The Difference Between Mono, Stereo, Surround, Binaural and 3D Sound
Audio is in the midst of a renaissance. The new iPhones now come standard with stereo speakers, Bluetooth headphone sales have surpassed those of wired, Apple has removed the headphone jack, Podcasts audiences are doubling by the MONTH and the rise of virtual reality content has both brought binaural audio, a century old audio format back into the spotlight and introduced a new one: 3D Sound.
The way we create and consume sound on our mobile devices, desktops and home theaters is changing. It’s important to understand the difference between these formats since one might be better used in your story than others. Not every interview wants to be recorded in binaural, but not every podcast wants to be recored in mono. It’s important to know what format you want your sound recorded in, as it will affect how your audience takes in the experience.
One of the most widely used formats out there, mono (meaning one) audio is single channel audio. With mono, all audio is sent through one channel for playback. For example, if you are listening to mono audio on headphones, you will notice that whatever you hear in your right earbud, you will hear in the left earbud. That is because your headphones are playing back the same single channel audio file into both earbuds. You won’t hear the drums in your left ear, or the guitar in your right. Everything will just sound like its right in front of you, evenly dispersed through both earbuds. Your iPhone’s built in mic captures mono audio. Hear the difference below:
An upgrade to mono, stereo audio is 2 channel audio. With stereo audio you can localize audio sources to the left and right when listening, but not above, behind or below. Most of the music you listen to on Spotify or shows you watch on netflix have been mixed in stereo so that you can have drums mixed to the right, or sense a character walking on from the left of the screen. Hear the difference below: