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Why I listen in mono


tube fanatic
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Those new to the forum are no doubt unaware that I returned to my roots some time ago and now listen exclusively in mono.  Constantly fussing with channel balance (due to recording issues, room acoustics,  and asymmetric frequency response of my ears), and being locked into a “sweet spot” became a chore.  So, having forgotten how it would be, I decided to give mono a try and could not believe how glorious it is!  No sweet spot and, with a speaker in the corner, amazing dispersion into the room.  I use a single RB-51 series 2 since my den is on the small side.  I recommend that anyone who is frustrated by the difficulty of attaining perfect stereo give this a try.  Using a tiny mono tube amp to drive the speaker has really taken me back to the late 50s/early 60s.  
 

A couple of years ago I posted a very humorous article by Vincent Gallo in which he extols some of the other virtues of mono listening.  It is worth reading!

 

https://community.klipsch.com/index.php?/topic/194365-vincent-gallo-on-mono-listening/

 

Maynard

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Fascinating.  Back to basics, and I really appreciate a simple approach to the stereo, er music.

 

I noticed I am continually adjusting the balance with my volume as my source material changes, some recordings are offset compared to others, no idea why.  I often use my mono switch to center my system, and still have to tweak the balance. 

 

 

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Two systems in the house. The main system has a sweet spot established, room treatments etc. I enjoy listening in stereo in that room very much. No need to compensate for anything. Imaging and soundstage is rewarding.

 

Second system is in an unfinished basement. Concrete walls, exposed ductwork etc. Speakers are plopped down in the middle.....not in corners or next to a wall. This system, unlike the main system is high powered and gets played loud 100% of the time.

 

I've found that in this system, two speakers played in mono play more cohesive. Everything is more solid and honestly, gives me the urge to keep turning up the volume because it just jives so much better than stereo in this situation.

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On 10/1/2022 at 4:44 PM, tube fanatic said:

Those new to the forum are no doubt unaware that I returned to my roots some time ago and now listen exclusively in mono.  Constantly fussing with channel balance (due to recording issues, room acoustics,  and asymmetric frequency response of my ears), and being locked into a “sweet spot” became a chore.  So, having forgotten how it would be, I decided to give mono a try and could not believe how glorious it is!  No sweet spot and, with a speaker in the corner, amazing dispersion into the room.  I use a single RB-51 series 2 since my den is on the small side.  I recommend that anyone who is frustrated by the difficulty of attaining perfect stereo give this a try.  Using a tiny mono tube amp to drive the speaker has really taken me back to the late 50s/early 60s.  
 

A couple of years ago I posted a very humorous article by Vincent Gallo in which he extols some of the other virtues of mono listening.  It is worth reading!

 

https://community.klipsch.com/index.php?/topic/194365-vincent-gallo-on-mono-listening/

 

Maynard

I’m not sure I can subscribe to your assessment of “mono”. It would be like covering one eye and saying “my depth perception is now better than ever”. 
 

I’ve never had any issues with balance or a narrow sweet spot, but I can certainly understand your predicament. 

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9 hours ago, Curious_George said:

I’m not sure I can subscribe to your assessment of “mono”. It would be like covering one eye and saying “my depth perception is now better than ever”. 
 

I’ve never had any issues with balance or a narrow sweet spot, but I can certainly understand your predicament. 


You are fortunate not to have experienced recordings in which an entire orchestra is shifted to one side or the other, or listening at asymmetrical distances from the 2 speakers caused unpleasant imbalances.

 

As far as the analogy to binocular vision goes, it is indeed possible to experience depth perception monocularly.  In fact, I have known quite a number of individuals who are essentially monocular due to amblyopia, strabismus, or loss of an eye who can gauge depth remarkably well.  
 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4934676/

 

Similarly, even if you were to occlude one ear(obviously not the case when listening to a single speaker with both ears), it is still possible to experience depth and localization due to sound intensity and reverberant cues.  With 2 ears, listening to a single speaker  source, it is quite likely to experience “depth” or whatever you want to call it. 
 

In any event, we all prefer what we like most.  Trying different experiences will sometimes allow us to change our preferences.

 

Maynard

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Re Amblyopia... I had severe strabismus from birth and had to have corrective surgery when I was 2 years old. I went and visited the doctor who performed the surgery after I was an adult and right before he retired. He told me then that techniques had advanced to the point that the surgery is now performed as soon as diagnosed whereas when I was young it could not be done until about 2 years old in order for the patient(me) to survive the surgery. The reason they want to perform the surgery ASAP is so the pathways in the brain develop normally. All this to say the pathways in my brain for binocular vision are not there...I see in mono. My brain always pays attention to one eye or the other not both together. I have limited depth perception because of this, very limited. I can drive a car but never could I pilot an airplane.

Perhaps switching from mono to stereo in music can give me insight as to how you all see in "stereo".

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I agree that having a small sweet spot, in which the left and right channels are at equal volume, can be annoying, but listening to artists like Jimi Hendrix, who used a lot of panning effects in his recordings, in mono loses a significant part of the effect of the music.  There are lots of other artists who also use stereo effects, even Leonard Cohen, who has used subtle-level instruments moving around in the background in some songs. 

 

With a typical stereo setup, you’ll have a balance knob, so you can easily tweak the balance to suit a given recording if you feel the need, but with multichannel systems, even while listening in 2-channel, changing the channel balance requires going into the menu system, which is not convenient at all.  Accordingly, when the balance seems to be off a bit, it’s simpler to just shift myself one way or the other on the sofa.  If you have a hearing loss on one side, wouldn’t it be easy to just adjust the channel balance to suit you?  I can see, of course, how doing that might not go over so well with any other listeners you live with.  Would a hearing aid on the low-volume side help a lot with that?

 

However, Maynard, if you’re enjoying what you’re doing, carry on!  Everyone’s situation is different, so everyone’s preferences and effective solutions will be different, too.

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5 hours ago, tube fanatic said:


You are fortunate not to have experienced recordings in which an entire orchestra is shifted to one side or the other, or listening at asymmetrical distances from the 2 speakers caused unpleasant imbalances.

 

As far as the analogy to binocular vision goes, it is indeed possible to experience depth perception monocularly.  In fact, I have known quite a number of individuals who are essentially monocular due to amblyopia, strabismus, or loss of an eye who can gauge depth remarkably well.  
 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4934676/

 

Similarly, even if you were to occlude one ear(obviously not the case when listening to a single speaker with both ears), it is still possible to experience depth and localization due to sound intensity and reverberant cues.  With 2 ears, listening to a single speaker  source, it is quite likely to experience “depth” or whatever you want to call it. 
 

In any event, we all prefer what we like most.  Trying different experiences will sometimes allow us to change our preferences.

 

Maynard

 

As "babadono" has confirmed, depth perception is affected by many factors. There may be some "impression" of depth in mono, but not what you have naturally with 2 eyes that develop normally. 

 

Individuals who perform certain tasks usually must undergo some preliminary testing to ensure they have the required skills for certain jobs, such as a pilot. They cannot be color-blind for obvious reasons. My last job in the Army was Military Intelligence (96D) satellite imagery analyst. I had to have "stereoscopic" vision to even be considered for the MOS. Then of course, your ASVAB score had to be up to par as well in the right areas. 

 

I had a friend a long time ago who had one eye and could shoot pool and beat most anybody with two eyes. He trained himself over 20~30 years how to best use what he had. When he first lost his eye, he said life was much different. 

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2 hours ago, babadono said:

Re Amblyopia... I had severe strabismus from birth and had to have corrective surgery when I was 2 years old. I went and visited the doctor who performed the surgery after I was an adult and right before he retired. He told me then that techniques had advanced to the point that the surgery is now performed as soon as diagnosed whereas when I was young it could not be done until about 2 years old in order for the patient(me) to survive the surgery. The reason they want to perform the surgery ASAP is so the pathways in the brain develop normally. All this to say the pathways in my brain for binocular vision are not there...I see in mono. My brain always pays attention to one eye or the other not both together. I have limited depth perception because of this, very limited. I can drive a car but never could I pilot an airplane.

Perhaps switching from mono to stereo in music can give me insight as to how you all see in "stereo".


Out of curiosity, did you have visual training as a child in an effort to gain binocularity?  Do you also have amblyopia?  There have been some really great results obtained by developmental optometrists in that area.  In fact, some folks who had strabismus surgery as adults have achieved a degree of stereopsis after such training.  It was once believed that after age 7 or so the visual system was too matured to allow any improvement, but that has been proven to be incorrect.  Sorry to dilute my own thread but this is an interesting subject area.

 

Maynard

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1 hour ago, tube fanatic said:


Out of curiosity, did you have visual training as a child in an effort to gain binocularity?  Do you also have amblyopia?  There have been some really great results obtained by developmental optometrists in that area.  In fact, some folks who had strabismus surgery as adults have achieved a degree of stereopsis after such training.  It was once believed that after age 7 or so the visual system was too matured to allow any improvement, but that has been proven to be incorrect.  Sorry to dilute my own thread but this is an interesting subject area.

 

Maynard

Back then what they did and what they did to me was put a patch over my good eye. I think all this did was make my bad eye as good as possible. And further enforced the 2 separate "mono" pathways. When I really, really try to make both my eyes work in unison it makes my head hurt. So no, no specific trianing to gain stereopsis.

Yea and sorry for the thread crap.

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