Sometimes mixing is a matter of hearing your music in a few different ways, to bring out any changes that need to be made. One of the simpler tricks to do this is to listen to your mix in mono toward the end of the mixing process.
Most DAWs or mixing boards have a button to test your mix out in mono. It’s there for a reason! Here’s why:
When two tracks are in the same frequency range and out of phase with each other, it can cause a kind of audio signal interference called comb filtering. Comb filtering is a thin and weak sound in your mix.
Sometimes when you’re mixing in stereo it can be harder to catch any comb filtering taking place in your tracks. By removing the added dimension of stereo, it helps to really identify any occurrences of interference.
The added dimension of stereo can add a lot to a mix. But sometimes it can also serve as a crutch that hides what’s missing from the mix. By dropping the stereo field and checking your mix in mono, you can get a clearer picture of how your tracks are interacting with each other and what still may be needed to “glue” everything together.
It’s a lot easier to get a great sound when you’re sitting in a treated room with two high-quality monitors spaced evenly. The problem is that listeners won’t be hearing your music in that setting over 90% of the time.
Think of mono as your worst-case scenario. If you can get your mix to sound balanced in mono, then adding stereo will only make it sound better. But even in those instances where listeners are in less than ideal listening settings, you can know that they’re still getting a good experience of your mix.
Mixing in mono is one of the easier ways to check that your mix is in good shape. Some producers even recommend only mixing in mono at first before going to add stereo. Some live venues have their PAs set up for only mono.
The key to having a great mix and master is versatility. It has sound great on as many systems as possible. Using mono mixing to get a better picture of the balance of your tracks is one of the best ways to ensure that your music is truly versatile.