Let's go on a buzz-debugging journey together.

Rich_S

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I think it's going to be a long one, and I want company.

First, the back story: My rig for years has comprised a couple of Tele (one traditional and one with humbuckers) an pedalboard with 9 pedals powered by a Voodoo Labs PP2+, and a DIY clone of a Marshall 18 Watter. I mostly play at home, and have gigged at several different venues for occasional reunions with my old band.

Noise with this rig has never been a big problem. There might have been a little bit, but nothing I could hear when I was playing. I don't recall ever having to turn down the guitar to avoid embarrassing noise between songs.

Back in September, Mrs_S and I moved to a new, smaller house outside Buffalo. Due to the crazy 2021 real estate market, I didn't even see the place before move-in day. Mrs_S attended an open house, we offered substantially more than we wanted to, and our offer was accepted.

Upon settling in, I found the place was built in 1957. As an ex-electrician and now-electrical engineer, I got the feeling that much of the remodeling over the years was done my a professional tile-and-flooring guy, who also fancied himself an electrician. Not. Once I got my office/studio set up, I noticed a bad buzz in my guitar rig. Wiring in the room was late-'50s-vintage 2-conductor, with no ground despite previous owners installing 3-prong outlets. I ran a temporary, dedicated ground line from my rig outside to a ground rod, but it didn't fix the buzzing.

My noisy guitar rig wasn't the only problem, so we hired an electrician to upgrade us to a new 150-amp service. In the process, he found that the amateur job done by in the past was really bad, couldn't possibly have been inspected because it wouldn't have passed. Corroded, high-resistance connections outside had been causing voltage dips and dimming lights whenever motors started. and the new service solved all that. Overall the system was much better, but my amp was still buzzing. I decided that the old wiring in the studio/office needed to be replaced, and resigned myself to doing the difficult, time-consuming job as soon as I could get around to it. It will be months before that happens.

In the meantime, I figured that at least my noise problem wouldn't follow me elsewhere. A few weeks ago, I traveled back to my hometown near Philly to spend a day jamming with my old band mates, and damned if I didn't have the same noise problem at the drummer's house. WHAT THE... IS GOING ON!?!

Back home, I knew there was no way I could troubleshoot the problem with the crappy power wiring in my studio, so the first thing I did was install a new receptacle right at the new power panel in the basement, and moved the whole operation down there. The new receptacle is on its own breaker, and solidly grounded to the panel's bus. The buzzing persists.

Now, to start the troubleshooting...
 

Rich_S

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Troubleshooting, Step 1: I started with the blue Tele (with single coils) plugged into my pedalboard and the 18 Watter. The buzz is noticable with all pedals bypassed, and embarrassingly obvious when my BB Preamp is on. The rig is damn near unusable with the Katzen Konig fuzz turned on. The buzz is demonstrated in the video below.

It's not a ground loop hum. I recently made a wiring mistake while modding the pedalboard, which resulted in a ground loop and the resulting hum. Fixing the mistake fixed the hum, but the buzz remained.

To rule out the pedalboard as the source, I removed it, and then substituted my SD-1 (running on a battery) to make the buzzing a bit more pronounced. The buzzing is always there. It's slightly less (or at least different) when I touch the strings or control plate. It worse with a single pickup selected, slightly better in the RWRP middle position.

 
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Rich_S

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Troubleshooting, Step 2: Different guitar. I tried my goldtop Tele with two Duncan '59 humbuckers in it. The buzz is better with this guitar, but more pronounced if I coil-split the bridge pickup, as you'd expect.

So... it's not the pedalboard and it's not the guitar. I've swapped out cables along the way, too, so it's gotta be the amp, right?

Troubleshooting, Step 3: Different amps. I switched to my MuchXS Champ head, but everything else is the same, including the power cord. Tried both guitars, same results.

Then I tried my Vox MV50 "Rock" mini-amp, which uses a laptop-style power supply. Same damn thing, both guitars.

I'm losing my mind and I don't know what else to try. Help!
 

Paul G.

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DIY amp? Check all ground connections for broken/loose/cold joints. I think perhaps the move jarred something loose. It's time to chopstick. That's my first instinct here.

Edit: didn't see post about different amps, disregard this.
 

Rich_S

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Fluorescent lighting? If so, try playing in the dark.
Yes, but it's still there when the lights are off. You can hear a slight difference when they're on, but they're not the main problem.
 

String Tree

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IMHO - Shielding issue.
Possible problem with the Neutral.
Your Wiring may be up to NEC Code but, sadly, that Code does not Protect you and your Rig from Buzzing.

Sometimes, not all of the time, moving the corresponding Neutral Conductor for that room to another spot on the Neutral Bar in the Breaker Panel will help.
Not a job for the Faint of Heart.

~ST
 

archtop_fjk

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This may not be the source or your buzz but once I noticed a buzz coming from my acoustic amp and tried everything (in vain) to locate the problem. Then I noticed I had my cellphone in my shirt pocket. I switched off the phone and the noise went away!
 

Rich_S

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Pffft! Faint of heart. I live inside distribution panels.

Read again that I installed a dedicated receptacle just for this testing. It's mounted directly below the panel on a 1/2" nipple, and the wires are less than two feet long from receptacle to breaker/bus bar.

Also, the problem followed me to my drummer's house 400 miles away.
 

owlexifry

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Pffft! Faint of heart. I live inside distribution panels.

Read again that I installed a dedicated receptacle just for this testing. It's mounted directly below the panel on a 1/2" nipple, and the wires are less than two feet long from receptacle to breaker/bus bar.

Also, the problem followed me to my drummer's house 400 miles away.

do you and/or your drummer live proximate to one of these?
1651555010958.png
 

JDB2

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I have a similar buzzing problem but it only happens after dark. I’ve wondered if it could be the street lamp on the corner near my house.
 

King Fan

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You’ve done some good narrowing, and the trip to another home is good, but there's a ton of elimination to do. The complex backstory may obscure the clues for folks following along.

Bear with me. I likely missed some evidence already. Can you take a minute to list just the clues? Is it hum, 60, 120, or other? Or is it a vibratory buzz? Does it happen with just the amp, cable, guitar? Other cables and guitars? If only with effects, smart folks may suggest a stepwise approach. If it’s just the amp, we’re on a whole different hunt.
 




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