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    

The Kinks ~ The Village Green Preservation Society ** 1968 Mono Uk 1st Pye LpZombies 1st Press Uk Lp Begin Here Ex ’65 Mono Dg Unboxed Decca Lk4679 Mod PsychThe Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed - 1969 Uk Mono Lp - Red Decca Unboxed - RareBill Evans new Jazz Conceptions Lp 1st White Label Riverside 12-223 Dg Mono John Coltrane Giant Steps Lp Atlantic 1311 Mono Black Label 1st Press ChambersnmDexter Gordon " Go " M- Us 1962 Mono Blue Note Lp Ny Adr / Rvg / Ear / DgThe Beatles: Please Please Me Mono 1st Press Gold/black 1n/1n Dick JamesJohn Coltrane Tommy Flanagan The Cats Lp Original New Jazz 8217 Mono Dg Rvg Nm+Herbie Nichols Trio ~ '56 Blue Note 1519 ~ Mono, Dg, Lex Ave Nyc, Rvg, EarBeatles Yesterday And Today Peeled Butcher Cover Mono T2553 Capitol Black VinylPink Floyd Piper At The Gates Of Dawn Sx 6157 H1/ H1 Blue/black Columbia MonoKenny Dorham Una Mas Og Nm Us Mono Van Gelder Ear New York Blue Note 4127 JazzMiles Davis Lp "kind Of Blue" Original Columbia Mono 6 Eye D/g NmThe Pretty Things - Get The Picture - Rare 1965 Uk Mono Lp - Fontana - Ex+ VinylEric Dolphy out To Lunch Lp Orig. Blue Note 4163 Ny Mono Rvg Ear 1st Press Nm+The Beatles Yellow Submarine Lp 1969 Mono Uk 1st Press!! Blank Flipback Cover!!!Dexter Gordon Our Man In Paris Og Nm Us Lp Mono Van Gelder Ear 4146 Blue Note Bill Evans Trio Portrait In Jazz Lp Original Riverside 12-315 Mono Lafaro Dg Nm-The Rolling Stones Aftermath Lp Mono Uk 1968 Press!!!!!The Beatles 45 Lot Of 40 Picture Sleeves Mono Rsd 7" Pic Disc No. 1 Million SaleBeatles White Album Superb Uk Orig Mono Top Load Poster Pics InnersLightnin’ Hopkins -1955-herald-12” - Mono-33rpm - Lp - “lightnin’ And The Blues”Miles Davis Kind Of Blue lp Columbia Mono 6 Eye John Coltrane Bill Evans Nm-Beatles. Sgt Peppers Lhcb. Lp. 1st Uk Press. Mono. Ex Vinyl!! 4th Proof Sleeve!!Ray Jay And The Eastsiders Roly Poly With Latin Mono Lp Shrink CotiqueBeatles Revolver Mono Ex/ex Dr Robert Credits Xex 605/606 2/3 Pmc 7009Eric Dolphy "last Date" M- 1964 Dutch Fontana Mono Lp Top Jazz MengelbergThe Beatles Lot Of 60 Lps Sgt Pepper Pic Disc Mono Imports Rare Lennon Help!Andy Warhol (cover Art) The Nation's Nightmare (drugs) Lp (mono, Cbs, 1951) RareSuper Rare "portrait Cover" The Beatles And Frank Ifield Lp Ex-/vg- 1964 Mono!!!Donovan ~ A Gift From A Flower To A Garden ** 1968 Mono Pye Box Set Dbl Lp SetThe Beatles In Mono 14 Lp Remastered 180 Gram Vinyl Box Set Brand NewLove : 'forever Changes' : Uk Mono LpFreddie Hubbard Lp "hub Cap" Blue Note Mono W 63rd/ny,usa Rvg Ear Vg++/nmRare 1964 The Beatles "beatles For Sale" Vinyl Lp 1st Mono Pressing - 283 H13John Coltrane Soultrane Lp Original Mono Prestige 7142 Dg Rvg Chambers Nm-Jackie Mclean " Destination " Us Mono Blue Note 4164 Ear, Ny Adr., Van GelderRolling Stones - Beggars Banquet (unboxed Decca Uk Original Mono Lp 1968) Nice!Albert Mangelsdorff Quintet "now Jazz Ramwong" Unplayed 1964 German Cbs Mono LpThe Beatles - Uk 1st Mono 1969 Pmc 7070 "yellow Submarine" Apple (xex 715-1)1967 Uk Orig Rolling Stones ‘mono’ Lp “their Satanic Majesties Request” Bud Powell Bud! Amazing Volume 3 Lp Blue Note 1571 W. 63rd Dg Rvg Ear Mono NmMiles Davis Lp "steamin'" Original Prestige Mono D/g Bergenfield Vg++Bill Evans Trio Sunday At The Village Vanguard Riverside Mono Dg Tape Player Vg+John Mayall & Eric Clapton The Beano Lp Mono Decca Uk 1968 Press!Beatles " Yellow Submarine "super Uk Mono Lp Rarer Print Credit SleeveThe Rolling Stones Lp London Their Satanic Majesties Request Mono Usa PressingOriginal The Beatles Nowhere Man 1965 Mono Ep Record No Gep 8952 Record John Coltrane With Red Garland Trio Lp Mono Prestige 7123 Chambers Rvg Dg Nm-/nmThe Rolling Stones Aftermath Unboxed Decca Lp - Rare "shadow" Sleeve 1st MonoThe Beach Boys- Pet Sounds- Audiophile- 180g Vinyl Limited Edition-mono! Sealed!Beach Boys / Pet Sounds Lp 1st Press Mono 1966Beatles - Sgt Peppers...(parlophone Uk Orig Mono Lp + Inner) -1/ -1. Wide SpineHalloween Lp The Ghouls "dracula's Deuce" On Mono Capitol From 1964 Eddie Floyd "knock On Wood" Soul Lp Stax Mono SealedThe Rolling Stones - Their Satanic Majesties Request Lp Vinyl 1967 Mono Txl 103Sonny Stitt Bud Powell / Johnson Lp Mono Prestige 7024 Dg W. 50th Nyc Rvg Ear NmMarvellettes "please Mr. Postman" Soul Lp Tamla MonoElvis Presley Rarest Of The Rare Record Album Lpm 3921 Elvis' Gold Records MonoStarker - Bach Suites For Cello 3 Lp Box Set - Mono Ol3-116 - Rare Promo