If you’ve ever been working with a recording and found that it just sounded bad, it’s very possible that you were hearing phase cancellation. Phase cancellation is a an audio phenomenon where the waves of multiple tracks work against each other to eliminate certain frequencies. The resultant sound is often flat or dull.
Phase cancellation is often overlooked in the mixing process, but it can certainly have a major affect on the outcome of your mix and master. So we thought it’d be good to share some tips on how to fix it.
What is Phase Cancellation?
The basic description of phase cancellation is when you’ve got the waves of two or more signals out of phase with each other. Where the wave on one signal is in it’s peak, another is simultaneously in a trough. Because the peaks and valleys are out of sync, they work against each other rather than supporting each other. The frequencies are cancelled out and, acoustically, it causes a weak sound.
With pro audio phase cancellation can be either electric, where the polarity of the electrical signals are out of phase due to improper wiring, or acoustic, where with sonic waves of multiple tracks are out of phase. We’re going to focus on acoustic here, as getting into troubleshooting electrical phase cancellation requires technical understanding.
How To Prevent Phase Cancellation
You’ll get phase cancellation often when you’re working with multiple mics to record a single instrument, like drums. When mics are positioned improperly you can have an acoustic phase cancellation occur due to one mic being a little further away from the instrument than the other. As a result that mic receives the audio signal a little later than the closer mic.
The best way to fix this is to reposition your mics. If that’s not an option, many modern preamps and interfaces have a reverse polarity feature, which effectively flips the signal’s wave so that the peaks and valleys are inverted.
It also helps to keep your mics positioned a few feet away from walls and floors to avoid out of phase reflected sound bleeding back into your mix.
There are boxes you can purchase that will help fix your phase cancellation by inverting the polarity of the signal. And there are also plugins that can help do the same. However, it’s always better to try and catch it early, which is often a matter of proper mic placement. We’ll talk about that in our next post.
Make Pro Songs
Welcome to Sage Audio — where we’ve been providing top-tier studio mastering services and audio education for over two decades now. We understand the challenges of achieving that elusive "professional" sound and are committed to helping you attain it in your own mixes and masters.
That’s why we created the Sage Audio Membership™.
Just for signing up, you receive 10 free mastered songs per month with your own dedicated mastering engineer, unlimited mixing feedback, and access to Sage Audio University™ mixing and mastering courses - which include start-to-finish walkthrough sessions for various genres and 35 multitrack sessions for hands-on practice.
This platform is supported by our thriving community and tight-knit network of audio engineers. Every day, we see and hear great wins in the membership from both new and seasoned engineers, noticing a huge improvement in their mixes and masters after joining.
There are 6 unique value-points inside the Sage Audio membership, so let’s go over each one so you can decide if it’s the right fit for you.
1. 10 Free Mastered Songs Per Month
- Get 10 free mastered songs per month with your own dedicated professional mastering engineer so you can get all your mixes sounding like professional songs.
- All 10 free mastered songs per month will accumulate in your account and will not expire as for as long as you remain a member.
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- All masters are delivered as commercial, industry-standard high-resolution 24-bit HD WAV masters so they will sound clean and clear on every platform.
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- This is highly valuable - giving you access to a thriving community of mixing engineers who can provide you with feedback about what you can improve first before sending your mix to be professionally mastered.
3. Sage Audio University™ (SAU) — (Mixing and Mastering Education Platform)
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4. Sage Audio Community
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5. 700+ In-depth Sage Audio Mixing and Mastering Videos
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6. 70+ GB of Curated Sage Audio Downloadable Content, Including:
- 36 multitrack sessions spanning multiple genres for mixing practice.
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- 62 Recommended Free Plugins List (vetted, tested, and approved, so you don’t have to).
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