There’s a reason why 7 and out of 10 of the most followed users on Twitter are musicians. Twitter and its live-streaming app Periscope supports stereo playback, today’s standard audio format. But Facebook and its many apps, including Instagram, WhatsApp, Mentions, and Messenger, still compress multi-channel stereo recordings into mono — or the same audio format as AM radio. Only one of these two platforms recognizes the importance of high-quality audio, not only for musicians but for all creators whose content contains an audio component. Whether you’re posting for professional reasons or simply to invite other people into your singular experience, Twitter is still the clear-cut choice for sharing audio content that resonates.
You’d think that Facebook would’ve gotten around to supporting stereo by now. Could it have something to do with data limitations? No, not a chance. Video uses up way more data than audio does. If Facebook changed its upload standards from mono to stereo — which is easy enough to do — the difference in data intensity would be nil. So why hasn’t Facebook upgraded to stereo yet? If there’s an obstacle in Facebook’s way, we can’t see it. And it’s not like we’re the only ones scratching our heads…
Even if Irvin Cee never heard back from the Facebook Help Team, it’s a wonder more musicians like him aren’t flooding Facebook with calls for change. For years, users besieged Apple with questions about why the iPhone only recorded in mono. Now — finally! — the iPhone 7 features a two-speaker system for stereo recording. But when you post an iPhone 7 video on Facebook, it gets knocked right back to the square one of sound. Mono audio runs every recorded sound through a single channel. When you play it back with headphones on, each earbuds play the same exact song. A stereo recording designates two independent sources for playback. Play that back with headphones on, and the sounds you’ll hear in your left ear will be different than the ones you hear in your right. Stereo is so much richer and fuller than mono because it adds a second dimension to sound. Here, just listen to the difference between these two live streams. The first is on Twitter’s Periscope, the other on Facebook Live.
Periscope and Hooke Audio Live Stream Test https://t.co/7IMs3EmdeK
— Hooke Audio (@Hookeaudio) January 2, 2017
Facebook Live and Hooke Audio Live Stream Test
Posted by Anthony Mattana on Monday, January 2, 2017
With more and more users taking advantage of live streaming, content creators need a social platform that offers high quality audio playback now more than ever. A live stream instantly transports you to another place, putting you you in the perspective of the person recording the video. It’s designed to be an immersive experience, in which audio plays a crucial role. The videos above were recorded in binaural audio, a.k.a. 3D audio, which offers an even more immersive listening experience than traditional two-channel stereo. Facebook closes you off to that experience, keeping it at mono audio.
Binaural audio is now poised to make a huge impact, just like two-channel stereo did before it. When the tools for stereo recording and playback first became widely affordable in the 60’s, they opened up new pathways to creativity for artists of all kinds, who in turn produced groundbreaking work that went on to shape popular tastes. We all have a sensory expectation of stereo audio now, even if all of us are not fully aware of that. If you were to somehow stumble into a movie theater showing a film in mono (it’s never going to happen, but just say you did), you’d probably walk back out of the theater within the first minute. The images on screen just wouldn’t look the same without the stereo soundtrack you’re used to — the quality of sound that brings images to cinematic life as you know it.
The same holds true for modern-day pop music, which would literally be impossible to produce in mono. When Live Nation was looking for a partner to live stream concerts, the choice was obvious. We may have given our smartphones and social platforms a pass for awhile there, but at this point, there’s really no excuse for any tech giant to be making products that are stuck in the mono past. Not when the 3d audio future awaits, and boy can it do some amazing things…
Stereo channels were the next step up from just using mono, but why is it so hard to upgrade to even that? You get a richer sound and a more in-depth feel of the music. Which musicians and artists all understand, but the platforms in which they use don’t seem to. Facebook seems to be a bit stuck in the past by just utilizing a mono channel system.
But mono producing and recording seems almost pointless at this point. Why go back when you can simply move forward and give your viewers a more immersive experience? Technology has always been great at moving forward, and we simply have to catch up with it and learn with the curve. That includes switching from mono to stereo for a better listening experience.