Demystifying Phase in speaker systems

When I first began fiddling with speakers I felt like I was out sick the day phase was explained. It seemed everybody understood this mysterious effect except me. I understood that filters made phase changes and even that a speaker alone had some phase but exactly what phase is, eluded me. It wasn’t until my ego got in the way that I realized I couldn’t bluff my way past it any more. I had to at least try to understand this mysterious effect called “Phase” if I was going to be able converse with the crowd who did understand it, so I began reading. I was immediately relieved to hear how complex it really is and that I didn’t understand it because it couldn’t be understood. It’s simply too complex. More reading led me to realize the “too complex” attitude was a copout from someone who didn’t really understand phase. So I kept reading. Now I despise articles that present large squiggles of math as “proof” that “a butterworth filter has no phase” and hearing such things only confused me further. Turns out there is more misunderstanding about this innoccuous relationship than fact, even from some reputable places. Many years have passed since I began my search for understanding and in all that time only one thing remains constant. It was so close to me I missed it. In fact I missed it because it is so simple. In reality it’s the phase relationships that are complex, probably the most complex relationship in reality. But in the end it comes to this: phase is a measurement of time. It’s really that simple. It can be expressed in minutes, seconds, hours, years, even centuries, or it can be expressed in degress, radians, milliseconds or microseconds but they all represent the same thing, time. Phase is a measurement of time. More specifically, loudspeaker phase is a measurement of the arrival time of the individual harmonic components of a sound. Continue reading