Record Vocals In Mono or Stereo ~~ What Should You Do?! (Simple Guide)

Should you record vocals in mono or stereo? Read our guide and see if you should record vocals in mono or stereo.

The Simple Answer

To give you a simple answer, if you're recording vocals of one singer in a booth, you should record in mono. However, when you're recording vocals of more than one singer and instrument, you should record in stereo.

If you make music, you've probably heard about mono and stereo before. But still, many people don't understand them and use mono and stereo wrong. Sound engineers and music producers should know how mono and stereo works, that's why we wrote this guide - Record Vocals in Mono or Stereo.

Understanding Mono and Stereo

These are two main types of recording signal. When you're listening to something that was recorded in stereo, your ears will be satisfied. You will hear something different in each ear and feel spacial sound. However, when you're listening to mono recordings, both of your ears will get the same signal and there will be no 'wide' feeling.

Don't get me wrong though - some instruments (and vocals in some cases), are best when recorded in mono. A perfect mix contains a combination of both - some instruments in mono, some in stereo. By using a combination of mono and stereo, you are making room in the mix and basically gluing the whole song together.

Recording Vocals

Most people, when I ask them if they record vocals in mono or stereo, reply with 'mono'. And they're right in their own way. In most cases, mono recordings of a lead vocals aren't just fine - they are recommended.

But there are some cases where stereo recordings are better for vocals. Here's one for example: recording a choir. Because there are more people and sound sources, stereo feels so much better. 

If you record a choir in stereo and play back the recording, you will feel immersed - it's almost like you're listening to them live. In mono, on the other hand, this recording would sound dull and empty.

Recording Vocals With One Microphone

Should you record vocals in mono or stereo? It depends on what you're trying to achieve. If you're recording vocals in multiple locations, stereo recordings will sound much better than mono. The goal of stereo is to create a lifelike sense of the audio signal.

Acoustics

When beginners ask me if they should record vocals in mono or stereo, I tell them mono. You could argue that there are advanced techniques of using stereo to capture room's acoustics and ambience, but that's way too complicated for most people - especially beginners. Recording in stereo is a skill that takes time, and if you don't want your solo vocals ruined, simply record vocals in mono.

Stereo Recording Techniques

If you're want to record vocals in mono or stereo, here are some stereo techniques you can use. I'll just list them below and you can find the details on other websites.

The most popular techniques are:

  • A/B stereo recording 
  • X/Y stereo recording
  • ORTF Blumlein pair
  • Mid/Side recording

Final Word

I hope this article helps you understand when to record vocals in mono or stereo. When you're in doubt and don't know if you should record vocals in mono or stereo, go with mono. You don't have much to lose unlike with stereo recordings, where you can ruin the whole track.