Why Stereo?

Sitting here listening, eyes closed imagining each instrument on a virtual stage, the singer front and center…I’ve got it for a while, then it’s gone, open eyes, sip of coffee, back to reflecting on 2021!

It occurs to me that if we take a simple recording, say Connor Desai (guitar and vocal) singing friend of the devil, in fact the song I’ve just listened too. Here I am as the listener trying to resolve a stereo recording into a single point of sound. Connor on a bar stool with her guitar singing. Wouldn’t this in fact be better as a mono recording played through a single speaker directly in front of me?
I realise I am over simplifying but, bere with me, wouldn’t it make sense to have 3 channel recordings with a center speaker to help the listener lock the center image? I think it would work with any recording not just the simple vocals example, in fact the benefit would surely be more pronounced on complex recordings?

Ooh Eric Bibb on the play list now, eyes closed…here we go!!

Some early experiments did do exactly this… See Bell Labs.

There is also a Naim CD, which shows what Stereo can really do:

1 Like

If your room, the position of the speakers and the position of the listener are reasonably well optimised (and your hearing allows you to judge direction via the normal process), then the stereo acoustic image should be reasonably stable. You description suggest something is very much sub optimal.

I love quoting myself.


It was Alan Blumlein who worked out how people work out position in a sound field and how to recreate this arificially without using multi-array systems.

Yes… I know… I have read the whole Wikipedia page… :astonished:

If the stereo sound resolves to a clear image in the centre, you probably have some room issues with sounds reflecting off the front wall. The more absorbers I have behind the speakers, the broader the stereo image has become.

If the stereo image appears to exceed the width of the speakers, then you have serious problems with too much lateral reflection.

Probably I have a living room not a listening room!

1 Like

So do I; getting a stable image in a practical living room can be achieved with relatively little adjustment.

However, if the room is that far sub-optimal, you feel you need to get a stable image of single performers at a fixed position and aren’t prepared to rearrange the room, I’d recommend a 5.1 system and get those recordings in 5.1 format. Unfortunately a 5.1 system with the same musical quality as a 2ch system will be considerable more expensive and speakers to get the same quality of reproduction will take up a lot more space.

I am talking so much nonsense! It is of course lateral reflections that have the most influence on stereo image width!

I find nonsense makes for more interesting conversations😁

Not necessarily… If a signal is ‘hard potted’ into either channel, during mixing (which was common on pop/rock recordings, in the 70’s), then it can appear to be ‘outside’ the speaker in question.

I’m a scientist, so I find the opposite.

You can take the scientist out of the lab, but you can’t take the lab out of the scientist!


Only if lateral reflection distorts the apparent position of the virtual source.

That’s exactly WHY any signal appearing outside the speakers is an artefact. Look at the principle of the Blumlein effect and think about it - it’s clear that from 2 channels any virtual source that appears to be outside of a line between the physical sources is being caused by environmental artefact.

At one time there was a forum member who advocated mono - and not just for solo performers - and he did convert to mono, using a Quad electrostatic speaker, and claimed it made for better listening.

When I was a young teenager I read about stereo and its ability to create an illusion of at least two dimensional soundstage. At that time playing with building simple amps myself I had put a microphone in the lounge and ‘listened in’ from my bedroom. I could hear what people said, or what was on TV or radio, but the moment there was more than one person talking (e.g. parent saying something when there was talking on the radio) I struggled to pick out what was being said. I then added a second mic, amp and earphone, and all was very different: the spacial separation meant I could ignore one source and focus on the other.

Humans with unimpaired hearing hear in stereo. We can therefore spacially separate sounds and focus on just one source. At a live performance of a solo performer that applies, hearing the voice/instrument, plus reflected sound in the auditorium, plus any extraneous noise, and we can focus as we want, also hearing in a natural way. Playing the sound through a single speaker in our own room combines the sound of the performer and anything else such as reflected auditorium or studio sound, and anything spurious, as a single combined montage of sound (as if listening through a keyhole), not differentiatable by our ears/brains. Recording and playing the same in stereo gives us something approaching the stereo hearing we have if present in the auditorium (though of course not exactly the same).


Very interesting.

Thanks IB.

1 Like

Where does that leave, say, Amused To Death - with Q sound or whatever it’s called - intentional problem creation?

Stereo? Never heard it! :thinking:

Some mono recordings do sound good though :slightly_smiling_face:

That’s cos he was tight and it saved electric.

1 Like