Noise troubleshooting (part 2)

Noise is every guitarist’s worst enemy. We’ve all experienced hissing, buzz, crackle and hum. It’s frustrating but there are many things you can do to reduce noise to a minimum. In this second part of the article we’ll look at how to deal with noisy pedals and how to set up combinations for David’s tones.

Before you make any hasty decisions it’s wise to determine what sort of noise you’re experiencing. As we talked about in part one of this feature noise can be caused by many things and most commonly from outside interference.

Loud low frequency hum that’s consistent when you move around but changes in pitch and volume when you touch any metal part on the guitar.
– Bad ground. Make sure your guitar, cables, pedals and amp has a clear path to ground and are properly shielded. See part one for further troubleshooting.

Loud low frequency hum that comes and goes when you move around.
– 60 cycle hum caused by electronic interference being picked up by the pickups. Switch off any nearby electric components (TV, computer, cell phone, radio etc) and run your rig on a separate circuit in your house/studio/stage if possible. 60-cycle hum is common for guitars with single coils that by nature are exposed to outside interference. Shielding your guitar will help to some extent but it won’t eliminate it completely. Keep in mind that gain pedals like a Big Muff or Tube Driver will amplify this type of noise so be sure to determine what kind of noise you’re hearing before you ditch the pedal. If you’re not able to eliminate the source, a noise gate will be needed (more below). See part one for further troubleshooting.

Static noise or inconsistent crackling.
– Check all cables, jacks plugs and inputs, battery clips etc for loose components or bad connections. The source might also be inside your guitar, pedal or amp. Unless you’re experienced with electronics take your gear to a trained technician.

Consistent hiss or vague oscillation sounds.
– Mainly caused by colouring and tone sucking due to cheap parts, wrong parts, faulty parts, long cables, wrong or bad power supplies etc. Some noise and hiss is normal since any part of your rig is basically an obstacle and will colour and drain the signal. However, loud hiss that dominates your tone needs to be fixed. Either ditch or replace the unit that makes the noise or add a noise gate (more below).

There are mainly two reasons for hiss, hum and rumble from your pedal board: faulty parts and/or bad connections and combinations and/or settings that are too extreme.

Old pedals and simple circuits
Older pedals from the early era of stompboxes are generally noisier than newer pedals. Back in the late 60s a guitarist was happy just to get anything that could make his amp distort and noise wasn’t really an issue. Basic circuits, inconsistent designs and sometimes-cheap parts and hasty wiring caused (and still does) a lot of noise. “Bleed through” is a typical problem for pedals without true bypass switching – a slight distortion or oscillation (depending on type of effect) when the pedal is off (typical for early Electro Harmonix pedals like the Big Muff, Electric Mistress and Memory Man). Replacing the on/off switch with a true bypass switch easily solves this and it will not have any effect on the tone.

Cheap parts can be replaced and other components can be tweaked for a better sounding, more silent pedal but keep in mind that this will alter the pedal’s character. Modifying a Boss SD1 for a smoother tone or a RAT for more lower end is quite understandable but people seems to be scared shitless over even the slightest signs of noise and can’t wait to modify their newly purchased ’73 “ram’s head” Muff or ’76 Electric Mistress. Perhaps I’m a naive purist but I strongly believe that these classic pedals get their mojo and character from the imperfect circuit. Keep the authenticity of the pedal and get yourself a clone or boutique version with better parts and wiring.

Noise from gain effects
So, what is a noisy pedal? Noise is relative and it’s hard to explain just what level of noise you have to expect. I get contacted by people who hate their new Big Muff because it hums and rumbles whenever they stomp it. Others complain that the Tube Driver hisses like hell. Gain effects are by nature noisier than other pedals and you will have to learn to live with that but also get to know your pedal and find the settings that work for you.

Without getting too technical, overdrive, distortion and fuzz is created by compression/limiting and clipping. The harder you drive a tube, the more compressed the signal will get and the more it will distort. This is called clipping. See here for more technical info.

Here’s a quick exercise to determine the noise level of a pedal and if it’s something you can live with or not:

– Plug the guitar into the amp using a good quality cable, preferably no longer than 10ft to avoid too much interference and tone sucking.
– Roll off the guitar volume to avoid interference picked up from the pickups (typical 60 cycle hum).
– Set your amp as you’d normally would including the volume (you need to set the volume fairly high for this to have an effect).

What you now hear is the level of noise generated by your guitar, the cable and amp. A “healthy” setup should have about the same noise level as your stereo at home.

– Place a pedal in the line using a similar cable to the amp as from the guitar to the pedal to avoid different colouring and tone sucking.
– Keep the guitar volume rolled off.
– Set the pedal to unity level with the bypassed signal and the gain and tone controls to 50%.
– Stomp the pedal on.

What you now hear is the noise created by the pedal and its components. A “healthy” Big Muff or Tube Driver should add only a hint more hiss. Experiment by adjusting the controls on the pedal. You’ll notice that the more you increase the volume and gain, the more hiss you’ll get. This is basically the clipping reaching extreme levels and it’s perfectly normal but a warning that you should keep your settings fairly moderate. Increasing the tone control adds more treble, which again amplifies the noise. If you want more gain from your pedal, it often helps to roll off the treble or tone just a tad to eliminate some of the increased hiss and the bright tops.

If you now set the guitar volume to 10 you’ll get more noise (mute the strings with your palm to avoid feedback). Again, if you’ve covered the steps in part 1 (shielding and eliminating 60 cycle hum) this noise will only be a slight increase and perfectly normal because the pickups will pickup some outside noise and the gain pedal will amplify it. The pedal will also amplify 60-cycle hum so you might not have heard any with a clean signal but once the Muff is on, you’ll get a loud, low frequency hum. This is not your pedal but outside interference so don’t freak out! See the top of the article for troubleshooting.

Vintage style single coil (non-noiseless) pickups are more exposed to 60 cycle hum than humbuckers, so if you’re uncertain whether the noise you hear is from the pedal or outside interference, try the exercise above with a guitar with humbuckers.

David’s tone – settings and combining pedals
Combining gain pedals is like asking for trouble but we all do it anyway, including David. This kind of setup requires some experimentation and will to compromise to make it work with your rig.

I often get asked “why can’t I get David’s tones with my Muff and Tube Driver?” and “this combination is impossible to use… just a lot of noise”.

David’s been combining fuzz/distortion with boosters/overdrives since 1972 when he introduced the Colorsound Power Boost in his rig. In recent years he’s been combining Big Muffs and Tube Drivers to get that super smooth sustain. It’s easy to forget though that there’s a third component in this combination – his amps. Although David always sets his amps clean, they are loud and set just at the breaking point where the tubes starts to heat on the edge of distortion. This allows him to use the amp not only as a basis for his pedals but also as a component that works with the pedals. While Hendrix would crank his Marshalls and add a Fuzz Face to take it over the top, David lets the amp and pedals work together to reach the ultimate sweetspot. What this basically means is that the Muff and Tube Driver, or any other gain pedal, doesn’t need to be maxed because the tubes in the amp will add compression and gain.

I have said this many times before – every setting and setup I’ve listed throughout this site should only be used as a guide for your own rig. Not as absolutes. Why would David’s Hiwatt and Big Muff settings apply to a small practice amp set for “neighbour friendly” volume? Even if you’d have a duplicate of David’s rig, you’d need to consider the venue, acoustics, playing technique etc. Tone and noise goes hand in hand and too much tone means more noise.

David’s gain pedals are set fairly mild. Both the Muff and Tube Driver (marked #1 in his pedalboard for clean boost) are set to about unity gain with the bypassed signal:

– Big Muff: sustain 1:00, tone 10:00, volume 11:00 (o’clock)
– Tube Driver (#1): level 2:00, hi 2:00, low 2:00, drive 8:00 (o’clock)

As you can see, there’s no aggressive settings here and notice also that the Tube Driver isn’t set for boosting the volume, but rather for a very mild crunch. If you try this setup on a typical practice amp that you have at home, it may sound dull and far from the huge tone David gets. Don’t solve this by increasing the amount of gain. That will only add more hiss and feedback. If combining pedals doesn’t work for your setup then ditch the booster and slightly increase the settings on the distortion. In some cases where the amp isn’t suitable for a Muff or Tube Driver, you’d be better off choosing different pedals that will give you a much better tone and less noise. See the Buyer’s Gear Guide for overdrive and distortion for more.

Combining a distortion with an overdrive or booster is one thing but David often uses this combo with a compressor and delay and perhaps even some modulation. It’s important that you know how to arrange your pedals for this to work. There are no rules, but the normal way is to have the gain effects first, then modulation and last delays.

You have probably experienced that distortion+overdrive is barely working but add a compressor and you get lots of feedback and increased hiss. There’s two ways of dealing with this – either roll off the amount of compression or switch it off. Again, although this works for David it doesn’t mean that it works for you and your setup. See this article for tips on how to use a compressor.

Huge pedalboards are almost synonymous with noise. For each pedal, patchcable and power supply you add, the more you expose your rig to electronic interference, faulty parts and tone sucking. Designing the perfect pedal board can drive you insane or bankrupt but my best tip is to keep things simple and tidy. Evaluate each new component and rearrangement and make sure everything is working properly. And people… try not to clutter your boards with too many pedals. I’ve seen stuff that’s so big that I wonder how the hell it works at all. David’s PULSE setup is impressive but cleaned, modded and tweaked by the best technicians in the business not to mention the fact that he can afford to use only the very best components available. Again, keep it simple and you save yourself a lot of hassle.

One is often considering whether or not a pedal should have true bypass, hardwire bypass or buffers in terms tone but your choice can also have in impact on the level of noise in your rig. Too many true bypass pedals will ultimately mean more cable, which again means more tone sucking and hiss. Buffers are essentially pre-amps and too many of these means that your signal is “copied” numerous times and cheaper buffers (Boss, Ibanez etc) will colour and drain your signal. Some pedals are also extremely sensitive to what’s placed in front or after it, which might cause both tone alteration and hiss. As an example, a Tube Driver can change dramatically if placed aside the “wrong” pedal. Other pedals, often complex delays (Boss DD20) and modulation processors tend to be more noisy if placed in a power chain with other pedals and needs to be powered by a separate supply.

Power supplies
Some pedals are better off on batteries. You can argue all you want but a fuzz or vintage booster sounds much better on a non-alkaline battery. After much experimenting I’ve found that both Rayovacs and GI produce the warmest tones and least noise. Adapters can make a lot of noise so you need to make sure you’re using one that fits the pedal and that’s both regulated and has a noise filter (a standard Boss 9V works for most pedals). DO NOT use generic hardware store adapters! These will sure make a lot of noise and are not designed to be used with pedals! Se part one for more on power supplies.

Noise gates/suppressors
I’m no fan of noise gates/suppressors. I know some swear by them but my experience is that too many are using them for the wrong reasons. The way I see it, a noise gate should be used a last resort in case you can’t eliminate typical 60 cycle hum (the source can be interference from a power transformer on the other side of the street, which obviously isn’t that easy to just switch off) or if you’re using gain pedals that have an insane amount of gain (Boss MZ2) that needs to be controlled. If used wrong, a noise gate can do more harm than good. I’ve seen many tutorials on You Tube that teaches that a noisy overdrive pedal can be silenced with a noise gate. That’s fine, but the noise these guys are hearing is a loud, low frequency hum, which you by now know, is 60-cycle hum coming from outside your chain. Not the pedal! It’s easy to add a noise gate and go “yes!” when the noise completely disappears but you haven’t really solved the problem. The noise is still there only suppressed by settings that are probably so extreme that you have no sustain left or get a strange effect like a slight doubling or phase shifting. Hopefully these articles will have taught you some tricks to more effectively eliminate your noise problems.

A good noise gate should be able to maintain the sustain and have a smooth threshold/decay allowing your tone to fade without sudden stops (also depending on the settings). It should also be able to recognize your picking and not kill lighter tones. Noise gates operate in different ways. Some are linear and should be placed last in the chain (MXR Smart Gate), while others acts as loopers (Boss NS2) allowing you to place overly noisy pedals in a loop outside your main signal path. Check out the Electro Harmonix Hum Debugger and ISP Decimator as well.

It’s impossible to cover everything. Noise is a huge topic and every guitar player might be dealing with different problems. Hopefully these articles have made you a bit wiser. Feel free to use the comment field to share your experience, tips and recommendations! In the next feature we’ll talk about the differences between true bypass, hardwire bypass and buffers and what it all means in terms of noise and tone.

66 thoughts on “Noise troubleshooting (part 2)”

  1. Bjorn, I am thinking of purchasing a noise gate primarily to reduce inevitable single coil noise while playing at home, especially when using headphones via a UR22mkII interface or my Laney L5. Ground, connections, cables, etc. are all good and humbuckers are otherwise silent. I really can’t do without my computer, WiFi, etc., etc. on so the relatively minimal noise is what it is but can be annoying with headphones on. I see you are not a fan of noise gates but do you think one might be worth the expense for this use without affecting tone significantly? Looking at the ISP Decimator II which seems to have some pretty good reviews.

    1. The issue is that people often set the gate too high and kill all the nuances in their tone. Some of those units are just way too aggressive as well and hard to fine tune for spesific rigs. The Decimator is really nice and do check out the Yellow Squash Iron Fist compressor as well. It has an built in gate that works very well. There are lots of noise gate plugins for computer recording software as well.

  2. I have a zoom 606 pedal.just an educated guess but I think there’s a bad component indicated by DT1 on the circuit board, very tiny has 6 leads coming out of it. The part# on it seems to be unreadable. Do you know of any sites where i may be able to get replacement parts for this model?

  3. Ok here’s my setup chain.. first a late 70’s crybaby, then a mxr dynacomp, bk butler tube driver w/the extra knob, late 70’s muff, modded reissue deluxe electric mistress, pitchfork, first issue mxr phaser, dan electro delay and a tc electronics delay. All on a large SKB powered board. The muff hummed so loud I had to take it out and replace it with an old ts10 tube screamer, and the mistress made swirl sounds whether it was on or not!! I replaced it with an old Ibanez chorus to get through the show. The power all came from two 50 amp breakers that powered the lights and all the gear. When I plugged my 72 strat in my 74 twin reverb with just the cord, no noise, same with my 81 JCM800 lead combo, no noise. Only thing new to my set up is the pitchfork, and everything that used batteries had brand new batteries. I blamed the noise on the sound and light guy!! Lol! Any ideas on this or how I could clean it up if this happens again??? – I need my muff and mistress!!! :)
    Ps…cables were new also…

    1. The Muff and Mistress is the problem but it’s their nature as well. Keep in mind that these are old pedals and the parts EXH used at the time varied in quality and they will not hold the same quality for 40+ years. Late 70s Mistress pedals also lacked the noise filter the more recent versions has. Old pedals also lack the proper shielding and powering. Light rigs and badly isolated powering on stage will casue noise because your pickups, cables and pedals basically acts like antennas picking up whatever’s out there. The best way to prevent this is to make sure you use an isolated power source on stage, good quality shielded cables and proper powering of your pedals. Single coil Strats also benefits from extra shielding inside the cavity. To fully eliminate the problem, you should ditch the Muff, Mistress and use humbuckers. Cheers!

  4. Hi Bjorn, great write up. I have an interesting challenge whereby one of my gain pedals (purple plexi circuit) does not get on with my Vibe pedal (Lovepedal vibronaut), when the vibe is anywhere upstream of the gain pedal. With the gain pedal on, and the vibe on or (crucially) off, I get a lot of noise. This occurs both when the vibe is right in front of the gain pedal, as well as a few pedals in front. No other combination of other pedals produces the issue, the gain pedal is quiet with every other pedal. Power coming from a voodoo labs pp2, no splitters. Using top quality cables and kit, which normally provides me a very quiet rig. I did have success by putting an analog man buffer between the vibe and the gain pedal – the gain pedal was quiet, but this seems a strange solution and I don’t feel like I’m addressing the heart of the issue. Appreciate your thoughts!

    1. What sort of noise are you experiencing? Could be a powering issue. Have you tried plugging the UniVibe into a single power adapter?

      1. Bjorn, apologies, I’m only now aware of your reply. After much testing, it’s just the specific combo of that pedal and the vibe.. Bizzare but just one of those things I guess :-) The noise is a harsh buzz (harsh because it’s only evident when the gain pedal is on).

  5. Hey there, this has been very helpful thus far in building my first pedal. I do get some noise / feedback out of the overdrive that I built but I think it’s healthy… if I turn the drive or tone up all the way I get some feedback and it’s very noisey and even in a tasteful way so I can live with that. I haven’t put the knobs on yet but when I touch the potentiometers to change the settings it cuts out for a second… but I’m guessing that’s because there are no knobs on it yet.

    If that all sounds normal my last concern would be the foot switch. When I turn on the overdrive it immediately comes on. When I turn it off the signal cuts out for a second and then goes back to clean.

    Is this normal? I had an Electro Harmonic delay that used to do this so maybe it’s common? Is there a way to fix it?

      1. Thanks for getting back so quickly to answer my question it turns out that pedal was fine.

        I’m on my second pedal now and I’m having some troubles with it. If I hook up my iPod to the pedal (to test it) the music comes through when the pedal is not on but I have to hold the input in place for the music to be audible and more or less loud / quiet. Sometimes if I have the pedal on it will have the same affect. So it seems like the signal is making its way through.

        I’m guessing that perhaps something is just short circuiting or isn’t soldered well enough on the input jack but I could be wrong.

        I also used a glitter / gold spray paint to cover the enclosure with and I’m wondering if that has something to with it? There is some glitter on the pedal but the LED and power aren’t going in and out so I’m guessing that it’s not causing a problem but I figured I’d ask an expert just in case.

        Any tips?

        1. I really don’t have any experience with building pedals so I can’t really help you out here. Could be a number of things I guess and I, or someone else, would have to examine the pedal to figure it out.

  6. Hi Bjorn – unbelievably good site!!!
    I have a quick question. I have a mexican strat with a ‘big muff nano’ and an ‘Ibanez TS9’ running into a Marshall MG15CF 15 Watt Guitar Combo.

    I have played around with some decent pedal settings from the info on this site but i cant work out what order to put the pedals in, Would the ‘muff’ go first or the ‘ts’ in your experience? i also have an ‘boss eq’ after both. Im looking for a comfortably numb tone.

    Thanks again

    1. Hi Anthony! Thanks for your kind words! Very sorry for my late reply. What exactly is your issue? Based on what you list, I can say that Marshall amps often makes Big Muffs sound aggressive and a bit too compressed, due to the amp’s low headroom and high compression. Also, adding a TS on top of that, will onoy add more mid range and compression so you might want to look for something else. Check out this feature for some tips on chosing the right pedals for your amp. Cheers!

      1. Thanks for getting back Bjorn! This makes so much sense – I think thats the only article on this site i didnt read ha!!! The muff sounds fuzzy and very aggressive even though the amp is cranked up.

        Thanks again Ill have a good read up on this – It might be better to get a new amp!!

  7. I have a LOUD hiss with my new dimebag crybaby wah. Am thinking it’s a low battery. Hoping it’s a low battery. This happens with or without other effects. The cables are new, and I’m using mini cables (about 5 inches long) between the boxes when they were together and less than 10 ft when I tried it without the distortion.

  8. I’m getting a strange noise from my Zoom MS-50G. My chain is Booster-Z Wild-MS 1959-ZNR. I use with a 100 Watt Marshall. Playing loud is fine. But if a mute the bass strings E or A and just barely pick them I hear the note and an underlying hiss. I don’t want to record the hiss. Like if a hit a chord and let it fade. Thanks

    1. What sort of hiss do you hear? Is it coming from the amp or Zoom? Does the same hiss occur if your unplug the Zoom or play acoustically?

      1. It’s like a noise floor hiss. You don’t really hear it until the chord you’re playing starts to fade. It seems to be coming from the Zoom. Way too much gain and treble. Backed off on both and that seems to have worked. No it didn’t happen when I unplugged the Zoom. I have my amp set clean. Thanks for getting back to me. Sorry for the late reply. I’ve been having email issues.

        1. OK, I’m not that familiar with this model but gain and treble can certainly add hiss and noise. Some of these processors also have in and out put volume and global master settings. If yours does have these, make sure they’re properly adjusted and matched to the amp or interface you’re using.

          1. Oh yes I’ve made some more adjustments. You can move the noise gate to different spots in the chain too. I also turned the treble down on my guitar.

  9. Can anyone help me my pedal after about 5 mins seems to cutt off. Idk if its just the battreis but im playing a concert soon and i want to take it i have a boas distortion pedal and a fender 15 rumble amp and a fender matte jazz.

  10. Hi Bjorn,

    Congratulations and many thanks for all the information and guidance you are so kind to offer here!

    Now i have this row of pedals:

    Rat -> Tube Screamer -> Boss Digital Delay -> Boss Chorus -> Boss Flanger -> Electroharmonix reverb (-> Amp)

    and there is some noise coming out when using the last four pedals, perfectly acceptable. Then a lot of noise when adding the Tube Screamer, which is exactly the same whether i power it from the adaptor or with a battery. This slightly decreases when using both pickups (say Telecaster) but only marginally, so still remains an issue – and if i remember well the Tube Screamer alone to the amp still makes most of the noise. And now the funny part: when adding also the Rat the noise gets back to normal levels! (with all the boost and extra tone of course).
    So i wonder what might be going on here.
    I am not exactly sure about the quality of cables, power sources etc. i am using but i guess that affects only the moderate/acceptable noise i described…
    Another little question: adaptors don’t have an earth connection as class II devices, correct? So why so often people mention earthing as an issue?

    Your opinion would be highly appreciated!

    Thanks again and regards,


    1. Noise, as described in this feature, has many sources but it sounds to me that you’re experiencing a normal type of noise coming from the Tube Screamer. A TS has a lot of mid range, compression and, when set high, quite a lot of gain. All of this will make noise (distortion is noise) and it will also amplify any noise thats in your rig, picked up by your pickups and cables. The fact that you experience less noise when you combine pickups is normal, as you’re basically making two single coils into a humbucker pickup. Try to neutralise any source for noise as described in this feature and also, experiment with the TS in different positions, settings and combinations.

  11. Hi Bjorn! I just checked and it does not appear when ONLY the Tube Screamer is plugged in between the guitar and amp. I plugged the Tube Screamer back into my pedal chain and I do not hear the high pitched noise anymore. Not certain what this could be, but will keep you updated if it returns. Appreciate your quick response!

    1. Hmmm… so the noise is now completely gone? Could be that something wasn’t plugged in right in the first place, I don’t know… :)

  12. Hi All:
    I have high pitched noise coming from my amp when plugging an Ibanez Tube Screamer Overdrive Pro TS808 into my pedal chain. The noise occurs when the pedal is turned on and turned off. The patch cables are good. Any idea as to what this may be? Thank you!!!

  13. Hi again, Bjorn! I watched David Gilmour saturday and it was perfect! I never heard so beautiful sound and music overall.
    I already asked to you how david gilmour deal with noise, and you said it’s possible to hear a lot of noise of his guitar live.
    Well, did something change in the last tour? I was thrill about how the sound was clear and beautil. I noticed no noise or hum.

    1. Glad to hear! Well, I didn’t mean that there was, or is, a lot of noise in his tone. It’s very clean and well treated. However, once you add distortion and compression, you will get noise. That’s just the nature of those types of pedals. David’s using a volume pedal, the guitar volume control and his palm to eliminate that type of noise but every once in a while, you can hear some hiss or low frequency rumble between notes or before or after a certain passage or song. At least, that shows that not even he manages to eliminate noise completely, which again proves that you should worry too much about these things but rather learn how to control them and not ruin your tone with noise suppressors etc.

      1. You said “you’ll notice that there is a lot of noise coming from his guitar”, Sorry for understand it wrong then.

        1. I should have been more presice in the first place I guess. My point is though that there is some noise that is hard to eliminate, like noise coming from high gain pedals, but there are ways to control it.

      2. Bjorn: Excellent treatise on the subject of noise. Being an engineer by trade you succinctly covered the bases on this difficult subject!! you may have answered this one before….I have noticed super loud noise issues with the Gilmour NOS strat especially combined with effects (most noticeably Big Muffs–ie. Cornish, G2, P1, etc). Are you aware of any mods that Phil Taylor or others have done to the Gilmour strat to manage this? I don’t have this problem with other Fender strats. Thanks! Rob

        1. Hi Rob, thank you so much for your kind words! Sorry for my late reply. David’s Strat has some additional copper foil under the pickguard for shielding and obviously, they’ve routed ground to that but I’m not sure whether the NOS or only the Replica has that mod.

  14. Great stuff on the website Bjorn! Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks.

    Quick question: Got some ground noise coming from my chain, checked wiring on the guitar and everything seems just fine. Cable is good too (no pedals involved). Ground on the outlet seems to work as well. Could it be the amp, and if so, do you reckon it’s an easy fix? The tone pot on the guitar does affect the noise (kills it if you cut it), if it’s of any help.

    Cheers, rock on!

    1. Hmmm… sounds to me that you got some buzz or hum, rather than ground. Especially since you mention that the tone control kills it. Ground disappears if you touch any metal parts. Does it? If it does, then, yes, there is a ground issue. If so, I’d try to isolate the source and either bring the guitar or the amp to a tech. Depending on how skilled you are, you can fix guitar issues with a soldering iron but stay away from fixing the amp unless you REALLY know what you’re doing.

      1. Touching the metal does kill the noise, yes, I forgot to mention it. I checked there was no leakage to ground on the guitar, so that must not be it. I assume it’s the amp’s issue but the tone pot thing still confuses me.


  15. Hi Bjorn – WebbMan here, in reply to your last comment: To eliminate the noise I described I took your advice and tried different guitar, different cable, different wall outlets HOWEVER when I played through a power cleaner it did help but not gone. I am willing to go to the expense of new tubes just to see IF that maybe the problem. At your convenience I would look into the Bugera V line of amps.
    Yes made in China but all hand wired and all tube. This is a “Mark Knopfler” type of amp with very rich warm tones. The kind of tone you hear in his band Dire Straights FADE TO BLACK… Wow !!
    Bjorn, I just discovered your column and you can consider me a new fan. Best Regards – WebbMan

    [Thanks! The Bugera amps are nice and you can get some classic tube tones with them :) – Bjorn]

    1. Great posts here Bjorn and everyone else, apologies dor my english. my set up is all boss 80s-90s : ibanez rg470–>zoom606—>distortion—> metalzone—>digital metalizer—-> tremolo pan —->phaser2—>digital delay3. i never minded the noise as i used a small amp before… but now using a bigger one its annoying. thanks for your posts i will check cabling and pedals, which one is the culprit? Ebay will show (“,)

      1. Thanks for your kind words, Jonski! Keep in mind that those high gain pedals are noisy by nature. Depending on what type of noise you’re experiencing, you can eliminate some of it with better powering, cables, pickups etc but noisy pedal circuits often need a noise gate of some sort.

  16. Bjorn – EXCELLENT web site regarding amps, pedals and TONE…
    Yes, I am another one of your readers with a “Noise Problem”.
    I have an all tube BUGERA V22 112 combo amp (2 power tubes, and 3 preAmp tubes).
    This is one amp among many I own and I bought it used. The overall TONE is excellent
    HOWEVER – I get a electrical STATIC noise. the most simple test I already did was to simply change guitars and it helped a little but definitely still there. I already read your answer to this in your PART 2 of the Nose article but you say check the cables, and anything lose – can’t find anything like that. Could it be the TUBES? The former owner said he changed a couple of the tubes but not the whole set. Are there any simple TESTS I can perform without the expense of buying all new tubes or a guitar tech? Please advise – thanks in advance, WebbMan

    [Could be a number of things but the first thing you should do is to eliminate any possible source. Switch guitars, cables, turn the post on the amp, try a different power socket and circuit. Make sure you’ve plugged the guitar straight into the amp without pedals. If nothing seem to help then it’s probably the amp. Could be a cap or condenser but it’s likely a tube or its socket. There’s no easier way to tell than to replace the tubes although that’s no guarantee that the issue will go away. I’d take the amp to a tech and let him look at it. – Bjorn]

  17. Hi Bjorn, looks like you get bombarded with a lot of noise related questions but judging from the comments i’ve read no one is running a system like mine.

    My question relates to eliminating noise when using fuzz pedals into overdrive.

    I like to run fuzz –> wah –> OD, as i find it make a real far out wah sound ideal for heavy psych.

    problem is that it’s a lot of gain to tame.

    Would you be using the fuzz as normal, nice n fuzzy and then have the OD to boost vol and a little bit of gain (to assist the wah to sound gnarly).

    Or would you be starting with the clean sound of the amp, then getting my OD settings, and then stacking the fuzz on top of that to colour the OD and make it fuzzier ie only a little bit of fuzz depth?

    its really hard figuring out if a should be ‘fuzzing up the overdrive’ or ‘overdriving/boosting my fuzz’

    i have an ISP decimator at the end which helps to tame but at high volumes it gets hard to find a sweet spot even though its only one dial (wondering if i should try the boss ns2 instead as more parameters)

    so pedals in question were Voodoolab superfuzz and fulltone OCD. thinking of getting a red germanium fuzz face mini though.

    Cheers mate hopefully you’ve got some wisdom and experience with fuzz into OD :)

    [Hi Russ! Sorry for my late reply. As you know, stacking dirt pedals will always result in a lot of noise. That’s just the nature of it. The OCD has a lot of gain so adding a fuzz onto of that might not be ideal. It depends on what tones you want though. Guys like Hendrix and Zakk Wylde are known for cranking the marshals and using lots of fuzz and overdrive with the wah. There’s a lot of noise though but they knew/know how to handle it. Personally I’d run a clean amp and add a fairly mild booster with the fuzz, like a Colorsound Powerboost (or clone) or something similar. That way you can go from clean boost to heavy gain and hear fits the fuzz. Cranking the amp, would definitely require a cleaner booster… unless you’re looking for a very distinct tone. Then you just have to live with it :) – Bjorn]

  18. Hi Bjorn,

    Only the NS-2 offers a setting for decay. The ISP Decimator II, even the G string II, has only the Treshold knob.
    Is this a problem? Have you tried the new ISP G string II ? Is it as good as their rack systems? It’s said to be perfectly transparent, and to let the sustain untouched…

    What would be your recommandation regarding the incorporation of such a Noise Gate, into the typical Gilmourish effects chain, including big muff and booster, delay and electric mistress, etc…

    Where shall I Place the ISP decimator? Have you never been tempted to incorporate one of those devices into your pedalboard?

    Best regards,


    [There are different ways of using a noise gate. I’m not really a fan as I believe it’s much more effective to eliminate the source of the noise, if possible, rather than to suppress it and kill sustain and the dynamics of the tone. Can either place it after all the gains, last in the chain or use it as a looper for certain trouble makers in the chain. Some pedals and systems has a more sensitive threshold and attack but you always need to be careful with the settings or they will have an effect on your tone and sustain. That’s just the nature of the pedal. – Bjorn]

  19. Hi Bjorn,

    I’d like to buy a noise gate, which would allow this:

    Placing the noise gate into the pedal chain replacing a distortion pedal (boss ds-1, carl martin plexitone which generates noise for example), and running that distortion pedal into the noise gate’s loop.

    So could you tell me what is the best choice?

    ISP decimator II, ISP G string II, boss NS-2, or Mxr Noise clamp?

    I’d buy the best one, the one that lets the notes sustain…

    Best Regards,


    [All of these are very good. Regardless of which you decide on, you need to be very careful with its setting so that you don’t kill the sustain. It’s the combination between the threshold and release that matters. I’ve had good experience with the NS2 and ISP my self. – Bjorn]

  20. Hey thanks for this amazing article it is truly usefull !
    I have some noises issues on my pedal board so

    I have on direct line

    => Decimator (noise suppressor) (it is set really low so i have a lot of sustain and it cuts some hum)
    => custom audio electronics wah
    => Megalith Beta by mi audio amp

    Then on the loop effect i have

    =>Phaser by empress
    =>Pitch factor by eventide
    =>Para-EQ by empress
    =>Dual tap Delay by visual sound
    =>Eventide Space (reverb)
    =>Loop station rc-3 by boss (but most of the time it is unplugged due to the huge noises it makes)
    =>Decimator (Wich is set for really tight metal rhythm so i only turn it on sometimes)

    the power supply is a decibel eleven hotstone deluxe

    and all of my pedal are connect with the george l’s cable
    (wich was expensive but i’m not sure if it is good)

    So i have a general hum but i think i can deal with it it’s okay not massive

    At the moment, i don’t use the loop effect because,
    it is making a crack noise when i pick hard and i don’t know how to remove it.
    I would have go to the store where i bought everything
    but i moved to another continent recently…

    Do you think i should try buying new cables ?
    If yes please give me the name of the best one i can get ! :)

    Do you think i need a buffer somewhere or an overdrive ?

    Also my neck pickup is making way more noise than my bridge pickup is it normal ?

    also i am really looking forward to buying an overdrive cause
    i dont like my high gain tone, i need more definition in it and more gain !
    and i think it would help me
    (i always wanted to stay mainly on the amp distortion but it’s time to grow up)

    so if you have any suggestion it will be the highlight of my day !
    Anyway thank you for reading !

    [Hi Jonathan! Noise is a difficult topic as there can be numerous reasons why you experience noise. As described in the article, there’s ground noise, hum and noise caused by the gear it self. You have a lot of pedals and it’s always a good idea to try to isolate the problem before you change anything or buy more gear. Plug the guitar straight into the amp and add one pedal at a time. Stop when the noise appears. Be sure to use working cables, also patch cables, and make sure that each pedal has enough ampere as well as the right voltage. You should also avoid standing too close to the pedal board or the amp as the guitar will pick up the electric radiation. Try this as a start and let me know how that turns out :) – Bjorn]

  21. I recently bought a digitech death metal pedal and it sounds fine. Except when i turn the high knob past two it makes a really bad sound. The low and mid seem to be fine but i can not move the high past two without it making a really bad static sound. Please help

    [You’re probably just experiencing the natural naoise caused by the pedal, which also amplifies the hum your guitar picks up from electrical radiation. The Death Metal pedal has a lot of gain and noise is just a part of the deal. – Bjorn]

  22. Bjorn, Finally resolved my noise issues. turns out the bridge had not been properly grounded and after two construction cranes with their accompanying radio traffic left the area nearby that helped. I also bought a power conditioner for my electrical source and that helped a lot too. I can’t believe its the same guitar that is as quiet as it is now, my HSS strat. Thanks for your articles and tips.

    [Glad it worked out :) – Bjorn]

  23. I have a couple of problems.

    First, I have a constant buzz coming from my amp when using my overdrive pedal. Shutting off my compressor removes the buzz, but I want them both activated at the same time for better sound, more sustain, etc.

    In addition to the buzz, I also have a constant beep coming from the amp, it works kind of the same way as the buzz. Disappears when shutting off the overdrive/compressor.

    And the final problem is that sometimes when I play on the guitar, mainly when I’m using palm mutes and playing quiet (not quiet as in low volume, quiet as in light picking and such), I get a weird crackling sound. I think it may be related to my guitar because sometimes when I switch pickups, I get a similar crackling sound, and sometimes the pickup I’m switching to doesn’t work at all. It simply doesn’t come any sound, so I have to switch pickup and switch back again, then it works. I’m using a Taylor T5 if it’s relevant.

    What do you think?

    [Sounds to me that you got a few different issues here. It’s always hard to diagnose without having heard and experienced your rig but the crackling from your guitar sounds like there might be some loose soldering on one of the pots, pickups or more likely the pickup switcher. If not experienced with these things you should stake your guitar to a tech and let him look at hit. As for the buzz… You will have more noise when combining several gain pedals (including compressor). It’s just the nature of the effects. A gain pedal alone will also amplify any noise that may be in your rig as well. There could be interference from nearby electrical components or a ground issue. You should also do tests to make sure that there’s nothing wrong with the pedals, cables and powering. – Bjorn]

  24. Hi there. I just got a keeley compressor yesterday and there doesn’t seem to be any sound coming from the amp of the guitar except for a constant high pitch buzz when I turn it on with the level and attack past half way. But when I turn it off the guitar can be heard again. The led lights up when I turn it on and I am using the correct ac adaptor for the pedal. I have also tried my other pedals with the same leads and power supply and they work perfectly fine. I wonder whether it’s the pedal itself or maybe some sort of interference with the amp perhaps? I am using a vox valvetronix 20+ amp which has a number of built in effects connecting to a fender strat. Sorry if the explanation isn’t very clear or doesn’t make much sense, as I am very new to this.


    [If there’s no sound then there’s something wrong with the pedal. It shouldn’t behave like that. Contact the dealer and have them look at it. – Bjorn]

  25. Hello. I am new to your site and I am enjoying it immensely. I love the reviews and your excellent guitar playing Bjørn. I am a better tech than a guitar player and, if you don’t mind, I would like to put my two cents worth of advice for Harrison and Martin. Harrison first. Most modern amps have input connectors that have a grounding contact that engages when nothing is plugged in. I don’t know for sure about your AC15 but I think it is a good guess. That is why your amp is quite with nothing plugged in and you rightly came to the conclusion that the amp is ok. So when you plug your guitar in with the volume all the way down the amp is still rather quite as you only have a cable with a short on the guitar end. so if the cord is electrically sound all is still good. That leaves your guitar as the culprit. There are a lot of things in a guitar that would cause your problem. Might be worth taking it to a guitar tech.

    And as for Martin’s vibe pedal; it got dropped and there is something loose inside or the stomp switch itself is bad. More likely something came loose. I would take it apart and check it out. I think you will be able to see what is wrong with some inspection. I wouldn’t let it go because if there is something loose inside, it might cause a short and damage the pedal.

    I used to repair guitar amps and effects boxes back in the 70’s for a couple of music stores and I seen lots of issues with solder joints; even in new equipment. A bad solder joint can cause lots of problems in amps, guitars and effects. Sometimes they can be very hard to find as well. Good luck to all.

    [Thanks for your input, Randy! – Bjorn]

  26. hello i´m really going crazy here so if you could help i´d appreciate it. i have a godin seagull artist acoustic electric and recently over the last few months there is a staticy sound coming from it when i play it, plugged in obviously. i´ve checked cables, the amp(electric guitar sounds fine), it is also not coming from the traste´s. i´m sure it´s the guitar but what do i do. it´s not the battery either. especially when i play the top strings E and A. it drives me crazy and i live here in the carribean so not much help. one day it may do it and the next no. off and on so imagine if you go play live. what do i do.

    [A static noise is usually caused by bad ground but then you should experience it everyday. Not sure when you say it’s more prominent when you hit the lower strings. Is it a static ringing/buzzing sound that always there even when you don’t play or does it come and go when you hit the strings and maybe certain parts of the neck? – Bjorn]

  27. Hi Bjorn
    I have a Laney Lionheart L20 combo at my dads house and a small 10w Fender solid-state at my moms house. Whenever I switch my Little Big Muff on the Lionheart starts screaming with feedback and creates a really loud hum. This doesn’t happen when do the same thing at my moms. I though it might be bad grounding, but when i tried to fix (connecting the radiator to the socket with a length off socket to get rid of the voltage difference) it there seemed to be no decrease in hum. The noise is consistent and doesn’t change in pitch at all no matter what i do. The case was the same with my Roland solid-state i had before. Do you think it still has something to do with grounding, and would shielding the guitar get rid of the noise to some extent?

    [You’re describing two different environments so you can’t really compare them. There could be a number of reasons why the Muff is noisier in one place than the other. Hard to tell just what the problem is but it sounds like there might be some interference at your dad’s. That being said, the Lionheart is a very loud amp with lots of low end so the Muff might be equally noisy on both amps but the Lanely, being bigger, might amplify it. – Bjorn]

  28. I have a Moen Jimi Zero Vibe pedal that got dropped once. Powered by a T Rex Fuel Tank it functions fine when it’s on but if I click the pedal off the Fuel Tank’s LED indicator shuts off (along with any other pedals connected to it) and it makes a fairly loud humming sound. It’s not a big deal as I usually leave the Vibe on all the time but I’ve been wondering what might cause it to interfere with the power supply like that or if it’s something that could be fixed.

    [Are you certain that the Vibe gets enough volt and ampere? Are you rinning a daisy chain off the Tank? – Bjorn]

  29. Hi, thanks for the great article.

    I’ve just bought a used VoxAC15c1 and am experiencing some hiss.

    It’s fine without plugging the guitar in, I can turn the amp up all the way on both the master and top boost volume and it barely makes a sound, just when I plug in the guitar there is quite a noticeable hiss that increases as the volume knob on my guitar is turned up.

    There’s a buzz that can be eliminated when touching any metal part of the guitar, so I understand that’s that part is probably a grounding or shielding issue with the guitar itself, but the hiss still stays at anything past about 9 o clock on the volume knobs on the amp.

    With the humbucker pickup selected it is noticeably quieter, but when using the single coil pickup the hiss is fairly loud after turning the amp up about quarter of the way. It get’s louder as you turn the amp up.

    Is the hiss something that would also be solved by grounding the guitar properly? I assume since the amp doesn’t make much noise without plugging in a guitar that the amp is in perfect order and that the problem lies with either the cable i’m using or the guitar itself?

    Would really appreciate some advice!

    Cheers lads

    [Hiss is usually caused by too much volume and gain. Gain in this sense is both the gain you get from your amp’s volume and drive, as well as having the guitar volume at full. The more gain, the more hiss and it doesn’t only happen when the amp is on full overdrive. It depends on how well shielded and filtered the amp is and single coils will also make the hiss louder, as they’re not shielded and the interference they pick up, will be amplified. Shielding the guitar will probably make it better but you will also have to live with some hiss. Few amps and guitars are dead quiet and when you sit in your bedroom right next to the amp, the hiss will be more noticeable than on a stage. – Bjorn]

  30. Thanks so much for your two articles on this subject. As an apartment dweller in an old building with a new parts guitar (Warmoth parts) assembled, shielded, and set up by an experienced tech who has done those before I was surprised to find a continuation of some the hums my cheaper guitar has in my apartment, but live and learn and gain knowledge and your article helps. I’m investing in some proper high quality cables now and will keep coiled cable away from power sources when in use. As you say some things may be inevitable in my particular practice environment but its good to get an education on what can be done. Thank you.

    [Cheers, Shean! Noise is tricky stuff and it’s not always that easy to eliminate… even though you’ve followed all the tips and tricks :) I sometimes get my drummer’s kick drum in my speaker cab… figure that… – Bjorn]

  31. Thanks for the info. No I haven’t changed anything else. I have the solid connectors (offset) and I was wondering if one of those may have become defective, however it doesn’t do it all the time.
    Thanks again

  32. I have recently started getting radio interference through my Boss dd3 pedal. Is there any filter I may use to eliminate it. I use an ac adapter (1 spot) that I’ve been using for a while but it just started with the am radio bleed.

    [I doubt it’s the pedal but perhaps a faulty patch cable? Have you change anything else in the setup? Anything else in the room changed recently? – Bjorn]

  33. Some times my Phaser pedal just cuts out.Why? It buzzes too and makes a high pitched whine both when playing and when not.

    [I’ve no idea. Bad powering? Bad patch cable? Or something’s just wrong with the pedal… – Bjorn]

  34. Hey, I recieved a fender mustang l v2 yesterday and yesterday it played just fine but I tried to play this morning and there was a static noise almost immediately with turning it on and no matter what I do with the guitar the static stays the same it doesn’t even change in pitch or volume. My amp is fuzzy and my guitar produces no sound all of the sudden… Help!

    [Take it back to the store. – Bjorn]

  35. I Bought an MXR Dyna comp recently and added it to the board. First it pops when I press the button, is that normal? My tube screamer clone does it but was told it was from the LED. So I’d love if I could get the button pop to go away.

    Also the Dyna Comp. sounds like I have the predator in my amp is that normal with the sus. button at 2oclock. If I turn it down past 12oclock it fades off.

    I’d like to fix both of these problems because I’d love to keep these pedals on my board. Especially the TS-9 as iI built it, and its hand wired.

    [AS far as I know, both pedals have hardwire bypass, which means that the signal goes straight through the cirquit. Normnally, this shouldn’t cause any issues but you might experience some popping in some cases. I’m no expert but I’ve experienced it with hardwire bypass pedals. Make sure they’re properly powered and that your patch cables are working. There might be some conflicts with buffers as well, so if you have buffers in your chain, try plugging the guitar straight into the Dyna and then into the amp. If that doesn’t cause a pop, then there might be a conflict on the board. – Bjorn]

  36. Greatest, most complete and simplest article/s on pedal electronics on the net. I did find that by replacing just a few caps and transistors with higher quality parts the hiss cleaned up tremendously. This seems especially so with Boss pedals, which seem to be the lego kit of the mass produced lot. In fact overall tone can improvement can be had with this simple mod. What I also leaned was: I have a hiss in the amp…and when I add a pedal with another hiss, well…LOL! I would presume the same holds true for amplifiers and components…

    [Thanks, Joe! – Bjorn]

  37. Hi,I am having a problem with my Gravesend Delay pedal.I have the right power adapter for it and it doesn’t have a battery connection.I hook it up with my guitar to the input and output goes to the amp.The guitar works fine with through the pedal until I press the pedal bypass switch.I only get a humming noise.There is power to the pedal and if I tap the pedal itself,it gives a delay effect sound but nothing from my guitar.Hope you can help and is appreciated.


    [Could be a number of things. Have you checked the patch cables to/from the pedal? I’d take the pedal to the dealer and have them look at it. – Bjorn]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.