This morning, Paul noted in his daily Post that he found it worthwhile to adjust the bass phase in his system after achieving a good sense of Huron’s strengths and weaknesses. Whenever I read advice like that from an expert listener, I check it out on my system. My experiences:
In the absence of any standard for correct bass, the key question is: what is correct bass response in any system? Although I listen almost exclusively to classical music, I find it much easier to adjust bass using rock and jazz. For example, Lyle Lovett’s “She’s Already made Up Her Mind” (Joshua Judges Ruth) which has a very deep synthesizer part; Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” with two bass drums tuned differently; Jennifer Warnes “Rock You Gently” (The Hunter) with a deep bass part beneath a prominent less deep beat; and Christian McBride’s “Stars Fell on Alabama” (Gettin to It).
I used these tracks to determine if a change in bass phase (using a JL Audio f113 sub) improved bass in Huron. My finding was that a very slight change in phase did in fact improve bass, and thereby, everything else.
Lovett: You want the very deepest notes to appear in the mix, rather than from the sub, and all notes should be at the same volume. Too much change in phase adds an edge to Lovett’s voice, so an easy way to determine whether you need to add to, or decrease, phase is to make a slight change and then listen to the voice–if it moves forward in the mix and acquires an edge, try adjusting the phase in the other direction. Also, you have gone too far if the bass drum whack at about 3:50 is more bass thud than whack.
Simon: Adjust so each drum is clear and separated in space. Listen for the percussion instrument just to the right of Simon–it should be clear, but not prominent (another sign that you’ve gone too far)
Warnes: The track starts with a mid-bass beat; the deepest bass then joins. Again, adjust so the deepest bass is in the mix rather than from the sub and has a clear and distinct beat. Another song where, as the phase moves off the correct setting, the voice acquires an edge and the many percussion instruments are suddenly too prominent in the mix.
McBride: Bass players spend hours getting every note, from highest to lowest, to sound at the same volume. Aim for this in general (on a couple of fast passages the lowest notes are not quite so loud). The piano should be equally even on every note, well back in the mix, with absolutely no edge. There is a very soft drummer even deeper in the mix. If the drummer is prominent, you’ve again gone too far.
Note that the trick is not to get the most bass but the correct bass. Ultimate test: “Kicho” on Blue Chamber Quartet (Stockfisch SACD, reverse polarity). The string bass should be huge, in your room, and absolutely even from top to bottom, with the fundamental (the sine wave) slightly audible on the lowest notes). Amazing!