Vintage Mono (Monaural) Vinyl Records

By definition, all commercial records pressed before the introduction of stereo LP records in 1957 were monaural (mono), which means they were only able to output one signal channel to speakers or headphones. The driving force behind these two-channel “stereophonic” LPs—a concept that had been tinkered with since the 1930s—was the idea that recorded music sounds better when each ear is presented with a different element of the overall sound.

In the early ’60s, only adults with deep pockets could afford a state-of-the-art “hi-fi” stereo system with two speakers. The biggest consumers of pop music, kids and teenagers, made do with cheap mono record players with only one speaker. Stereo records also cost a dollar more than mono discs. For these reasons, artists that appealed to adults, like Frank Sinatra, were more likely to put out stereo recordings than pop stars. That all began to change, though, in 1966, when inexpensive stylus cartridges allowed stereo records to be played on mono turntables.

Most of the popular rock bands of the time, like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, put very little energy into their stereo recordings, focusing all their energy on performing, mixing, and mastering their mono tracks. Stereo mixes were made almost as an afterthought.

Take 1967’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which is now considered one of the greatest stereo experiences on vinyl. At the time, the Beatles and their world-renowned producer George Martin lavished great time and attention on the mono recording. The stereo mix was left to a secondary producer named Geoff Emerick, who tossed off the task in three hours. Later, George Harrison would insist, “You haven’t heard ‘Sgt. Pepper’ if you haven’t heard it in mono.”

Similarly, Motown Records chief Berry Gordy, Jr. put his top engineers on the mono recordings, while trainees were left to work on the stereo mixes. Phil Spector, widely considered one of the greatest pop producers of all time, mixed his best work in mono.

While consumers eventually started to accept and even enjoy the special effects afforded by stereo recordings, like echoes, extra guitar solos, and speaker-to-speaker panning, many audiophiles today insist that original mono recordings sound far better than their stereo counterparts. For mono mixes, the musicians usually played together in the same room, vibing off of one another. When they recorded in stereo, though, they wore headphones to make sure they got their individual tracks right. Additionally, many mono LPs were produced from entirely different recordings than the stereo releases, so the differences between the mono and stereo versions of some songs, and even some albums, can be quite noticeable.

As stereo records became more common, labels with lots of mono recordings on their hands went back to the two-channel master tapes laid down in the studio and re-released the sam...

Today, the most valuable mono LPs are those produced in the late ’60s when mono was being phased out (1968 in the U.S., 1969 in the U.K., 1970 in South America). Collectors are particularly interested in “Sgt. Peppers,” the Beatles’ “The Beatles” (a.k.a. “The White Album”), the Stone’s “Their Satanic Majesties Request,” Jefferson Airplanes’ “After Bathing at Baxter’s,” The Monkees’ “The Birds, the Bees, and the Monkees,” and the Who’s “The Who Sell Out.”

In the 1990s and 2000s, as mono nostalgia surged, many of these mixes were released on CD, often sold along with the stereo album in a two-disc package. These include the Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s 1968 self-titled debut, the Who’s “A Quick One: Happy Jack,” Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow,” 1967’s “The Velvet Underground and Nico,” The Pretty Thing’s “SF Sorrow,” and many early Bob Dylan albums.

Even early psychedelic records by Pink Floyd, a late '60s band known for exploring and exploiting the sonic capabilities of stereophonic sound, have been reissued in the mono format, including “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” and “A Saucerful of Secrets.”

Music lovers who listen to mono and stereo LPs side-by-side will note the subtle—and sometimes obvious—discrepancies between recordings. Instruments in the background might emerge, while others might fade out entirely. Voices not heard on stereo might appear on mono versions, while completely different instrumental solos, intros, or outros are sometimes used. Mono recordings can be slower and more sparse, faster and more aggressive, or sonically more dense than stereo recordings of the same songs.

Some of the many mono LPs that are noticeably different from the more-common stereo pressings include Jeff Beck’s “Truth,” Cream’s “Wheels of Fire,” Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Axis: Bold as Love,” Love’s self-titled album, and the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat,” which features a secret track on the stereo pressing: If you turn off the stereo channel while listening to “The Gift,” the vocal channel drops out, revealing a mono instrumental titled “Booker T.”

Another record of particular interest to collectors is Van Morrison’s “Blowin’ Your Mind,” released in mono by Bang Records in 1968. The famous line "making love in the green grass," has been edited out, replaced with a repeat of "laughin' and a-runnin', hey hey.” The missing line appears on subsequent stereo pressings, but using a different mix of the song. The mono LP also has a mislabeled catalog number, “BLB 218,” when it should be “BLP 218.”

A mono LP's worth is usually determined by how many were produced. For example, even though the Rolling Stones have insisted that mono is the only way to listen their early records, the stereo LP of their 1965 album “Out of Our Heads” is rarer and more valuable than the mono pressing. Conversely, the Beatles’ 1968 album “Yellow Submarine” is more sought-after in mono. Condition is a factor, too—as most mono LPs belonged to kids, the ones that survived the ’60s tend to be in dreadful condition.

Interestingly, stereo 45s weren’t common until around 1969. Teenagers were the main customers of pop singles, and most of them only had access to older turntables or portable players like the Dansette that couldn’t be fitted with new stereo stylus cartridges.

By 1970, mono LPs were a thing of the past, revived only on very rare occasions by groups such as Dr. Feelgood, who, in 1975, released a mono version of “Down at the Jetty” to capture that vintage single-channel sound.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas pays homage to international female opera singers of the LP era. Chronicling more than 800 singers, the… [read review or visit site]



Despite its mysterious title, 317X is plain and simple—an online gallery of vintage LPs, with a 1950s vintage fee… [read review or visit site]

Jesse Barron's collection of Beatles 45s, picture sleeves, magazines, books, and memorabilia. Browse singles and al… [read review or visit site]

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

This great site, from the Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors, offers detailed background information an… [read review or visit site]

The Remington Site

The Remington Site

Since 1999, the Remington Site has offered classical music collectors a glimpse into Remington Records, an independ… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

David Bowie Mono Self Titled S/t Deram Orig Ex Psych Promo Yes The Real DealHank Mobley - Blue Note Blp 1568 - Mono - Original Press - New York 23 VariantDonald Byrd The Cat Walk Lp Blue Note Mono Rvg Ear Vg++ Vinyl OriginalThe Velvet Underground White Light White Heat Promo Mono Yellow Rare Original Lp" My Generation " The Who Absolutely Super Uk Orig Mono Lp Lovely Sleeve & Disc " A Quick One " The Who Absolutely Super Uk Rarest A1b1 Mono Reaction Lp +inner The Who - My Generation - Very Rare Orig Uk 1965 -1b/-1b Brunswick Mono Ex+ Lp.Allusions Orig Oz St Lp Ex ’67 Parlophone Pmco7540 Mono Garage Psyche BeatThe Beatles Yesterday And Today Butcher Cover Partially Peeled Capitol MonoJohn Coltrane "blue Train" Jazz Lp Blue Note 1577 63rd St. Nyc Mono Dg Rvg EarLee Morgan The Cooker Blue Note 1578 Dg Rvg W 63rd Mono OriginalEric Dolphy Out To Lunch Blue Note Lp Blp 4163 Lp Mono Van Gelder Ear Nm-/ex+Freddie Hubbard Goin' Up Blue Note 4056 63rd Mono, Nm- W/ Hank MobleyThe Beatles Beatles Vi Original Mono Lp Still SealedRemains Orig Us St Ex ’66 Lp Epic Ln24214 Mono Garage Rock  The Velvet Underground Lp "andy Warhol" Original Verve Mono W Torso & StickerNight Dreamer - Wayne Shorter-orig. Blue Note (mono) - 12" - Lp - Nm! Miles Davis, Kind Of Blue ~ '59 Columbia Cl 1355 Mono 6 "eye" Dg Lp W/ ColtraneJohn Coltrane A Love Supreme Lp Impulse Mono A-77 Original Van Gelder Vg+Beatles " White Album "super Play Sample Uk Mono Top Open Widespine Poster+pics " Sell Out " Orig Uk The Who Rare Mono Track Album Ten Years After Lp Same Uk Mono Deram 1st Press Plays Near MintLp Herbie Hancock - Inventions & Dimensions Nyusa-dg- - Ear-rvg - Mono - R- NmDerek & The Dominos Mono Promo Lp Atco White Label Clapton Nm 1970 Duane AllmanBud Powell- Time Waits -orig.-d.g. Blue Note (mono) - 12" - Lp - Nm! Beatles " Magical Mystery Tour "super Uk Orig Mono Double Ep Blue Lyric SheetSonny Rollins Tenor Madness Lp Prestige 7047 446 W 50th Nyc Dg Mono Rvg Vg++Bill Evans - Waltz For Debby- Original Mono Riverside Rlp 399 Lp Dg Scott LafaroFreddie Hubbard Blue Spirits Lp Blue Note Mono Van Gelder Vg++ Vinyl New YorkJackie Mclean Bluesnik Blue Note Original Dg Lp Mono 4067 SuperbArt Pepper Lp "the Return Of Art Pepper" Original Jazz West Mono D/g Vg+Jethro Tull This Was 1968 Vinyl Near Mint Lovely Lp Mono Bullseye IslandKenny Burrell - S/t Lp Blue Note Blp 1543 Jazz Rvg Mono 1956 12" Andy Warhol ArtBeatles " Sgt Pepper "super Look & Play Uk Mono Complete Insert + Fool Inner *beatles - White Album. Uk 1968 Mono Original. Top Open Sleeve. Low No.0017157*The Beatles *rubber Soul* Lp 1965 Mono Uk 1st Press!! Loud Cut!!The Who - Sell Out - Mega Rare Uk Mono Lp A2/b1 Poster Stickered Sleeve - Ex ConBlues Breakers John Mayall With Eric Clapton Beano Album Mono OriginalThe Beatles Please Please Me Excellent(+) 4th Press Mono. Super Cover/fine AudioBob Dylan 6 Lp Original Lot Early Mono Works Highway 61-times-bringing-another!!Fleetwood Mac - Mr Wonderful 1st Uk Press Strange Variant! MonoPink Floyd-a Saucerful Of Secrets-uk Blue Columbia Label-mono Issue-1968Cream Lp Disraeli Gears Uk Reaction Mono 1st Press A1 & B1 Apple Dratleaf CreditSpencer Davis Group - 'first' 1964 Uk Mono Lp Tl5242!Bob Dylan Highway 61 Revisited / Mono 1965 2-eye Lp Columbia Cl 2389 Vg+ Shrink!Larry Young Into Somethin' Lp Blue Note Mono Blp 4187 New York Usa Sam RiversKenny Burrell ~ Midnight Blue ~ Mono Blue Note ~ Superb!Sonny Rollins S/t Lp Blue Note Blp 1542 47 W 63rd Nyc Rvg Ear Dg Mono Vg+1967 Uk Ist Press Mono "" Beatles """""""" Sgt Pepper LpJohn Mayall Clapton Lp Beano Cover Uk Decca Mono Unboxed 1st Press Plays SuperbBuffalo Springfield - Again (atco Mono 33-226)Donald Byrd - Byrd In Hand - Blue Note 4019 Rvg Dg 47 W 63rd Mono OriginalLightnin' Hopkins - Lightnin' Strikes - Scarce Uk 1962 Mono Lp - Beyond Rare!Spencer Davis Group - 'autumn '66' 1966 Uk Mono Lp!Lee Morgan Lp "in Search Of The New Land" Original Blue Note Mono Ny/usa Rvg Nm-The Beatles Please Please Me-black/gold Label-mono Issue UkSpencer Davis Group - 'second Album' 1966 Uk Mono Lp!The Hollies - Butterfly - 1964 Mono 1st! Stunning!!! Outstanding Condition!!!Freddie Roach Good Move Lp Blue Note Mono Hew York Usa Van Gelder EarIke Quebec Blue And Sentimental Blue Note 4098 Rvg "ear" Mono Original