Whole-house mono or stereo? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 11 Old 11-25-2012, 06:05 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm designing a whole-house setup using a 6-zone 12-channel amp, and I'm pricing out my speakers and cable. I'm curious what people think about mono vs stereo for a whole-house system. I'm definitely leaning mono for these reasons:

- It's background music, so it doesn't need to be ultra high quality
- Stereo costs twice as much for speakers and cable
- It seems like two signals coming from the ceiling will be completely blended by the time they reach your ear anyway

Can anyone convince me otherwise?

Side question. Has anyone bridged the HTD MCA-66, or is there a mono-out setting? I don't see anything in their specs or features.
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post #2 of 11 Old 11-25-2012, 08:29 PM
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Pretty interested in the exact same question. I'm spec'ing out my audio distribution and am trying to determine which sound card to buy. Mono vs. stereo would definitely impact that.

Russ
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post #3 of 11 Old 11-25-2012, 10:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drew80 View Post

- It's background music, so it doesn't need to be ultra high quality

I can't imagine going through the expense and effort to install a WHA system and only get single-speaker mono at the end.
Quote:
- Stereo costs twice as much for speakers and cable

Cabling won't be quite twice - you run 4-conductor cable for most of the run, perhaps 80% more (using Monoprice pricing, which will be cheap anyway). But you're really talking about using a single speaker in each room. That's much harder to place to get good coverage in most rooms - a pair of speakers is actually much easier to place. Light fixtures, ceiling fans, etc. tend to be in the center of the ceiling - where you'd want a single speaker for best coverage. Two speakers divide the room up much better.
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- It seems like two signals coming from the ceiling will be completely blended by the time they reach your ear anyway
Can anyone convince me otherwise?

Why would sound coming from two sources on the ceiling be any different than from two bookshelf speakers? Yes, we don't have as much ability to locate sound sources from above our ears, but you'll still tell a big difference with two speakers vs. one - even if they were playing a mono source.

If you're concerned about budget - try this. Run stereo wiring, install stereo speakers. Connect both speakers to the same amp, as long as the impedance rating will allow (make sure you use 8ohm speakers, and if the amp is 4ohm stable, you're in business). You'll get better sound, although in mono in each room, and can upgrade to an amp with more channels, converting some or all zones to stereo, later as budget allows...

Jeff

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post #4 of 11 Old 11-26-2012, 07:37 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the comments Jeff. A few follow-up comments.

I don't think sound coming from the ceiling will be any different than sound coming from two bookshelf speakers. My point is that stereo is great if you're wearing headphones or you're sitting close and perfectly positioned between two speakers. If you are not perfectly positioned, then the balance is off. And if you are far away, you don't hear the distinct channels.

I'm also installing two speakers around the pool, and I have the opposite problem there. I think the channels won't blend enough. The speakers will be about 40' from each other pointing in toward the pool. So one end of the pool will mostly get the L channel and the other end will mostly get the R channel. It seems like mono is the better solution there too.

I do see your point about positioning speakers. There are a few rooms in the house where it will be tricky to put in just 1 speaker, and in those rooms I figured I would put in stereo or double up on the mono. I might even end up with 3 speakers in some rooms.
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post #5 of 11 Old 11-26-2012, 04:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drew80 View Post

My point is that stereo is great if you're wearing headphones or you're sitting close and perfectly positioned between two speakers. If you are not perfectly positioned, then the balance is off. And if you are far away, you don't hear the distinct channels.

I think you have some misconceptions about stereo... Yes, being in the sweet spot is best for imaging, but positioning of sounds in the stereo soundfield will still be audible. "Far" from the speakers isn't really the issue. You can easily test this for yourself by toggling your receiver to mono output from both speakers and hear the difference.

But again, the real issue you're talking about was a single speaker vs. two speakers per room. That's a very different question compared to whether the source feeding those speakers is producing a stereo output or not (or whether the results are audibly different/better/worse).
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I'm also installing two speakers around the pool, and I have the opposite problem there. I think the channels won't blend enough. The speakers will be about 40' from each other pointing in toward the pool. So one end of the pool will mostly get the L channel and the other end will mostly get the R channel. It seems like mono is the better solution there too.

Ok, now we're talking mono vs. stereo from 2 or more speakers. Yes, outdoor spaces with very undefined listening positions and challenges for speaker placement, a mono (combined L/R, more likely) signal is probably preferable. If the speakers are planned to be 40' apart, you should be looking at additional speakers for that space, so you don't blast the poor person who walks 2' from one... Same principle as above applies, though, more speakers allows for more uniform sound levels throughout the space.
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I do see your point about positioning speakers. There are a few rooms in the house where it will be tricky to put in just 1 speaker, and in those rooms I figured I would put in stereo or double up on the mono. I might even end up with 3 speakers in some rooms.

3 would be a bad idea. 4 would be ok in a larger room. Mostly from a practical standpoint - you'll have difficulty matching levels assuming you're trying to share amp channels among speakers. And 3 becomes just weird, in the "odd, why did he do that?" sense... Best not to be weird in that way. biggrin.gif


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post #6 of 11 Old 09-04-2016, 04:09 PM
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I know I'm a few years late to the party here, but figured I'd add my two cents since I recently read an article that got onto the stereo vs mono subject and the author (this was on some audiophile site, not sure which one but not just any random goof talking about this subject) and he/she first was talking about listening to a single, big $$ speaker that was at a display at a trade show or something like that and I think due to space limitations since trade show space at any well attended show is normally priced by both location (more for well traveled areas) and of course by the sq foot and apparently this manufacturer figured they'd get more "bang for the buck" from their space by only having ONE of each model speaker there, playing in mono.

The point of the article was that at least in this author's eyes (or ears!) this demo worked out just fine at this show and then he/she thought about how that translates to the booming field of whole home audio and how so many people, whether it is a pro install job or a DIY setup, will go to extreme lengths to plan and execute their plan to achieve this "stereo separation" (like often having to put speakers in spots that require far more work to get them into and same goes for the wiring angle if they're hard wired) it is often easy to stand in a room and point to various spots and say "ok we need a left channel over here to achieve some true left/right separation" BUT then when you attempt to get those wires through the walls, etc you may find one heck of a challenge on your hands that other spots that aren't as "stereo friendly" don't pose at all. (I'm talking about an existing home, but even new construction will likely present obstacles, especially when you figure in that you shouldn't just drop speaker wiring ANYWHERE, must keep in mind possible electronic interference from regular AC romex, code issues like firebreaks, etc)

So, the final point was to simply consider when designing a whole home system, that mono might not be a bad choice at all for many of the rooms, where when you think about how this will sound both to the homeowner as well as guests at a party, etc having everything in stereo will not only make NO difference whatsoever, it can actually degrade the end result, such as when the homeowners or a guest sits in a chair in a large living room for instance, right near lets say a right channel speaker. Well, as anyone who's had to listen to just one channel of a stereo system for a while for whatever reason knows, you'll often find on some songs that maybe the backing vocals or a saxophone, etc was actually mixed heavily onto just the left or right channel and if you're only hearing the OTHER channel, you'll be thinking "where the hell is that sax?" Oh, I guess it must've been on the OTHER channel! Having the speakers in some of the rooms running in mono may actually make far better sense for some applications, as well as sometimes being able to take advantage of wiring some of these speakers in parallel to take advantage of a 4 or 2 ohm stable amp and get more wattage out of it.
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post #7 of 11 Old 09-04-2016, 09:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BT5150 View Post
I recently read an article that got onto the stereo vs mono subject and the author (this was on some audiophile site, not sure which one but not just any random goof talking about this subject)
So not a random goof, but an audiophile goof...

Quote:
The point of the article was that at least in this author's eyes (or ears!) this demo worked out just fine at this show
Just an aside but audio quality at a trade show (especially on the "floor" as opposed to a private suite) is horrible. Most speaker companies don't even bother having them on - as audio quality is not what is being judged anyway... Those are "trade" shows to sell to retailers, not "end user" audio shows...

Quote:
and then he/she thought about how that translates to the booming field of whole home audio and how so many people, whether it is a pro install job or a DIY setup, will go to extreme lengths to plan and execute their plan to achieve this "stereo separation"
Stereo separation is one part of this, but 'coverage' is the other. Placing a single speaker in a medium/large room and obtaining consistent coverage means placing it in the center of the room. For WHA that's usually the ceiling, and that's where the light fixture or fan or other decorative elements will be. Putting it elsewhere will usually mean that one end of the room will be much louder than the other because of the relative distance to the speaker. Filling the space with 2, 4 or more speakers allows more even coverage - and lower volume overall to avoid those "hot spots".

Quote:
So, the final point was to simply consider when designing a whole home system, that mono might not be a bad choice at all for many of the rooms, where when you think about how this will sound both to the homeowner as well as guests at a party, etc.
Yes, again, downmixing stereo to mono can have its applications, and this is very typical for commerical spaces, outdoor areas and other larger space or anything with an undefined/random seating arrangement for exactly the reasons you're talking about. But that's a different issue than just installing one speaker.

For WHA systems, which are generally operating in stereo, mixing in a mono zone can be a pain, too. But for small spaces where a single speaker is the correct answer (bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc - places where you can't put a pair 4' apart), it's much simpler to install a dual voice coil (DVC) stereo speaker so that it's still receiving a stereo signal (2 channels) but all coming from a single location.


Jeff

PS - As I was reading this old thread, I found myself answering the questions, then scrolling down to see that I had answered the questions! And I was glad to see that my answers didn't change!

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post #8 of 11 Old 09-05-2016, 12:53 AM
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Well, as I'm not even sure where I recently (like within last couple of weeks) read that article, I also don't know if it was a 2016 dateline either, but I'm assuming it must've been FAIRLY recent. Also, yes of course it must've been a biz to biz trade show (the term "trade show" is the first clue on that part!) I don't know how many, if any large scale "trade show" type events are open to the public, but if any are it sure wouldn't be many. Sure, you'll have a relative handful of people who'll go through a LOT of work to get into the the CES for one, based on false pretenses (I've read a few stories over the years where people try to bogus their way into the CES and some do get in, like it is the holy grail of modern life-its just another damn trade show! Albeit a HUGE one, but just another damn trade show!)

Anyway, the whole point was that whether it was on the floor of some trade show, or in a custom built listening room or in the back of a big white van parked in the local Target lot, where some really nice and honest dudes have lucked into 30 pairs of Klopsch Ferrasee speakers (hey I think I've heard of those Klopsch Ferrasee's, those are usually like $1000 each I think!) and are blowing em out for ONLY $200 a pair just to do a good turn to fellow music lovers! (Thanks guys, I can't wait to hook these new Klopsch's up to the MacKlintosh amp I just got from another big white van!)

It is still the same point, that stereo is great and I'm a 2 channel man all the way. I could not care less whatever the latest 5.1, 7.2, 69, 9.4, 27.5 or whatever movie watching tech is these days since I have no interest whatsoever in the latest Hollywood craptastic movie is and if I can hear the fighter jets approaching and flying over me, I just love listening to music and 2 channel stereo is all I need or want, BUT the point was that for whole home audio, some or even many of the rooms and in that author's opinion at least, certainly outdoor listening is not worth putting much or any effort into stereo vs mono and ESPECIALLY from the point of view of retrofitting a whole home system in an existing home, where as I mentioned you may run into situations for many possible reasons where getting those speakers in the "right spots" to get your true stereo sound is just a total waste of time! Plus, if you're paying a pro to install, its either flat rate that's then higher, often due to a "change order" or add on charge due to the unforeseen obstacles they ran into (and having renovated MANY older homes, mostly on the higher end, an A/V installer who doesn't allow for unforeseen obstacles in those walls is NUTS, there's always going to be multiple surprises!) or if its DIY, well then what value do you put on your own time and spending that extra 4 hours (or maybe 4 days!) just to get those several speakers in those absolutely necessary spots to get that "true stereo", when you could've run that room in mono, had a hell of an easier time installing and NO ONE will ever notice a bit of difference!
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post #9 of 11 Old 09-05-2016, 03:54 AM
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Maybe this was already mention- most live concert sound is mixed mono otherwise people on one side of a concert venue or towards the middle or back might not hear all the music.
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post #10 of 11 Old 09-05-2016, 04:49 AM
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Yes, I've heard that same thing regarding live shows and I remember from being in the bar and club biz years ago that when DJ's really started to become popular as more than just the guy/girl who spins music at say a dance club, where they probably never had any truly "live" music (not trying to make a backhanded slam on DJs, just trying to differentiate between live acts where a bunch of people show up with instruments vs today's "DJ" acts which I do consider music and something that takes talent. I'm sure my attempt at being a DJ live would result in most leavimg early!) but once DJ's began to play venues that normally only hosted the people showing up with their instruments, I do remember hearing this same story, where the DJ is handed
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post #11 of 11 Old 09-05-2016, 03:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ndabunka View Post
It was WAY overkill. I have SO many speakers in this 3,600 square foot home that I can quite easily fill the house with music and not be able to hear anyone talking at a party. Of course, we do turn down the audio to background levels. There has never been a time where I have been concerned about the sound stage (I have three separate surround systems in the office, living (2-CH & 5-CH) & a HT (now Atmos 7.2.4) that are used for sound stages. Without a doubt the number of in-ceiling speakers we put in this house were my worst audio/video investment... ever.
Sorry to hear that... Without knowing the details of your system, do you only use it for parties, not for other, more everyday uses? I have 10 zones in a similarly-sized house, and yeah, I don't think I've ever had them all on at the same time. But I do use at least one zone daily, and 5-6 "frequently".

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In the process of re-working our WHA I am changing the signal to the WHA to be mono & will only be connecting one of the speakers in each location so twelve of the 24 WHA speakers will be doing nothing. I would pull the extras out and sell them on eBay but the $'s made on them would only go to pay for someone for ceiling drywall repair all over the house so no real point there.
Before you make any changes, I'd suggest you test to see what it sounds like with only one half of each pair working. Again, the use of two speakers per room (whether that's a true stereo pair or two mono speakers we can ignore for now) is for coverage and consistent volume levels. I think you'll find that the sound will come out unbalanced, especially in comparison and based on the speaker placements assuming a stereo setup.

Furthermore, most/all of the residential-geared WHA systems are expecting stereo sources and stereo zone outputs - they don't generally deal in mono. If you find a system than will do the mixing in system without accessories, that would be good info to share!

Jeff

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