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Phase cancellation can destroy your sound when you're tracking multiple instruments before you even push Record, but there is a sure fire way to eliminate it before it ever begins. I'm going to show you how to check the polarity of your mic cables in order to get rid of phase cancellation. While we'll be talking about acoustic phase problems in this course, there is also an instance of electronic phase cancellation you should know about as well. This has nothing to do with the mic placement, it's strictly an electronic problem that never shows up until multiple mics are used.
Electronic phase problems are almost always caused by a cable in the studio that's been mis-wired during an install, repaired incorrectly, or originally wired incorrectly from the factory, which is rare. Checking microphone phase is one of the first things to do after the mics are wired up and tested. This is especially the case in the tracking session where a lot of mics will be used since having just one mic out of phase can cause uncorrectable sonic problems that will haunt the recording forever. A session that is in phase will sound bigger and punchier. Well just a single out of phase mic will make the entire mix sound tiny and weak.
If we are going to be absolutely thorough, there are actually two tests, one for Polarity and one for Phase. The Polarity check is used mainly to be sure that all mics are pushing and pulling the same way and to check for mis-wired cables. Yes, they are out there, especially if you build your own. The phase check will make sure that you minimize the interference between the mics when they are placed. Remember that the phase switch on the mic preamp, DAW interface, or console is really a polarity switch which swaps pins two and three of a balanced microphone line and may get the problem frequencies closer to being in phase or may get them further away that depends on what the problems are in the placement of the mics.
After the mic is set up, wired, and checked, but not necessarily placed, pick one mic that can be easily moved, this can be a scratch vocal mic, a hat mic, a guitar mic, it doesn't matter as long as it works, sounds good to begin with, which means that it's not defective, and it can move next to the farthest mic used in the session. This mic will become our reference mic. With the reference mic in hand, move it next to the kick drum mic or any other mic that you wish to test for that matter. Put both mics together so that capsules touch, speak into them from about a foot away.
The distance isn't critical. (male speaker: One-two, one-two. One-two, one-two.) Bring up the faders on both mics so the audio level and not the fader position is equal on both. (male speaker: One-two, one-two. One-two, one-two.) Flip the phase of the mic under test, in this case, the kick mic. This one position have more low end than the other, choose the position that gives you the most low end. (male speaker: One-two, one-two. One-two, one-two.) Repeat for all the other mics. Remember, you are not flipping the phase of the reference mic, only the one that you are testing.
(male speaker: One-two, one-two. One-two, one-two.) So that's how we check the polarity of a microphone setup. Use one mic as your reference and check it against the other mics by talking into both and switching the second mic's phase switch. Whichever selection sounds bigger with more bottom end is the one to choose.
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