Reverse Your Polarity, My Wayward Son

kansalefto

This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

About eight years ago (time flies!) we discovered that the first track on side one is in the wrong polarity, or out of absolute phase, whichever terminology you prefer (we ourselves use both). The full story can be found below.

Here’s what we wrote:

But last night (07/13/06) we made an AMAZING discovery. I was listening to another Sterling original, and the slightly aggressive, hi-fi-ish quality of the opening vocals made me think that maybe I had been putting up with a problem that I should have investigated further. What really sold me on the idea was listening to the vocals and noticing that the ambience was “disconnected” from the voices. It’s hard to explain exactly what that sound is, but it’s almost as if the ambience is added in on top of the voice instead of surrounding and resulting from the voice. I suspected reversed absolute phase.

Sure enough, WHAT A DIFFERENCE! Most of the phony processing on the vocals turned out to be a phase problem, not a recording problem. Now the echo and ambience around the voices sounded correct. The whole tonal balance of the recording shifted downwards, adding needed weight to the sound.

I remember really liking the sound of this album twenty years ago. Looking back, I wonder if my system was somehow reversed without me even knowing it. It stands to reason: I didn’t know a lot of things back then that I know now. Hey, I only discovered the absolute phase of this recording a day ago. There’s still plenty of interesting discoveries to be made it seems.

UPDATE 2014

Just played the record again and can say without fear of contradiction that the two easiest ways to recognize that the polarity is wrong are these:

  • The record is simply far too bright without the polarity reversed. It’s an interesting sound — I myself like a lot of top end — but switching back and forth it’s clear that the highs are overdone until you reverse the polarity. Once corrected they sound like the highs should sound on a ’70s Big Rock record.
  • Even more telling: the BASS. Reverse the polarity, then listen for the kick, the toms and the bass guitar. Assuming you have a good copy they’re full-bodied, punchy and solid.Now put the polarity back to “normal” and hear how hollowed-out the bass sounds. The kick and the toms don’t punch through the way they should. It’s obviously worse and obviously wrong. The evidence down low is incontrovertible in my opinion.

With all that in mind, the first track still sounds good even when the polarity is wrong. It just sounds better when it’s right.

More Discoveries

We owe a big “thanks for the heads up” to our good customer Chris Looby (proud owner of the previous Hottest Copy) who took the trouble to point out to us that only the first track on side one is reversed. (I hadn’t bothered to get past that song once I determined that the phase needed correcting. Apologies for the oversight.) Later we learned that track three on side two is reversed phase. Every copy we played was reversed for that track and only that track on side two. Listen to your own copy — you know, the one you paid three bucks for from your local record store — and then reverse the phase. It gets a whole lot better on that track.