Advice – What to Listen For – Polarity

Side One Is Actually In Phase (Usually) and You Read It Here First (Probably)

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

According to the liner notes, this Dave Grusin album has reversed absolute phase. They tell you to switch the positive and negative at the speaker for the best transient response and spatial clarity. But get this: most side ones are NOT in reversed phase.

That out of phase quality is as plain as the nose on your face when you know what to listen for. There’s an unpleasant hardness and hollowness to the midrange, a lack of depth, and an off-putting opaque quality to the sound.

With our EAR 324p Phono Stage, the click of a button reverses phase, also known as polarity. I can’t tell you how handy it is to have such a tool at your disposal. Checking the phase for Discovered Again couldn’t have been easier.

An Amazing Discovery

But get this: most side ones are NOT reversed phase. (All the side twos we played were however.) How about them apples! We could not have been more shocked. Here is the most famous out of phase audiophile recording in the history of the world, and it turns out most copies are not out of phase at all!

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Kansas – Reverse Your Polarity, My Wayward Son

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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.
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Kansas – Leftoverture – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This copy of Kansas’ most consistent album, their masterpiece I might venture to say, has an OFF THE CHARTS A+++ side two! This is the ROCK album they recorded; the average copy of Leftoverture only hints at the power of the band.  

Side two just KILLED from start to finish, with the deepest, punchiest bass, moving up the frequency ladder to the clearest sweetest mids, and following it all the way to the top with the most extended grain-free, silky highs.

Most copies, like so many rock records from the era, are veiled and smeary. Often they lack extension at one or both ends of the frequency spectrum, more often than not up top, which results in harshness and shrillness, not the sound you want on a Kansas record! (more…)

Offenbach / Gaite Parisienne – Fiedler – Reviewed in 2005

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.  

Superb sound! The top end of this record is PERFECTION. When you hear all the percussion instruments, the tambourines, triangles, wood blocks they just sound so lovely. The overall sound is rich and sweet, just like a good vintage RCA should sound. Some may find the sound colored, but I find it enchanting.

Side two, however, sounded fairly unpleasant when I first played it. As I listened more and more, I came to the realization that the absolute phase was probably inverted. The orchestra, rather than being back behind the speakers where they belong, was coming AT me, a sure sign that something is funny. One way to think about it is the sound stage becomes convex instead of concave.

So I switched my headshell leads and sure enough everything got much better — the orchestra now had depth and the strings became less forward and shrill, and the horns took on more body and had less of that blary quality they sometimes do. (more…)

Brahms / Sonatas #2 & 3 / Rubinstein and Szeryng – Reviewed in 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

3S/ 4S RCA Shaded Dog. The sound is actually quite decent when you INVERT the ABSOLUTE PHASE. If you cannot or will not do that, this record will not sound good — it’s somewhat hard and bright. It will never be a Top Shaded Dog but it is a good one with the absolute phase inverted.

This record is third in a series of masterpieces for violin and piano.

Franck / Piano Quintette & Brahms / Heifetz, Piatigorsky et al. – Reviewed in 2013

More Franck

More Piano Quintette & Brahms / Heifetz, Piatigorsky et al.

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

A stellar reading of the Franck from this formidable group. Side one of this Shaded Dog is Super Hot: rich, smooth and sweet. The piano is exceptionally well-recorded, with real weight. The Brahms is very good if you can reverse your polarity.    (more…)

Dick Schory – Music for Bang, Baa-room and Harp – Check Your Polarity!

More Dick Schory

More Music for Bang, Baa-room and Harp

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises .

An amazing discovery from Better Records. Many copies of this album are REVERSED POLARITY on side two (the side with Buck Dance, one of the better tracks on that side and great for testing). Yes, once again you heard it here first, folks. We had two 4S copies of the album and both of them had side two out of polarity.  

NEWSFLASH: 7s on side two is out of polarity too. Just played one today. There’s practically no real top end extension until you reverse the polarity.

Reversing the absolute phase on this record today was a REVELATION. There before me was all the ambience, openness, sweetness, silkiness and warmth I had come to expect from the best pressings of this longtime member of HP’s TAS List of Super Discs, a record that really is a Super Disc when you hear a good one, and this is a very very good one indeed, on side two anyway. (more…)

TAS List Thoughts about Festival – Harry, This One Is Out of Phase, Man!

More orchestral music conducted by Fritz Reiner (1888-1963)

TAS List Thoughts about Festival

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Harry Pearson put this on his list of the best Classic Records RCAs.

If you can reverse your absolute phase this record actually sounds fairly decent. Do you think Harry knows to do that, or even how to do it? I have my doubts. [He’s gone now so the point is moot, but I maintain it’s the rare reviewer who grasps these kinds of issues with anything approaching the depth and understanding required to be informative and accurate.) 

Dick Schory – Music for Bang, Baa-room and Harp – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

More Dick Schory

More Music for Bang, Baa-room and Harp

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This one is absolutely As Good As It Gets on side one. It’s a real treat to hear such a crazy assortment of percussion instruments with this kind of amazingly clear, high-resolution sound! It’s just bigger, richer and clearer than any side we can remember playing. 

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs, and rightfully so. It certainly can be a Super Disc, but only when you have the right pressing. This is one of the Demo Discs on the TAS List which truly deserves its status when, and only when, you have the right copy. (The typical copy is quite good, but it sure doesn’t sound like this.) Nothing else in our shootout could touch it. And it’s IN PHASE. Many copies are not.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Top end, plain and simple. It’s the RARE copy that really has the incredible extension of this side two. The space, the clarity, the harmonic complexity — perhaps one out of ten copies will show you a side two such as this. (more…)

The Heifetz-Piatigorsky Concerts

More of the music of Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

The Heifetz-Piatigorsky Concerts

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

This IMMACULATE set has dry, edgy, screechy sound — until you reverse your absolute phase! Then it sounds pretty good! It certainly will never win any awards, but it’s practically unlistenable without the phase reversed. 

Now I can’t say that’s true for all six sides. I play graded all six sides — they range from M- to slightly worse, about as quiet as these Soria pressings ever are — but I only reversed the phase on side one after dropping the needle on the other sides and suffering through the brittle sound. (more…)