The quantification of phase synchrony between neuronal signals is of crucial importance for the study of large-scale interactions in the brain. Two methods have been used to date in neuroscience, based on two distinct approaches which permit a direct estimation of the instantaneous phase of a signal [Phys. Rev. Lett. 81 (1998) 3291; Human Brain Mapping 8 (1999) 194]. The phase is either estimated by using the analytic concept of Hilbert transform or, alternatively, by convolution with a complex wavelet. In both methods the stability of the instantaneous phase over a window of time requires quantification by means of various statistical dependence parameters (standard deviation, Shannon entropy or mutual information). The purpose of this paper is to conduct a direct comparison between these two methods on three signal sets: (1) neural models; (2) intracranial signals from epileptic patients; and (3) scalp EEG recordings. Levels of synchrony that can be considered as reliable are estimated by using the technique of surrogate data. Our results demonstrate that the differences between the methods are minor, and we conclude that they are fundamentally equivalent for the study of neuroelectrical signals. This offers a common language and framework that can be used for future research in the area of synchronization.