The 60 Hz radio wave

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by megafiddle, May 27, 2011.

  1. megafiddle

    megafiddle Former Member

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    If you read about noise, hum and shielding, you will often see the AC wiring described
    as an transmitting antenna and the guitar circuits as a receiving antenna. The AC hum
    is transmitted as a 60 Hz radio wave (electromagnetic wave). Also you may see that
    you yourself is an antenna, picking up 60 Hz hum.

    As a simplified way of explaining hum pickup in guitars, I see no problem with that. We
    tend not to be electrical engineers and physicists. But I do see a problem when an actual
    problem needs to be solved, and the simplified explanation is used as a basis for a
    solution.
    No one really has time to study electrical engineering just to fix a hum problem. But no one
    really has time to cover the whole interior of the guitar with copper tape only to find that it
    had no effect, either.

    I am providing some links on this subject. If you are interested in this stuff, there is some
    good information there. If you are not interested in the theory behind it all, take a look anyway.
    If for nothing more than to see that it's based on real science, not fringe.

    THE 60 HZ ANTENNA

    The effectiveness of an antenna, e.g. how well it radiates depends, for one thing, on it's length
    compared to the wavelength of the signal. Antennas are usually tuned, and depending on type,
    will be 1/4 wave, 1/2 wave, etc. (wave = wavelength of radio wave being transmitted). As the
    length of the antenna becomes shorter compared to it's design length, a mismatch occurs in
    the impedance, and the radiation falls off. Shorter you make it, the worse the mismatch becomes
    and the worse the radiation falls off.
    Now how long is a section of AC wiring in your house? 50 or 100 feet? That's your "antenna".
    A 1/4 wave antenna for 60 Hz would be about 790 miles!
    To put that in perspective, that is like having an FM radio antenna less that .001" long.
    The impedance mismatch is so severe, that I could not even call that 100 ft a wire an antenna.
    Those are the real numbers.

    A 60 Hz receiving antenna is bound by the same rules. It's ability to receive also depends on the
    length and impedance mismatch. The mismatch in this case is not nearly as large, since the
    guitar circuits are in the kilohm range, while the AC mains are about zero ohms. Still very poor
    though, and add to that the fact that there is not much of a 60 Hz wave to pick up to begin with.
    Not to mention that guitar wiring is on the order of inches, not feet.

    It gets worse.

    THE ELECTROMAGNETIC NEAR FIELD

    The energy radiated by an antenna does not behave like an electromagnetic wave until you get
    about 2 wavelengths away. For a 60 Hz wave, this is over 6000 miles. This is the far field.
    At closer distances, less than 1/6 wavelength, the energy is in the form of magnetic or electric
    fields, with one or the other dominating. This is the near field, and is the one in your house.

    THE ELECTRIC FIELD

    You probably noticed that there is a large hum signal on yourself. I think probably everyone has
    at one time or another touched the tip of a guitar cable that was plugged into an amp. That hum
    was picked up by you as a consequence of being in an electrical field. The field was supplied
    by the 120 VAC wiring all around you. The electric component in the near field.

    Also, if you ever had ungrounded strings, you might have noticed that touching the strings caused
    some hum in the guitar signal. Again, the voltage on you, now being picked up by the strings and
    in turn being picked up by the wiring or pickups.

    THE MAGNETIC FIELD

    You probably noticed a large amount of hum if you moved the guitar close to the amp, or another
    device with a power transformer. This is due to the magnetic field leakage from the transformer.
    Transformer shielding helps (the steel bells on the transformer) but does not eliminate all of the
    field leakage. There are also magnetic fields from power cables that can induce hum into signal
    cables that are lying close by.

    Both of these magnetic and electric field sources have a electromagnetic wave associated with
    them. But the electromagnetic wave is so weak, that the only thing of importance is the magnetic
    and electric components, the individual fields.

    THE WATER WAVE

    Analogies are always good. You have no doubt seen a water wave. The water does not move laterally,
    it moves up and down, and propogates laterally. So imagine that an electromagnetic wave is like
    a water wave. But in this case imagine that the crest of the wave is 1500 miles long, and the trough
    of the wave is 1500 miles long. Looking down from outer space you would see a giant wave.
    Now imagine you are sitting at a fixed point near the surface of the water. What do you see?
    You see the water level rising and falling. No wave, no lateral movement, just up and down. That
    is what the magnetic field from a transformer is like. No radio wave, just a magnet field increasing
    and decreasing and reversing 60 times a second.

    THE LINKS

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_and_far_field

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antennas

    http://vitatech.net/emf_fundamentals.php4

    http://www.ramayes.com/aluminum_foil_emi_rfi_shielding.htm

    THE OTHER STUFF

    Factual corrections welcome
     
  2. Keyser Soze

    Keyser Soze Tele-Holic

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    I am of the opinion that most of the hum that we hear from guitar pickups is not actually 60 cycle (or 50 cycle for you European types) but instead is higher harmonics - e.g. 120 hz. (or 100 hz.) or above.

    As noted, true mains hum is generally only noticed when you stand really close to an amp, or some other large power transformer, and it rapidly diminishes if you step back a few feet. Also, that hum sounds (and feels) low. It truly is a hum.

    Meanwhile the other noises we hear through non-humbucking pickups are typically more buzzy (higher frequency), and often highly directional in relation to items that are broadcasting them (cathode ray tubes, poorly shielded dimmer switches, etc.) But this is also the stuff that can be alleviated by good shielding and grounding techniques.

    People like to argue that shielding does not work, which is fairly accurate for true mains hum, but mains hum is rarely the issue.
     
  3. PinewoodRo

    PinewoodRo Tele-Afflicted

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    I tend to agree. And thanks for including us 50Hz types :)
     
  4. Bolide

    Bolide Friend of Leo's

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    Your sixth harmonic is our fifth harmonic, so we are already on the same wavelength.
     
  5. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Everything you say is true, but it leaves out a big factor -- gain. Lots and lots of gain. Even the least efficient antenna and coupling sysems will produce signal (in this case hum or noise) if you amplify it enough.
     
  6. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

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    Missed one - induction (ok, you had magnetism)

    Mainly magnetic induction. Magnetism is a "weak force" and its effect falls off rapidly with distance, the rules are erm, complicated. Most radiation falls off with inverse-square rule, electro-static fields do (the electrical field), this is how capacitors work. The magnetic field falls off far more rapidly which is why stepping back from the amp's transformer (the main culprit) is effective.

    A changing magnetic field will induce a current in a conductor. Any conductor but coils are really good. Pickup coils work by having their magnetic field interrupted by the vibrating ferro-magnetic string. Nickel is ferro-magnetic, as is the steel used in strings. A nice external magnetic field drives them potty.

    The magnetic field generated by the mains transformer is directional and will be at mains frequency. However the output transformer will spit out emf over a range of frequencies including RF, the valves are quite adept at producing unwanted RF signals. These magnetic fields will induce current in various places: transformer cores; chassis; pickups; guitar shielding.

    The last is important because any sheet of metal can have an eddy current induced in it, the current travels around in circles. Any current induced on the grounded side at the guitar will also be seen on the hot side, especially as this is fed into a high gain input of an amp. Shielding dumps the electrostatic field but can aggravate the magnetically induced. The solution is to get rid of the magnetic induction at its source by transformer design, orientation and mounting. Bolting it straight onto a steel chassis is a bad idea. Aluminium is a better choice for chassis. Some chassis leave a hole under the transformer. Raising the transformer off the chassis on a sheet of insulator (PCB) breaks the magnetic coupling. The chassis is connected to the cold side of the guitar signal, anything induced on it will be seen on the signal to be amplified.

    Electrostatic fields are of less concern because the guitar circuitry is less susceptible to them. However certain household devices to produce them: television; fluorescent lamps; passing taxi radio transmitters. With these the guitar pickup coils can form part of a tuned circuit for receiving them. This is where you and the guitar form a crude antenna, and the pedals and amp front-end the tuning circuit. It takes a fairly strong radio transmitter signal to break through but it does frequently happen. And EMF - electro-magnetic field - a changing electrical current will also form a magnetic field in a conductor, they are inseparable, so now the magnetism is short-range again...

    Bit of a ramble but it's 4am here. Why am I awake...
     
  7. megafiddle

    megafiddle Former Member

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    I agree. That power line lying next to a guitar cable, in spite of being a horrible antenna,
    is a real source of AC hum. And, a transformer, also a poor transmitter, is a serious source
    of AC hum.
    My point is that these are not 60 Hz radio waves, but near field phenomena.
     
  8. aunchaki

    aunchaki Friend of Leo's

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    Not trying to change the subject, but I've been wondering something. I play in a church that has a bank of six dimmers controlling overhead lights. In my single-coil guitars it produced noticeable hum. When I'm on the "stage" I can turn my guitar, when it is exactly perpendicular to the dimmers (about 75ft away), the hum disappears.

    I've though about shielding my guitars, but why can't I just shield the dimmers? Would that even work?
     
  9. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

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    Shielding the dimmers may work, re-positioning them so the are not projecting at you would work better. Can they be turned through 90 degrees? Shielding the guitar may make matters worse.

    Shielding works best with "electrical" noise, where a device is spitting out RF, things that spark like relay contacts and motor brushes, less well with magnetic/induction fields from motors and dimmer coils.
     
  10. Keyser Soze

    Keyser Soze Tele-Holic

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    You can shield either one. In an ideal world dimmers would be properly shielded at the factory and the problem eliminated, but economic considerations mean they are not.

    Since you own the guitar, I'd suggest that is where you focus your time, effort, and financial resources.
     
  11. Bolide

    Bolide Friend of Leo's

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    jefrs, aren't most dimmers these days Silicon Controlled Rectifiers which transform the (almost) sine wave of the mains power into harmonic rich pulse waves?

    and it seems to me that these pulse waves will be radiated through the leads from the dimmer to the load as well as from the dimmer itself, especially if the wiring has good load balancing between phases with the result that there is little counter-current in the neutral return line to balance the current in the hot line. (code practice in America, and I imagine it's similar elsewhere, is to tie neutrals together close to load with the idea of having return currents run through other phase hot lines in preference to the neutral).
     
  12. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

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    Ok, well I dissected a dead one for you. Inside is a push-push switch rheostat connected to a little PCB with a couple of components and what appears to be a thyristor tucked down the side. It incorporates a toroidal choke coil. Now the thyristor will indulge in some fast switching which is what spits out the unwanted noise but this is going to be directed through that coil which converts it in to emf for your guitar.

    Our neutral is tied to 0V and the live goes 0-245V (AC) single-phase. If you have current on the live then you have to have the same current on the neutral, you have to have a circuit for a current to flow. Maybe I misunderstand what you are saying but you cannot have a current on the live and no current on the neutral. I think Micheal Faraday worked that one out ;)
     
  13. piece of ash

    piece of ash Friend of Leo's

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    Light dimmers radiate noise along the entire length of wire that connects them from the source to load... that is the power station to the light bulb. The noise stems from the fact that the current is being interrupted very rapidly... very sharp edges (high frequency content) on the waveforms.
     
  14. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Well, that's a distinction that really makes no difference. If you're being uber-technical, near field is defined as being less than two wavelengths. Since the wavelength of 60 Hz is about 16,400,000 feet, you'd have to be pretty much in the midle of nowhere to avoid near field induction at power line frequencies.

    Either way, near field, far field or transition zone, the prinipals remain the same.
     
  15. megafiddle

    megafiddle Former Member

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    It makes a difference if your trying to use RF shielding to stop transformer hum.
    It's not going to work if the field doesn't behave like an electromagnetic wave.
    Which it doesn't at close distance.

    http://vitatech.net/emf_fundamentals.php4

    "Furthermore, when the distance from a sinusoidally varying source such as 60-Hz AC power is small with respect to the wavelength (known as the near field), the electric and magnetic fields are not coupled and considered separate physical entities."
     
  16. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I don't know what the author of that gem might be referring to, but if electromagnetic fields didn't couple in the near field, then transformers wouldn't work.
     
  17. megafiddle

    megafiddle Former Member

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    Once in the far field, the electric and magnetic components have a fixed relationship,
    given by the 377 ohm radiation resistance of free space. You will always see the same
    elecromagnetic wave once beyond this point, and this relationship is independant of the
    source that created it.

    The electric and magnetic fields do not have a fixed or constant relationship in the near
    field. A coiled wire source will produce a predominantly magnetic field, while a short piece
    of AC line will produce a predominantly electric field. The impedance of each of these are
    reactive and different from that in free space. The shielding requirements for each are also
    very different. Out in the far field and beyond, the dominance of one or the other field type
    dissappears.

    If it was all a single phenomenon (and this at 60 Hz specifically), copper or aluminum foil
    would work equally well against transformers and the electric field from your own body.
    And it certainly doesn't.

    I interpreted "uncoupled" fields as meaning they did not have the close interdependance
    that electric and magnetic fields have in a freely propogating wave. There are no options
    out there in free space. The magnetic field determines the electric field and vice versa,
    as far as relative strength goes.
    Not so in the near field. If free field relationships held everywhere, a moving magnet would
    be a shock hazard.

    More here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_and_far_field

    http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/radiofrequencyradiation/electromagnetic_fieldmemo/electromagnetic.html
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2011
  18. TequilaCaster

    TequilaCaster Tele-Holic

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    .
    What blows me away, is that electric and magnetic fields are composed of photons, as is all electro-magnetic radiation... radio waves, microwaves, light, x-rays, gamma rays, cosmic rays... etc.
    .
    And where do photons come from? They come from electrons. Photons are like electron farts.
    .
    Hey, pull my finger!
    .
     
  19. Muddy T-Bone

    Muddy T-Bone Tele-Meister

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    Megafiddle-

    A 60hz wave is 18.83 feet long- where are you coming up with a 1/4 wave antenna being 790 miles long? It's about 4.5 feet long.
     
  20. jefrs

    jefrs Doctor of Teleocity

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    A straight piece of wire driven by a D.C current generates a rotating magnetic field.
    A coil, which is a straight bit of wire wrapped around something, still has that rotating field but now they're all pointing in the same direction so we see poles, and it projects is its field further because it is concentrated and directional. This makes transformers a problem for us. And the choke coil in the dimmer is a greater problem than the cable to the lamp.

    Best solution imo is to cure problem at source.
    Remove it.
    Use something else.
    Protect it (re-engineer, shield the source)

    wave length lambda = v/f
    where for RF in air v = c, the speed of light.
    NB you must get your units right
    Hz is cps so c has to be in metres/second
    c approx 300,000,000 m/s
    so lambda = 300,000,000 / 60 =500,000 metres = 500 kilometres
     
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