Recording music in a home studio isn’t all the time as easy as it seems. Even in case, you’re just using basic gear like a microphone and audio interface to record yourself, you’ll be able to still run into complex technical issues. One of the most complicated issues that beginner and intermediate producers feel struggle with is out-of-phase audio.
However, what causes phase issues? What do they sound like and what to do to fix them? With such a complicated issue it’s easy to get stressed.
However, it doesn’t need to be intimidating. Phase problems are easy enough to diagnose and fix when you understand why they happen and the way to get away from them.
In this article, I’ll explain everything you should find out about out-of-phase audio.
What is the phase in audio?
Phase in audio is the position of a sound wave in time.
Think of a sine wave on a graph. The wave’s phase refers to its position along the x-axis.
For a periodic waveform, the phase shows you the point along with its shape where the wave’s pattern begins.
The term periodic implies that a sound’s wave shape repeats in the same pattern again and again.
Because you shift the wave forward or backward in time, the wave’s starting point moves through every possible position in the shape before it repeats.
Forward or backward changes in the start point are known as phase shifts.
Phase shift is measured in degrees—because when you’ve shifted all the way to the next period of the waveform, you’ve come full circle!
Why is phase important?
Phase issues can have a huge effect on the sound of your tracks. They come into play every time you record a source with more than one microphone at once.
The reason why has to do with an issue known as destructive interference.
Imagine two identical signals. They’re completely in phase if their waveforms begin at the same time.
If a type of signal were phase-shifted by 180 degrees, the two signals could be totally out of phase. Their two waveforms could be at the exact opposite point in the cycle.
Identical waveforms which are 180 levels out of section will cancel one another out fully when summed attributable to harmful interference.
This means that the result of the two signals combined in silence!
In the real world, you’ll never record two completely identical signals with two different mics on the same source, however, there can still be problems if the signals are related.
One instance is the common practice of recording a bass guitar with a DI box as well as a mic ’d-up amp. Because the sound takes time to travel through the air and reach the microphones, it may be out of phase with the DI.
As soon as any phase shift happens, the relationship between the two signals changes.
You might not notice the impact of small phase differences between two microphones at first. However, the more “out of phase” the two are, the more they will start to compete.
How to find phase issues
Fortunately, it’s easy to hear when two signals are badly out-of-phase audio.
If two similar tracks sound thinner, tinnier, or harsher when mixed, there’s a big chance they suffer from this issue.
To make sure you’ll be able to insert a utility plugin on one channel and use the Ø phase symbol button to invert the phase by 180 degrees.
If that makes the low end and punch of the sounds return, it surely shows that phase is the culprit.
Hot tip: To evaluate the phase relationship between signals that don’t cancel out dramatically you use your DAW’s phase correlation meter. Here’s a useful guide on how to read it.