Why Mono Records are Worth More

Mono discs are considered older than stereo discs making them rarer and more sought after. Learn why mono recordings have started to rise in price and value in recent years.

Why Mono Records are Worth More

Since mono editions outsold stereo copies by a significant margin during the first half of the 1960s, artists and studio engineers used to spend much more time mixing the mono version of their albums than the stereo version, simply because the mono version was preferred by most buyers. Almost 10 years later, in 1957, another major change was slowly introduced in record stores: stereophonic records. These promised immersive sound and other hearing benefits, but unlike the almost immediate switch from '78s to LPs, sales of stereophonic records would not exceed monophonic sales for more than a decade. Mono discs are considered older than stereo discs, making them rarer and more sought after. This is because artists and bands initially recorded older songs with mono audio, which makes them sound better in a mono format.

Like many collectors of good music, I mourned the disappearance of the phonograph record to what was then, and many believe it still is, an inferior substitute from a sound and musical point of view. After several years of revival, used disc containers are now practically cleaned by other serious collectors. Very few new collectors have arrived to create libraries more or less from scratch, so many second-hand record stores have closed. Mail-order companies still offer a good selection, but some collectors feel the need to manipulate and examine the merchandise before deciding. The price of collectible stereo labels is falling, despite the fact that some titles are still on the market. As you may have noticed, mono recordings have started to rise in price and value in recent years.

The process varied, but in most cases the engineers divided the mono recording of the master tape into two signals. Therefore, for popular music (especially rock, R&B and soul) of the 60s and early 70s, if mixed in mono and stereo, mono is usually more worthwhile just because it will have more energy. Let's go back in time and look at some of the main technological advances that vinyl records have gone through to better understand why this choice is important. It seems simple enough, but often the best way to choose between mono and stereo is to research the artist's original recording and what he intended with the album. When the stereo format was designed, engineers came up with an idea that provided 100% backward compatibility with older discs and mono cartridges. If we focus on the basics of production, the recording and mixing processes vary depending on the track, the engineer, the band's input and a number of other factors.

Initially, not all albums were released in both formats at the same time; some record companies had separate numbering systems for mono and stereo albums. I have a copy of Aretha Franklin's first LP that is a stereo copy; it is MUCH scarcer than the mono variety and is in fact very well mixed. On the production side, there was a steep learning curve and additional expenses for releasing stereo discs. You can distinguish each instrument more clearly but they don't stack together to make them sound as powerful as in mono. However, not all record companies were so prepared; even RCA and Atlantic had a limited number of stereo recordings so the industry got creative. I would say that's about a third; most of the time mono recordings were offered by Blue Note itself at the time.

For modern releases vinyl collectors may have to decide between an edition of a disc in color transparent or black. Finally in the early 1960s when practically all albums of new material were released in both mono and stereo Columbia pop records those with mostly red labels adopted a pattern in which the stereo number was 6 800 more than the mono number because that was approximately the distance between the numbers when the label made the decision to coordinate them. Mono is an abbreviation for monophonic (or monaural) sound reproduction and refers to a sound that is reproduced using an audio channel.

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