Phase EQ - What is it and why is it SO Important to Mixing Guitars???

The new year is a time for trying new techniques and so that’s exactly what I’ll be explaining today. For years, I’ve been using one secret to dialing in tones in my quest for the best tones and here at JZ mics, we have found one secret that makes life a whole lot easier on this journey.

Phase EQ is a simple approach to a complicated question - how do I get the right tone? Let's break it down to better solve this. You’ve settled on the vibe for the track, great! With this, you settle on the amplifier, do you want a more warm and glued sound (lots of chords and a constant moving pulse to the track). Or a slightly more clinical and more articulated sound (Chords, but overtones that might arpeggiate for example, or bloom from picked chords into a more fragrant strummed chord).

Now we move on to the real part I think that has the biggest difference - the speaker and the microphones. These are actually very similar when you look at the plain points, the biggest difference is that on absorbs sound and one creates sound. For years, people have created sub speakers from Yamaha NS10 speakers and those similar due to their innate ability to receive frequencies that are so low and desperately hard to gather from a microphone within close proximity to the source. I could write forever on cabinets so I will save that for a seperate post; for now, Fender, Marshall, Mesa and Orange are some great ones to stay close to for all genres and movements you’re looking to capture in your music.

Now Microphones. Phase EQ is the process of using 2 or more microphones to blend together and create one seismic sound that blossoms when you listen to it. It’s simple, straightforward and easier than you might think!

One approach is the Freidman technique (See Fig.1) - Simply place, for example, a JZ Dynamic HH-1 directly in the center of the cone (yes, we know it sounds bright, that's the point!). Then place another microphone, personally I LOVE the JZ Vintage 67, at a 45 degree angle (this is called off axis) about 3 inches away from the center of the cone. Use your ears and find a warm, not to bright sound for this. It’s important that the mic’s are about an inch away from the grill cloth of the cabinet. Once you’ve recorded the track, in the computer flip the phase of the Second microphone and pull the fader all the way down. Now playback the track, and slowly bring that fader up and you’ll notice the high end, more harsh frequencies should fall away allowing you to create a much more finished sound without EQ! Use this carefully and try not to attenuate the brightness too much.

Fig.1 Shows the ideal technique using two well known Shure sm57 Mics commonly used in this way.

A second example is simply using 2 or more microphones on the same cabinet, then using more than one cabinet - You can still use the Freidman technique explained above, but you don't need to. Once you have your cabinets and microphone choices, from here it’s all in the computer. Simply dial the faders on each cabinet to find a blend between the recordings. Can you hear how different each microphone sounds?! Now when you blend these microphones in pairs with each other (we recommend bussing the pairs and then only working with one fader 2 Channels (2 mics) > into one bus channel). Because the sound source is changed so drastically from speaker to speaker, blending cabinet is an exciting way to find new tones that people haven't used before - and better yet, the phase usually stays the same, it's simply the harmonic distortion that affects the wave and therefore has been labeled phase EQ.

A good example of how to do this without microphones is using Impulse Respones as well. A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of working closely with the team at Two notes Audio Engineering who make a software called Wall Of Sound (Fig 2.) which is great for using these techniques demonstrated above due to the way the sound is captured unlike any other impulse responses on the planet.

Fig 2. Shows Two notes Award Winning software, Wall Of Sound which is a perfect subsitute for the real thing if you need to quickly demo a track or simply just like it!