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    

13th Floor Elevators~easter Everywhere~insanely Rare Orig '67 Mono Test PressingThe Pink Floyd Piper At The Gates Of Dawn Og Uk Mono Blue Text Columbia Lp 2/113th Floor Elevators Ia Lp Mono Pretty Things S.f.sorrow Og Uk Mono Blue Text Columbia Records Lp Sx6306 1/1Pink Floyd - Piper At The Gates Of Dawn Uk Columbia B/b Mono Earliest Matrix Ex Rolling Stones 1st Lp 1964 Decca Mono '2.52' 1st Press! 1a/1a!! Earliest Ever!!Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band Safe As Milk Buddah Lp Mono WlpIntroducing The Beatles Lp Rare Column Back, V1 Mono, Love Me Do With 45 LabelChet Baker Sings - Nice Orig Pacific Jazz Black Label Pj-1222 Rare Jazz Mono DgSonny Clark Sextet • Dial "s" For Sonny • Original 1957 Mono Blue Note 1570Buffalo Springfield Again Atco Lp Nm Mono Wlp George Harrison " Wonderwall " Monster Rare Uk Mono Apcor 1 Apple Lp + InsertRare 1961 Mono W.l. Promo ~ John Lee Hooker ~ "plays The Blues" No Prog No PsychVelvet Underground & Nico Orig. Banana Peel Andy Warhol Cover Lp Torso Mono CaleSue Childs Introducing - Ex/ex Mono Studio 4 Rare Jazz Vocal J.r. MonteroseCurtis Fuller • The Opener • Original 1957 Mono Blue Note 1567~47 West 63rd Nyc~Rare 1961 Mint Mono ~ John Lee Hooker ~ "right To Suffer" Blues No Prog No Psych1963 Orig-rare Jazz-blue Note 4123-kenny Burrell-midnight Blue-mono-lp-nice!!!Blossom Dearie S/t - Clean Nm/nm 1st Press Mono Verve Mg V-2037 Jazz Vocal DgJohn Coltrane • Giant Steps • Original 1959 Mono Lp Atlantic 1311~black Label~nmJethro Tull This Was Uk Island 1st *mono* Press - Wide Spine - Excellent SoundBeatles "yesterday And Today" 3rd State Butcher Cover T2553 Mono (no Reserve)Charlie Parker ~ Quintet/sextet 10" Mono Dial ~ Extremely Rare!Donald Byrd Byrd In Flight Lp Blue Note 4048 Mono 4048 RvgSheila Jordan Portrait - Rare Nm/ex 1st Press Blue Note Mono Jazz Vocal V.gelderDoris Drew Delightful - Clean Nm/ex Shrink Mono 1st Press Mode Rare Female Jazz Beverly Kenney Sings For Playboys - Ex/ex Promo Mono Dg Sample Copy Decca JazzThe Small Faces Ogdens Nut Gone Flake Lp 1968 Uk Mono Lilac 1st PressJimi Hendrix Experience~axis: Bold As Love~very Rare France Orig’67 Barclay MonoRare M- 1960 Mono Og Charles Mingus "presents Mingus" Bop Jazz No Prog No PsychThe Rolling Stones Lot Of 33 Lps 3d Satanic Majesties Picture Disc Exile MonoThe Yardbirds - Five Live Yardbirds Uk Mono, Blue/black Label, Top Ex+ ConditionVintage Beatles 'with The Beatles' 1963 12" Vinyl Lp Uk Mono Pressing - 337 B89Betty Blake Sings In A Tender Mood - Nm/ex Orig Mono Bethlehem Bcp 6058 DgThe Miracles Shop Around Mono Uk Plum London Records 7" Ep Re 1295Donna Brooks I'll Take Romance - Clean Nm/nm Mono Orig Dawn 1105 Dg Jazz VocalMono!! The Baroques ‎–self Titled- 1967 Chess Lp 1516 Psych/acid/fuzz LpBeverly Kenney Born To Be Blue - Ex/vg Mono Decca Dg 1st Rare Female Jazz VocalBob Dylan 2 Lp Set "blonde On Blonde" Original Cbs Records Mono W 9 Photos Nm-Mono 1965 Orig ~ Sonny Rollins ~ On Impulse = Post Bop Jazz No Prog No PsychWayne Shorter Lp "the All Seeing Eye" Original Blue Note Mono Ny, Usa Rvg Vg++Rare The Beach Boys Pet Sounds Original Mono Lp Clean Capitol Look!Mono! Promo- The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band ‎–vol 2 Psych/acid LpBeatles 1968 Uk Ist Press Mono """""""""" White Album LpEthel Ennis Lullabies For Losers - Clean Nm/ex Mono Jubilee 1021 Rare Jazz VocalBillie Holiday S/t - Clean Nm/ex Commodore Mono Deep Groove Rare Jazz VocalThe Upsetters:"the Good,the Bad And The Upsetters".1970 Trojan Mono.excellent!!!Beverly Kenney Like Yesterday - Nm/vg+ Mono Decca Dg Rare Female Jazz VocalSteve Lacy Reflections Original Mono Lp Deep Groove Purple E+Beverly Kenney Come Swing With Me - Ex/ex Mono Roost Rare Dg Jazz Vocal 2212Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (mono) - 12" Vinyl LpBetty Bennett Blue Sunday - Ex/nm Mono Kapp Kl-1052 Jazz Vocal Andre PrevinArt Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section Lp Contemporary Ed1 Red Frame Back Mono DgThe Beatles - "rubber Soul", Original Capitol Mono T-2442, Still SealedSteve Lacy Soprano Sax Mono Orig 50th Street E+Jimi Hendrix Experience,are You Experienced,original Mono First Pressing,lpBeverly Kenney With Jimmie Jones - Vg++/vg+ Mono Roost 2218 Rare Jazz VocalJohnny Griffin Lp "the Sextet" Original Riverside Mono D/g Vg++nmSlim Harpo - Scratch My Back - 1966 - Excello Label - MonoMono Six-eye 1960 Orig: Miles Davis "sketches Spain" = Jazz Gem No Prog No Psych