SH Spotlight SH Forum members: Are your speakers in correct phase?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Oct 25, 2004.

  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    I was thinking about this earlier today and I think that we should all be on the same page about this. I remember strolling the halls of a big record company about 4 weeks ago and discovering to my dismay that many of the stereo set-ups in the offices had the speakers wired out of phase. I spent some time fixing the problem but I was a little freaked out. I mean, this was a record company after all, heh.

    So, I thought I'd pose the question to you:

    ARE YOUR SPEAKERS CORRECTLY IN PHASE?

    I don't mean absolute polarity ("wood effect") issues I mean phasing issues.

    For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about (and not everyone will) here goes:

    The + and - terminals on the back of your receiver of amps must match the + and - on your speaker terminals. I mean the wire that is hooked up to the + on speaker one (left channel) must go to the + on the amp's left channel. THE SAME MUST HAPPEN FOR SPEAKER TWO. If not, your system will be wired out of phase. You will lose bass, focus and most importantly, your system won't image correctly and EVERYTHING will sound like a FAKE ELECTRONIC STEREO recording from 1966.

    How to tell if you are in phase or out of phase?

    Glad you asked. It's very easy. The best way is to find something on a CD in MONO. Before you say "I HATE MONO, I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING IN MONO" let me assure you that you do. Try a BEATLES Past Masters CD or a earlier STONES CD. Make sure you aren't using a fake stereo source! Play "Thank You Girl" back from Past Masters. Stand directly in front of your two speakers, placing them at equal distances apart from you and on the exact level (not one on the floor and one on a chair). Stand in front and hit PLAY. The music should sound like it is coming at you right down the middle of the two speakers in a defined space. IF IT DOESN'T, YOU ARE PROBABLY WIRED OUT OF PHASE.

    This is "Stereo Set-up 101" but I bet some of you will find you are out of phase. Not to worry. It's easy to fix if you are: Just reverse one set of speaker leads, either the right or left channel and you are in.

    Now, double check something for me. Most speaker wire other than the real bottom of the line stuff will have a mark on either end for + and -. It could be that one end is in RED and one end is in BLACK. If so, the RED goes to the + both at the speaker and amp end and the BLACK goes to the - lead. Make sure this is happening for BOTH speakers. If you are lined up that way, you are in phase.

    If you speaker wire does NOT have the ends finished in red and black look for the writing on the wire itself. Traditionally the markings (manufacturer's name, etc.) on speaker wire is on the + side of the wire or the RED side. Just make sure that the side of your wire with the writing on it is connected to the + or red terminals of both the receiver/amp side and the speaker side. Usually the DIRECTION OF THE WRITING should be followed and it translates to the direction that the sound is going as well. In other words, if on your wire you read" Monster Cable...." the direction the writing goes should be the direction that the sound goes as well. The end of the word "CABLE" should be aimed at the speaker and the "MONSTER" should be at the amp end. Follow? :) Remember that the side of the wire with the writing on it goes to the POSITIVE + RED connection and the side of the wire that is blank goes to the NEG - connector.

    If you do this for both channels, you will be in business.

    If some of you are using really old speaker wire, you might have a copper looking side and a silver looking side. The copper goes to the +/Red connection and the silver side goes to the -/Black connection ON BOTH THE SPEAKER AND THE RECEIVER/AMP for both channels!

    Some of you might be using REALLY cheap wire that is unmarked at either end, has no writing on the wire cover and both sections are silver or copper looking. IN THAT CASE: take a piece of masking tape or scotch tape and MARK ONE LEAD, FOLLOW IT BACK TO THE OTHER END AND MARK THAT SIDE AS WELL. Do the same for the wire to the other channel. The lead you marked will be POSITIVE or + from now on. Just make sure that the taped lead goes to the + on both the speaker and the amp.

    Everyone give a listen to your system (playing something in mono) and report back to me.

    No shame is involved in not knowing this information. Someone told me about it a long time ago and it really upgraded the sound of my system....


    POLARITY ISSUES (a different subject, but slightly related to the above):


    Folks, if you have an "audiophile" type line stage or premap, and know for sure or have read in the manual that your line stage or preamp inverts phase (absolute phase, not the phase that I'm talking about in post number one) you must do the following:

    You must compensate by inverting phase at the speaker terminals. Be sure to reverse the polarity on BOTH speaker terminals. In other words connect the amplifier positive (+ or red) connector to your speakers negative ("-" or black) connector for both sets of speaker wires.

    People (and this is above the basic lesson in post number one): Each active voltage gain stage in a circuit inverts phase once. Some audiophile preamplifiers have been designed for the absolute minimum number of gain stages – one. One stage, one inversion, hence these components invert phase. By the nature of this design, a certain line stage or preamp which also has a single voltage gain stage, is phase inverting. Most transistor consumer gear is fine and this absolute phase thing is irreverent..

    ANY QUESTIONS? Feel free to ask here. I'd be happy to help you as would many others here I trust..

    Your system will sound much better!!
     
    DavidD, jimmyc, beverett and 2 others like this.
  2. Ed Bishop

    Ed Bishop Incredibly, I'm still here

    Nope, no questions, Professor Steve! :D

    And everything's A-Ok here...learned about this a long, long time ago in the old days of Stereo Review mag....very handy to know.... :)


    :ed:
     
  3. AudioEnz

    AudioEnz Forum Resident

    This statement may not be quite clear enough. Read it as "right down the middle between the two speakers..."
     
  4. Tetrack

    Tetrack Forum Resident

    Location:
    Scotland, UK.
    A few things to add that might be of help-

    If there are no +/-(or other obvious markings) on speaker cable(like my Cable Talk 3.1), you may find your cable has a 'ridge' on the edge of the cable, on one side only.
    I believe this is an indication that this wire should be hooked up to the Red/+ terminal.

    Also another thing i was originally unaware of, was that some cables are 'directional' & should be run in one direction. This is indicated by arrows on the cable itself.
    In such case, the cable should be connected with the arrows going towards the speakers.

    Please feel free to add or correct my info, if it is inaccurate. :)
     
  5. daveman

    daveman Forum All Star

    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Exactly. Phantom center channel.
     
  6. mcow1

    mcow1 Sommelier Gort

    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    Which is right where Miles Davis was coming from when I listened to Musings Of Miles last night.
     
  7. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Yes, follow all arrows (and printing on the wire) as if it's heading for the speaker. In other words, the arrow (and printing) always point to the speaker. Just like all interconnect that is directional always points to the amp from the preamp, or to the preamp from the CD player, etc.
     
  8. Ryan

    Ryan That would be telling

    Location:
    New England
    Just checked out A-ok...vocals and instruments right down the middle. My speakers are on stands, so when sitting on the couch it sounds as if all musicians (in this case, Buddy Holly) are on stage right in front.
     
  9. chip-hp

    chip-hp Cool Cat

    Location:
    Dallas, TX
    Thanks, Steve ... good informative post :righton: ... my half dozen or so vintage speakers are all in phase ... I didn't realize that it makes a difference which way the music goes through speaker wire ... I have to admit that I use some "old" copper/silver speaker wire and "really cheap" copper/copper speaker wire on some of my hook-ups ... does direction make a difference on "old" and "really cheap" speaker wire? ...
     
  10. PMC7027

    PMC7027 Forum Hall Of Fame

    Speakers are in phase, and wored out of absolute phase, as stated in the Audible Illusions literature, because my Modulus 3 pre-amp inverts phase.
     
  11. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    REVERSE one set of speaker leads; the black goes to the + only on the amp/receiver end..You will be back in absolute phase. Remember to switch back to normal if you change pre amps.

    THIS IS ABSOLUTE PHASE were are talking about here; a different animal....
     
  12. PMC7027

    PMC7027 Forum Hall Of Fame


    I guess my post wasn't written very well. I have to reverse the speaker leads at one end of both the right and left channels. You and I may just not be communicating very well. I'll take the blame.

    Everything in my system is OK, I guess I just didn't explain it correctly.
     
  13. Metralla

    Metralla Joined Jan 13, 2002

    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    No. Those electrons are really old. They've been banging away in those cables for a really long time, and they are just plain worn out. What you really need to do is make sure your amp is on a high shelf and your speakers are on the floor. This will help the electrons flow downhill towards the speakers. After a week or so, when they've all gone down to the speaker end, reverse the cables so they are all up near the amp and can flow downhill again. ;)
     
  14. grbl

    grbl Just Lurking

    Location:
    new york
    I'm happy to say that I'm in phase.
     
  15. Veech

    Veech Space In Sounds

    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    I had always thought that out of phase speaker wiring resulted in less LFE than in phase wiring. This assumption was based on one speaker cone "pushing" air when the other was "pulling" it when they are wired out of phase. So as a cheater I'd hook up one speaker, play something bassy like "Come Together" and switch leads back and forth on the other speaker, see which connection resulted in better LFE. But when it came to setting up my 5.1, that plan went out the window! :D
     
  16. I played a mix for A&R at MCA and noticed their speakers were out of phase. I made the guy stop while I fixed one of his speakers. He was more than slightly embarrassed. This guy never gave me any more mix advice. :D

    When I hear something out of phase it sounds like it's coming from the back of my head. Also, If you're in a room that's reverberant or made out of cinder blocks (a college dorm) you may not be able to tell what's going on when you listen for a center image even of your speakers are wired correctly.

    Once you learn what switched polarity sounds like you'll be able to hear it every time. It's quite an annoying sound.
     
    McLover likes this.
  17. babyblue

    babyblue Forum Resident

    Location:
    Pacific NW
    I'm in phase too. I learned the "in' and "out" of speaker phasing in my Recording Engineering classes long ago in college.

    Steve
     
  18. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Ah, ok, I see. Folks, if you know for sure or have read in the manual that your line stage or preamp inverts phase (absolute phase, not the phase that I'm talking about in post number one) you must do the following:

    You must compensate by inverting phase at the speaker terminals. Be sure to reverse the polarity on BOTH speaker terminals. In other words connect the amplifier positive (+ or red) connector to your speakers negative ("-" or black) connector for both sets of speaker wires.

    People (and this is above the basic lesson in post number one): Each active voltage gain stage in a circuit inverts phase once.Some audiophile preamplifiers have been designed for the absolute minimum number of gain stages – one. One stage, one inversion, hence these components invert phase. By the nature of this design, a certain line stage or preamp which also has a single voltage gain stage, is phase inverting. Most transistor consumer gear is fine and this absolute phase thing is irreverent..
     
  19. Kyhl

    Kyhl formerly known

    Location:
    Savage
    My speakers are in phase, I may be off a little though :)

    Coincidently, I just checked this yesterday. Yesterday I added film and foil caps to my woofers and I ran a sound check disc testing phase at different frequencies to check each set of drivers, not just the entire speaker. Not only are the cabinets in phase, but each driver is in line.
     
  20. poweragemk

    poweragemk Old Member

    Location:
    CH
    It makes me feel like an eardrum is being sucked out of my head. Ugh.
     
  21. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    It's also the main trick to "Q Sound" or the way that surround works when you are watching a movie or show on TV in two-channel but can still hear things coming from all around you...
     
  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    For those of you interested in Absolute phase and polarity issues, read this:

    http://www.gcaudio.com/resources/howtos/validcompa.html

    Here he is basically talking about comparing two items but this info holds true for set up of your "audiophile" system as well:

    He says in part:

    When comparing two items, be certain that their phase relationships are the same. Pay particular attention to this detail when comparing tube and solid state. Many, if not most, tube preamplifiers (and some tube amplifiers) invert absolute phase, while most transistor units do not. It would be folly to compare a tube preamp that inverts absolute phase with a solid state unit that does not. Additionally, it is not uncommon to find a tube preamp that inverts phase through the phono circuit and not through the line stage. Here the turntable would be out of phase with any line sources. Consult the manufacturer's specifications to determine phase compatibility. Better yet, try it for yourself by listening to both alternatives.

    We must also consider important the aspect of proper A/C polarity with respect to the mains supply voltage. Obviously, with a standard two prong plug, there are two ways it may be inserted into the wall receptacle. Each and every piece of electronic equipment throughout your system will prefer one position or the other. The proper connection may be realized either by listening trials or with the use of a multimeter.
     
  23. BradOlson

    BradOlson Country/Christian Music Maven

    My speakers are in correct phasing. I started out with the real bottom of the line speaker cable which I didn't like one bit and once my employer started carrying the Audiopipe stuff, I ended up improving the phasing and the sound a lot.
     
  24. Rick B.

    Rick B. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    I was burned by phase once many decades ago. My off-brand speakers always sounded funny until I learned how to check phase - turns out the speaker terminals were wired incorrectly, i.e. the red and black terminals were reversed! I've always double-checked my speakers with the same mono listening test ever since.

    If you listen to multi-channel sound then you also want all of your speakers to be in phase, right? I've found that if I firstly get my front L/R's correct I can then check each of the other speakers (surrounds and center) to one of the L/R's. I play lay a mono source and put the speakers facing each other. This reinforces the bass and the in-phase connection is noticeably louder.
     
  25. rjp

    rjp Senior Member

    Location:
    ohio
    A-OK here.

    thanks steve,

    renny
     

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