Super Phaser!

April 16, 2012

The lower left shows Ableton Live’s Invert utility plug-in inserted into a track, with the phase reversed for both the left and right channels. To the right, Presonus Studio
One Professional’s Mixtool plug-in is reversing (inverting) channel polarity.
Today’s software allows some techniques that would be a hassle to do with hardware effects—such as creating a Super Phaser from any ordinary phaseshifter plug-in. The end result is the Godzilla of phasers, with a much more pronounced phasing effect, and a wider stereo image.

Any recording software works for this technique as long as you can switch polarity (commonly called “phase”) on audio channels. Old-school hardware mixers had a phase switch, and many software programs include a phase switch in their virtual mixers. If not, the program may include a plug-in that reverses phase.

Here’s the step-by-step procedure for creating a Super Phaser:

The Super Phaser setup shown in Cakewalk Sonar’s Console view. Track 1 (left) has a phaser effect inserted, and the duplicated channel on the right (Track 2) has the polarity-reverse
switch enabled (circled
in red).
1 Copy (or clone or duplicate) your guitar’s main audio track to create a second, identical track.

2 Insert your phaser plug-in into the main track.

3 Reverse the second track’s polarity, and turn its fader all the way down.

4 Choose your desired phase-shifted sound.

5 Start playback. As the guitar plays, slowly bring up the fader for the second, copied track. As you raise the fader, the phaser effect will become more dramatic, and you’ll hear a wider stereo image. Adjust the fader for the desired sound.

This technique’s secret sauce is that the out-of-phase, dry audio cancels out any elements in the phase-shifted sound that aren’t being modified by the phaser. So, when the levels of the dry signals are equal and out-of-phase, all that’s left is the purely phase-shifted sound.

Due to the cancellation, the overall level will be somewhat lower, and changing the faders individually might upset the balance between the two tracks. The solution is to group the two channel faders after you’ve found the right setting. Then, when you change levels, both faders will change together.

Note that this technique works with other effects, as well. You can turn compressors into expanders, and get some pretty amazing reverb sounds, but we’ll save that for another time.

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