Phase Shouldn't Always Phase You
Updated: Apr 17, 2018
The term "out-of-phase" is somewhat of an ambiguous term. Its ambiguity lies precisely in the assumptions made about our audio signals. This applies to recording but very much to mixing as well. Out-of-phase has a negative connotation, usually. One assumes that when signals are out of phase, it must also sound bad. #Phase manipulation can be used for good too. The reason I say this is because an engineer can use phase to sculpt sound. That's the whole reason behind using multiple microphones for tracking one instrument for example. Or using phase tools to create a sound during the mixing stage. The result of that sound depends on the relationship of time arrival of the frequencies for each microphone i.e. their phase. Therefore, phase is a time relationship and if two sources simply don't sound good combined, one can think of this as their time relationships not complimenting each other. But habit has come to form the phrase "out of phase.” You can see how it can be somewhat misleading because in sculpting sound, sometimes we set mic's just so that certain frequencies are actually not in phase together for each mic and some are. As mentioned, in #mixing, a promixer can manipulate phase as well not just for technical correctness but for sonic flavor. It's really about the combination of in and out of phase that in totality creates "a tone.”
FYI, phase flip switch on mixing consoles or inside a #DAW usually labeled “phase” or that bear the phase insignia actually refer to polarity which one can think of as direction (-/+) rather than time. #Polarity is kind of an on/off thing where as phase has fine increments of time. Both however can interplay within signals of course. Both are important. Both take time to learn and understand, and ultimately your ear tells you everything you need to know.