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On a seemingly non-insignificant percentage of mixers, the stereo channel strips are not equipped with some or many of the functions that are on the mono channel strips. Some examples of these functions may be, but are not limited to, XLR inputs, gain, trim, eq, etc. (Note: I recognize that "non-insignificant" is a subjective term and that a reader may not accept my impression as valid.)

Is there something about stereo channels that makes it advantageous or natural to exclude from them certain functionality? Or is the exclusion made as an product design choice, cost saving measure, or something else unrelated to stereo vs mono?

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There are two reasons to not add functionality that may not be needed to an audio device. The first is obviously cost. The second is keeping the audio path as simple as possible to retain audio quality and a low noise floor; there's no point in running a signal through a pre-amp, compressor, limiter or equalizer if you don't want to change the signal anyway.

Think about what sources you'd normally connect to mono inputs (vocals, drums, mic'ed acoustic instruments, ...) and what sources you'd connect to a stereo input (synthesizers, guitar multi-effect processors, all kinds of digital devices, ...). The stereo sources often have output level, dynamic processing and equalization built-in, while the mono sources don't; so it makes sense to give the mono channels more sound sculpting options.

Besides, you can always connect a mono source to a stereo input, or a stereo source to two mono inputs, depending on whether you want the extra processing capabilities or not. So instead of looking at a mixer as having 8 mono input and 4 stereo inputs, you could look at it as having 8 inputs with extensive sound sculpting options, and 4 inputs without.

A mixer manufacturer will envisage the use case for a certain mixer (live band, recording rig, rock band, synth band, deejay setup, music podcaster, ...) and then provide the capabilities that they think will suffice, at a price that will appeal to people in those situations.

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    To paraphrase what I got from this answer, the reason stereo channels might have less functionality is that stereo sources are most likely to have their own built in processing and are therefore less likely to need the rely on the mixer for that processing. Oct 4, 2021 at 7:04
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It’s a cynical marketing ploy by desk manufacturers. That way they can claim a mixer is, say, 16 channels, whereas actually it’s a 12 channel mixer with four extra half-function makeweights.

Next time you’re at a gig or in a recording studio have a look at the channels on the mixing desk; all of them will be full-function channels, with a separate side chain for effects and pre-recorded playback.

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  • This is a question not a rebuttal: Would you say that keeping the audio path as simple as possible is not a concern as suggested in the other currently existing answer? Or would you say that it is a concern but not one that is addressed by excluding functions from a channel strip? Or that it is a concern and one addressable by excluding functions, but that concern is not the reason that desk manufacturers exclude the functions? (Mixers at gigs or in recording studios having all full-function channels would suggest one of the first two.) Oct 4, 2021 at 7:01
  • The pro live sound gigs I’ve worked have had mixers with stereo inputs and your last paragraph wasn’t my experience. There are many pro mixing consoles with stereo inputs. One advantage of stereo inputs is you have a single EQ, fader, and mute button for the left and right of the channel. What I do see on pro boards is there’s always EQ and usually trim on the stereo inputs, but rarely are there inserts and the EQ may have one fewer bands than the mic channels or the bands might not be sweepable. Oct 4, 2021 at 12:56
  • @cheaterpushups I’d guess it’s a mix (no pun intended) of all 3 depending on individual cases. I’d still argue that some of the ‘16’ channel mixers you see on the market are actually more like 10 channels with extra stereo side chain: to my (possibly outdated and grumpy) way of thinking 16 channels should give you 16 individual inputs you can mix, EQ, pan, etc. independently Oct 6, 2021 at 6:18
  • @ToddWilcox thanks for additional thoughts / observations Oct 6, 2021 at 6:18
  • Regarding your second to last comment, it is more common at the pro level that when it says “48 channels”, that means 48 phantom powered XLR inputs plus some stereo ins plus stereo aux returns, etc. So I’d say the marketing BS is the channel count they give at the lower levels, not the inclusion of stereo inputs. Stereo ins are useful on the computer desk of many musicians, composers, and producers, even at lower channel counts. Oct 6, 2021 at 9:50

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