Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a weekend jammer, your guitar pedals are crucial to shaping your sound. From distortion and delay to modulation and looping, these little boxes of magic open up a world of sonic possibilities. However, there’s one thing no guitarist wants in their signal chain: noisy pedals.
Noise in your pedalboard setup can manifest in various ways—buzzing, humming, crackling, popping, and the dreaded ground loop – and it can all be summarised as the noise floor. It’s a common challenge but also a fixable one. This comprehensive guide aims to arm you with the knowledge and strategies you need to identify, troubleshoot, and eliminate noisy pedals.
We’ll delve into why your pedalboard might be noisy and offer solutions for each type of problem, including distortion issues, ground loop problems, and even tips on managing vintage pedals that inherently come with noise issues. Furthermore, we’ll provide advanced tips for reducing noise and improving your own board sound quality.
So let’s dive in and turn that annoying buzz of noisy pedals into the sweet sound of silence.
Why is my pedalboard so noisy?
The noise could be coming from a variety of sources including:
- ground loops
- faulty power supplies
- or even the cables you’re using.
Let’s dig deeper into how you can pinpoint and solve these issues.
Troubleshoot to fix your noisy pedals
Check the cables
Bad cables are one of the most common sources of noise. Use high-quality shielded cables and make sure they’re in good condition. Swap them out one by one to see if the noise disappears.
Check the power supply
A low-quality or damaged power supply can be the root of noisy pedals. Daisy chain power supplies are also a main culprit. Make sure you are using a reputable, isolated power supply to minimize noise interference, rather than a daisy chain.
Make use of a power conditioner
Power conditioners can clean the electricity going to your pedals, reducing noise. This is especially useful in venues where you’re unsure about the electrical setup.
Use ground lift adaptors
These can help break ground loops, a common source of noisy pedals. However, be cautious when lifting grounds, as it can sometimes lead to more significant issues like electric shock.
Plug in the pedals separately
Try to isolate the issue by plugging in each pedal in your guitar rig one at a time. This can help you pinpoint exactly which of your multiple pedals is causing the noise.
Prefer using batteries
Some pedals, especially vintage ones, work better with batteries than power supplies, emitting less noise.
Types of Pedalboard Noise and Their Causes
60-cycle hum or Ground loop
This is a common problem in pedalboards and can often be resolved using ground lift adaptors or isolators.
Tube amp noise
If you’re using a tube amp, the tubes themselves might be causing noise. Consider replacing them or using a tube screamer to minimize the noise.
Again, cheap patch cables can often result in noise in your guitar rig. Always opt for high-quality shielded cables, never cheap patch cables.
Speakers and cabs
Your speaker and cabinets can also produce noise, particularly if they are mismatched with your amp.
Older pedals can often introduce noise into your signal chain. Sometimes using a battery instead of a power supply can reduce this noise in the offending pedal. This less of an issue with modern digital pedals – like modern reverbs.
Cheap or faulty power supplies can introduce a lot of noise. Always use high-quality, isolated power supplies.
Tips and Techniques to Reduce noisy pedals
Place a buffer first in your chain
A buffer can help maintain the strength of the signal through your pedal chain, reducing noise and hiss.
Use an Isolated Power Supply
Isolated power supplies can significantly reduce noise by giving each pedal its own isolated output.
Put Noisy Pedals in a True Bypass Loop
Noisy pedals can be isolated using a true bypass loop to prevent them from affecting other pedals.
Use a Noise Gate
A noise gate pedal can help cut out any noise below a certain decibel level, cleaning up your signal.
Use an Isolator to Break Ground Loops
Isolators can break ground loops and are especially effective for complex pedalboards.
Try a Noiseless Pickup
Noiseless pickups can reduce noise right at the sound source—your guitar. Single coil pickups are usually the noisiest, while humbuckers the least.
Eliminate Noisy Pedals in Specific Types of Pedals
Eliminate noise in your distortion pedal
Manage the power source
Always use a high-quality power supply or battery for distortion pedals, as they are particularly susceptible to noise.
Lower the noise at the source
Lowering the gain can sometimes reduce the noise generated by your distortion pedal.
Eliminate ground loops
Ground loops can be broken by using isolators or ground lift cable adaptors.
Buffers and managing impedance
Using a buffer can help manage the impedance levels between all your pedals, reducing noise.
A splitter can divide your signal chain, reducing the opportunity for noise to enter the same signal path.
Plug them all together
Make sure all your connections are secure to minimize noise.
Reasons & Fixes To Specific Noise Types: Crackling, Popping & Buzzing
3 Reasons Why a Guitar Pedal Crackles, Pops, and Buzzes and How to Fix Them
Faulty Power Supply
Again, a bad power supply can cause you hear a variety of noises including crackling.
Dirty Potentiometer (volume knobs)
Over time, dust and grime can get into your knobs, causing them to crackle when turned. Use contact cleaner to resolve this issue.
Sometimes components in your pedals can start to fail, leading to voltage leakage and consequent noise. This usually requires professional repair.
Addressing Specific Types of Noises
Why Is My Guitar Pedal Crackling?
This might be due to dirty potentiometers or a faulty power supply – always go for the correct power supply.
How to Prevent the Guitar Pedal From Crackling?
Regular cleaning and maintenance can prevent crackling.
Why Does a Guitar Pedal Pop?
This could be due to voltage issues or faulty components in the pedal itself.
How Do You Fix a Popping Pedal?
Identify the source of the voltage issue from all your pedals, or consider getting the pedal serviced.
Why Are My Guitar Pedals Buzzing?
Buzzing is often due to ground loops or bad power supplies.
How Do I Stop My Guitar Pedals From Buzzing?
Using ground lift adaptors or high-quality, isolated power supplies can often solve this problem.
How do I Locate the Source of the Noise in my Guitar Pedal?
If the above steps haven’t solved your issue, it may be time to consult a professional. Some shops offer pedalboard analysis services that can help identify the root cause of your noise issues.
With these tips and techniques, you can now focus on what’s really important: making music, not noise.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) – Noisy pedals
What is the most common cause of noise in a pedalboard setup?
The most common causes of noise in a pedalboard setup include ground loops, poor-quality cables, and faulty power supplies.
How do I know if my power supply is causing the noise?
You can identify a noisy power supply by disconnecting it and trying a different, high-quality power supply. If the noise disappears, it’s likely that the power supply is the culprit.
Can vintage pedals be more noisy than modern ones?
Yes, vintage pedals can often introduce more noise due to their older components and lack of noise-reduction technology that is common in modern pedals.
How does a buffer reduce noise?
A buffer helps in maintaining the strength of the signal as it passes through your pedal chain, making it less susceptible to noise and signal degradation.
What is a ground loop, and how can it cause noise?
A ground loop occurs when there are multiple paths to the ground, creating a loop that can pick up noise. It can be broken by using ground lift adaptors or isolators.
Why does my distortion pedal generate more noise than others?
Distortion, overdrive and fuzz pedals naturally amplify the signal, and any existing noise can also get amplified, making it more noticeable.
What is a True Bypass Loop?
A true bypass loop allows you to completely bypass a pedal that is not in use, preventing it from adding any undesirable noise, or coloration to your signal.
Can a noise gate eliminate all types of noises?
A noise gate is effective at cutting out noise below a certain threshold but may not be effective for all types of noises, especially those that occur at higher volume levels.
How can I prevent my guitar pedal from crackling?
Regular cleaning and maintenance, especially of volume knobs and jacks, can help prevent crackling noises. Using contact cleaner can also help.
What is an Isolated Power Supply?
An isolated power supply circuit for one pedal and provides individual power outputs for each pedal, minimizing the risk of ground loops and noise interference.
Should I use batteries instead of a power supply to reduce noise?
For some pedals, especially vintage ones, batteries can indeed reduce noise. However, they are not a practical long-term solution for most players due to their limited lifespan.
What steps can I take before considering professional repair for a noisy pedal?
Before opting for professional repair, make sure to check all cables, power supplies, and individual amps and pedals. You can also try using buffers, isolators, and noise gates to mitigate noise issues.
Could my guitar be causing the noise?
You can get crackle frm a faulty jack connection, and some fret buzz from worn frets but these noises are not the same as buzz from a pedalboard or guitar rig. So no, you can’t get the same unwanted noise from your guitar.