Fixing Phase Problems

What is Phase?

What is phase exactly? Why is it so important?

At its core, phase is simply the difference in time vs. amplitude between two sources. The easiest way to visualize this is by picturing the simplest waveform, a sine wave.

Pretend you have two sine waves, each of which is going from +1 to -1 at the extreme top and bottom. If there was absolutely no phase difference between the two, and they were both playing at the same time, we would end up hearing a sine wave twice as loud.

Why? Because each wave would hit +1 and -1 at the same time. Thus, they are added together giving us the appearance of one sine wave ranging from +2 to -2.

But what if we they were not in phase? If the two sine waves were perfectly out of phase with one another, one sine wave would be at +1 while the other would be at -1. The end result would be a constant 0 or no sound at all.

As audio engineers, we deal with much more complex waveform than simple sine waves. As such, we rarely encounter true cancellation due to phase. Instead we often encounter partial cancellations that might knock down some frequencies, boost others, and mess with our stereo field.


Waves’ InPhase plugin

After you have correctly identified which tracks have phase problems, you will have a couple different options. Here are a few tricks:

  • If you are close miking a source with two or more mics, but something sounds off, slightly adjust the mic position. Usually you will need to move the capsule less than an inch! Having someone else move the mic while you listen always helps too.
  • For stereo tracks (a L-R of a stage for example), make sure you follow the 3-1 rule (assuming you are still recording). This rule states that for every foot back you are from a source, you should spread your stereo mics out another three feet. Simple easy fix.
  • If you recorded a source from two very different angles (top and bottom for example), you may have two recordings that are almost 180 degrees out of phase (the snare drum is a common case). In these situations, try flipping the polarity/phase of a track. If you suddenly hear a bunch of bass and mids come to life, you are golden.
  • Sometimes the polarity flip trick does not work quite perfectly. It might fix one problem but still produce a slightly phasey sound in another way. To remedy these situations, a phase rotation is a better option. While a polarity switch lets you choose between 0 and 180 degrees, a phase rotation gives you a full 360 degrees of adjustment to perfectly dial in the phase relationship.
  • Another option is to zoom in very tightly on your tracks, so you see individually recorded samples. If you constantly see that one track is going positive while the other is negative, just slightly nudge one the tracks to line up with the other. Look for transients as good reference points.
  • For cases when you’re using parallel processing, and you hear phase problems when you solo the tracks, you will need a time delay. While almost every plugin should have proper delay compensation, not all do. You can either add a specialized plugin to delay the original source, or you can simply guess-and-check using the nudge method above.

GlitchMachines Releases Scope, modular sound generator Plug-in and Sample Library

Scope is a modular sound generator and effects processing plugin geared toward experimental sound design and electronic music production. Scope’s open-ended graphical patching system and diverse set of modules give you access to a new customizable processing environment capable of a very broad range of effects.

Scope’s tactile workflow and vast sonic potential will inspire you to push the envelope, while its flexible architecture invites you to try imaginative new routing scenarios to explore endless possibilities. Use it to generate vivid electronic tones and textures or to process your drum loops, soft synths, sound effects and external hardware.

GlitchMachines Scope screenshot

GlitchMachines Scope screenshot

At the heart of Scope, you will find a selection of modules you can freely configure by populating up to 8 slots. Once populated with a module, a slot will give you access to up to 4 input and output nodes, which you can freely connect via Scope’s virtual patch cables. Inputs and Outputs are configured to have the ability to send and receive multiple signals at once, making very complex modulation scenarios possible. Scope ships with 26 modules ranging from effects to utility, with additional modules already planned for future updates.

Scope’s unique workflow and interface will change the way you think about modulation and signal processing. The plugin makes it possible to set up completely self generating patches, making it equally capable as a sound generator and effects processor. Our designers have included a variety of external and internally generated effects patches to show what the plugin is capable of. To get you started, we’ve included 160 patches by Subjex, Balkansky, Thomas Hennebert, Apparition, Daed, John Black, Shiro Fujioka and Blush Response.

SAMPLE CONTENT OVERVIEW:

Embracing all things modular, Scope includes a Eurorack modular synthesizer sample library comprised of over 1500 samples. We worked with 6 of the best module manufacturers to put together the Eurorack system used to generate all the content. Our goal was to create a functional counterpart to Scope; something you can’t easily achieve with a computer that interacts well with the plugin and gives you a new palette of sounds to work with right out of the box. Focused on the darker side of modular synthesis, sound designer Ivo Ivanov created a collection of compelling effects that are equally distinctive and indicative of the depth of Eurorack’s prodigious sonic landscape.

Crafted with a combination of analogue and digital modules, Scope’s library is packed with gritty and intricate synthesizer sounds in the form of hits, stabs, glitches, one shots and asymmetrical passages you can use to create your own rhythms, basslines, percussive elements and much more. To give you a true sense of the modular sound, the library features raw samples with no further processing. Import the sound effects into your favorite DAW or sampler and process, stretch, bend and twist them into something truly unique. To show you how the samples can be integrated into your projects, we’ve included loops by sound designers Ivo Ivanov, Thomas Hennebert, Apparition and Daed.

How to Creatively Use Multiple Reverbs in One Mix

Reverb within a mix is near enough mandatory. However, it’s incredibly easy to overcook a mix with ambience, even though modern mixes are increasingly becoming less reverb heavy.

Using reverb effectively can take a mix – and the song – to another level. But with many productions becoming increasingly busy and complex, the crucial space for this near-essential effect can become difficult to navigate.

In this tutorial we’ll look at various ways you can creatively optimize your use of reverb, particularly in productions which may prove otherwise tricky.

Learn the Rules…

One of the most universal or commonly known reverb “rules” is to avoid inserting a single reverb on each individual track or channel.

Not only is this incredibly computer-processor-hungry, you won’t do your mix any great favors, layering reverb on top of reverb, on top of reverb, and so on! (And if you’re working out-of-the-box, unless you have stacks of reverb racks this becomes fairly impossible anyway.)

As you can hear, the part is almost immediately swamped, and would certainly not fit well within a mix when other components are pulled in.

This is an over-the-top example, but serves well. There are only six tracks (kick, snare, ride, OH, and two room mics) within this project. Imagine what could happen to a project with 30 tracks!

The usual solution is to set up an auxiliary/effects track and send/bus any tracks you wish to be processed by the reverb. In other words, any tracks within the mix can now be sent to simply one individual reverb. This is almost a direct replication of older desk mixes, and keeps the reverb in your mix clean, tight and under control.