If you’re like most everybody else, you’ve probably got stereo sound for your audio. Basically, the audio channel for one speaker is separate from that of the other. Each channel may give you a bit of a different sound, allowing you to hear more than a single dimension to the sound as though you heard it in real, day-to-day life.
While it’s possible to pick out different sounds from any speaker, you’ll get the closest feel when you use a pair of headphones or earbuds. This will surely make it easier for you to experience multidimensional sound. Try listening to one of your favorite songs, and you can easily tell when a certain part can be heard from one ear, from the other, or from both at the same time.
Issues With Sound Quality
While multidimensional sound seems nice, it’s not always the better option. If you can listen to both channels simultaneously and equally, then you won’t have a problem. But what if you have hearing issues in one ear or you want to share one earbud with someone? Most probably, you’ll find that most songs will sound strange or even flat out ugly.
Of course, Apple knows this. They’ve made the option to switch from stereo to mono available on your iPhone and other devices from the company. In other words, you’ll be able to listen on mono mode. This simply means that all sounds can be heard together from each earbud, whether you’re wearing only one or both at the same time.
iPhone: Stereo vs. Mono iPhone Settings
Mono and stereo settings on the iPhone have been there for a while. However, not a lot of users know their differences. They know these are two distinct ways of listening to the audio, but not exactly how.
Certainly, it’s not just your iPhone that has this mono vs. stereo option available. In fact, on most electronic devices with speakers nowadays, this feature is provided in the settings. That includes not just your Mac or your iPad but electronics with speakers in general, such as your TV, your car stereo, and the rest.
Getting the Most from Your Sound
Anyhow, you’ve likely seen people walking around with a single earbud plugged into either ear. Aside from having hearing difficulties, another reason people do that is when they want to listen to music or any audio on their iPhones while keeping one ear well tuned in to the sounds around them.
Imagine if you’re walking downtown or even crossing a busy street. Definitely, you’ll still want to be able to hear what’s going on in your surroundings while your other ear is listening to music or whatever.
The only problem is, each time you do this, you won’t be getting the fullness that the sound was created for. That’s because, as we have mentioned, stereo settings separate different sounds between earbuds to give a deeper, richer listening experience.
So whenever you want to listen with just one earbud, make sure you take advantage of your iPhone’s option to toggle between stereo and mono modes. Obviously, when you just want to listen with one ear, mono is the better option.
Mono Sound and Its Advantages
Mono, or monophonic, refers to a system in which every audio signal is combined with the others and delivered to you through one (hence, mono) audio channel. But mono systems aren’t necessarily restricted to your iPhone’s earbuds.
You can also have them on loudspeakers, including those that are positioned at considerable distances from each other. The essential difference between mono and stereo sounds is that mono doesn’t come with directional differences, and all sound comes together at once, on each of the speakers.
Types of Mono Systems
Single-channel center clusters and distributed loudspeakers (with or without architectural delays) are some of the most widely used types of mono systems. But don’t think that these systems aren’t full-bandwidth or full-fidelity. Either is always possible, and a rich sound is definitely still attainable.
But, of course, the most important advantage to mono is still the fact that you can hear exactly the same signal. And you’ll hear it at the same sound level as everyone else who is listening. This is why speech reinforcement is more compatible with mono systems, which make speech much easier to understand.
Although stereo is still the more popular audio system today, audio can be beneficial in certain scenarios. For instance, Elvis Presley had his songs on mono. AM radio stations back then favored this mode for hit songs. At that time, stereo had just been discovered and did not capture the attention of anyone, much less famous musicians.
As performers wanted their music in mono, their recordings tend to sound better in that mode. In addition, mono is a more suitable format for public speeches as it is superior in terms of clarity, with only one voice demanding complete focus.
Differences in Sound Modes
In any case, it’s pretty clear that mono and stereo provide two very different listening experiences. Even if the stereo has become more common today, whether for home audio systems or professionally recorded music, mono offers specific benefits for those who want excellent recorded sound quality.
The key distinction between mono and stereo lies in the type of signal which is transmitted to a speaker by an amplifier. We are not talking about the number or type of speaker, though. Hence, working knowledge of stereo and mono sound is important for consumers. This is perhaps especially true for audio technicians who would like to provide a superior listening experience.
Also, like several other questions regarding sound systems, there is no such thing as the right or wrong choice. If a mono system has been designed well, it will be appreciated by people more than anything else on the market.
What’s most important is that the speaker design, like the one on your iPhone earbuds, will work perfectly to give you the sound quality you need.
Switching to Mono Mode on Your iPhone
So how do you switch your iPhone to mono mode? It’s easy:
Settings > Accessibility > Hearing > Audio/Visual > Mono Audio
You can switch back and forth between mono and stereo modes. This means if you just want to listen from one ear, you can get all the sounds so you can get that robust audio experience from your iPhone.