your stereo input and adjust your pans to mix out as mono. This is now my preferred method to output in mono.

Keep It Simple

It may sound counterintuitive at first, but your ears will thank you later. Running in mono ensures a more uniform experience on the dance floor, and that is what we should all strive for. Keeping it simple makes our lives a tad bit easier but also ultimately more enjoyable for our clients.


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