Mono Sound Devices Offer Convenience, But Stereo Audio Is Music To The Ears

Mono sound devices offer convenience, but stereo audio provides a more immersive and enjoyable listening experience. Discover the benefits of stereo and why it’s music to the ears. A special feature by Paul Mitchell of Mitchell Acoustics

With music consumption at an all-time high, aided by a huge resurgence in vinyl record sales (in the first half of 2023, vinyl LP sales were up 21.7% from the same period the year before), it will come as no surprise that the stereo audio equipment market is in growth mode for the first time in years. Overall, the audio equipment market size is expected to grow from USD 14.23 billion in 2023 to USD 20.01 billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 7.06% during the forecast period (2023-2028).

This audio renaissance has been powered at least in part by the growing number of Bluetooth speakers and digital personal assistants, as noted in a Medium article back in 2017. But it also meant that fewer and fewer consumers are experiencing music in stereo audio – generally, the mode in which music is recorded and the way the artists intended for it to sound.

The fact is, there is a generation of young music lovers who have grown up on a steady diet of mono speakers, like Google Nest or Amazon Echo. What’s more, older audiophiles, for whom stereo sound was a musical staple, have fallen for the siren song of convenience and cost-effectiveness that these standalone mono gadgets have been crooning.

Of course, stereo headphones and earbuds remain popular and can deliver rich, immersive stereo sound that the standalone speakers don’t. But what about a home-based audio system? How simple is it to get back to a hi-fi quality stereo setup without breaking the bank or requiring you (or your highly-paid installer) to have a degree in computer science before you hear any music?  

It’s true; there are several network audio solutions like Sonos that have proven to be very popular, and for good reason. They produce high-quality sound and are relatively easy to operate. On the flip side, they are expensive and difficult to install, often requiring the consumer to fork out more cash to a professional installer to get the set-up working.

“Like a Transistor Radio”

Bluetooth wireless speakers are omnipresent, and almost every home on the planet has at least one on the kitchen countertop, on a family room end table, and even in the bathroom. But as noted earlier, the sound that a single, cheap speaker delivers is a long way from a high-fidelity stereo experience. In fact, it’s closer to the single-speaker transistor radio our parents used to have on the kitchen table. Great memories, terrible sound.

So how does a consumer get the same stereo experience they have grown accustomed to hearing with their headphones – but get it in their living room? “Proper” hi-fi gear is still available, but I’m not sure the average music lover would feel brave enough to push open the door into this jargon-filled world – a world where the simple fact that you don’t know your woofers from your tweeters is enough to leave you feeling like a half-witted Luddite. Besides, that world is full of pricey gear, some of which will cost more than your last vacation. And it relies on messy cables to make it all work, which in the modern home is a no-no.

But a good, “halfway” technology is available: active stereo speakers. These beauties require no separate amplifier, as it is already built-in. They can be positioned almost anywhere: neatly astride your TV, on a bookshelf, or separate end tables. Plus, they can be connected via Bluetooth so that you can have a hi-fi quality setup via your phone.

However, there is a shortcoming with these devices. To operate as a stereo left and right pair, these “wireless active speakers,” as they’re often billed, require a wire between the master speaker (most often the left channel and the one with the amplifier inside) and the passive right speaker. The giveaway is the presence of two “speaker out” terminals on the rear of the master speaker, which is where the wire connects to the right “passive” speaker.

Wire-Free Should Mean “Wire-Free”

Why does this small detail matter? A fair question – but picture the following scenario: This is your living room, and although you have access to electrical sockets inside the cupboards, which could technically provide power to your speakers, you would have to run a cable between left and right. Where would that cable go? Under the floorboards? What if you rent the place?

If you pull up the floorboards or open the walls, your landlord will likely have something to say. Wouldn’t it be better if the left and right speakers could connect wirelessly?

To circumvent this dilemma, you should be looking for active speakers that require no cable between them for pairing. This eliminates the messy appearance and avoids the logistical nightmare you may experience in trying to find a way to set them up.  A genuinely wire-free alternative means that as long as you have a power socket, you can place them anywhere and enjoy stereo sound that does overdeliver in clarity, power, and sonic accuracy.

There aren’t many speakers on the market that require no wire between them for pairing, but there are a few if you look for them. It will prove to be well worth the search.

Make the Switch to Stereo Audio

Many music lovers are giving up the full, immersive experience of stereo sound, lured by the convenience and lower price point of standalone, mono speakers like those from Google and Amazon. However, in doing so, the listener is not hearing the music the way in the way the artist intended it to sound.

If you decide to switch to a stereo system for a more enriching audio experience, here are the things you should consider:

  • Stereo systems are readily available, but remember to examine all the alternatives. Many might seem like good options, but most have downsides that must be considered.
  • Systems like Sonos work well but are expensive and difficult to install.
  • Both active and passive speakers are an option. But the active version has all amplification built-in, requiring no additional audio components.
  • While some active speakers bill themselves as “wireless,” they still require a cable between the two speakers for pairing. Active speakers without cabling provide far more versatility regarding location and set up.

Regardless of which route you take, it’s essential to take the first step: to recognize that mono sound pales in comparison to the richness of stereo. Once you’ve started down that path, you’ll have myriad options available to you. Let the above parameters guide you as you make your way to the audio experience you’ve denied yourself for too long.


Paul Mitchell is the founder of Mitchell Acoustics, a leading audio equipment company founded with the goal of delivering exceptional sound quality to its customers. The company specializes in Bluetooth devices, including turntables and true wireless speakers.

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