Mono Vs Stereo (ps Mono is better for podcasting!)

Want to start a fight between audiophiles? Tell them stereo is a waste of bandwidth, step back and enjoy the show.

As I discussed in the Auphonic post, I’m firmly in the mono camp. What this discussion comes down to, in my mind, is the end user.

Let me start with the podcaster. Too often people equate podcasting with radio. It is, in the same way that Youtube can be equated with television. Not much at all. But the error has occurred. Deciding on a radio model leads to $10,000 recording studios, $5,000 mics and similarly priced editing gear. And it doesn’t work. A single podcaster does not have an audio engineer twiddling knobs and moving sliders to keep their voice within predefined limits. They don’t know how to use such sensitive mics and the sound proofing will always be less than perfect. This leads to money being thrown at chasing the elusive “perfect” recording space. It doesn’t exist.

Equally with the radio mindset comes the idea that FM is better than AM, after all FM is in stereo. I never bought the FM is better argument anyway. I thought it was too tinny compared to the deeper sound from AM or even short wave but let’s not travel that far back in time.

This mindset leads to thoughts like: I can’t afford the full setup but at least I can send my show out in stereo. The greatest benefit of FM stereo was for music. Most likely we’ll be using voice not music so why bother?

Most listeners, it appears, use earbuds to consume podcasts. Quite often people listen with just one earbud, I do. I can still hear the shows and keep a weather ear on my surrounds. Stereo podcasts and occasionally one sneaks through, are unlistenable with one earbud. I just delete those shows. Why make your listener’s experience more difficult? Seriously, why?

Another drawback from using stereo in podcasting is the file size. Now in the modern world, in developed countries, at least in towns and cities, broadband and wifi are reasonable. But there are places where people are still on dial up or use the public library system to access free wifi and that is not quick. So a stereo file will be larger than a mono, by definition it must be.

Always, always, always think about your end users.

Takeaways

  • Stereo is for music, FM radio and old vinyl records.
  • Stereo files are larger than mono and take longer to download.
  • Stereo files mean half the show might be missing for one earbud users.
  • Mono meets the quality requirements of podcasting.

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