My New Mono Listening Setup

04/09/2014

If you follow this blog, you’ve probably noticed that I have a thing about mono recordings. I wrote about my recent appreciation for these recordings in In Praise of Mono Recordings, and offered a list of Some Great Mono Recordings.

The problem with listening to mono recordings in stereo – on two speakers – is that there is a sweet spot, the point where the sound converges, just as there is with stereo listening. With mono, this sounds artificial. In addition, it’s possible that there are phase cancellation problems when you listen to the same music coming from two speakers.

I did a fair amount of research, and found that there is a small minority of people – audiophiles; I know… – who have dedicated mono systems. I didn’t want to go that far; I could buy a mono amp, but I see nothing wrong with using just one channel of a mono stream connected to a single speaker to listen to mono recordings.

So I decided to get a mono listening setup for my office. You can see, in the photo below, my new speaker on a stand behind my monitor; it’s a bit tilted; I need to work on that.

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My amp – a Cambridge Audio 651A (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) – and it has two speaker zones. So my stereo speakers are set on zone A, and I connected a single speaker to zone B.

My current speakers in my office are Focal Chorus 705v (Amazon.com, Amazon UK). I also have a pair of Focal Chorus 806v speakers (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) in my living room. I bought the latter about a year and a half ago in France, and I really like their neutrality. So when I was looking for new speakers for my office, I went with the same brand, just smaller.

So, when looking for a mono speaker, I checked out what Focal has to offer. I realized that the best thing might be a central speaker from a surround system, and I got a Focal Chorus CC 700 (Amazon.com, Amazon UK). It has two mid-bass drivers and one tweeter, and has a wonderfully balanced sound. The mid-bass drivers are slightly larger than those on the stereo speakers in my office; this center speaker is more adapted to a system using the 806s. But since I’m only using the CC 700 on its own, and not as part of a multi-speaker system, it doesn’t matter. (If there had been a smaller version of this speaker, I would have gotten it.)

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This setup is certainly not a necessity, but I like the idea of listening to mono music on a single speaker. It wasn’t too expensive – I got it much cheaper than Amazon’s price – and it’s got nice, clean sound. Mono music sounds a lot better like this.