What Is the Difference Between Joint Stereo and Stereo?

Anything that relates to sound in terms of reproducing, receiving or transmitting refers to as audio. Encoding audio for the purposes of digital formats is important for you to know and understand especially if you encounter audio frequently. This is where joint stereo and stereo come in and the difference between the two. Stereo is more common than joint stereo because recently most of the music has its playback on a stereo system that includes speakers or headphones.

In the past when people began recording music, they would record it via a single channel referred to as mono. Recently, people no longer use the mono channel because of sound clarity. Stereo channel greatly improves the audio quality and provides the listener with a more natural soundscape unlike mono. Stereo and joint stereo work hand in hand but there is definitely a difference and this article tells you more.


The sound recorded and played back through two channels is referred to as stereo. The two channels are Left and Right. They are not encoded together but independently into an audio file. This action improves the bitrate that results thereafter. Bitrate refers to the amount of data that is being transferred into an audio thus determining the quality of audio.

If you want to encode audio higher than 256kbps then stereo is the best for this. In order to get the best out of stereo audio, there is a way you have to set up your speakers. You have to separate the speakers such that there is an equilateral triangle between you (the listener) and the two speakers.

Advantages of Stereo Audio

  1. Listener is able to encounter an immersive listening experience because of the two speakers.
  2. It lowers interference of phase between speakers.


  1. It is expensive
  2. One faces complexity when setting up because there is need for separate amplifiers, speaker circuits and signal chains.

Joint StereoJoint Stereo

Joint stereo defines a method that one uses to save on file space at the same time ensuring that the stereo signal is not lost. At times, stereo files are huge due to the fact that audio input on the Right and Left channel are equal. Joint stereo seeks to sort out this problem of large files. It does this by mixing the two channels into one mid channel.

Furthermore, exporting your audio as a joint stereo file enables the media encoder to determine the average of the Right and Left channels data and consolidate into a compact file. For lower MP3 bitrate, joint stereo is best recommended because you already have a small amount of data to average.

There are two modes that MP3 track can use to encode joint stereo:

  • Mid/side stereo

This one is common in FM radio broadcasting. It encodes the mid channel which is the main one as the average of the right and left audio channel (L+R) thus making it the holder of the bulk audio data. It does not isolate any information. The side channel is the smaller one and is responsible for recording the variance between the right and left channels (L-R).

  • Intensity stereo

It saves on space by merging the right and left audio channels together into mono stereo at determined frequencies. Notably, it works well with bit rate recordings that are as low as 96kbps if only some amount of stereo is required. But when you have a full stereo, it is likely to largely affect the quality of audio.

Advantages of Joint stereo

  1. Saves on space
  2. Produces better sound quality
  3. No stereo signal is lost


  1. May cause a flanging or a swishing effect.

Joint Stereo vs. Stereodifference between joint stereo and stereo

It gets confusing when you have to choose between joint stereo and stereo for the purposes of audio encoding. The main difference is that stereo defines sound produced from the right and left audio channels while joint stereo focuses on saving on space by mixing the two channels into one.

What bitrate size are you considering for audio encoding? This question helps you determine whether to use stereo or joint stereo. If you are working with a bit rate of 256kbps and above then stereo is the most ideal. On the other hand, joint stereo is appropriate for lower audio bit rates.

Wondering which of the two has good sound quality? This greatly depends on the compression engines that come with audio encryption software because they usually have an effect on the sound quality of your audio. Thus, in joint stereo the compression engines determine the processing, quality and final product of any audio that needs encryption.

Additionally, depending on the compression engines, some will deliver amazing sound quality while others will rarely deliver what you expect. Nonetheless, when your audio is encrypted correctly, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between stereo and joint stereo.

Also, joint stereo focuses on the affinities that are there between the left and right channels. In this case, more bits are likely to be put in use thus improving the quality of encoding. If you are using joint stereo, you may experience a ‘swishing’ sound because of the mid/side joint stereo technique. At this point you should consider using stereo.

All in all, the difference between the two is minimal. But if you really want to confirm how true this is, get an efficient playback system and carry out some test recordings at whatever bit rate you want to use. This may help but it is not given. Both ways use stereo where necessary and do the same for joint stereo.


Generally, there are small differences between stereo and joint stereo in regards to what each of them does. Stereo is audio recorded through two sound channels which are Left and Right whereas joint stereo is a technique that you can use to save on file space without losing any stereo signal. Stereo is good for high bit rates while the other is suitable for lower bitrates.

To Know more about joint stereo, you should watch this video below;

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