Trance, Detuning, Width, and Phase Cancellation - Really struggling with some sound design

I’m wrapping up an uplifting trance project that I’m quite happy with for the most part, but I’m struggling with something related to sound design and phase cancellation. I am using ANA 2 for 3 synth sounds - a main synth arp, an accent arp, and a chorded stab. All three exibit this issue to some degree, but as an example, for the main synth arp, I’m using a slight variation of “The Blue”. It sounds great, it’s the exact sound I want for the track, but it’s got a lot of phase cancellation. I’ve noticed that when most of the sounds are stripped and just the synths are playing during the buildup, the energy is good, but the drop just sucks the energy out of the synths, and out of the song. So when I started to dig into potential phase cancellation issues, I’ve noticed that when I solo “The Blue”, using Ozone 10 imager, the sound is negatively correlated to itself - the meter remains below 0 the entire time the synth is playing. Here is a quick video of it (no sound): When I mono the sound, I lose about 10db of loudness. So clearly, phase cancellation.

So as I’ve been working with the sound design on The Blue, I have to strip out the delay, reverb, EQ, and bring the detune and width down almost to zero if I want to improve the phase cancellation, and even then, it’s not great. Plus, the sound sounds like crap - not even close to what I want it to sound like. I will say that when I have all the elements playing, the entire song, phase correlation is positive almost all of the time, bouncing from close to 1 when the kick hits, to let’s say 0.3 after the kick. So it’s not terrible overall, but I still have the issue with the drop being less energetic. Here is a link to the song, if you care to listen to it (don’t judge the mix, I still need to mix it for balance between the elements): Stream Christening (Extended) by SOUTHWOOD | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

So my question really is this - is there a way to design classic trance / detuned saws with width and delay and reverb without phase cancellation? Am I too focused on it? How do professionals design these sounds and still have great energy on the drop? And could there be something else going on with the drop that isn’t related to phase cancellation that I need to work on? What am I missing?


Some Phase Cancellation is almost inevitable when you start to process audio in the stereo field with effects and might require some post-processing to a certain extend when you think there’s too much Phase Cancellation happening.

Rendering to audio and converting back to mono and duplicate the track can help, or at least get a more “mono compatible” audio. Some 3rd party plugins can help with this as well, that said most DAWs have tools to either render a stereo track to mono, invert the audio signal phase…etc.

At an earlier stage, you should also keep an eye on timing and Phase Alignment, you can slightly delay samples or Midi notes inside your DAW to minimize Phase Alignment issues.

Although it’s about Mixing Kick & Bass, there’s good tips about common issues with both Phase Alignment and Phase Cancellation in this course :

How To Mix Kick and Bass with Protoculture

Mixing in context is very important, while some minimal Phase Cancellation on 1 sound might not always be a bummer, it’s not the same when you deal with multiple tracks since it’s also leading to frequencies masking and cancellation with multiple tracks.

Side-chain compression or using volume envelope shapers tools can help, filtering unwanted frequencies with EQ as well, then you can use saturation to add higher frequency harmonic content that can help a sound to cut more through the mix.

I think the Kick and also that Piano/Pad Like sound are taking a lot of energy in the lower frequency range, masking that synth lead sound. Try filtering out some unnecessary low end, or use a different Kick to see where it brings the track. And again, at an earlier stage, check the time alignment for the Kick and synth lead, triggering the synth lead and kick at the same time will cause more issues, so try to delay your midi, might help for mixing. You can also use some volume automation to raise the level of the synth lead, but if there’s other issues with frequencies masking or phase, it might not be the best solution, you need to make all sounds working quite well together.

Hope this helps !

Cheers :sunglasses:

This is great, thank you for the detailed response and the feedback on the energy at the drop. I’ll work through some of these and report back.

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