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Old June 13th, 2005, 08:48 PM   #1 (permalink)
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AC filter help with single coil noise .. is there any?

With all the hi-tech gadgets to hit the market, it would seem like (by now) that someone would have designed some sort of a alternating current (AC) filter that could be used between the wall outlet and the guitar amp power cord.

I have crappy wiring at my apartment. I also have only one outlet to choose from. Also, if I move around in the room, I can find a "sweet spot" location in the room where I can actually stand and get less hum/noise from my favorite single coil babies. It sure would be nice to sit on the couch for a change...

I have all but given up on the concept of recording. It seems like the noise level is too high.

So, you see I'm sort of boxed in... I've already tried different amps, and different guitars, and different guitars thru different amps. It is always the same, single coil noise bugging me to death.... An American Telecaster, G&L ASAT III... not cheap guitars, either. Plus, a MESA/Boogie and an Evans Custom Amplifiers amp... not cheap amps, either...

There must be a solution for this other than swapping out my PUPs for some fancy new brand, or changing to a humbucker guitar.

Is there a line filter that will help out on the noise AT THE WALL OUTLET. With all the computerized, technologically advanced stuff out there and available today, I have a hunch there "must be" something.



I know they have line filters and surge suppressors (which are different) and battery back-up units (different still) for computers. These folks that play computer games and such want the cleanest, purest power coming into their latest processor... well, I need some help with my Tele's and Strat's to... I need and want the cleanest, purest power feeding my tube amp.

Another thought I had was... well, what do they do in a recording studio? Every artist that has ever picked up a single-coil guitar has plugged in to an amp in a studio, and...well, I don't hear this stuff on any CDs (the pickup noise that is).

I'm convinced the answer for me is to try for some type of line filter that plugs in to the wall outlet, and then I plug my amplifier into the line filter.

There is stuff out there for computers, but I haven't bought one just to experiment.

I thought it was a good topic for discussion, so I posted it here.

So, ya'll got any ideas?

Thanks,

JH

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Old June 13th, 2005, 10:06 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I don't know of any filter like you're looking for, but you might check the various electrical lighting, appliances etc in your house and see if there are some that cause particular problems. I had a house that was particularly noisy, and found that if I turned the the power to the TV/stereo off at the wall (no playing along with CD's or videos, though), turned off the flourescent kitchen light, and turned off the dining room dimmer, my guitar would get pretty quiet. It wasn't the wiring so much as what was connected to the wiring.

John
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Old June 13th, 2005, 10:26 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I saw what you're describing in a catalog a year or two ago.A new product.I lost interest when I saw the $200 price tag.I don't know what it's called,try a Google search with various words.
What happens when you use a ground lift?
I'd probably move the couch to the sweet spot and call it Feng Shui.
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Old June 13th, 2005, 10:38 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Good topic there JamHandy.

The problem is not with the AC line voltage. If it were, a properly working amp would make noise with no input signal (guitar not plugged in). You can try that for yourself to prove the point. If the amp hums with no guitar plugged in, then you probably have bad filter caps in the amp. You amp by design already has the ultimate line filter, it is the storage caps after the rectifier. It is so good that it fills in the voltage between cycles when there is little voltage present.

Guitar pickups are designed to pickup varing magnetic fields, and those fields are all around us. The amplitude of the pickup of a magnetic varing field is proportional to the rate of change. Therefore, the devices that have fast rates of change of current draw from the AC line are the biggest culprits. This include the following:
  • Light Dimmers
  • Fluorescent lights
  • Neon Lights
  • Transformers - all kinds - power transformers in amplifiers, walwarts and etc.
  • Electric motors

If devices had a rate of change of current that was strictly a pure AC sinewave (like an incandescent bulb), all our picked up noise would be a dull HUM. Yet, we get this harsh BUZZ that contain all the fast edges of current changes and their associated harmonics.

There have been a lot of controversial posts on this forum and everywhere else about guitar shielding. Shielding of guitar cavities can help some, but it is by NO means the panacea for eliminating buzz. The only time I have ever had shielding help is when volume pots are wired backwards like a Les Paul or the Brent mason Tele. The cord to the amp goes high impedance when the pot is turned down, so cavity shielding is very helpful there. Think of it as a guitar cord unplugged from the guitar with a few inches of wire on the tip end.


You bring up a great point about studio recording with regard to buzz. First of all, good studios do not have the culprit devices listed above. They use incandescent lighting only with no dimmers (or if they do they are darn good dimmers). Also, as you have noticed, there is a "sweet spot" whereby rotating the guitar will minimize the buzz pickup. This is because the magnetic lines of flux around the pickup go to near zero at some point. Now, if all the buzz source came from one place and one field polarization, finding a low pickup sweet spot would be a chinch. Since there are usually several culprit sources, you can't completely position the guitar to get zero pickup. Studio players have always used the positional trick. Some have also reduced buzz by attaching a ground wire from their guitar and a ground source. Most likely, if this works well the guitar was not wired correctly anyway. Every situation is different.

I've always dreaded dealing with the stage hum. That's why I go with noise cancelling pickups (like Seymour Duncan Stacks). Some folks don't like them, and they are not as bright and "zingy" as single coils. I simply adjust my treble up accordingly. I always have plenty to spare.

I once had a guitar pickup on a broomstick, connected to an amp. I used it as a Geiger counter type troubleshooting tool to find unknown culprits. I'm glad in today's world I have replacements for my single coils and I don't need to worry about that anymore.

Let me end by saying that the stacks will pickup BUZZ if strong enough. I have 12 fluorescent bulbs in my workshop. The guitars I build with stacks will pick that up. I almost never have a problem on stage. Stacks and humbuckers are not perfectly quiet.
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Old June 13th, 2005, 11:01 PM   #5 (permalink)
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About those noises.........

Great question and not an unusual situation. If you're getting it from that fabulolus G&L / Boogie setup, you may have what was happening to me. I play upstairs, and that is where it would happen. Since I never played downstairs or out, I didn't realize the "why" so soon. I finally figured out that if there was any signal coming to a tv in the house, I got it. It was worse if I happened to be watching an instructional video with the vcr AND the tv on. I find that when the tv and vcr are off upstairs and down, I just don't get it at all. It would be worth it to notice if the neighbors are away whether you get it. It may be interference coming from the unit next door, above, or below

Good luck. I'm looking forward to reading other posts about this maddening mess.
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Old June 13th, 2005, 11:13 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Great explanation, Terry!

Do you have any idea how a noise- suppression pedal, like the Boss NS-2, would work on pickup buzz? I played in a church a couple weeks ago, and the stage hum was terrible, the worst I've ever experienced... even in the hum-cancelling switch positions!
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Old June 13th, 2005, 11:19 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I forgot to add the television to the list of culprits. It is one of the worst of all. There is a set of magnetic coils around the picture tube that deflect the cathode ray tube beam up/down and left/right to creat the picture. It just so happens that the vertical scan frequency is 60Hz, so the deflection yoke alone is a 60Hz (plus many harmonics) generator of BUZZZZ. The horizontal deflection rate is 15.75kHz, which is above what most of us can hear.

Thanks for mentioning the other culprit.
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Old June 13th, 2005, 11:34 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Well, a DC powered amp isn't the solution.

Good question JH, and great answer Terry, you truly are the thinking man's chicken picker, that's a post for the archives (do we have archives here?) if there ever was one.

Had an outdoor picnic gig last summer and I bought a solid state battery powered amp just for the occassion. When I got home, I had this brilliant idea that the direct current from the batteries would give me pure, untainted hum-free juice for my telecaster.

Plugged in and was really shocked to discover that the buzz was as loud as ever- I had been so sure that the old wiring in my apartment was the culprit all these years..

I haven't been working much lately and I have noticed that there's definitely less hum during the day when everybodies out. It starts to get bad around 4PM when the first few people come home and turn on their radios and maybe pre-heat the oven for supper. It continues to build as TVs and computers get turned on and by 8 O'clock it's just unbearable and I have to pack it in.

Like you say, Mr. Downs, we're surrounded by magnetic currents and radio waves and there isn't much we can do about it. I have shielded most of my guitars, tho', and it does work to some extent. Better on some guitars than others, and I can't for the life of me figure that one out (Terry? maybe you could shed some more light here?).

Anyway, I took the money I'd been saving for a good power conditioner and bought some Kinmans for my thinline. That's become my favorite guitar.
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Old June 13th, 2005, 11:45 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Nub,
The NS-2 is just a noise gate like most others. If the input signal is below a presettable threshold, it mutes the signal. As soon as you play a note, the signal comes through with all the hum you had before. "Suppression" is not a good word for it. It really "gates" noise. It simply turns your signal off when you are not playing.

Noise gates are great for recording, and are great things, but they do not REMOVE buzz and hum. They just shut off the whole signal below a preset level.

Jean,
Thanks for the response. You just demonstrated how BUZZ pickup will ocurr with a battery powered rig. I should have mentioned that too. Play through a little battery powered practice amp and see. Also, shielding is mostly ineffective. It may be somewhat effective in some cases, but never consistiently in all. Thanks for calling me the thinking mans chicken picker, but I have been an electrical design engineer for over 25 years. I've made a lot of mistakes, and hopefully learned from a few. But I know the buzz is still a challenge for us chicken pickers under most circumstances. :D :D
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Old June 14th, 2005, 12:56 AM   #10 (permalink)
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great replies.... !!!

Wow, it took a while to read thru all of the posts so far, but I think I am getting the picture.

Whereas I was thinking the problem was in the line voltage, or an interference with the AC voltage at the wall, the actual culprit is floating in the air around me at all times.

Damn....

That does present a problem for someone dead-set in love with single coil pickups...

Makes a guy want to go out and design an anti-magnetic electro-magnetic proof bubble to practice in... (much like the bubbles one you might see in an old Avenger's episode when they would walk on water...)... crawl inside, plug-in and escape all electro-magnetic interference...

Not in 2005....

Not in 1955, either...

Well, I don't own a TV, but I do own a 17" CRT computer monitor, basically the same thing. But I am not all that close to the computer with my guitar or amp.... probably 12 feet away.

Also, I have a dual-XEON server running in this room... how would that measure up as far as stuff putting out funky interference? In more simpler terms, for those who don't know what I'm talking about... I built a computer with 2 CPUs instead of just one. Theorectically, the system will run faster and be more "powerful" with this advancement.

It also has a fan that spins 24-7

A pretty biog and rather loud fan, actually...

Possibly another culprit? The cooling fan on my server?

I'll have to do some experiemnts when I can shut her down and see how much she is affecting my guitar signal

The neighbor's TVs.... ha!!

I never would have thought about that one.

I am on the ground floor, kind of in a 5-stair-steps down lower-level apartment. Meaning you have to go 5 steps toward the earth to get into my apartment. If I look out my livingroom window, at about waiste high, is the front yard of the apartment complex. So, nobody is below me.

I'll have to see how the noise goes later at night when folks will be asleep, or early in the morning when they are gone to work...might just be the neighbor's TV, too...

and...damn, now you got me thinking...

across the hall in this building is the laundry room.

2 washers
2 dryers

not always being used, but big electric motors just the same

and...

I am thinking the circuit I am plugged in to also has my refridgerator plugged in to it....

I can move my amp to a different location. I'm just not so sure how much moving the amp around is going to affect anything, if it's the pickups on the guitar that are causing the trouble...

But I could get farther away from the refridgerator. Where I am standing palying is only about 6-8 feet from the fridge and the fridge is always running, or running, then stopping, then running, as its on a cycle with the thermostat inside the fridge

how about that thermostst???

The thermostat for my apartment is on the wall behind the amp... would that casue any noise?

man... I'm already snooping around like "Sherlock Holmes"... looking for the ultimate culprit...

It is something in this apartment, I believe, because I have had these same guitars or one's like them all my life, but I've never had so much hum...

the server is new...................................

also have a DSL modem hooked up to the server, I dodn't know if that puts out any interference...

also, I have a Tripp-Lite 8-Port KVM switch attached to my computers so that I can use one monitor, one keyboard, one mouse, for multiple computers. I generally have more than one computer on...

maybe that's it...

do computers put out interference?

uh-oh, that's means I have to leave eBay long enough to practice my guitar???? aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh

I gotta have it
I gotta have it...

ahahahaha

several thing to check... let me know if any of them are more suspect than others....

Jam Handy
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Old June 14th, 2005, 01:24 AM   #11 (permalink)
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about the NS-2

concerning the NS-2...

what that device is looking for is the swish of a flanger when you are not plucking the strings...

the "gate" works this way (in layman terms...)

--it will have a knob of some sort that you can adjust, if you turn it counter-clockwise it will have one effect, clockwise another effect...

(I don't know this effect "NS-2" in particular, just the priciple behind a noise gate)

if you have ever cranked you amp, and then hit the button on a flanger pedal, or some kins of an effect pedal that makes a modulating "swish" (chorus, or phase shifters do this too...) you will notice the white noise coming thru the cranked amplifier will be modified by the flanger, and you'll here it being modulated. Funny thing is, you aren't even playing a note...

The noise gate is designed to be able to sort-of turn the volume off for you if it doesn't sense that you are plucking the strings on the guitar

That way, that white noise "swish" is now inaudible

I would guess that one of the controls on the pedal would be called "sensitivity"...

If it is set up so the noise gate is "very sensitive" the slightest muting of the strings will cause the gate to kick in... sometimes that can actually be an undesireable thing, because just when you want to play with dynamics, and are trying to pick lighter, the noise gate turns the volume to zero, and you lose your signal

If the noise gate is set up to be "no so sensitive" the opposite will happen... even if you stop playing, it might take the gate a few milliseconds to turn the volume off...

so, somewhere in between "too much" and "not enough" is a good setting to be found on the noise gate...

If you're thinking its gonna work like a dbx noise reduction unit on a magnetic tape recording, it won't. That's not the principle behind the noise gate.

True dbx noise reduction has an encode stage while you are recording, then a decode stage while you are playing back. That's not the same as an amplitude change like you'd get with a noise gate.

The noise gate is working off of sound pressure (sort of) but more correctly, voltage... when the voltage from your guitar is high, and you are plucking away, the gate opens up, just like the gate was a faucet on your sink... then, when you tiurn the water off (stop plucking) the gate knows what to do, and slams the gate closed, preventing any signal to get to the amplifier... in affect, the noise gate is turning the volume on your amp to zero (sort of)

A dbx noise reduction unit is not working on amplitude, or volume... dbx is working on the frequencies being trasnferred from one source to the other... more like a glorified graphic EQ box.... (sort of)

There are frequenicies that can be recorded that aren't necessary for correct musical enjoyment. You've probably seen the spec for audio equipment measured in hertz, or cycles per second... basically, it has been known for years that a human being can hera, at best, from 20Hz to 20KHz...

A high-quality audio device will be able to reproduce those frequencies with very little loss at either end of the spctrum...

you've heard how a dog can hear frequencies we can't, right?

well, in the same similar way, a dbx noise reduction unit can shift out frequencies that we can't hear, especially higher frequencies that aren't need for the music recording, and actually block those frequencies from making it from the microphone to the piece of electro-magnetic tape.

this is noise reduction encoding

at playback, many of the cassette tape machines, and reel-to-reels back in the day would have the dbx decode feature built into them... I don't know all the technical stuff it is actually doing to the frequency spectrum, but without a dbx decoder, a dbx recorded source will sound rough and scratchy... it may even pop and click at times... that's because nothing is set up to decode the dbx signal for playback...

in the most very basic terms... a noise gate works like a volume control, whereas a dbx noise reduction unit works like a tone control...

wow...

so we cracked open the mysteries of magnetic filed interference AND dis-spelled the Noise Gate/Noise Reduction myth all in one thread...hot damn !!!!

what's next?... how about Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) that was always one of my favorite specs to watch for when buying an audio device of any kind... try finding a low THD (like 0.005%) rating on a wirless guitar transmitter and receiver system... I haven;t found one yet,,, typical wireless units are smacking our signals for 5% THD... OUCH!!!

If our Nakamichi tape decks did that, we'd throw them over a cliff!!!

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Old June 14th, 2005, 02:41 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Thanks, Terry & JH...
you guys explained the noise gate concept so well, that I actually understand it now!!
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Old June 14th, 2005, 08:29 AM   #13 (permalink)
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I think that hum canceling pickups are the way to go. Bill Lawrence pups are reasonably priced, dead silent, and have a real single coil vibe.

Another related issue is RF noise. This is where you hear a radio station playing through your amp even when the volume is turned down. I used to live in a house that was horrible for this. There is a cheap remedy; radio shack sells magnets that clamp on the AC cord.
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Old June 14th, 2005, 09:52 AM   #14 (permalink)
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pickups, soldering, and such

I understand about hum-canceling pickups but I am trying to find a solution without changing the electrocins of my guitars.

Some of my instruments are very valuable, and it is my opinion that these instruments would lose value if even the screws were loosened on the pickgaurd, let alone firing up the soldering iron and removing or moving solder joints that have been ther in the same place for decades

should the instruments increase in value, part of that value will be "is the instrument original" ... swapping pickups is fun, but not an option for me here...

I believe that if I were to swap pickups in a guitar, it would have to be one that I didn't care whether or not the value of the guitar were to decrease. I believe the instruments I have were designed with specific PUPs to have specific tones, and I don't want to change that original design

It would be fun, however to buy, maybe a made-in-Mexico Fender Strat or Tele where I could experiment with all kinds of pickup harnesses. I would enjoy that, I really would.

I'm just not one to swap out PUPs in an Anerican made instrument that, too me is expensive, and to me has a great tone already

I believe I can find a solution by investigating the different electrical things going on around where I am playing the guitar...

Other than that... it seems like if I want to keep the guitars I play "as-is" I may have to live with some single coil noise... just like every player since the first No-casters and before.........

JH
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Old June 14th, 2005, 10:31 AM   #15 (permalink)
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To Terry D...

I have outlined the main culprits of noise from the entire thread and re-written them all in this post. I also re-wrote what other possible "culprits" I have in my apartment that I have questions about. I thought it would be easier to continue if everything was in one place.

Ok, here goes:

You or someone else mentioned the following itmes might cause noise or create electro-magnetic interference in a single coil pickup guitar:

culprits:

# Light Dimmers
# Fluorescent lights
# Neon Lights
# Transformers - all kinds - power transformers in amplifiers, walwarts and etc.
# Electric motors

# Television

#The neightbor's TV(s) (living in an apartment building)

# AC or DC power, it doesn't matter, the interference is in the sir around us

Now, Since I have now found out it isn't in the wiring of my apartment, but rather being produced by some device emmiting magnetic distrubances into the air, I have been investigating my apartment like "Sherlock Holmes" and I have come up with the following list of "suspects" who I might like to question concerning my single-coil noise (would any of the following have anything to do with the noise?):

Suspects:

(in the same room, but I don't know if they have an affect on the noise, I am asking you if they would are not...)

-CRT computer monitor in the same room?
-Dual-XEON based server in the same room?
-Cooling fans on the server? (one front one rear)
-Laundry room across the hall ? (big electric motors, 2 washsers, 2 dryers)
-Refridgerator in my apartment?
-Wall thermostat? (right behind amp...)
-DSL modem hooked to phone line and then to computer system?
-Tripp-Lite 8-port rack-mount KVM switch (switches between computers)?
-Having more than one computer on at a time in my apartment?
[I only use and have one monitor, though that's why I use the Tripp-Lite switch...]

That's all I could come up with at the moment....

Any tips on the one's I have listed as far as whether or not some of these things might be causing the magnetic interruptions?

Thanks,

Jam Handy
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Old June 14th, 2005, 10:38 AM   #16 (permalink)
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I find that wearing a helmet made from aluminum (or, if you're British, aluminium) foil keeps the buzzing in my head to a minimum (or, if you're British, a minimium).

Maybe that approach can help you!

Cheers, Tim
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Old June 14th, 2005, 10:47 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Try a hum eliminator

Funny that I saw this thread. I bought a Highway 1 Tele last night (first single coil guitar that I own) and noticed an excessive amount of hum / noise as well. Andy Z recommended using a hum eliminator. I'm going to try and order one today. This might be what you're looking for:

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/sear...&tt=1&go=Go%21

Good luck!
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Old June 14th, 2005, 12:49 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Single Noise vs. Groud Loop 60-cycle Hum

OK, maybe the engineer can tackle this...

By what the fellow (username: "tdowns") is saying up above is that there is a difference between the noise picked up by single coil pickups, and a 60 cycle ground loop hum.

The Ebtech Hum Eliminator is designed to eliminate groud loop hum, so they wouldn't help the noise a single coil pickup is making.

Yes, both can be heard through the amp, but, no... they are not from the same source...

60-Cycle hum, or what is known as "Ground Loop Hum" has got to do with a grounding situation between one or more electrical audio devices. The problem is in the power lines, or house wiring. The most common one I've seen here is when you're on stage, and the PA is coming unglued with ground loop hum. No guitars involved......

Single coil noise, as "tdowns" explained, is an electro-magnetic interference in the air, not in the power lines, the magnetic pickups of the electric guitar are actually picking up more than just the sound from the strings, they are picking up magnetic interference from other outside sources. Like a TV set. Take a Stratocatser over by the TV set and it will come unglued as far as how much noise it now starts to make. Almost as if there were some kind of little "noise gremlin" in the TV.

So, no... the Ebtech Noise Eliminator won't work, because the problem at hand isn't a 6-cycle hum or Ground Loop issue. Its just plain old single-coil engineering.

Originally, when I started the post, I thought it would be something easily solved by something like the Ebtech device, but I've learned here, that isn't the case.

Or... maybe I could track down one of those aluminimiuminum helmets Tim A. suggets...ha...

"We are DEVO -- D.E.V.O. ..."

Jam
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Old June 14th, 2005, 01:05 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Re: To Terry D...

Quote:
Originally Posted by JamHandy
Suspects:

(in the same room, but I don't know if they have an affect on the noise, I am asking you if they would are not...)
-CRT computer monitor in the same room?
Absolutely. Same as a television.

-Dual-XEON based server in the same room?
-Cooling fans on the server? (one front one rear)

Yup. Cooling fans are noisy acoustically as well as electrically.

-DSL modem hooked to phone line and then to computer system?
Well, no electric motor there. You don't have a wireless setup do you? Or corless phones? I have intermittent problems that I suspect are caused by those. (Though it could be dirty power; haven't figured it out yet.)

-Tripp-Lite 8-port rack-mount KVM switch (switches between computers)?
Never noticed any added interference from one. It's a pretty simple switch, though. (Rack mount? Sweet.)

-Having more than one computer on at a time in my apartment?
More fans, more noise.

I used to have my amp/etc. setup in my office which is also the computer room. (At present there are 5 computers running in there right now, plus a KVM, plus a wireless router, etc.) The noise was incredible. In addition to the aforementioned case fans you get electrical noise from the hard drives spinning. (That's usually pretty faint, though, unless you're very close to the computer.)

I've since moved all my equipment to a spare bedroom. (More space gave me a good excuse to buy more guitars, too!)

I built a computer specifically for recording. It's a small form-factor case from Shuttle (www.shuttle.com, other manufacturers are making them now, too) and designed to be extremely quiet. I also have an LCD monitor instead of a CRT. This has cut done on the noise alot. I still get some 60-cycle hum (can't avoid it) but it's manageable.

If you're suspicious of any piece of equipment, just let your guitar sniff it out for you. Plug in, turn on your amp, mute the strings, and point the pickup at the suspect. You'll be able to tell if, where, and how much hum/noise it's giving off.
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Old June 14th, 2005, 02:15 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Wisconsin
Posts: 17
Re: Single Noise vs. Groud Loop 60-cycle Hum

Quote:
Originally Posted by JamHandy
The Ebtech Hum Eliminator is designed to eliminate groud loop hum, so they wouldn't help the noise a single coil pickup is making.
Hey Jam,

Thanks for clarifying that. I don't own an EBTech Eliminator yet so I wasn't sure. Can a noise gate help out at all, as long as it doesn't squash the sound?

With the EBTech, would you recommend the wallplug version or the 1/4" version? Where would the 1/4" version sit in the guitar chain?

(sorry for the temporary thread-jack)
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