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I'm mixing down a live album from a mono source. The tracks contain guitar, mandolin, vocals, and backing vocals all on one mono track. The audio was captured straight from the tape-out of a mixing board, sent to the recorder before EQ and reverb was applied on the PA. (I made an error at the time of not sending vocals to one channel and instruments to the other.)

While the various sound sources are well enough balanced that I can make the mix sound rather good with some EQ and light compression, I'm concerned that people listening on headphones will experience mono fatigue, where all the audio seems like it's coming from the middle of one's skull.

Is this a valid concern? Are there strategies I can use to mitigate this?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

The concern is valid, to me. First step might be to throw a stereo reverb on and at least regain a little width. Then I'd experiment with various stereo enhancer type plugins like the Waves PS22, Fruity Stereo Enhancer, etc. Or just plain shift the left/right channel by 20-40ms.

It might help to treat your bass frequencies independently from your highs by sending the mix to two buses and using some high-pass/low-pass filters accordingly. Generally bass doesn't need to be super wide.

Of course with these techniques, all instruments are in the same stereo space which can be awkward. You could try and isolate instruments by their frequency range and pan those or only effect upper frequencies with your plugin (say, above 5-10k or something along those lines).

At the end of the day it will come down to what works musically and what just sounds good. A/B, listen with your ears, not your eyes and go with what feels right.

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How can I use reverb and maybe some eq on the reverb to add depth, but also keep the sound mono-collapsable? (Or am I worrying over nothing?) –  neilfein Jul 14 '11 at 6:03
    
You should be fine. Give it a try. If it doesn't work, figure out what the problem is. Is it a phase issue? Consider inverting the phase on one side. –  SeanBlake Jul 15 '11 at 17:59

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