We’re back – actually back! As you know I’ve been away for 3 1/2 weeks on a very long family holiday!
I want to thank you ever so much for being patient with the last few FAQ Fridays. I’ve been taking other content and compounding it. But we’re back with a fully packed FAQ Friday.
In case you missed the free Jay Clifford – Paralyze multitracks we gave you yesterday you can get them here:
Let’s get into today’s featured question! “Can you explain and perhaps give a few examples of something that sounds in phase vs out of phase. Not sure if I’ve ever had have problems but maybe because I’m not sure what a phase problem sounds like”
In phase and out of phase is a really complicated thing for people to grasp because it’s not the same as polarity. – “What??” He says!
Polarity is waveform arching upwards and the polarity is reversed it will arch downwards in the shape of a “U”. That is polarity, Many people call it “flipping the phase” but it is actually reversing the polarity.
That’s one way of explaining what people mean when they say things are “in” and “out“ of phase but I suppose a better way of explaining it would be to say that the phase is misaligned.
Meaning you’re hearing one or more signals slightly later or earlier. Let’s say we take my bass guitar DI and my bass amp. This is a great way of looking at it because you record DI’s and bass amps all the time.
The DI tends to hit quicker and so the signal will be earlier. The bass amp is affected by the electronics within the amp altering the sound. One of the biggest things the bass amp does is reproduced the sound through the electronics then comes out of the speaker, by the time that sound it is recorded by a microphone it is later. – This is an oversimplification but I hope it makes sense.
What tends to happen is the bass DI signal will start here |~~~ the bass amp will start here |~|~~ It just starts later.
That’s time alignment of phase, It’s an issue where the phase is out. That is not the same as polarity, Polarity would be a reverse meaning my DI had been duplicated and one of them had been reversed. Meaning you would get no sound because they would cancel each other out.
The thing with phase is and the reason why you may or may not have heard it is because it depends on how much of a problem it is and whether you have applied EQ to get around it.
If I take multiple sets of mics on an instrument like a kick drum, they’re all going to be different time alignments away. One may be inside the kick drum, one outside the kick drum, and then one may be farther away. Meaning if I out all of those three elements together the low end will turn into absolute mud, the definition will disappear, and it won’t quite have the oomph in the low end that we want.
Why is that? Because three different sources are all hearing low frequencies slightly out of phase alignment (out of time with each other). so in this area where the three are combining there is a bit of a cancellation. It’s not pretty, It just gets a little muddy.
You may not have experienced or noticed this because you may have taken one of those microphones and boosted the shnizzle out of 60hz and compensated for it.
It’s not going to be quite as good sounding as if you take one source and EQ that and the then maybe roll off some of the EQ of the other sources. Or even better still Phase align. Which is a lot of what I do, when you watch some of my videos, you’ll see me use time adjustor on multiple mics.
I’ll take the kick in, kick out, the kick-out out, and make them all line up so all of the waveforms are in line. Suddenly oom low end on the kick drum is huge, it’s back, and it’s present.
Something with the bass guitar, take three elements with the bass guitar, a DI, a mic, and maybe a sub mic on it. Phase align them, so time adjusts them so they are all in phase or near as darn it all hitting the same time. – Suddenly that 80 or 100 on that bass comes alive.
That is where you may or may not have noticed phase problems. It’s much harder, not impossible, but defiantly much harder to get phase issues in high frequency. – why is that? It’s because high frequencies are tiny, super-fast, minuscule, little tiny, frequencies, not huge wavelengths.
A huge wavelength can cancel out or affect the sound just my moving inches. But high frequencies not quite as easy to do because they are incredibly small so to get pure cancellation would be very very difficult. – not to say it can’t happen
That’s the very basic stuff on phase, I would just say the low end is your biggest thing, high passing is your friend.
Meaning if you have multiple sources of the same low end let say 4, high passing 3 of those and find the strongest one for the low end. Like the DI on the bass guitar, it will give you more low end than you would get if you were to combine all 4 of those, all slightly out of phase with each other.
Lots to learn, far more then we can get into in this episode but this is a great topic.
We cover the following questions during this episode of FAQ Friday!
• How do you know if your mix is wide enough or too narrow? Especially If you don’t understand how to answer that question for the mix you are doing after listening to a reference. Are there tools you use to monitor stereo width? (1:51)
• How do you approach mixing doubled lead vocals? If you were to record a duplicate of the lead chorus part and had both tracks playing simultaneously wouldn’t there be phase issues? (6:49)
• Do you recommend having a subwoofer as a component in the studio monitor setup? If so do you recommend using one all the time or only for specific purposes? (9:09)
• Can you explain and perhaps give a few examples of something that sounds in phase vs out of phase. Not sure if I’ve ever had have problems but maybe because I’m not sure what a phase problem sounds like. (11:44)