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

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

  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    Todd,

    It doesn't matter if your wire is not marked. If you have two strands of wire joined together for the + and the -, just put some tape on one of the strands, follow the wire back to the other end, and put some tape on the same strand at the other end. Consider the taped end the + for both the speaker and the receiver and you will be ok. Do the same for the other speaker's double wire. Doesn't matter which side, unless of course you have that silver/copper looking stuff (haven't seen it in years, but they could still make it). If you have that kind, just make sure that the copper color wire always goes to the +.
     
  2. Clark Johnsen

    Clark Johnsen New Member

    Location:
    Boston MA
    Thanks to everyone for their participation; I am gratified to learn that some of the information I offered was helpful. For twenty years I've been aware of polarity, but through the Eighties I grew ever less confidant that another mere magazine article would change the situation. So, aha! I'd write a whole book! Which is called The Wood Effect: Unaccounted Contributor to Error and Confusion in Acoustics and Audio. Did that help? Well, 4000 copies are in print... but, no. However I did get some splendid reviews! ("Essential reading... fascinating..." John Atkinson) There were many, many more -- even outside the audio realm -- but the essence of Stereophile's lasting views on the topic may be consulted at http://www.stereophile.com/showarchives.cgi?45:2

    Incidentally, at the time of publication, 1988, I was able to cite over 80 printed articles on the topic (including several in JAES) and only one author denied polarity. Still, there are those... of whom Humorem may be one. It appears that Humorem and I have some fundamental differences. And much as I would like to humor him, alas I must correct him.

    "1. I feel it's absolute nonsense to think that half of all material is out of polarity."

    Oh? Well first, "in" and "out" are terms I have been at pains to teach folks not to use. At any rate, consider the math: Since there are no laws governing the inscribing of polarity on any recorded medium, whatever polarity it displays is put there willy-nilly, a function of mic polarity, console polarity, recorder polarity, local XLR convention... you get the point. Now when there is a binary choice without weight assigned to either side, the math demands that the results be split 50/50. It's called the Law of Random Consequences or something; you tell me. But in fact it's nonsense to believe that the situation could be otherwise.

    "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."

    We appreciate the writer's admonishment and agree with him about AC polarity. I myself have been on record for 20 years regarding this topic. In fact, six or seven years ago I published a piece in Positive Feedback about the NINE essential practices necessary to achieve good sound, all of them as relevant today as back then. That achieving correct polarity tops my list should come as no surprise, but the writer's view that I claim polarity is the "only thing" is, well, rather fanciful.

    "The meter Clark refers to is for electrical polarity, not acoustic polarity."

    There are such meters for the AC side, but the one I was referring to was one that another contributor had mentioned, which "measured" signal polarity in electronics. Of course such things are useless without an accompanying guide to the polarity distribution on source material.

    "Like most controversies in audio, this one can never be settled to the satisfaction of everyone."

    I beg to differ! The golden 99% confidence level can be achieved with any and all of my nine essential practices.

    "Every person on this board could do the test and find that I am right: most recordings are in correct polarity."

    NO NO NO! There is NO "correct polarity" -- not until it gets to your ear. This misconception is the principal source of our confusion. (Unless of course Mr. H. can point to standards I am unaware of in the recording industry. In fact I'd like to know!) We must disabuse ourselves of that notion.

    "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."

    Geez Louise! Give me some credit here, please. I have a lab notebook full of carefully-conducted research (Hey! My degree is in physics!) referenced in The Wood Effect; I myself was unprepared for the startling results, and did not see them immediately even. I do indeed believe myself to be correct, but only after years of scientific training and days of cogitation over this matter.

    "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."

    Hmmm... That statement is unimpeachable, but condescending as hell! The writer further repeats the error of assuming there is a "correct" polarity on recordings. There is no such thing.

    Finally, on another topic, I must weigh in too.

    "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!"

    Well, duh! But everyone I know wants to hear at least some stuff on HP's famous list, just to find out what he thinks is good. It's a sort of calibration procedure, y'know.


    Amusingly, the two topics above collided once, as reported in the book. In short: I had obtained copies of everything on the 1987 Superdisc list, scored them for polarity, and found that *all were the same* except one side of one! I adduced that as evidence for the existence of polarity, that an expert listener had unwittingly selected for it. I further reasoned that that very unwittingness constituted a genuine double-blind procedure.

    When Harry finally read the book he pulled the just-about-to-be-published (favorable) review in TAS and hasn't spoken to me since.

    Clark

    PS For an enjoyable romp through CES, written to work in many of my concerns, which have little to do with audio gear, go here:

    http://enjoythemusic.com/ces2002/bonus/clarkjohnsen.htm
     
  3. Humorem

    Humorem New Member

    Location:
    LOS ANGELES
    Re: Hi Tom,

    Good analogy. That analogy holds if the person asking the questions of the film enthusiasts has never seen the film!

    See the film, then ask the questions. Check your recordings for polarity, then ask the "experts", assuming you still want to, in order to gain a better understanding. Until you listen for yourself, you have no understanding. You have other people's opinions, worth what you paid for them.

    There's a bit in the Black Adder series when someone says to Rowan Atkinson, in reference to a shade of blue he has never seen: "This blue is supposed to be even bluer that the blue of the crown jewels", or something like it, and the Black Adder replies "So you're saying this blue, which you have never seen, is bluer than this other blue, which you also have never seen?" And the man says "Yes!"

    And the Black Adder replies, in the most condescending tone he can muster "That is very blue indeed."
     
  4. Humorem

    Humorem New Member

    Location:
    LOS ANGELES
    "Amusingly, the two topics above collided once, as reported in the book. In short: I had obtained copies of everything on the 1987 Superdisc list, scored them for polarity, and found that *all were the same* except one side of one! I adduced that as evidence for the existence of polarity, that an expert listener had unwittingly selected for it. I further reasoned that that very unwittingness constituted a genuine double-blind procedure."

    I won't address the rest of Clark's post; he's welcome to his opinion. I can tell you it is factually impossible for the above research to be valid.

    HP does not tell us which pressings of the titles on the Superdisc List he listens to in order to put them on the list. Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman is on the list as British ILPS # whatever, I won't even bother to look it up.

    Now there are at least 20 different versions with that catalog number. Which one did HP listen to? Which one did Clark listen to? What are the chances they were the same? You don't have to know much about statistical theory to know "slim and none".

    This is true for every record on the list. Some have tons of pressing variations, others have few.

    As a record dealer I have had numerous copies of many of the records on the TAS list. Frequently, as with Mercury 90006, I am at a complete loss to understand how that record is a Superdisc.

    Other times I might agree with a choice here or there. (When he started putting those dreadful Classic records on the list, I knew he had gone off the deep end once and for all. But that's another story. When I said so in my catalog it wasn't long before they stopped accepting advertising from me. If the emperor has no clothes he doesn't want anybody advertising the fact.)

    And sometimes I will come across a pressing from the list that sounds remarkably better than the ones I had heard before, and I think "Aha, this must be the one Harry heard!"

    The people that collect the records on that list because they are on that list -- which is a great many people I can tell you, they've been calling me for fifteen years -- usually don't know much about record collecting, and think that having the right catalog number, and maybe an original pressing (if they can figure out what that is, not likely I would guess) means they now are in possesion of a Superdisc record. (Regardless of how it sounds!)

    They are not, on average. And that speaks volumes as to the validity of Clark's findings about the Superdisc list.

    (I used to have a line I liked to spout about the RCA 1S Pines, which goes like this: Why is it when DG makes a hard, sour, distorted record everybody complains, but when RCA and Reiner make a record with the same sound it's a Superdisc? Only Harry can tell you; it's his list.)

    I hope all of this doesn't come across as arrogant. My whole point in this discussion was to get all you folks out there to listen for yourselves. It's not top down audio. It's ground up. Power to the people.

    And one other thing. Dave Grusin's direct to disc on Sheffield pointed out that reversing your speaker leads on side 2 (I think it was) would make the sound better, and as I remember it did.

    That was 1977, when polarity was first brought to the attention of audiophiles around the world (that I know of, anyway.)

    Anybody know of a record of it before then? Post away!
     
  5. RicP

    RicP All Digital. All The Time.

    Location:
    In the ether
    Here's a question I hope isn't too elementary.

    Is it feasible or even proper to accomodate inverted polarity by reversing the interconnects to the power amp rather than the speaker wire leads?

    If so, I find that easier to do myself. If not, could someone explain why -- assuming of course that the polarity inversion is not taking place inside the power amplifier.

    Thanks.
     
  6. Claviusb

    Claviusb A Serious Man

    Good point

    Touchè!

    I remember in the 70's reading the book Hitchcock/Truffaut where Francois Truffaut asks many questions about Hitchcock's films. Only another filmmaker could pull such answers out of the man. I appreciated the discussions of the films I'd already seen, the information provided me with the ability to "see" nuances I'd never have noticed on my own and gave me a great desire to revisit the movies I thought I already knew. The other thing that happened was suddenly I had an intense desire to see the rest of Hitchcock's films (including the ones Hitchcock wouldn't allow to be released again but his family bucked within months of his death and they went straight to home video).

    I hope this doesn't come off as patronizing, but I am really grateful to read both your comments and Clark's.

    Last year I tried switching out the polarity on my speakers and after doing a lot of testing I came to the conclusion that on my system some discs sounded better one way, and some sounded better the other way. I just chose the one I felt most consistantly gave me the "better" sound and went with it. My system has changed since then, though. When things slow down for me I'll reread this thread and try your advice.
     
  7. Claviusb

    Claviusb A Serious Man

    That won't do any good, Ric. You change the polarity of one side of each interconnect and you won't have a circuit. You'll get nothing coming from your amp then.
     
  8. JPartyka

    JPartyka I Got a Home on High Thread Starter

    Location:
    USA
    This thread has really snowballed from my tiny little original question about my speakers!!! It's all been most worthwhile; I'll be printing it out when it looks like it's finally starting to peter out ...

    Anyway last night I flipped the plug on my Rega turntable, and started doing some A/B comparisons. Again, the differences were startling. Thanks once again, everyone, for the information and suggestions.

    I'd love to try my CD player too, but that has a plug with one prong larger than the other and I really don't want to file it down ... so I'll get a cheater and use that instead.
     
  9. Claviusb

    Claviusb A Serious Man

    Yeah, I was gonna comment earlier, look what you did JEFF!
     
  10. Humorem

    Humorem New Member

    Location:
    LOS ANGELES
    "I remember in the 70's reading the book Hitchcock/Truffaut where Francois Truffaut asks many questions about Hitchcock's films. Only another filmmaker could pull such answers out of the man. I appreciated the discussions of the films I'd already seen, the information provided me with the ability to "see" nuances I'd never have noticed on my own and gave me a great desire to revisit the movies I thought I already knew."

    That's a breath of refreshing sanity. Speaking of film, and well off the subject, I just happened to watch Ang Lee's Ride With the Devil last night. I was up until 4 AM. I had to see the ending. What an amazing movie. The best Civil War period recreation in the history of film IMO, and a great story, characters, etc.

    What a fool I was to listen to the experts, the critics who panned the film, which sunk it like a stone. Same with The Yards, a film that sank like a stone after being panned. I loved it.

    There is no substitute for first hand experience in this world. Watching Hitchcock movies is way better than reading about them, but you can do both, and get more out of each in the process.

    Here's to ClaviusB. Good luck with your audio endeavors.

    (And I did get a chance to see the incredibly limited rerelease of 2001 last year. I had forgotten about the three minute overture that played over a black screen. Now that's a trip!)
     
  11. Angel

    Angel New Member

    Location:
    Hollywood, Ca.
    Humorem said:

    (I used to have a line I liked to spout about the RCA 1S Pines, which goes like this: Why is it when DG makes a hard, sour, distorted record everybody complains, but when RCA and Reiner make a record with the same sound it's a Superdisc? Only Harry can tell you; it's his list.)


    ------------------------------------------

    Sorry for not being enough of an audiophile to know all of the labels, but who or what is DG? And I assume Pines means "Pines Of Rome"? And 1S refers to---what, the first cutting? What does the S stand for, stereo?

    Thanks. Sorry, but I'm still learning!
     
  12. Humorem

    Humorem New Member

    Location:
    LOS ANGELES
    Deutsche Grammophone, my dear girl. Too hard to spell the first time around!

    1S is indeed the first cutting, and famous for having dynamics so great they had to recut it with more compression because no one could track it.

    S probably stands for stamper, but it's just RCA's way of marking it. If you see any record by any artist on any label with a number like that, RCA cut it. (You can spot the RCA record club versions that way.)
     
  13. Angel

    Angel New Member

    Location:
    Hollywood, Ca.
    Oh yes, DG, I get it. But, please fill me in a little more if you would. Deutsche Grammophone makes BAD sounding records? I was always told that an LP on DG was a thing of beauty, especially the old ones with the flowers on the label or something...:confused:
     
  14. Clark Johnsen

    Clark Johnsen New Member

    Location:
    Boston MA
    "Is it feasible or even proper to accomodate inverted polarity by reversing the interconnects to the power amp rather than the speaker wire leads?"

    Yes! IF, but only if, you use balanced lines. Otherwise there are only two places, the phono cartridge and the loudspeaker.

    "If so, I find that easier to do myself. If not, could someone explain why -- assuming of course that the polarity inversion is not taking place inside the power amplifier."

    Here we go again! It matters not whether any particular piece of gear inverts, so long as you know it! With source material coming at you 50/50, all you can do is make sure the bookkeeping is straight.

    clark
     
  15. Clark Johnsen

    Clark Johnsen New Member

    Location:
    Boston MA
    Humorem writes:

    "I won't address the rest of Clark's post; he's welcome to his opinion."

    As I've tried to convey, my position has nothing to do with opinion, and I had no pre-formed view on the topic anyway, until I undertook my own research. All is explained in the book, and none of the reviewers (or readers) took the slightest exception to it. I must assume this writer won't address the rest because either he lacks the skill, or he capitulates.

    Then, regarding my unusual finding on the TAS list, he says this:

    "I can tell you it is factually impossible for the above research to be valid. [Strong words!] HP does not tell us which pressings of the titles on the Superdisc List he listens to in order to put them on the list. Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman is on the list as British ILPS # whatever, I won't even bother to look it up.

    "Now there are at least 20 different versions with that catalog number. Which one did HP listen to? Which one did Clark listen to? What are the chances they were the same? You don't have to know much about statistical theory to know 'slim and none'. "

    Get ahold of yourself, Humorem! Calm down and let's see if we can't think this thing through.

    Certainly there was a problem here, which I recognized from the outset... again, you don't seem to give anyone else much credit for intelligence. I devised a number of ways to make my determination, and I enlisted assistance. Some of the discs existed in limited quantities, others were from houses known for consistency; with many I obtained numerous copies to check actual polarity consistency; and best of all, I had an Insider! Yes! A person who fed me dead wax info, and who in I believe three instances made the polarity determination himself *off Harry's own record*! Naturally I had already confirmed that he could tell the difference between toot and poop.

    I am both confident of my work and unsurprised that the results should have turned out the way they did; although I admit I would have been quite happy with something like a 9/4 split.

    Finally, The Wood Effect contains the polarity scorings for a large number of "audiophile" discs produced in small quantity. When one producer saw my list, he thought a for few moments and then said, "I know exactly what happened!"

    clark
     
  16. Claviusb

    Claviusb A Serious Man

    Originally posted by Humorem

    "I just happened to watch Ang Lee's Ride With the Devil last night. I was up until 4 AM. I had to see the ending. What an amazing movie. The best Civil War period recreation in the history of film IMO, and a great story, characters, etc.

    What a fool I was to listen to the experts, the critics who panned the film, which sunk it like a stone. Same with The Yards, a film that sank like a stone after being panned. I loved it."


    I'll be sure to catch those myself in a couple weeks. My dance card is kinda full at the moment (ya can't tell that from my long posts in this thread though). Thanks for the thumbs up, Tom!

    BTW, I'm surprised at you, Tom! Listening to critics like that! ;)

    Speaking of critics...

    "There is no substitute for first hand experience in this world. Watching Hitchcock movies is way better than reading about them, but you can do both, and get more out of each in the process."

    Absolutely. Then again, your comment reminds me of something some film critic once wrote about Woody Allen films. He noted that describing a Woody Allen film was funnier than watching one, and while I love Woody Allen I found that to be very true. I could get huge belly laughs from my friends by describing scenes from "Everything You've Always Wanted To Know About *** But Were Afraid To Ask" that only elicited guffaws in the theatre. I think that still holds true even today.

    "Here's to ClaviusB. Good luck with your audio endeavors."

    Thanks Tom. I'm sure I'll be hitting you up for advice.

    (And I did get a chance to see the incredibly limited rerelease of 2001 last year. I had forgotten about the three minute overture that played over a black screen. Now that's a trip!)

    Yes, it is! Makes you wish they did that now too, huh?
     
  17. Clark Johnsen

    Clark Johnsen New Member

    Location:
    Boston MA
    Ride with the Devil was one hell of a fine film. As for the critics -- the ones around here told me to go see it!

    Guess you just have to be careful about whom you listen to...

    clark
     
  18. Clark Johnsen

    Clark Johnsen New Member

    Location:
    Boston MA
  19. Humorem

    Humorem New Member

    Location:
    LOS ANGELES
    Polarity

    Let's see how the experiments are coming along with the forum readers.

    I notice we have no data yet. This does not surprise me. Many other issues of great importance in audio seem to be too much trouble for most audiophiles. Now buying expensive interconnects every other month, that they have time for!

    I do have a friend who corrected my post, Robert Pincus. "One out of ten reversed? More like one out of thirty."

    But we shall see.
     
  20. FabFourFan

    FabFourFan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Clark, I do believe in the importance of maintaining Abolute Polarity!
    I believed it before I bought your book from you in 1990, and
    I believed it after I read your book, and
    I still believe it today.

    And FWIW, I've been monitoring my stereo playback on a 'scope since the '70s,
    and would recommend the practice to anyone.

    But now with that out of the way, can you perhaps explain to me what Stan's is trying to say with his 'scope pictures?

    In other words, what exactly can be 'proven' about Acoustic or Absolute Polarity from seeing those 'scope screens? I must be missing something obvious?
     
  21. Mal

    Mal Phorum Physicist

    Creating a CD copy in opposite polarity to the original

    If I understand the polarity issue correctly, it should be fairly easy to create a CD-R with the opposite polarity to the original from which the copy is made.

    If you picture the sound wave in the conventional way, ie amplitude on the y-axis and time along the x-axis, simply reflecting the wave in the x-axis would result in the original signal in reverse polarity.

    I assume this is possible in a program like Cool Edit Pro?

    The point is, if you find that most of your CDs sound good with your system in one polarity set up, rather than swapping your speaker leads to hear the few "rogue" (it's all relative of course :)) discs at their best, you could simply create copies that sound great as the system is......
     
  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    Re: Creating a CD copy in opposite polarity to the original

    Can some of our resident computer folks confirm or deny this?

    Thanks!
     
  23. Paul L.

    Paul L. New Member

    Location:
    Earth
    Yes, Cool Edit Pro allows one to change polarity. Under Transform, select "invert."

    Sound Forge has the same thing. Under Process, select "invert/flip."
     
  24. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    Hmmm. Just don't misuse it. Make sure that your transfer actually needs it first!
     
  25. Paul L.

    Paul L. New Member

    Location:
    Earth
    Interestingly enough, both Cool Edit Pro and Sound Forge state unequivocally that changing the polarity of a single sound file makes NO difference in sound, but that when mixing, one would want to make sure all the tracks have the same polarity so as to avoid cancellations and so forth.
     

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