sonic relevance of "Phase" correctness

One problem area for me has always been "Phase" correctness. A few of my audiophile friends emphasized the importance of "phase" correctness, and adjust the phase to either "0" or "180" degrees for each CD or specific track (WAVE files processed by a DAC) in digital playbacks. In LP analog playback mode, my friends usually left it at the default "0" nominal phase setting in the phono stage. This is a real dilemma  for me for I have to be honest, I did not find the "correct" phase to be so critical and the choice to be so clear. When my friends said I set the phase incorrectly for a specific track, I follow their advise and invert the phase by 180 degrees on the DAC unit, initially found some improvement sonically, particularly in sharpening the focus, and a bit also in the deepening the sound stage, but adversely also found the dynamics to be compromised, i.e. less 'lively". I then revert the phase again to default without the inversion, and listened to the same track again in a "A" versus "B" test. Often I found myself preferring the original "incorrect" default setting to be more pleasing to my ears, and more relaxing to listen to. I once talked to a professor of psychology who has done some research in this area and was told some people are more acute at detecting phase correctness than others. Could it be that I am one of those that lacked the faculty to clearly appreciate phase correctness ? I honestly don't know and it bother me. Once more, I do detect differences between the so called "correct" and "incorrect" phase, but my difficulty is that I often have difficulties choosing what is the optimal. I am beginning to be so frustrated by the whole thing that I just leave the setting at its "0" degree default setting for all digital playbacks without mucking around with it. Frankly, It is rather inconvenient to correctly identify the correct phase for each track and adjust for it in the DAC or line stage repeatedly in a listening session. It is really tiring !! Any advise on this is really appreciated from this forum. Maybe I am not unique and some of you also share my sense of frustration in this. Regards.   

1 Answer

  • While absolute phase is a real phenomena, with multi-miked and multi-tracked recordings, absolute phase may be difficult or impossible to determine because all the tracks may not be in phase with each other.

    To clearly hear phase you need a phase-coherent recording - Two channels, two tracks, recorded by one critically matched stereo pair of mics. Also the mic technique will make phase easier or harder to hear...M/S is more phase coherent than Omni...

    Mono recordings are often easier to hear phase...

    So, don't stress on phase because it only matters if you can hear it :)

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