TONE TIPS FROM THE ROAD
Greetings, fellow gear geeks. This month, I
thought I’d open up the lines and take a few
questions. Please feel free to email me with
your questions: Peter@65amps.com.
I’ve seen our soundman back in the AC mains
box rewiring on the fly to isolate the PA from the
lights and house… definitely guerilla club fare,
not for the inexperienced!
This past month I received emails asking for
advice on the everlasting dilemma: getting
rid of noise in your rig, pedalboard and guitar. You may never get rid of all noise permanently, but it can be reduced. I’ll offer up a
Mike Elzey writes:
Do you have any tips for eliminating hum?
On occasion I still run into problems at some
venues with serious hum. With my Keeley
compressor and a distortion box engaged
the hum is so loud it’s distracting. It’s a low
level, probably AC hum. I have a (not wireless) pedal board with a Furman power conditioner built in, and I tried using a power
filter at one bad gig but to no avail. It’s
worse with single coils, of course!
I’ve written previously in PG about using a
Variac to isolate my rig and boost the AC to
proper voltage and current (“Tone Sucking
Low Voltage,” August 2006) and it’s still
consistently the best sound remedy in most
situations. But it’s an investment ($550 or so
for the proper Staco 10 amp Variac with built-in Digital Voltmeter), and you have to use
it carefully! But it’s worth it if you’re playing
clubs constantly. There are other potential
remedies. Try a power conditioner, like those
offered by Furman. But if the club’s power is
bad or suffering low current, sometimes even
the power conditioners can’t solve the issue.
A Boss NS- 2 Noise Suppressor can help if
placed after the compressor and distortion
pedal, but if the AC-generated buzz is so
loud, it certainly won’t clamp it down entirely.
Allen Randolph writes:
My rig is a Fender Hot Rod DeVille 212 with
a pedal board with a Dunlop Wah, Barber
Compressor, Xotic RC Booster, Fulltone
Fulldrive2, Fulltone OCD, BBE Stomp Sonic
Maximizer, Ernie Ball Volume pedal and
Fender Tuner in the front, and a Boss Digital
Reverb, Visual Sound H2O Liquid Chorus/
Echo and an Electro-Harmonix XO Stereo
Pulsar Tremolo pedal through my effects
loop on the amp. I use mostly Strats and
Teles and want to get rid of the hum from
the single coils and board. What is the best
hum cancellation unit? Is there one worth
trying? What would you do?
Ahh yes… We all step into the typical club that
is buzz central due to poor AC power—where
all the circuits are being shared and drained by
cash registers, neon beer signs, house and stage
lights, and power for PA and stage. The result is
a bad buzz in your rig and/or an anemic-sound-ing amp tone (mostly with tube amps that like
to see their proper voltage and current). Single-coil pickups? Forget about it. Noisy as hell and
hard to overcome, short of riding your guitar’s
volume knob between every riff. Over the years,
A wireless guitar system can reduce noise considerably by eliminating the cable connection to
your rig (and AC). It’ll at least break the ground
between your guitar and the microphone, saving
you from mind-altering shocks and the accompanying blue flash in your peripheral vision as
your lip touches the mike. If all else fails, use a
guitar with humbuckers for this gig and leave
the single coils on the stand. Sometimes you just
have to muscle through it until you’re out the
back door heading to the next town.
First of all (if you’re not already doing it) add
a quality pedalboard power supply, like the
Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus or the Juice
Box from pedalgear.net. Then, follow a process
of elimination for finding noise in your pedalboard, mostly relating to the DC power. Start
with the first group of pedals on the floor, with
the second group disconnected from the loop
on your amp. With amp volume up and guitar
volume down, remove one pedal at a time from
the chain until you find the hum-causing culprit.
Many old-style Germanium transistor distortion
or fuzz circuits use a reverse DC polarity (center
positive); you can either get a cross cable for
your power supply or just use a 9-volt battery.
These pedals are usually very low draw, with a
battery life of up to 9 months. Use the isolated
9V power options on your DC power supply for
a pesky pedal. Most have at least two independent groups of 9V or other DC level outputs
specifically for this purpose.
Hum canceling for single coil? There’s nothing available yet that really works, short of
switching to specially designed active pickups
or humbuckers. But again, a Boss NS- 2 Noise
Suppressor (not a noise gate) behind your
compressor and distortion pedals will help. I
usually set my NS- 2 to clamp down the noise
generated from the pedals, not hum from the
guitar. Still, it’s best to ride your volume control on the guitar when you’re not playing.
The current home rig (it changes weekly), in signal order:
Elliott Tone Master Guitar (w/ Calleen Cordero strap) – Solid Cables Dynamic Arc Ultra – Moollon Wah – Pro Analog MK I Overdrive – Moollon Active
DI/ Tone Buffer – Boss TU- 2 Tuner – Baja Tech Da Squeezer – Xotic RC Booster – Red Witch Pentavocal Trem – Electro Harmonix Electric Mistress –
Keeley modded Boss DD- 3 Digital Delay – 65amps SOHO
Peter is co-founder of 65amps.