Kim Lajoie's blog

Phase vs polarity

by Kim Lajoie on April 29, 2012

Randy Coppinger:

You’ll see a button on some mic preamps and other audio gear labeled Phase, Phase Reverse, Phase Invert, etc. This is really Polarity.

I can’t believe how often people get this wrong. Mix engineers without an *actual engineering* background I can excuse – they simply don’t know any better. What surprises and disappoints me, however, is when gear is labelled incorrectly. Seriously, this stuff is designed by *actual engineers* who should know better.

It’s like confusing frequency with pitch. For most people, the two terms are as good as interchangeable. In some contexts (such as designing synthesisers), the difference between frequency and pitch is the difference between pleasant music and a cacophonous mess.

Also, the linked article is pretty good. You know, science. It works.


3 thoughts on “Phase vs polarity

  1. Dave Chick says:

    With those labels, I think it really comes down to “user-friendliness” being employed rather than ignorance.

    The most TYPICAL reason why someone would be reversing the polarity on something would be to fix phase issues with another signal. It’s probably just the marketing or “customer care” folks jumping a few steps ahead of the user and labeling it as such so that there’s less calls to the help desk.

  2. Kim Lajoie says:

    Maybe so, but then would mic gain controls would be labelled ‘loudness’?


  3. Dave Chick says:

    I’m not excusing them – just giving a possible explanation.

    There’s a lot of this out there. Why isn’t a “Presence” knob on a guitar amplifier called a “Negative Feedback Loop Control?” Why isn’t a “Wah” pedal called a “Spectral Glider” or “Manual Peak Frequency Sweep”?

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