Originally Posted by philip
no, you don't get the idea about polarity, it has nothing to do with mastering, it's all about monitoring.
If you hear a big difference in polarity you should really check your pre and poweramps so that they are up to specs.
Sorry, Philip, that statement makes absolutely no sense and you have produced confused logic. Yes, polarity does have to do with monitoring, but once you have calibrated and checked the polarity of your monitoring you then have a reference system which the MASTERING ENGINEER can use to check the polarity of the source. So yes, absolute polarity "has to do" with mastering!
Then, in your second sentence you have implied that somehow if you check your pre and power amps then differences in polarity will no longer be so audible? Huh? What exactly would you check?
Well, yes, non-linear distortion somewhere in a system (in a loudspeaker gap?) can make one polarity sound better than another, it is a variable, but it is not always the cause. I wouldn't know how to begin diagnosing that variable, anyway. Does anyone else technical here have a way?
Anyway, we have no control over the consumer's system, but for those consumers who care and who have set their systems correctly, we DO have control, so absolute polarity should matter, when it makes an audible difference. It's just that it's a relatively small phenomenon, some loudspeaker systems are more sensitive to it than others, it matters on some material more than others, and consequently, as mastering engineers we mostly have better things to do.
Now as long as we are discussing minutia, I'll give my observations.
1) My ears are not that sensitive to absolute polarity, it's not that important to me.
2) The literature says that absolute polarity matters most in the bass region. Telarc always made sure that their bass drums would produce an outward-going woofer for most impact. In a careful test with a live trumpet and a Blumlein microphone at RCA studios, I produced an absolute polarity test that's on one of the Chesky test records. When the polarity is wrong, this trumpet appears to be somewhat farther from the microphone. It was quite remarkable, and implies that absolute polarity errors can affect mixes. Does it make the vocalist recede? Not to my ears, but I haven't done a definitive test.
3) If a vocalist sings into a mike and listens live with headphones, incorrect absolute polarity of the headphones can sound disastrous. But this is not because the absolute polarity matters, but rather because the relative polarity between the bone conduction and what comes through the headphones produces a cancellation effect if the polarity of the headphones is wrong. So don't confuse absolute polarity issues with relative ones!
4) Supposedly, Eggleston speakers are very sensitive to absolute polarity differences, according to Bob Ludwig and Peter McGrath
I could go on, and tell you there is even a cult of absolute polarity among certain audiophiles. I have better things to worry about :-).