how useful is the "out of phase" sound


Senior Member
The topic says it all.  I am concidering using a 6 way rotary switch instead of the typical 3 way pickup selector so that I can get all the possible combinations between two pickups.  My question is, is it worth it?  I haven't played a guitar that has any out of phase settings, and I don't know that I have ever heard what they sound like. 
Hard to try to explain this; go to a store and plug in a Strat and check out the #2 & #4 postions on the 5-way
I have a Japanese squire, and I thought the 2 and 4 positions were just two pickups in parallel?
No, jack... that's not out of phase, that's in phase in parallel.  The sound is kind of funky... if you play funk or something experimental maybe otherwise I wouldn't bother.  But don't take our word for it, open up some guitar and switch two of  the pickup leads and decide for yourself...
Out of phase wiring gives an interesting effect:

At the low frets you get a sort of nasel sound.
As you progress up the fretboard, this gradually changes to a hollow thin sound.
Both these have a lot less bass and less output than normal.

The real fun is to be found around the 15th to 19th fret area (depends on how far apart the two pickups are...)
In this area, the fundamental is almost completely cancelled, giving an "octave up" (octavia?) effect.
You can hear this effect on many of Brian May's solos.

In all cases, the effect depends on how equally matched (in output and tone) the two pickups are.
The more similar they are, the less bass and output you get.

Try might like it!  :guitaristgif:
Out of phase sounds like crap. One man's opinion. I've accidentally wired up out of phase a couple of times and it's no good imhop. Thin nasally weird. Like dbw said, switch the wires around on any guitar to check it out and see for yourself.
Thanks to all for the info.  I may give it a whirl on my Squire Strat, but I think for my warmoth build I will leave it out. 
I've got a 5-way SuperSwitch in my Thinline Tele, which gives me, in addition to the 3 "regular" positons, both pickups in series (a "must have" for any guitar with 2 single coil pickups, IMHO), and both pickups in series out-of-phase; since they are in series, the volume drop is not as extreme as with both pickups in parallel out of phase; the tone is kinda nasal, almost no bass, a bit like playing through a half-cocked wah pedal; the tone also changes a bit with your picking dynamics (kind like when using an auto-wah or envelope filter); it's fun to use as a special effect, or as a nasal high-gain lead tone or for funky clan rhythm playing - but I'd say it's definitely NOT a must-have; if you've got the switch, and you have one more switching position left that you don't know what to do with, go for it; but it's not worth specifically modding a guitar for...
Tfarny, as usual, is correct, sounds like crap, and will be a switch position you will regret having to try to switch past. It's like listen to music on your I-Pod with the headphones in someone elses ears

The only people who like it are people who like to brag that they can select pups outta phase, non of them really use it
its bass, but this will give you an idea of what to expect.

give'm a listen.
Alfang said:
It's like listen to music on your I-Pod with the headphones in someone elses ears

This is a pretty good comparison, actually... or just headphones that are a few inches away from your ears.  Good one Alfang.  :party07:  Anyway, like I said it's totally pointless for most of us (rockers) but if you play funk or some weird experimental/prog music you might want it.

How about this, if you have more than ten pedals in your pedalboard you apparently want every sound possible, including out-of-phase sounds.  If you go from guitar to amp to cab like me, you don't want that esoteric stuff.  :icon_thumright:
If, as part of your phase switching circuit, you also run one pickup - the neck is preferred - through a capacitor, you get a semi out of phase tone since the cap will knock the phase angle of the two pickups out by 60 degrees.  The capacitor will limit the low end as well, cutting some fundamental freqs which helps with the semi phased tone. 
he's saying that you can run the neck pup in series with a cap, that in tern will be parallel with the bridge pup. to do this you'll replace one of the jumpers on your phase switch with the capacitor. this cuts the lows from the neck pickup preventing a full cancelation of the gass frequencies and helping output. it also shifts the phase angle. two identical pickups reading identical string movement wired "in phase" will have a zero degree phase angle between them. wired "outta phase" they will have a 180 deg phase angle. the cap shifts this slightly, so the oposing forces of the out of phase pickups won't cancel each other 100%. it more or less gives a slight time delayto the neck. now i'm not farmiliar with the math that goes into phase angles so i don't know if it's the time delay that will stay linear across the bandwith or the phase angle, or neither.

as for my opinion of out of phase, sounds like garbage. not what i'm into at all, but to each his own. now remember, if you do use the outta phase option, any pup with a two conductor hookup wire(that's counting the braided sheilding wire) and a backplate and/or metal cover will need any wire soldered to the cover or back plate removed. i usually replace the whole cable with one for a stereo set of head phones, the unsheathed conductor goes from the backplate or cover to a grounding point, then the other two go from the pickup leads/eyelets to the phase switch.
Out of phase sounds like crap. One man's opinion.

Well, it's about five man's opinions by now... I have it as a byproduct of what a Superswitch does on a guitar, and I avoid it at all costs. Just possibly if you were recording something where you wanted to sound intentionally bad (like singing through a megaphone), for that real 60's transistor radio "crap-tone" it would be good. But that's easier to get by notching a graphic EQ anyway. Your volume drops to half so it's worthless onstage except to generate humor among your bandmates -
get a clown nose instead. :cool01:
CB, I'm not following you.  I don't see how a cap, other than filtering frequencies, is going to affect the phase of a pickup's output.  You did get me thinking about a question I haven't really considered before, "does pickup location affect phase?"


Hmm... I can now see how the pickups phase relationships would be impacted by location for the fundamental and, to a greater degree, the harmonics.  For example, take a look at the standing waves on a vibrating string:
This of also explains why fretboard position changes the tonal character of pickups out of phase, as described other posters.