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Topic: The old stereo vs. mono issue

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Martinez, California (Bay

    The old stereo vs. mono issue

    Hi everyone. I know this issue has been brought up before in the past but I feel a need to bring it up again and get opinions so I can make a final decision as to whether I am going to proceed with my original plans or not.

    I had a very premium system put together about a year ago (see general specs in my signature), which even since then, has been upgraded with more and better hard drives. I own Gigastudio Orchestra 3.2, GVI 3.52, Sonar Producer 6.01, Kirk Hunter Emerald, TBO (both 16 bit and 24 bit), LPC Guitars (both clean and distorted), and recently Garritan Jazz & Big Band.

    My system works great. It is well tuned (although it probably needs some more tweaking to maximize how many instruments can get loaded into memory using GS 3.2).

    But everything I bought was intended to be used for live gigging. I don't compose music and I spend so much time practicing and gigging for my band that I don't do side music projects either.

    I am so frustrated because my band's PA system is not really set up for stereo imaging and practically everything I own sounds lousy in mono. I don't know if there are any tricks to overcome this problem or whether there are piano and brass libraries particularly suited to mono playing.

    I have the ability to send two signals to the PA and run in stereo but honestly, the types of gigs we are doing (clubs, corporate parties, etc), don't tend to provide very good opportunities for good sounding stereo imaging.

    I am about at the point where unless someone can give me some advice that I can use to move forward with more success than I have had up until now, I think I will scrap the whole idea and just sell the entire workstation with all the software on it to someone who will make me a fair offer, considering I now probably have somewhere between $5k and $6k in it (I also have a MOTU 8 port rack mountable midi switch that was purchased with the PC). PCAUDIOLABS built the PC and they have been great with me on support.

    I really thought that as long as I spent enough money, I could get very realistic sounding instruments for live gigging. I don't quite understand why I can go to concerts and hear great sounding music even though I am sitting all the way to one side of the arena yet I can't produce the same thing when gigging with my band. Is there something I'm missing that I can do to help?

    If you don't have any suggestions regarding the stereo vs mono issue but think you might be a person interested in the system, please send me a private message with any questions or offers you might have. I may be willing to consider any fair offer once I've had a chance to review the responses I get.

    I would really appreciate your opinions here because I can't figure out what to do next.

    Thanks ........ Rob

  2. #2

    Re: The old stereo vs. mono issue

    I feel your pain. I have the same problem and have never really sorted it out. The main issue for me is piano sounds, and they all sound crappy in mono as far as I can tell (including the mono piano patch on my Roland RD700SX). The suggestion in the past has been to have a listen to the demos of various libraries in mono, and see which one sounds the least terrible.

    Good luck with this. I wish someone would put together a good mono piano library.

  3. #3

    Re: The old stereo vs. mono issue

    I think you totally missed the point. The purpose of an extensible instrument is the ability to selectively load sounds. Starting out with the assumption that a particular sound will work live, no matter how highly rated, is just plain wrong.

    Until such time that you can post an inquiry on a newsgroup full of musicians and get back a shopping list of softsynths that work live you can assume you are a pioneer and will pay, as you have, dearly for the privilege. If there was a mistake it is yours. I don't recall any of the softsynth manufacturers declaring their instruments to be intended for live playing. It think it's the natural assumption that hardware is for live and software for studio. In other words, until someone decides to actually develop gigging instruments, our quest is strictly parasitic.

    You and I are following similar paths with small differences, I knew I was entering uncharted territory and since I have grown up with microcomputers and am therefore untrusting of technology's promises, built a relatively inexpensive testbed. I also learned a lesson when the Wizoo GS2 piano I purchased online didn't work live. I was told that it was the same as "The Piano" and that "The Piano" worked live. El toro poo poo. In my case, I have made the decision to continue to seek sounds that work even though I know it is going to cost me a fortune in unused products. Why? Because I want to build up banks of definitive sounds that I can use forever. I never want to lose my favorite organ / banjo / guitar / violin etc. sound, even if it is archaic, when I purchase a new keyboard.

    You are right, stereo vs mono is a problem. The newer crop of sound designers have no respect for mono - they weren't raised with it. Ever tried to find the mono plugin for Winamp? The result is even a lot of the newer keyboards, including the Motif, don't work well in mono.

    There are also issues with sounds working "in the mix". Most of the piano's I have sound great by themselves but twinky when played live. And then there is the perpetual issue of ambience. Good live sounds should be totally dry. Purist sound designers can't handle that. They want an instrument that sounds good without any artificial ingredients and that means natural ambience in the sound. It works well in a recording because local acoustic reality is suspended, much as the reality of passing objects is suspended while driving. It doesn't work live, where any recorded ambience conflicts with the local reality.

    FWIW, I've settled on Akoustik with the computer and K-Sounds for my Motif. I'm still working on other instruments - thank god for group buys . Most newer acoustic guitar samples are way too bright for live use - no body. The jury is still out on any sample that needs articulation but you can't blame the sound designers for that. They are trying to shoehorn instruments with natural mod controllers into a keyboard structure. As far as I'm concerned they are doing an amazing job.

    I apologize for adding insult to injury but you can't blame anyone else for your insistance on diving headfirst into uncharted waters when you should have waded. Hopefully you'll stay in and help put together the shopping list we're all looking for.

    And if you do stay in, plan on losing money.


  4. #4

    Re: The old stereo vs. mono issue

    Ive never tried this but have you thought about getting a good quality small mixer and running your sounds into it stereo and running it to the main board. We use Ivory for the piano at our church which seats about 1,000 and it sounds anything but lousy. Have you had anyone else play and you go out and listen. Why would you want to run a pa stereo Ive had this argument before. what do you want the people on the left to hear you dont want the people on the right to hear. This is what you get. Only one third of the audience gets stereo, two thirds crap. I cant believe there is not a piano sound out there that would sound good in mono. It is not going to sound like your in front of a studio set of speakers but nothing else will either. I used a Kurzweil piano for years and did some great live recordings with it just running it mono. Sometimes we expect to much live. I also doubled on guitar and it used to run me crazy how different it sounded from one vinue to the next One week I would think I had the best sound going and the next swear there was something wrong with it. I really think you can make what you have work

  5. #5

    Re: The old stereo vs. mono issue

    Try these Bose Speakers.

    Great for Live playing.
    Deals nicely with your problem


  6. #6

    Re: The old stereo vs. mono issue

    If you are comparing the sound of your gear running through a nice set of stereo monitors and then going mono into a PA, then it will definetally sound not as good. Passable? probally. I have a killer guitar setup, and i can go direct in stereo with some great panning effects. then of course taking half of that signal doesn't sound as good. We hear in stereo, not mono, and I don't blame programmers at all for wanting to get a good sounding instrument right out of the box, that is the way it should be in my opinion. Reverb and such should be controllable of course.

    So, you may need to invest in some more stuff to bring with you if you feel strongly about mainting a stereo ouput. such as bring 2 DI boxes to places, or even a stereo keyboard amp setup or something. Someone mentioned a mixer as well, that might be nice if you are bringing more then one sound module. Or, try to pursuade the sound guys to hook you up in stereo, more then likely, if they are running through a mixer, they should be able to if they have the available outputs, its more a matter of if they want to

  7. #7

    Re: The old stereo vs. mono issue

    Quote Originally Posted by goldberg96
    I really thought that as long as I spent enough money, I could get very realistic sounding instruments for live gigging. I don't quite understand why I can go to concerts and hear great sounding music even though I am sitting all the way to one side of the arena yet I can't produce the same thing when gigging with my band. Is there something I'm missing that I can do to help?
    With those sounds you ~do~ have great, realistic sounds for live gigging. When you listen to them on headphones or through studio grade monitors they sound great right? So you have great sounding instruments, period. The problem you have is that when you feed these great sounds into your PA it sounds crap. So where do you think the problem is?

    Your problem is not the sounds but the PA.

    How you solve this is another issue. One way is to use the sort of PA, with the sort of crews that come with it, that you see being used by the "stars" in those arenas. Not the best solution granted but that would sort you out!

    The other way is to look for sounds that will somehow do what you want going through your PA - and that ain't easy. Ask what others find to work and all you have are recommendations for other PA systems. Its part of the job of being a gigging muso I guess.

    IMHO the best approach is to turn up to a gig with a great sound. If that sound gets mutilated by the PA then to a great degree its not your fault. When you have a good PA to use you can relax in the knowledge that you'll be fully equipped to take advantage of it.

    The last thing I can say is that most of those sample libraries are really designed for studio/programming use. Those great orchestral libs were designed purely to sound "real" with very little regard for ease (or pleasure) of playing. They are not performance instruments. If you want your performance to sound like an orchestra you'll need a PA that can cope with an orchestra, and from what you say I'm guessing your PA is miles below "orchestral standard"

    As for the mono / stereo thing I suggest you get over this quickly! The last time I played a madonna record it sounded pretty good in mono too. You might notice a difference but the audience wont. PA's are not hi-fi's either. Play the ivory plug plugin on a PA in full stereo and you have stupidly large piano - I mean when was the last time you heard a live piano in a theatre where its top notes came from one side of the stage and the low notes the other? Better to play that piano in mono - it will sound much more like the real thing: the sound coming from the centre of the stage.

    My advice is to persevere and experiment. Do not dismiss the thought of using old favourite sounds like synth strings over sampled. Don't dismiss the old favourites like elec piano, B3 organs etc. Keep things simple.

    Impress the audience with your chops rather than your sounds - good chops never fail to please.

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