Mono VS stereo microphone: what do you need to know

When looking for a microphone, you may find that there are two types: mono microphone owning one audio track, and stereo microphone which includes two. You might wonder what is the difference and which to use. Firstly, let’s take a look at the definition of them.

What are they: the number of microphone capsules differs

Mono microphone

The mono microphone  SYNCO U3

Mono is short for monophonic. In English, mono means one, phonic means sound. Therefore, as the name suggests, a mono microphone is the mic that delivers one sound with one microphone capsule.

But pay attention, this doesn’t mean mono mic only captures one sound from one object. In fact, it captures sounds within its polar patterns and processes them through one channel, making them into mono sounds. So no matter how many sounds you are going to record, if you want them to be one sound, it is time for the mono microphone to be used.

Stereo microphone

As for the stereo microphone, stereo here means full. So stereo microphone records and delivers full sounds.

But how can we know whether the microphone is stereo or not? The key is that the stereo mic owns two microphone capsules and plays back sounds through two channels. In general, there are two common techniques in stereo microphone design as of today.

X/Y Technique 

Small diaphragm condenser microphone the SYNCO V10

This technique requires two cardioid directional microphones.

The microphone capsules are arranged in close proximity at an angle from 90 to 135 degree. In general, the microphones are panned hard left and right, with one microphone signal going to the left recording track and the other to the right recording track.

The technique is used in the SYNCO V10. It is a small diaphragm microphone that aims at recording sounds from music instruments and vocals. With an “X/Y” setup, it is able to show a full sound picture of the music show.

A/B Technique 

In this technique, two omnidirectional microphones are placed one foot away from the sound source while the stereo pair microphones are two feet away from each other. But the distance can be changed to get different recording results.

Mono VS stereo microphone: difference in recording

Besides the difference in microphone capsules, they are also different in recording when we compare mono mics to stereo mics.

Sound stage

Microphone mono delivers mono sound, which converts a signal into a sound via only one channel. The mono stage is completely vertical and driven by level, with sounds that are either higher or lower in volume. There is no translation between left and right or forwards and backward. Therefore, with a mono microphone, all the musicians would be focused in the sound field as if they were all playing on stage in the same position.

In contrast to mono sound, stereo sound converts a signal into sound using several channels. This basically means that each output signal is distinct from the others. Stereo creates a new sound stage with the ability to pan sounds to the left and right. As a result, if you use a microphone for stereo to record a band, the individual musicians will be positioned where they were on stage in your recording, providing acoustic enjoyment.

Placement

As you know, a microphone only recording mono processes sounds via one channel and there is no sound stage difference among all the sounds recorded. Therefore, you can take the mic everywhere to get perfect audio. That is, it is free to use mono mic to record sounds. Moreover, there are many kinds of microphones to meet different needs.

However, as for the stereo mic, if the camera moves about, the sound of the music recording will change. And finding the sweet spot in the room where the music sounds best is the key. Place the camera on a tripod at that location with the external stereo microphone and leave it there, and you will record wonderful audio.

When using a dual channel microphone, pay attention to where it's set. Even when shooting a scene when someone is making a simple phone conversation, this rule is still crucial. The sight and sound must be in sync, otherwise the audience will be unable to follow along.

Phase Interference

When the same sound comes from different locations, the two sound waves will interfere with one another. If a mono signal is played through a stereo system, it would come across this problem since the signals are the same. But by recording with stereo microphone, each signal is different from each other, so the phase interference problem between the speakers would be greatly decreased.

But here comes another problem. Although stereo audio is capable of avoiding phase interference between speakers, it can actually cause other phase issues.
Some listeners will use cell phones or other mono playback systems. When you record with stereo mics, the left and right channels will be mixed through the mono system, perhaps resulting in wave interference.

When to use: the recording purpose decides

A stereo audio recording offers a greater sense of place or listening environment than a microphone mono. When recording live music, a dual channel microphone for stereo recording is essential since two-channel sound can make the music come alive.

So it is ideal for

  • Band performance
  • Live streaming with instruments
  • Outdoor video footage
  • ...

A mono microphone is flexible in placement and provides no stage differences. Therefore, it is a great choice for recording activities that require flexible movement or have no need of performing sound stage.

Basically, it is ideal for

  • Interview
  • Dialogue
  • Personal live streaming
  • Vlogging
  • ...
For mono microphone used for interview, you can check the article Handheld VS wireless interview microphone: what makes them different

    Conclusion

    As you can see, when deciding microphone mono or stereo, the better option isn't always the more expensive or complicated stereo microphone. To search for a suitable microphone for your video recording, it is important for you to take the sound source, shooting purpose and microphone operation into consideration.