The difference between mono and stereo in the use of a wireless monitoring system is very profound.
If you think about it, we experience life in stereo. We even describe sound reproduced by systems with multiple channels of stereo as “rich” because it comes even closer to how we naturally experience sound.
In the case of a wireless personal monitor system, utilizing stereo gives a sense of space. In fact, playing really gets fun and expressive when I forget that I’m wearing a wireless personal monitor and can hear everything I want and need to hear!
Aside from achieving a more natural monitor sound, using stereo for wireless personal monitor mixes has another very practical aspect to it: I have more “room” to build a mix.
When running a wireless personal monitor system in dual mono, I hear the mix dead center since both ear buds are reproducing the same signal.
That is a problem when I need to hear kick, snare, overhead drum mics, bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitars, click, percussion, background vocals, the worship leader, a choir, loops, brass instruments and any other elements that might be onstage during a worship service.
When using dual mono, I have to choose three to five things to monitor and everything else takes a back seat. When I use wireless monitors in stereo, I have a much larger sound field to use.
I’ll pan background vocals slightly left, the worship leader slightly right, acoustic around 30 percent right, piano around 30 percent left, kick and bass dead center, overhead drum mics around 50 percent right, percussion 50 percent left, electric guitars 70 percent left and right and so on.
With a stereo mix, things don’t compete as much and I can monitor many more instruments with much less volume!
From an ear health standpoint, I feel a lot better about a stereo mix. As I mentioned earlier, a dual mono mix places everything dead center.
So, my mix consists of layering a few instruments on top of each other. The only way to get more room is to increase the gain which takes my mix louder, whereas a stereo mix allows me to take my mix wider. In fact, I am able to use 25-35 percent less volume with a stereo mix!
I use wireless monitors approximately 12 hours every week to monitor the ministry teams I lead, as well as participate in leading the church in worship.
With that said, I can’t afford to only hear a handful of instruments when there is a stage full of artists singing and playing their hearts out and I won’t afford to damage my hearing, diminishing the gift that God has placed in me and the joy I get using them!
Andrew Catron is associate of worship ministries at Lee Park Baptist Church in Monroe, NC
For more worship audio tips and techniques visit Sennheiser.com.