Author Topic: Stereo/Mono setting on computer when recording with USB -- Important setting!  (Read 776 times)

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Offline SciNote

I had mentioned this previously in another thread, but I'm thinking this is a really big issue that is worthy of its own thread.  Maybe I just spaced out while setting everything up with my system over the years and missed something, but I do not recall seeing ANYTHING advising me to check the stereo/mono settings on my computer when hooking up a USB audio converter and recording from my keyboard (a PSR-E433, but the actual model does not matter unless the keyboard is so equipped to do USB audio recording directly to a computer without an adaptor -- more on that in a bit).  I only discovered this by accident.  Normally, I was recording on a cheap set-up that used a 1970's amp and a couple of old car speakers as a monitor, so when I was done doing my recording, I knew the quality of what I heard on that system was not going to be great.  To gauge how it would really sound, I would put the recording on a flash drive and then play it in my car, which has a nice stereo that includes a USB input to play music directly from a flash drive.

When I played my recordings in my car, I noticed for quite some time that it was difficult to get a really good sound.  After months of experimentation and tweaking of the Audacity settings, I finally got something acceptable.  But recently, I re-did my keyboard set-up and brought all of the recording equipment to my main keyboard stand, which uses a pair of JBL amplified speakers, as well as a big Cerwin Vega speaker hooked to an (admittedly old) Radio Shack 100 watt amp.  So, when I did a recording on the new set-up, I played it back and immediately noticed that the sound just was not right.  I don't know what made me think of the panning and stereo/mono settings, but I checked that, and that's when I found that one channel of my keyboard was essentially being split and recorded on both the left and right channels on my computer.

Doing a little bit of research online allowed me to discover what I thought was a rather obscure setting on the computer to set the recording characteristics the computer uses when recording with a USB device.  I have Windows 10, and what I found is necessary is to right-click the volume/speaker icon on the lower right part of the screen (near the clock and WiFi indicators).  From there, select "Recording devices", then select the particular device you want to adjust (the USB audio device must be hooked up to the computer while you do this), and then I think you select "properties", and then "advanced" (not 100% sure about the details here) -- and then, you can select an option that allows you to select whether you want the computer to recognize the device as stereo or mono, and to also select the bit rate used.

To me, this is huge, because I have been recording mono for over three years and never realized it.  I just assumed (and yes, I know what happens when you assume) that, since my Behringer USB audio device is a stereo device, that my computer would set it up to record in stereo automatically.  I was wrong!

Maybe other devices are different.  And this brings me to keyboards with built in USB audio outputs, like the PSR-E453.  What happens when you hook this keyboard to the USB port of a computer?  Will the computer recognize it as a stereo device?  Or will you have to tell the computer that it is stereo?  A little while back, someone posted here having trouble getting good levels/sound with the USB audio of a PSR-E453.  Maybe this was part of the problem?  Something to check out!

So, here's an example of what the difference can be.  The following are links to two recordings of an original, copyrighted song that I wrote called "I Still Think About Her".  The first is the original recording, which is mono.  The second is a "remastered" version that is stereo.  In my opinion, you can hear better frequency response and imaging with the stereo version.

The original mono version:

The new stereo version:

Of course, it won't make much of a difference on a tablet or laptop with small speakers, but when played through a higher quality system, or when using good headphones, it can make a big difference.  And I had to do far less tweaking of the original recording with Audacity to get a good sound from the stereo recording.  I will also point out that the original recording was done using an older computer running Windows 7 and an older version of Audacity, so that could explain part of the difference of the sound.  But there is still the stereo/mono issue, which is quite audible, and also quite visible -- when looking for it -- on the visual representations of the recording that Audacity displays.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2017, 10:51:56 PM by SciNote »
Yamaha PSR-E433
Yamaha PSR-520
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Offline SeaGtGruff

I'm a member (but not a very active contributor) at the forums, and I occasionally see people posting about problems getting the left and right channels to record as expected in their DAWs. It goes to show you that things like this can trip people up when they're learning about recording audio, and that there can be a lot of "unspoken" techniques and procedures that old-timers might take for granted but that "newbies" can experience a lot of grief over.

Another thing to keep in mind if you're using an audio connection (as opposed to a USB connection) is that it matters whether you plug the audio cable into your computer's "Mic" jack or "Line In" jack, since a microphone jack is usually mono and the line in jack is usually stereo. Before I graduated to a USB audio interface, I was plugging into the "Mic" jack on the front of my computer and unwittingly recording mono when I thought I was recording stereo. Then one day I was reviewing my computer's documentation to see the specs for its sound card, and I realized that there's a "Line In" jack on the back of my computer-- although by then I'd already moved to a USB audio interface, so my discovery came a bit too late to help me! ::)
Michael Rideout
YPT-400, PSR-E433, PSR-E443, PSR-EW400