Mono vs. Stereo || “Psychedelic Sounds…”

Psychedelic Sounds...

Preference towards monaural or stereophonic sound is often a point of contention. Most folks agree tho, that when it comes to the debut from Roky’s pioneering Texas psych garage band, Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, the original mono mix takes top slot. Sundazed definitely thinks so, offering a brand new hi-def mono vinyl, carefully restored from a copy of the long-lost master tapes and the mint IA original (all the details here).

Compare these versions of the powerhouse lead-off track, from Collectable’s stereo CD and the Sundazed mono vinyl LP:

mp3: You’re Gonna Miss Me (Stereo) [ Collectables | 1996 ]
mp3: You’re Gonna Miss Me (Mono) [ Sundazed | 2008 ]

So what’s your take? Hit us up in the comments.
Any other releases you know sound better in mono or stereo?

:) Mono Vinyl Reissue | 2008 | Buy at Sundazed Store ]

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  • They pressed mono LPs for longer than they’ve pressed stereo LPs. Most mono rock records were mixed with care, time, and love by the original artists, and the stereos were tarted up mixes done in days by record companies to move product. This is the case for The Beatles, The Monkees, The Kinks and countless other bands.

    Doing mono right is not difficult. Buy a turntable with a removable bayonet headshell (such as the venerable Technics SL1200), put an inexpensive mono cart on it ($80 for a Graco MC+), and be amazed at how good mono vinyl can sound. And you can buy 10 mono LPs for the price of one commercial CD.

    It’s good that the smarter record labels are issuing deluxe reissues on CDs with mono and stereo mixes. The Kinks, Bee Gees, and Monkees CD reissues are all worth owning.

  • Good topic. I’m not an audiophile, but I do care about hearing the better mix. Some records I have both ways are Village Green Preservation Society, Pet Sounds, and Odessey & Oracle. With the Kinks I prefer the mono on most tracks, but not all. I like a lot of the stereo on Pet Sounds.

    Conceptually I prefer the space you get from stereo, but the Mole makes a good comment about the care that went into the mono mixes back in the 1960s.

  • You are very fortunate to have those LPs in mono. They sell for a very tidy sum nowadays. I find that a mono LP on a good playback system will provide just as much space as a stereo LP. The Frank Sinatra mono Capitol LPs recorded in the Hollywood Studio A (a converted parking lot) can fill a room with sound. It’s a marvelous thing to hear.

  • ib

    Great point of comparison. The attack on Sundazed mono reissue definitely suits the Elevators’ sense of pace regardless of how much care went into the stereo separation previous remasters. The Mole make a good deal of sense, but i tend to agree with Paul in that it’s a question of differing results. I always think that it depends a good deal too on what you were exposed to in the first instance; the trade off between the warm nostalgia of valve driven amps and the clarity of digital transfer.

    Ditto Paul’s point regards “Pet Sounds”. And ditto Mole’s observation with Sinatra.

    Any excuse to dust off Roky is good for me.

  • dk

    I gotta mention The Beatles here – their Mono mixes are in every way superior to the Stereo. At that time Mono was THE mix, and from what I’ve read, most of the group wasn’t even around when the Stereo mixes were completed.

    I have to wonder where “The Matching Mole” is buying his records – “10 mono LPs for the price of one commercial CD” seems like fantasy to me, especially as more and more music fans are turning to vinyl and Mono is becoming recognized as a true high fidelity option, and not just an anachronism from the past.

    On a tangent, I should mention that the 8-track mix of The Doors’ LA Woman sounds amazing and really brings up the rhythm section, which is buried on the CD and LP versions. It’s like listening to that album for the first time all over again.

  • Jason

    Wow, this Sundazed mono may be the best reissue of You’re Gonna Miss Me that I’ve heard yet. And the album? One of the best platters of early psychedelia/garage and rock n roll ever waxed.

  • dk is spot-on about The Beatles. As for where I buy my records, I’m certainly not getting Beatles monos for $2 each (though I did score a rainbow Capitol rainbow mono Rubber Soul for $16US recently). I am finding good classical for those prices, and Monkees LPs go for about $5US. Granted, the town I live in is not hip by any stretch of the imagination, so even though the selection isn’t good, prices aren’t too inflated, either.

    But then again, who doesn’t dream of finding a Kinks Pye mono or Beatles Parlophone mono buried in the back of a thrift store? I’m yet to find a mono of “Forever Changes.”

  • dk

    I actually found an original copy of ‘Forever Changes’ in Amoeba’s (Berkeley) dollar bin.

    Not mono, but still one of the most amazing vinyl digs of my life.

    Thanks for reminding me of that Mole Man! I just put it on for a spin…

  • For a slightly different take on the Beatles albums (actually, just Magical Mystery Tour), check out this series at Rock Town Hall comparing the mono to the German stereo mix.

  • For ’60s dance music, the mono mix is usually preferable. Splitting out the instruments lessens the primitive impact of old ’60s dance records. Nothing’s worse than digital remasters of Motown records, for instance.

    For stoner ’60s records, give me all the artificial stereo effects possible. Better yet, there’s the true stereo version of Magical Mystery Tour, which Paul cites. I will strongly second that recommendation!

  • Saul

    Beach Boys mono “Wild Honey” beats the stereo version, I believe.
    “Pet Sounds” is interesting in stereo, but seems more like a science experiment to me…
    Enjoyable to think about!

  • Brendan

    Saul, I was going to say the same. On mono Pet Sounds, the instruments are so carefully placed within the field of volume it creates an almost “1-dimensional stereo.” Plus, Brian could barely hear from one ear, which might have enhanced his mono mixes.

    Thanks for your thoughts, all. Definitely interesting.

  • Don

    Howdy, thanks for adding Timedoor to your links list. I’m definitely enjoying these two 13FE tracks. Thanks for sharing them. Just curious, what do you like about Timedoor? I’m always interested in feedback.


  • Gotta go with the mono. I’m no audiophile, but mono generally sounds punchier.

    I have the Collectibles version of the 1st Elevators album; looks like I’m gonna have to share out for the Sundazed. I can’t stand it when albums are retroactively mixed to be in stereo. I bought some Phil Spector product (was the the Ronettes collection? I forget) which had been stereo-ized. Blasphemy! It sounded like crap on a stick.

  • Hi Brendan! Definitely give me a mono mix played through an old Fischer or Mac tube amp and a huge Klipschorn speaker.
    Hey thanks for the mention of my radio show!
    Anyone who wants to discover truly underground sounds of the sixties and early 70’s will definitely enjoy it. Just did my annual birthday show of Beatle covers which I call Beatle Blankets. Mostly rare Beatle covers done by various 60’s bands.

  • Jason

    The E-Types do a fantastic Beatles cover.

  • do you mean Live? That was a Merry Go Round cover- not the Beatles- sounds like the Beatles. Emmitt Rhodes form the Merry Go Round was a fantstic Paul impersonator- and The E Types did a great job on it too. Other than that I cant think what song you mean.
    OOPS – sorry I see now that you mean Love of the Loved- haha – forgot about that one!

  • Jason

    Yeah exactly, Love of the Loved – now theres an obscure Beatles track, and the E-Types do a fantastic version. I think it’s one of the great lost singles from the mid 60’s.

  • philspector

    i’ve just pre-order the fabulous 13th Floor Elevators box set “SignOf The 3 Eyed Men”… i just can’t wait to hear this, everybody reading this blog should consider buying the box set!!!


    The Elevators box-set is from master tapes for the most part, and even remastered by the old Elevators producer. Again, there’s lots of talk about this on the Net, like in this thread:

  • philspector

    just received the “Sign Of The 3 Eyed Men” box set….. it is so beautiful… i’m close to tears

    just check the video presenting the box

  • Louder than Milk

    I’m close to tears just watching that video. What a collection of CDs and what a booklet by the look . Those guys are in Top 10 of 60s bands. Plain And Slip Inside This House Simple.

  • blah blah black sheep

    Sorry but this argument is silly…Mono is waay inferior to Stereo on a number of levels, It may sound ‘louder’ but it is muddy & choked in comparison with stereo…when was the last time you went to a gig & covered one ear to listen to the band? Or saw a band with everybody standing in a row in front of the drummer & all the amps stacked one on top of another at the back!
    Stereo gives a truer representation of the band playing right in front of you, i.e drums middle, bass left, guitar right, singer right down the middle etc etc Mono was only used because of lack of technology, money & because jukeboxes, radio & 90% of home playback equipment back in the day was Mono, granted many Stereo mixes where done very poorly without the band having an input (so were the mono mixes in most cases back then) Then you also have those horrible faux stereo mixes which consist of the mono mix panned hard left with a pre fade reverb of the mix panned hard right & the whole lot mixed down to 2 track stereo tape, Another issue because of the lack of quality equipment like eq, limiters & compressors, drums had to be panned left or right to let the vocal cut through the mix in the middle, which sometimes makes the stereo mix sound strange…But I guarantee if you asked any of the original producers & performers of classic LPs like this what format best represents the band playing live, Stereo would be the only reply…Obviously re mixed using better technology to make it sound just as it was played in the room (if tracked this way), This Mono is best argument is pure sentimental rubbish, Mono is an artificial representation of what is actually heard by Stereo human ears if placed directly in front of a band on stage which obviously is the intention of any musical recording, 1st issue Stereo versions of Mono LP’s are way more desirable & expensive because these where produced in very small runs as only really rich people had access to stereo playback systems at home.

  • Brendan

    Ok Blah Blah Black Sheep (funny handle btw). I take issue with some of your points.

    1. I find nothing muddy & choked about Pet Sounds in mono, which I greatly prefer to the stereo mix.

    2. You say it’s obvious that the intention of any musical recording is to best represent the band’s “on stage” sound. This is not always true.

    3. There is nothing wrong with loving something for sentimental reasons.

  • Funny, when I play my mono LPs the soundstage is deep and wide. This is true whether it’s single-mike recordings from the 1940s (Duke Ellington’s orchestra) or multi-mike, multi-tracked recordings from the 1960s (um, The Beatles, Beach Boys, etc.).

    And the soundstage on the new Beatles mono CDs? I swear I heard tablas coming from my garage, and I’m pretty sure Ringo was stage right, which would be my guest room. Weren’t nothing flat about that.

    Now, tell us about about how you tried mono sound reproduction before you dismissed it. Thanks!

  • Jason

    Where is the Lama when you need him? He’s the official 13th Floor Elevators scribe. I think the mono mix sounds much better (check out an original)…it’s that obvious, if you know anything about the 13th Floor Elevators’ debut it’s all about the mono mix. It’s got lots of punch and presence where the stereo mix sounds somewhat unfinished and sluggish. Compare stereo vs mono with “Roller Coaster” and you’ll notice the obvious difference. For some recordings the mono mix works best….My Generation and Piper At The Gates Of Dawn.

  • Len Liechti

    Hey, guys, a fun thread this perhaps, but ultimately a futile one. Mono or Stereo? Valve or solid state? Analogue or digital? Vinyl or CD or MP3? What exactly is “better”? A Beethoven symphony sounds better in stereo than in mono because stereo gives a truer impression of how the orchestra sounds spread out on a stage – and that sort of music was written purely with auditorium performance in mind, so that’s got to be the right way to hear it at home. And you gotta love classical music on CD, without all the crackles and pops in the quieter passages. I first heard rock’n’roll on my grandparents’ massive old wooden-cabinet AM valve radio with twelve-inch speaker, the bass throbbing and the sibilants well damped, and it’s never sounded better. Rock’n’roll was mixed to be played on such primitive gear, using recording kit just as primitive – and initially on 78rpm, let’s not forget. Old fifties tracks sound metallic and harsh on a CD through a modern small-speaker player, where the tops are over-emphasised, and even worse on iPod; their timbres don’t take kindly to being digitised. The Beatles’ early stuff was recorded principally with mono reproduction in mind, because that’s all most people had in those days, especially in the UK. The lousy stereo mixes were an afterthought, mainly for the US market, and were as crude as they were – often simply vocals on one track, backing on the other – because George Martin and his engineer had only two tracks at their disposal to work with from the start. The situation was well reversed by the time of the White Album – what point in “Revolution 9” without all the stereo panning and swirling? Pet Sounds was Brian’s baby, and was constructed and mixed by Brian according to how he heard it through his monaural hearing – the mono mix is bound to sound better, because that’s how the whole project was conceived. When Hendrix was creating Are You Experienced, he and Eddie Kramer played the mixing desk pan slider like another instrument. How flat does that title track sound in mono? I know, I first owned that album in mono. The purity of the recording process since the seventies, with solid state electronics, 48 tracks and eventually digital storage, means that music made during these later years will sound inferior when reproduced on equipment subject to the mechanical distortions and other imperfections we like to think of as “warmth”. Most dance music recorded since the seventies sounds infinitely better on CD than on vinyl: I still remember the first time I heard the kick drum on Lionel Richie’s “Dancing On The Ceiling” and said “wow”. The plain truth is that all music, being of its time, sounds best on the sort of kit it was originally recorded for. So keep your vinyl deck AND your CD player, get yourself an amp with a stereo/mono switch, and stop worrying.

  • Jason

    Hey, it’s funny you mention the White Album. I know the Beatles reissues just came out a couple of days ago. I haven’t bought any yet but the White Album will be the very first purchase for me. My favorite Beatles discs are Rubber Soul and Revolver but the White Album and Abbey Road come right after. The White Album though, I haven’t heard it in a long time because I’m too wrapped up with these local/unknown bands but remember songs like Dear Prudence, Bungalow Bill, Sexie Sadie, I’m So Tired, I Will, Yer Blues, Cry Baby Cry and so forth – amazing stuff, hasn’t age at all and still some of my favorite Beatles tunes are on that record. I love the early records too. Some may say For Sale is uneven or flawed but I think it’s mostly good and the first three songs on that record….I’m A Loser, No Reply and Baby’s In Black are an absolute knock out.

  • Len Liechti

    How about a uReview on the White Album? Flawed but indispensible masterpiece, or overlong self-indugent monument to a crumbling institution?

  • gary

    i never cared for the cramped, fuzzy sound of mono recordings. this one is no exception. maybe if i had monophonic hearing [heard well only out of one ear like brian wilson] i would appreciate mono more, but i do hear in stereo like just about any living thing on earth, and appreciate the increased clarity of true stereo sound. it is good that you offer listeners a choice between stereo and mono versions of this recording. choice is one thing that phil spector and bill inglot deny listeners with their pig-headed insistence on mono-only releases.

  • Aberdown

    I’m going to blow your socks off with this coment but i’m beggining to think all cd’s sound better in mono.
    Pink Floyd certainly does

  • In the world of Beach Boys, here is an excellent resource on the subject:

    I like mono listening, especially in my car & other places where there is limited access
    to both speaker channels equally. Stereo (generally speaking) tends to thrill me only on headphones or within other balanced listening zones.

    Thanks, Brian & please tour the LOVE YOU album this year!

  • Jonathan

    I prefer mono very few albums are a toss up or I prefer the stereo:
    Toss-ups are:
    Odessey and oracle
    Sf sorrow where the mono sounds too thin but the stereo version is crazy and the mono sounds shrill on some songs.

  • To say that “Mono is way inferior to Stereo on a number of levels” may be true of good live recordings. For studio recordings, however, It is certainly not true in cases where, for instance, the voice is placed on one track and an acoustic guitar on the other, rather than them both taking centre stage as in real life. In reality, which sounds better is entirely a product of the mixing and production. In many cases, earlier recordings often sound better in mono because the mono mix was given more care and attention, or because the novelty of stereo at the time led producers to use exaggerated stereo effects which now sound gimmicky. I believe reissues should offer both versions (as recent Kinks and Donovan remasters have done) so listeners can choose for themselves which they prefer.

  • Drew F

    My old South Austin neighbor way way back. I think he lives out at Lake Travis now. Not totally sure. One night at Magnolia Cafe he mentioned heading back to the lake. I like the mono version better. Sounds better to my ears. Bigger sound. Then again my ears are 6 decades old. I need fuller sound nowadays just for normal conversation.

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