Linear Phase vs Minimum Phase EQ – Full Guide

Linear Phase vs Minimum Phase EQ - Full Guide | Integraudio.com

What is Linear Phase Pre-Ring?

Linear Phase Pre-Ring is the addition of a backward tail before the transient. The DAW causes it as it tries to put the delayed signal in time for playback. The artifact is more prominent with high latency and will cause the transient to lose punch. The resulting sound is a reversed hit followed by a thump with short decay.

This image clearly shows how the Pre-Ring effect, present in the bottom graph before the transient, differs from how the transient looks in the Minimum Phase. And even though the peak has greater amplitude in the chart, the transient sounds a lot duller when you listen to the effect in action.

Source

You can hear that the bass notes on the Linear Phase bass sound a lot less defined, while the Minimum Phase bass hits a lot harder. So in these extreme settings, Linear Phase would not necessarily be a good choice since your bass would lose a lot of the punch that makes it clicks with the kick drum.

Now let’s hear an acoustic guitar and repeat the process.

Here’s the guitar with extreme settings in Minimum Phase mode. The image shows the plugin’s settings used to achieve the sound.

 

Linear Phase vs Minimum Phase EQ - Full Guide | Integraudio.com

Here’s the same guitar with the same settings but in Linear Phase mode.

 

Linear Phase vs Minimum Phase EQ - Full Guide | Integraudio.com

Again, the sound is a lot less transient-heavy. However, in this case, if you have a strong hi-hat or shaker holding the rhythm, you could use this processing to cut out the excessive transients of the guitar.

Finally, let’s listen to the kick drum and redo the process.

Again, this is the kick drum in Minimum Phase mode and extreme settings.

 

Linear Phase vs Minimum Phase EQ - Full Guide | Integraudio.com

And this is Linear Phase mode:

 

Linear Phase vs Minimum Phase EQ - Full Guide | Integraudio.com

In this example, you can clearly hear the pre-ringing effect preceding the kick’s initial attack and killing a bit of the transient. That is totally undesirable on a mix unless you’re looking for a different approach to the reverse hit effect.

How do you use Linear Phase EQ in mastering?

To use Linear Phase EQ in mastering, first, you must set your plugin to the lowest latency possible to avoid too much pre-ringing. If, after checking, you’re not noticing anything out of place, all you have to do is use it as a regular EQ. The greatest benefit will be the transparency and lack of phase smearing.

Other than that, using Linear Phase EQing during mastering can be excellent for corrective approaches. So, if you have to master a bad-sounding mix and believe that EQ can do the trick, try out first with a Linear Phase processor. You can later add a Minimum Phase EQ for coloration in case it’s necessary. However, Linear Phase EQs don’t tend to be very popular among most mastering engineers. This tool is used mainly in parallel and aux track applications.

Why Linear Phase for Mastering? (Linear Phase EQ) Pt2

Does Ableton EQ offer Linear Phase Mode?

Unfortunately, Ableton Live does not offer a Linear Phase EQ. Both of its stock EQs, EQ3 and EQ8, are multiband Minimum Phase equalizers. If you want to use a Linear Phase EQ in Ableton, you’ll have to check out some third-party options, such as Waves’ creatively named Linear Phase EQ and FabFilter’s Pro Q3.

Conclusion

Minimum and Linear Phase EQs have been a source of debate for some time in the audio community. While some people vouch for Linear Phase’s transparency, others say it actually sounds too digital and lifeless. Whatever the case, both have situations in which they shine best, and it’s up to you to decide which you’ll use and when.

Minimum Phase EQ is the Swiss-Army knife of equalization. It’s been around for decades, and it will continue in use for as long as they’re counting time. You can use it for everything in subtle or extreme settings. It’s a reliable tool, and its best attribute is that every model sounds different, so if you collect multiple models from different manufacturers, you’ll have an arsenal of sonic capabilities.

On the other hand, Linear Phase EQ is not as versatile as its analog-like counterpart, but it does a great job at delivering precise fixes that most Minimum Phase EQs can’t. You’ll use it mostly in parallel applications, adding just a bit of processing to change some details here and there. Its best attribute is being a transparent tool, so you can silently sneak into a track and fix it without having to worry about messing with the phase.

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