SH Spotlight Reversing red/black speaker wires. Polarity vs. Phase...

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by JPartyka, Feb 17, 2002.

  1. Metralla

    Metralla Joined Jan 13, 2002

    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Humorem,

    Cheaper pre-amps may change polarity in the manner you describe. However, the implementation on the BAT is not compromised.

    No switching leads for this little brown duck. Just press the button on the remote from the comfort of my listening chair.

    Regards,
    Metralla
     
  2. Humorem

    Humorem New Member

    Location:
    LOS ANGELES
    polarity switch

    I'm pretty sure that's impossible. There is an additional circuit in there somewhere, not a magic genie, and additional circuitry is a degradation. It may be inaudible; none of the other ones I listened to were, but there's a first for everything.

    Do a critical listen. Then you will know. Speculation in audio is pointless when the experiment can be done in an hour and the matter resolved, don't you think?

    The Aesthetix phono stage at $6000+ offers two imputs, one reversed. The reversed one has another gain stage and doesn't sound as good. If it could be done they would do it. They certainly have no budgetary concerns!
     
  3. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    Humorem,

    In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a polarity button on a preamp. I wish I had one.

    Remember, one could go crazy over this. Some of us have amps that have volume controls on them. Now THAT'S degradation. But, for the sake of ease, we let it slide.

    Think about all the knobs and switches on recording consoles and mastering consoles. Best not to go there!
     
  4. Humorem

    Humorem New Member

    Location:
    LOS ANGELES
    Volume pots, moi?

    I see your point. And the switch is handy.

    But... from one obsessive to another, I would want to know what sound quality I was loosing before I agreed to lose it. I can't bypass my pots very easily. In fact if the designer found out I had done so he might do me bodily harm.
     
  5. Humorem

    Humorem New Member

    Location:
    LOS ANGELES
    Loosing? I knew that looked funny.

    I meant losing.
     
  6. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    I hear what you're saying, but it's like checking for tarnishing of the copper in our interconnect wire every day. Crazy time. (Although I know that our friend Jim Ricketts probably does that every day!).

    Humorem, by the way, if you find you have made a typing error in your post after you hit "submit reply", all you have to do is hit the "edit" button and you can go back and fix it, for no extra charge!
     
    TheeGory likes this.
  7. DanG

    DanG On Green Dolphin Street

    Location:
    U.S.
    Humorem posted:

    Every piece of electronics sounds better plugged into the wall one way rather than another. Get some cheaters at the hardware store so that the "polarized" plug can be reversed into the wall.

    I have started to play with this. I bought most of my system in '82 and, interestingly, the pieces I've checked do not have polarized plugs.

    Now I am feeling old.

    Yamaha A760 II integrated amp
    Yamaha CD-X2

    First I switched the amp. I think it sounds better. Then I switched the CD, and I'm not sure. I've got to listen some more, and I'd like to get a test disc, too.
     
  8. Humorem

    Humorem New Member

    Location:
    LOS ANGELES
    Changing the plug on the CD player should make a huge difference. Check with a vocal.

    If you want to really drive yourself crazy, change the display mode on your CD player. It changes the sound! Sometimes off is not the best either.

    And if you don't want to drive yourself crazy, that is also an option.
     
  9. Jim Ricketts

    Jim Ricketts Active Member

    Location:
    Freedom, USA
    Cleaning contacts? Guilty as charged.....but seeking medical assistance to overcome!


    ps: how do you add the smiley and other icons to these massages? I hope no sharp instruments are required since the doctor says I'm not allowed to have any.:)
     
  10. Metralla

    Metralla Joined Jan 13, 2002

    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Humorem,

    We all defend the equipment we own - and I've just been guilty of that. I apologise.

    I've only heard good things about the Aesthetix, particularly from mikel on AA. Check out a committed audiophile right here. He has pictures too if you follow the link.

    The Aesthetix is a top class unit; and the BAT is a statement product from Victor Khomenko that goes for $8k with the remote, so it is definitely in the same class.

    Most importantly, this preamp is fully balanced. This means that polarity inversion can be done with a simple switch. BAT have stressed the balanced design as part of their core competency, and it is this architecture that allows them to invert phase in a passive manner.

    Even so, switches are involved and some minimalists would argue that this is not good, but the benefits of listening with the correct polarity outweigh the effect on the sonics that a top quality switch would have. BAT use very high quality switches.

    Only a balanced design can avoid the active stage that you are rightly suspicious of. There are many unbalanced designs that have polarity buttons, and you would get better sound by swapping the leads.

    In summary, although I am not absolutely sure, I do believe that the BAT VK-50SE inverts polarity without a extra active stage.

    What I do know is that inverting polarity in my system has no deleterious effect on the sound that I can perceive.

    Regards,
    Metralla
     
  11. JPartyka

    JPartyka I Got a Home on High Thread Starter

    Location:
    USA
    Re: Polarity and Reality

    Could Tom or anyone else please clarify what this "cheater" is? I'd like to try picking one up so I can test my CD player (the plug on it has one prong bigger than the other, so I can't just plug it "upside down" into my Acme Audio silver-plated outlet receptacle).

    Also, would this have any effect on the sound of a turntable (I have a Rega Planar 3 with the newer motor)? On how well my cassette deck records?

    Thanks.
     
  12. Paul L.

    Paul L. New Member

    Location:
    Earth
    A cheater plug is just an adapter plug. It allows you to plug a three-prong plug into a wall socket that was made for just two-prongs.

    Some of these plugs may have both their prongs thin, so they'll go in one way or upside down with equal ease. But more likely you'll find one prong is wider than the other. In that case you'll have to file down the wider prong a little. But better to do that than ruin the plug on your equipment!

    Most stereo stuff just has two prongs, of course, but if you have three-prong equipment, I would not defeat the extra safety of the third prong.
     
  13. Dave

    Dave Esoteric Audio Research Specialistâ„¢

    Location:
    Greater Vancouver
    Paul,

    I used to have this slight hum problem just enough to drive me nuts. After being told by my regular audiophile shop to use the cheater by slipping the ground as described above, the hum went good-bye as well as everything just sounded a lot better.

    However if your running high watts with a lot of draw or using 220 volts I'd agree with you.;)
     
  14. Humorem

    Humorem New Member

    Location:
    LOS ANGELES
    cheater plugs

    Cheater plugs without a polarized prong, the oversized one, are hard to find, and you have to file down the big prong if you want to be able to reverse it, a major pain.

    Polarity can make a huge difference on any piece of equipment, so make sure you have tested everything in the system.
     
  15. Clark Johnsen

    Clark Johnsen New Member

    Location:
    Boston MA
    Hi guys!

    Master SH asked me to comment on the questions raised in this freewheeling discussion, so I shall take time out from home remodeling to address the weighty issues of polarity.

    What I have found, time and again, here and everywhere, is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of Absolute Polarity. Let me define three terms:

    Polarity: The 180 degrees phase condition, you're "in" or you're "out" of "phase" -- confusing, yes, and that's why *those* expressions should not be used.

    Acoustic Polarity: This refers to actual wavefronts impinging on an actual ear. They arrive as pure compressions, pure rarefactions, or an admixture. This is the proper term to use 95% of the time when people write "absolute polarity".

    Absolute Polarity: The condition where the impingements arrive in the same manner as *actual musical instruments*. In other words, "toot" is heard as toot and not poop; which is why the latter sounds like ****...

    Further to confuse matters, no standards prevail as to which direction of an initial stylus excursion constitutes a compression wave; ditto (by analogy) on CD and ditto on tape! There are no standards by which one can declare that any single electrically-recorded signal is wrong!!

    And to top that off, the recorded material comes both ways willy-nilly. I was the man who discovered the fact that it's split 50/50 overall, LP and CD, or at any rate was until a few years ago. All this is explained in my little red book The Wood Effect. Nor is a given catalog number any sure indication of consistency; different masterings can have different polarities. Ask Stan Ricker if you don't believe me!

    So you can excuse a guy's getting confused and making erroneous statements. Being in denial is another trip altogether; that just shows that one's system has massive amounts of phase distortion. Mine is clean on that account, and no one -- I might even add *absolutely* no one -- fails to hear the phenomenon at my place.

    When I read that there's a meter that indicates whether "your CD playback maintains or inverts absolute polarity," I just yawn and then languidly ask whether that meter also indicates which polarity the cut being played is in.

    Of course it does *not*.

    Now I see I've taken some flack from Humorem regarding my longtime and ardent advocacy of polarity awareness. "Nonsense" he says; "the worst kind of reductionism". Then in his very next paragraph we read that "electrical polarity" is "crucial to good sound". Well! I agree! (That's in The Wood Effect too, by the way.) But, Humorem, isn't that rather, uh, *reductionist* of you?

    As for "I know only one disc that is mastered out of polarity," I don't know what to say to this apparent vinyl lover, except that he's wrong, wrong, wrong! I mean, about the discs, not about his own knowledge.

    Finally, the matter of Chesky. That test disc shows the hubris of putting any signal on and sort of disc and tape and claiming that it's "in polarity". The goddam players even vary! "That test CD was an early clue that they don't have any" can further be construed that neither does the writer!

    Gotta go! Thanks, guys.

    clark
     
  16. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    Hey, the man himself!

    Thanks, Clark!

    An amazing kettle of fish, eh? :eek:
     
  17. Dave

    Dave Esoteric Audio Research Specialistâ„¢

    Location:
    Greater Vancouver
    Yeah I'll say Steve.

    It's agood thing I enrolled in Hoffmans School Of Audio Engineering 101. Where else besides the book do you get this kind of info. on the web? Nowhere!;)
     
  18. Angel

    Angel New Member

    Location:
    Hollywood, Ca.
    Wow. After rereading this entire thread, topping it off with Clark's post, I can say that I've never been taught this in any engineering class, nor have I seen it in any book.

    Amazing what I've just learned here. I'm going to make sure that every recording engineer I know reads this thread.

    Thank you one and all. It's amazing but true; I will be able to do my job better now. I can't really say that about any other website I've ever been to.

    Truly awesome learning here!
     
  19. Humorem

    Humorem New Member

    Location:
    LOS ANGELES
    Response to Clark

    1. I feel it's absolute nonsense to think that half of all material is out of polarity. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can prove this is not true. Pick 10 records or cds at random and play them both ways. You will settle this issue in one afternoon and never have to revisit it. I tend not to have much faith in so-called "experts" in the world of audio. If you have more faith than I, by the time you finish this experiment you will surely have less than you started out with. Do the test and report your findings so that we can all learn from your efforts.

    2. "Electrical polarity is crucial to good sound." This is factually true. It is not, however, the ONLY thing that's important to good sound. That would be reductionism. This should not be difficult to understand.

    The meter Clark refers to is for electrical polarity, not acoustic polarity. It normally will measure accurately, but there are some pieces that sound better out of electrical polarity when measured. I've had a few. It was always hard to believe, so I would check it 20 times until I realized the reverse was better and had to believe my ears, not a meter. Now I don't use a meter at all. Once you know what incorrect electrical polarity sounds like it's much easier, though not always easy, to hear.

    Like most controversies in audio, this one can never be settled to the satisfaction of everyone.
    Every person on this board could do the test and find that I am right: most recordings are in correct polarity. Clark can then say that the stereos have phase problems that corrupt the results, or that people can be fooled, or any number of things, and still believe himself correct.

    One critical element in the scientific method of pursuing the truth is the claimed effect be reproducible by others. If other laboratories can't succeed at cold fusion, there is no such thing as cold fusion until they can.

    So let's see how many of you out there in audio land find that there are equal numbers of polarity challenged recordings and proper polarity recordings, and how many of you find, like I do, that the ratio is more like 10 to 1.

    Now I should point out that multitrack recordings are often both, with some instruments sounding in and some out, just like Steve says. So don't use those. Use older recordings or more naturally miked and recorded material. And let me know what you hear!
     
  20. Angel

    Angel New Member

    Location:
    Hollywood, Ca.
    Will do, Humorem. Now that I am aware of this, it won't be far from my mind!
     
  21. Claviusb

    Claviusb A Serious Man

    To recap some of what I feel are key points of this thread...

    From SH:

    I have a "polarity" button on the mastering console. Amazing how many records are out when they should be in. How do you know what is right? When the recording improves dramatically, you are in correct polarity. Assuming of course that all of your gear is correct, from how you plug it in to the wall, to how your speakers (and releated equipment) are INTERNALLY wired.

    You could lose your mind...


    For me this is a huge point, and you beat me to it Steve. Sometimes connecting the red wire to the black terminal is the right thing to do, because something inside might be wired wrong. Stuff gets wired "wrong" more often than not. High end gear can be wired wrong as easily as it can be wired "right." As some have noted, some speaker manufacturers purposefully wire the left tweeter one way and the right the other way. If you reverse the wires to "straighten this out," where does this leave the woofer which isn't wired this way?

    This is my favorite thought in this entire thread, by Humorem:

    Your ears can be fooled, of course, but most of the time they're conveying accurate information. If the brain doesn't understand why some thing or another should make a difference in the sound, the ear cannot be bullied into not hearing it. The brain has to reconcile itself to the ear, not the other way around. Most audiophiles are in denial about at least some issues in audio. Who can blame them? But if you want your stereo to improve, the best tool you have at your disposal is an open mind.

    That last sentence is a killer!

    Next, from Steve again:

    In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a polarity button on a preamp. I wish I had one.

    Remember, one could go crazy over this. Some of us have amps that have volume controls on them. Now THAT'S degradation. But, for the sake of ease, we let it slide.

    Think about all the knobs and switches on recording consoles and mastering consoles. Best not to go there!


    Ay,ay,ay! The room is starting to spin...

    Clark checks in with:

    Further to confuse matters, no standards prevail as to which direction of an initial stylus excursion constitutes a compression wave; ditto (by analogy) on CD and ditto on tape! There are no standards by which one can declare that any single electrically-recorded signal is wrong!!

    And to top that off, the recorded material comes both ways willy-nilly. I was the man who discovered the fact that it's split 50/50 overall, LP and CD, or at any rate was until a few years ago. All this is explained in my little red book The Wood Effect. Nor is a given catalog number any sure indication of consistency; different masterings can have different polarities. Ask Stan Ricker if you don't believe me!

    So you can excuse a guy's getting confused and making erroneous statements. Being in denial is another trip altogether; that just shows that one's system has massive amounts of phase distortion. Mine is clean on that account, and no one -- I might even add *absolutely* no one -- fails to hear the phenomenon at my place.


    Hmmm, da man chimes in and things get murkier!

    Next, Angel drops this bombshell:

    Wow. After rereading this entire thread, topping it off with Clark's post, I can say that I've never been taught this in any engineering class, nor have I seen it in any book.

    Amazing what I've just learned here. I'm going to make sure that every recording engineer I know reads this thread.


    No wonder all the polarities are so messed up. Ever see a picture of studio wiring? This is pointing that way and which way is this way and lions and tiggers and bears-- oh my! Tell those engineers to hit up Audio Asylum and use the search for "really nasty polarity fights."

    Finally, Humorem one last time:

    Like most controversies in audio, this one can never be settled to the satisfaction of everyone.
    Every person on this board could do the test and find that I am right: most recordings are in correct polarity. Clark can then say that the stereos have phase problems that corrupt the results, or that people can be fooled, or any number of things, and still believe himself correct.

    Now I should point out that multitrack recordings are often both, with some instruments sounding in and some out, just like Steve says. So don't use those. Use older recordings or more naturally miked and recorded material. And let me know what you hear!


    All good things to consider, Humorem.

    So here we are-- in some ways no better off than when we started. In other ways, we're much better off. At the very least we've got some great education out of all of this. So where do we go from here?

    Well, we've got Tom's suggestion of how to approach the situation, but personally, I'd also like to hear again from Clark Johnsen. Clark, you've painted a pretty bleak picture of life with seriously screwed up polarity. How do you suggest the average guy dig himself out? What should be the steps neccessary to end up with a very "clean" system like the one you have? Where does a person begin? Are there any pitfalls to be aware of? What does any of us need to do this the right way?

    And Tom, I hope you'll agree that even if you feel there are other problems besides polarity that account for something sounding poor on a system there may be something of value in Clark's comments for you too (you might learn something new, and then at least you'll know any polarity issues will be completely addressed in your system). After all, if you want your stereo to improve, the best tool you have at your disposal is an open mind.
     
  22. Humorem

    Humorem New Member

    Location:
    LOS ANGELES
    "And Tom, I hope you'll agree that even if you feel there are other problems besides polarity that accounts for something sounding poor on a system there may be something of value in Clark's comments for you too (you might learn something new, and then at least you'll know any polarity issues will be completely addressed in your system). Afterall, if you want your stereo to improve, the best tool you have at your disposal is an open mind."

    Dear Clavius B (2001, right?)

    I can tell you everything, and I mean everything, you need to know about acoustic polarity in one sentence. Here it is: Recording X may be out of correct acoustical polarity, and you should find out if you suspect that it may be -- if you want to go to the trouble, and your system is phase coherent enough to tell you.

    Nobody is an "expert" in this field because it's too simple to qualify for expertise! It's a yes or no question for any given recording, and you can test it yourself for free at home. How much of an expert do you need to be for that? It ain't rocket science. No night classes, no books, no special tools, nothing. Just the stereo you already own, and the ears that already grew out of your head.

    Listen, the subtext of your condensed version of this running argument on the forum is the idea that person x says one thing and person y says another, so let's see if we can find some way of reconciling these opposing views and gain the benefit - thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

    This is not my idea of audio.

    My idea of audio is that anyone is free to believe what he or she likes. I, however, must have evidence to believe what I believe. An opinion is not evidence. It may lead me to test a hypothesis that occurs to me as a result of reading an opinion. But the test is the thing, not the idea that gives rise to it.

    If it's an audio question that's at all important to me, I find a way to test it firsthand, by ear. Since polarity is an audio question that affects the reproduction of the music I listen to, I have done the work. I have listened both ways. I know the results.

    Like I said earlier, you can settle this matter for yourself. What difference does it make what I think? It's what you think, and what you learn for yourself, that should matter the most to you.

    It reminds me of that silly TAS superdisc list. Why would anyone want to collect what somebody else thinks are superdiscs? Make up your own list! It would probably be a lot better!

    To sum up, don't listen to me. Listen to a bunch of records, switch the polarity, then listen again. Then we will listen to what you have to say.

    This whole discussion is like trying to find out what the weather is by calling your neighbors and asking them, when you could just as easily, and much more accurately, stick your head out the window and see for yourself.
     
  23. Claviusb

    Claviusb A Serious Man

    Hi Tom,

    >Dear Clavius B (2001, right?)

    Yep, very good!

    >Listen, the subtext of your condensed version of this running argument on the forum is the idea that person x says one thing and person y says another, so let's see if we can find some way of reconciling these opposing views and gain the benefit - thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

    That's part of it. The other part is that there's no way to totally reconcile both viewpoints. As you state, sooner or later a person needs to pick a side and not do too much fence sitting. All I'm asking is for Clark to make suggestions for people to try also. I'm with you-- let me decide on my own. But I'd be a fool only consider just a single viewpoint when there are others out there.

    >This is not my idea of audio.

    >My idea of audio is that anyone is free to believe what he or she likes. I, however, must have evidence to believe what I believe. An opinion is not evidence. It may lead me to test a hypothesis that occurs to me as a result of reading an opinion. But the test is the thing, not the idea that gives rise to it.

    I am in agreement with this concept. Theory can only take you so far, you have to get out there and find out for yourself.

    > It reminds me of that silly TAS superdisc list. Why would anyone want to collect what somebody else thinks are superdiscs? Make up your own list! It would probably be a lot better!

    I'm sure I own some discs on that list but not because of the list. Keep in mind that most people can't have listen to everything on their own, that's why they call you and ask your opinionated self for advice too. I understand your opinion is quite trustworthy, I take that into account and still continue to ask questions. That's my choice too.

    >This whole discussion is like trying to find out what the weather is by calling your neighbors and asking them, when you could just as easily, and much more accurately, stick your head out the window and see for yourself.

    I disagree here. Instead, I feel like this thread is like asking some really passionate and knowledgable people who work in film for their interpretation of the movie 2001. You can choose to listen and take from their knowledge of the subject with added insight for the next time you view the film (or as you say-- those thoughts can be ignored), but all the discussion in the world is still no substitute for actually watching the movie on your own.
     
  24. TSmithPage

    TSmithPage Ex Post Facto Member

    Location:
    Lexington, KY
    Fascinating thread. I'm not much of a techie, and still use the same Acculab speakers I bought for college almost 20 years ago. A basic question which I'm sure is elementary to everyone here, but which I've never been sure about: your standard speaker wires have a marked wire (mine have a white line running throughout the wire) and an unmarked wire, whereas the speakers and receiver usually have red and black markings where you insert the speaker wires. From this thread, I understand it can make a big difference in sound if the "red line" from the speaker doesn't go into the "red line" in the receiver and vice versa. However, does it make any difference whether you insert the marked wire (as opposed to the unmarked wire) into the red on both the speaker and receiver? In other words, does it matter which of the 2 speaker wires you plug into the speaker and receiver, as long as the same wire is plugged into the matching area of both speaker and receiver?
     
  25. Dave

    Dave Esoteric Audio Research Specialistâ„¢

    Location:
    Greater Vancouver
    Only if your wire has 2 different strands ie. one silver wire, one copper wire. But I personally have never seen this...........yet.
     

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