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How do you explain phase
Old 24th August 2007
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bexarametric's Avatar

How do you explain phase

What's the most dumbed down way to explain phase to someone that doesn't get it? I commented during a session that something was out of phase and the client asked "what does that mean?" I grasp the concept, I just have a hard time explaining it. I always "feel" if it is in or out of phase.

What's the easiest way to explain it to someone? Or is there a link to a site that explains this well?
Old 24th August 2007
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Audio Hombre's Avatar

just have something on hand with 2 mics recorded way out of phase and play it for them. they'll sure get it then..
Old 24th August 2007
As I understand it, sources are "out of phase" when the peak of one sound wave coincides in time with the trough of another sound wave, thereby cancelling each other out. This is "phase cancellation" or "destructive interference." Two peaks or two troughs can also coincide at the same time, creating "constructive interference," which amplifies and creates an additive effect (as opposed to a subtractive one, as in phase cancellation).

Of course, even if the peaks and troughs don't coincide "exactly" at the same time, they can still arrive at different enough points in time that some sort of interference can be caused, sometimes creating "weird" or unnatural "phasey" sounding artifacts. Other times, waves arriving at different points in time create very pleasing effects.

I think a widely misunderstood conception about phase is that it is NOT always a bad thing, and many times can be your friend, making for unique colors and much more beautiful sounding recorded sources, depending upon how you use it. Just beware of phase cancellation and other strange phasing anomalies (by using your ears, of course) and I think you'll be OK.

If I'm way off here, and don't know what I'm talking about, somebody please feel free to correct me...

Old 24th August 2007
page 2 and 3 in the yamaha sound reinforcement handbook. pretty pictures for the people! good luck.
Old 24th August 2007
Check out this explanation Phasing
Old 24th August 2007
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bexarametric's Avatar

Yeah, maybe they will get it. I'm not good at explaining things, but that chart might do the trick.
Old 24th August 2007
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Ben B's Avatar

Phase refers to small time measurements, within a single cycle, expressed in degrees. Often phase is used to describe time relationships between waveforms that are similar or identical in frequency (for simple addition and cancellation). Phase also governs, to some extent, the way waveforms interact when they combine. For complex waves, phase relationships cannot be identical for all partials (except when electrically inverting the polarity of a signal), which is why comb filtering occurs (i.e., some harmonics are in phase and add, others are out of phase and cancel, etc.). Phase relationships between similar signals that are panned to opposite speakers can lead to localization and imaging artifacts. Phase distortion is yet another aspect, which arises from the reactive properties of certain components and circuit designs, and can lead to smeared transients and timbral alteration.

Ben B
Old 25th August 2007
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Infernal Device's Avatar

easy way to say it to a common person....

If you have +10 and -10 and you combine them what do you get?


Same thing in sound waves.

Except you can have +10 and -3 , or +4 and -8.

The point is you will end up with something different by combing the two then having them apart.
Old 25th August 2007
Lives for gear
Some people have an inny....some have an outtie....
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