What sounds can be effectively recording using just one channel (mono)?



Due to my seemingly more restricted budget (life is as it is and things keep popping up) I am still left very much with my current setup as is, and it looks like I cannot really purchase much else for at least a couple of months but I want to get going properly recording sounds.

I currently have a MacBook Pro, a Apogee Duet (fantastic mic preamps and D/A, A/D convertors) and a Shure SM58 and a top drawer microphone, the AKG C414-XLS.

I'm desperately wanting to get a portable recorder (looking at the Tascam HDP2) and a stereo microphone (most probably a Rode NT4) and shotgun and all the other bits to make up a decent sound recording rig. But as I mentioned, this isn't going to happen for a while.

Though obviously just talking about it and not actually just getting on with it, is definitely an issue here! But I'm wanting to ask you guys what sort of sounds I could record best I can for use for other people to use in their multimedia projects that can be done inside, with my laptop, my audio interface and my AKG? (that microphone really is fantastic, I'm lucky to have it) ...because really I can get fantastic quality with that and the Apogee.

But do sounds in sound libraries etc rarely come in just mono? Do I just be clever and record the same sound twice and layer them into stereo? What sounds can I realistically do with my current house-bound setup? I just need some ideas and some nudges in the right direction to get my imagination going.

If it's anything, I use Audiofile Engineering's Wave Editor, Ableton's Live, Apple's Logic Pro and I have the Sound Toys Native Bundle of effects on my computer.


Posted 2010-07-31T16:49:12.587

Reputation: 531



Many sounds are going to be recorded in mono. The only things that are really done in stereo are large effects (explosions, gun shots, big metal hits, other hits, etc...), ambiences, and some hard effects, but not many.

Most things that happen on a screen are localized to a particular area of the screen. If you see a door slam on screen, you'll pan a mono door effect to the proper position on screen. You might use a stereo reverb to get a bit of a stereo effect from the room, but an actual stereo door is going to sound out of place. Same thing goes for most sounds that you'll put to picture.

Game audio, as Haydn mentioned, it vastly mono, since most of it's placement isn't determined by a set position on screen, but rather the character's positioning and environment. It's then augmented by effects, such as delays and reverbs, sometimes eq for proximity.

So, all that being said, you can do a ton of work with a mono mic. I have a pair of those 414s. Great mics! You can pick up some really cool detail with that mic. The biggest problem, in my experience, that you'll run into with that mic is background noise. LDCs, in general, pick up a lot of ambient noise while recording, so you'll have to make sure to be in a very quiet environment to do your recordings. Also, while recording at home, make sure to have as much padding in the room as possible. Blankets, pillows, rugs, etc... are great to minimize the strange acoustics of a house or apt.

You may also want to use the tightest polar pattern on the mic to minimize off-axis noise. The only drawback being that the tighter the polar pattern gets, the more colored the sound gets. It's really a subjective thing though. Just make sure to listen intently to make sure you're getting the sound you want.

Good luck, and have tons of fun recording!


P.S. I've found that a big motivator when getting started is to have an outlet, like a blog or something, to share your sounds. Having an audience heightens the experience and opens it up to critiques and all.

Colin Hart

Posted 2010-07-31T16:49:12.587

Reputation: 7 588

@colin-hart Thanks for the great answer back. That's put me in the right place to get going on this. It's purely down to lack of experience and having anyone else to talk to about these things... That's why this site is a god send to me. And you're right, having an outlet is what I need to focus... Which is what I'm working on as I speak! Thanks again. – littlejim84 – 2010-08-01T06:33:17.870


The main reason to record stereo is to capture:

  • movement
  • acoustic space/perspective

Movement is obvious in eg a car pass but is also present in many objects, since objects often move as they make sound....

Of course I would rather have a mono recording of something than NO recording of it... and that should be your guide until you have the ability to record stereo (where appropriate)

I think its important to sometimes seperate the act of capturing audio from that of how it will be used, simply because you can never predict how the sound will be used.... One day its a point source and used as a mono element panned in 5.1, the next day it may be used as a layer in an LCR for a close up... Personally I'd prefer to have a coherent stereo recording and make the decisions once I know the actual use of the sound. There is a big difference between something with a narrow stereo field and mono...

Have a read of this article by Randy Thom where he mentions the Haas effect. http://filmsound.org/randythom/finalmix.htm

"The Haas Effect obviously isn't limited to music. Any mono sound that you send equally to two or more widely separated speakers will sound like it is coming exclusively from whatever speaker is closest to the listener. "

Relatedly I would have been keen to buy that CINEMATIC METAL IMPACTS library BOOM released until I read it was mono - you cannot tell me that standing in front of a large metal impact is a mono experience! (I'm not saying its unuseable, its just not what I would expect or want)

Sorry long answer... heres a short one: If recording in mono I'd focus on close up sounds, where there is no stereo movement and the acoustic isn't apparent....


Posted 2010-07-31T16:49:12.587


1ps I totally agree with Birdhouse: "Don't wait to record! If you have the gear and the desire, get started and begin building your library."

Its like travel; you think you are going from A to B, but its what you find on the way to B that is interesting! Eg decide to record every object in your kitchen - I bet you find some unexpected gems that you never knew existed sonically! – None – 2010-07-31T23:32:49.757


Consider yourself fortunate to have such quality gear! Although it's not an easily portable setup you can still do some great, controlled recordings in-house and, if you are so motivated, pack up your gear and go on location.

For years I had an iBook/MBox rig that I carried around before I invested in a truly portable setup. Once you get the hang of it you can be quite productive, and I still use those recordings in film and video game soundtracks.

Regarding mono vs. stereo recordings, I find that most things function just fine in mono, but others are much better in stereo/multichannel, such as ambiences (beach, forest, freeway, etc).

The most valuable advice I could give you is: Don't wait to record! If you have the gear and the desire, get started and begin building your library.

Jay Jennings

Posted 2010-07-31T16:49:12.587

Reputation: 15 432


Many many things... I've got an AT8015 hypercardioid shotgun and although it's got a high off-axis coloration it's doing neatly for many things in the house if you know how to point it (fridge pump, sliding door, windows...) and outside the house (sawing wood, car servos, impacts...).

You're actually very lucky to have a such a versatile mic, I wish I had a cardioid for all the big stuff I can't really do like shaking trees, engines and stuff... There is definitely a lot you can do! I find I lost myself into recording lately, giving up design slightly. I believe that if you do design and need stuff, then it'll help you focus your recording, which I need to start doing.

Justin Huss

Posted 2010-07-31T16:49:12.587

Reputation: 2 656


The vast majority of the sounds I put into computer games are mono. The game's audio engine determines how much of the sound is sent to each speaker, usually based on input from the player.

Haydn Payne

Posted 2010-07-31T16:49:12.587

Reputation: 1 150

@hayden-payne Thank you. This is very very interesting to me. And it makes a lot of sense, never really thought of that (though now you say it, it is obvious) Thanks for the reply! – littlejim84 – 2010-08-01T06:35:30.710

That being said, do you find that combining a stereo source into a mono file is good enough or do you prefer and only use mono? – Chris – 2011-06-04T20:19:54.820

@Chris - I usually record in stereo (because it sounds so much nicer than mono!) and either merge both channels or just take the left or right to get a mono recording. – Haydn Payne – 2011-07-02T09:33:05.417


It really depends on what you do with the sounds or what you are recording them for. if you are a music producer/beatmaker like me, recording in mono is just fine... you don't have to record you own library it would leave you without enough time to actually produce something with it.

I got a huge library of sounds and most of it is downloaded sample packs and libraries Vst's etc. from torrent sites etc. Like you I also have Sound Toys but I just downloaded it from Kick Ass Torrents like basically all my Vst's. If you know what sounds you want you should be able to easily find most of them online.

I basically only record the sounds I need/want that I don't have readily available or just to make my production a bit more unique.

and with that, basically Everything is easily recorded in mono,

the only thing that you will be unable to record are sounds like a Synthersizer with heavy stereo panning going on or something, or vinyl record. also ambience tends to get nicer with stereo but again it's not necassary.

Microphones are generally mono, so anything to be recorded with a mic in the field usually is mono. unless you also want to capture the motion (like a car passing by) I personally don't really see the added value of recording in the field with 2 mics. well I do but it's overrated I think. because you'd have a left and right channel with different characteristics. you'd still be better off recording to 2 audiotracks mono. this is so you can decide for yourself what is the best balance between them. even if you were to position 2 mics far away from each other or what ever to give stereo effects like cars passing by. 2 mono audio tracks would still be better because it leaves more room for adjusting etc. also you could easily create the illusion of a car passing by with just a single microphone and some clever audio panning etc.

guitars/basses through DI are mono, you can how ever put more mics infront or behind the amplifiers and it can enhance the sound your getting but it is not necessary. drums percussion sounds any other sound are always recorded with mic's so yeah mono again

I do have the ability to record stereo.... though I rarely ever use it except for recording Vinyl samples

yes sound libraries do often contain stereo sounds, but lots of them are originally mono and we're tweaked with fx to become stereo so your sound toys bundle is more than capable enough to make your mono sounds into effective and original stereo samples.

there's a ton of tricks to make a mono sound become more stereo.

And your own solution, Record it twice and layer them stereo, is actually a really good way to get it done. just be sure not to record it from the same position because that would destroy a bit of the purpose I mean no sound sounds the twice so that would indeed make it stereo but the purpose of stereo recording is to give it more dimension and or characteristics so positioning you mic a bit different for the second recording to layer would be smart.

good luck to you

Unannounced Guest

Posted 2010-07-31T16:49:12.587

Reputation: 11


Mono and stereo recordings are both helpful, depending on the circumstances. Unless you're recording a specific sound for a specific project you never quite know when and how the sound will be used. Any time I record sounds to add to my library I do it with three channels: a stereo set and a mono channel. My Sanken CSS-5 goes in channels 1-2 on my SD442 then channels 1-2 on my 744t while my Sanken CS3E is in channel 3. This enables me to have complete flexibility for the use of the sound but it does make for more work in editing them and keeping everything straight on the computer.

Matthew Freed Audio

Posted 2010-07-31T16:49:12.587

Reputation: 1 160


listen closely to some library effects and you can hear, although they're 2-tracks, the sounds themselves are sometimes mono. consider "spot" effects (single point source) - they are v.often mono. another thing that's purely mono: single person's voice. also: foley effects.

snap your fingers and imagine the sound originating from that single point, and bouncing off all the walls in the room. for the snap you only need mono (+pan). the sound of the space demands more channels.

some of the impulse responses in Logic's Space Designer can add subtle stereo to your material...


Posted 2010-07-31T16:49:12.587

Reputation: 5 521

Do you know of a way to use Space designer impulses in another program? – Chris – 2011-06-04T20:33:17.223