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Topic: Why are sample libraries stereo?

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  1. #1

    Why are sample libraries stereo?

    I've been playing around with converting some of my stereo sample libraries to mono, in order to halve the size and allow me to load more instruments in my templates. I've been doing this in Giga 3.0, but I think the principles involved apply equally to any program.

    I've been very surprised by how little difference I hear in many cases between the stereo samples and mono versions of them, created using the built-in utility in Giga, and keeping just the left side.

    The first library I converted was Quantum Leap Brass. There was a discernable (thought slight) difference between the stereo and mono versions. I could only describe it as a kind of "glow" to the stereo sound that wasn't there in mono.

    I heard less difference converting a few selected patches from the PMI Bosendorfer 290, which surprised me since pianos are supposed to rely so much on stereo ambiance.

    So far I've been thinking I'd convert all my brass and woodwind, but maybe keep strings in stereo to maintain the sense of spaciousness of a large section. However, today I just had a go at converting some of Garritan Orchestral Strings, and I swear I can't hear any difference at all! The mono left version sounds exactly the same as the original stereo to me.

    Is there something I should be listening for, that I'm not aware of? Is one of my ears not working? Or is the whole idea of these libraries being stereo a pretty pointless waste of hard drive and RAM space in the first place?

    I should maybe add I'm talking about auditioning single patches. I haven't tried doing a complete arrangement and playing it with all the parts stereo vs all the parts mono. Maybe in this case all the little differences would add up to something substantial, I dunno.

    But I just wonder what it actually is that stereo is supposed to contribute to samples? I can understand in something like EWQLSO, where each section is recorded in its stage position, that you need the stereo effect to hear the positioning. But outside of that, with anything recorded without any particular panning, what's the point?

    I don't get it.

    It's very tempting to go ahead and convert my entire collection, instantly allowing me to load twice as many instruments for the same RAM load! But I look at the fact that these developers produce instruments that are twice as big as they'd otherwise be, to make them stereo, and I think there must be some point to this, no?

    It was interesting for me to note that the Scarbee Rhodes and Wurlitzer, which are two of my all time favourite libraries ever, are recorded in mono.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Re: Why are sample libraries stereo?

    If everything were mono, everyone would complain that they wanted stereo. When I need mono, I just do whatever's necessary to get something stereo down to mono.

    I think developer approaches are from the mindset of what the typical end user is going to do...which is to lay these pre-made sounds into a final stereo track. Ok...how does that happen with real instruments in a real studio? Well...real pianos mostly get mic'd in stereo and laid into a mix in stereo on pop/classical/jazz whatever. Ok then...I'm going to make my piano sample library stereo.

    Let's see...what usually happens with real Rhodes and Wurlitzer pianos. A mono guitar cable gets plugged in and run to the console. Don't know many people setting up stereo mics against a Rhodes amp. Ok...I'll make my Rhodes/Wurlitzer library in mono.

    I'm a little out-of-the-loop regarding the bigger orchestral everything-in-stereo libraries. There are so many of them...and so many geared towards huge, film-scoring uses....and I always think to myself....are there really as many guys scoring films as there are rock & roll guitar pickers who occasionally need orchestras? There must be...because these types of libraries keep coming out. So somebody's buying them. And the guys who don't like the stereo layouts are probably doing what's necessary to convert to mono when needed.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Oct 2005
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    Re: Why are sample libraries stereo?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ouch that hurts
    Is one of my ears not working?
    Huh?

    Well, one thing is for sure: there is more flexibility. It is much easier to make a stereo sample mono than a mono sample stereo.

    Cheers.

  4. #4

    Re: Why are sample libraries stereo?

    Yeah you've both touched on something that I hadn't really thought of: If a developer releases his library in stereo, then users can always reduce it to mono if they want. But if he releases it as mono, then no-one can make it stereo.

    So there's a case for producing them as stereo even if the difference is very slight.

  5. #5

    Re: Why are sample libraries stereo?

    Isnt there a loss of ... integrity (lack of a better word) when converting from stereo to mono. You are combining two independent channels, how could it be possible to recreate an original mono sample. Aren't there issues with phase and adding waveforms etc. Thats about as technical as I can get about the subject ;-P Just speculation on my part

    It seems like both should be available. On double sided dual layer HD-DVD.

    I wonder how many libraries have faked their stereo .. hmmm

  6. #6

    Re: Why are sample libraries stereo?

    I think it depends on the context. Solo instruments are fine in mono. Ensembles aren't. In either case, if the developer intends to include the natural ambience, then stereo (or surround) is required.

    Personally, I like mono & dry for solo instruments. I can mix and match the ambience later as needed.

  7. #7

    Re: Why are sample libraries stereo?

    In some libraries it really makes sense.
    Sometimes I delete stereo and release-samples,
    just because, when you mix libraries, they all sound like being played in a different hall.
    So I rather put my own reverbs on it.

    Tipp:
    With Peak5 (stereo-to-mono dsp-funktion) you can do a batch-convertion
    of complete folders with one click.
    But keep the originals in a save place.

    Chris Hein
    Chris Hein - Horns / Chris Hein - Guitars / Chris Hein - Bass
    http://www.chrishein.net

  8. #8

    Re: Why are sample libraries stereo?

    Stereo sounds better than mono and costs the same to record. That's why sample libraries are stereo! You can always throw out one channel if that's what works.

  9. #9

    Re: Why are sample libraries stereo?

    Quote Originally Posted by JonFairhurst
    I think it depends on the context. Solo instruments are fine in mono. Ensembles aren't. In either case, if the developer intends to include the natural ambience, then stereo (or surround) is required.

    Personally, I like mono & dry for solo instruments. I can mix and match the ambience later as needed.
    I agree,
    I'd rather have the stereo and go mono rather than need the stereo and not have it

    Yet, some things make no sense to me. i.e stereo snare and kick drums ?

    there is a popluar lib I won't mention, whereby every kit piece is stereo,. the snare, kick etc,.. they all sound stereo hard panned L&R. Though the samples do sound very good, you have to endlessly tweak the GS pan /width/image controls/ & convolution to give the kit a realistic image as a whole, in the end I think it still falls short due to this overriding stereo image.

    IMO, this lib would be that much better if the preset kits took this into consideration and defaulted to appropriate real world kit imaging.

    just my 2 cents.

    Peter

  10. #10

    Re: Why are sample libraries stereo?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jaspo
    Isnt there a loss of ... integrity (lack of a better word) when converting from stereo to mono. You are combining two independent channels, how could it be possible to recreate an original mono sample. Aren't there issues with phase and adding waveforms etc. Thats about as technical as I can get about the subject ;-P Just speculation on my part
    Giga 3 offers three ways of converting from stereo to mono: (1) by combining the left and right channels, as you describe, (2) by keeping just the left channel and throwing away the right, or (3) by keeping just the right channel and throwing away the left.

    I've done test conversions using all three ways on the libraries I've done so far, to see what works. In actual fact I did find exactly what you've described when combining the two channels: it sounded horrible and I certainly did notice the difference.

    But what I was describing above was after converting the other way - by taking one channel only. That's where I was surprised to find just how little difference there was between the result and the original stereo.

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