- There can be many factors that can cause a guitar amp to buzz
- We dissect 5 common factors contributing to your amp buzz.
- Also, check out this separate guide to eliminating fret buzz
Guitar amp noise is one of the most annoying problems for a guitar player.
If this was not bad enough, the player asking themselves, “why is my amp making a buzzing noise?” will then be forced to rendezvous with the colossal task of identifying the noise source.
Ground loops, instrument grounds, and even the electricity in your home or studio can contribute to these issues immensely.
This article will discuss the numerous factors contributing to guitar amp noise and how to counteract them actively.
Why Your Guitar Amp Is Buzzing
If your guitar amp is buzzing, the root of the problem could be due to poor guitar grounding, improper shielding, dirty power, damaged cables or amp malfunction.
Let’s go over each of these in detail.
Culprit #1: Your Guitar Is Causing Buzz
The first item in your signal chain to investigate during the event of guitar amp buzz is the guitar itself.
Does the buzz cease when you touch any metal hardware on the instrument?
If so, the culprit is likely a lousy guitar grounding or improper shielding within the control cavity of your electric guitar.
In short, a ground wire connects every metal part of your guitar, acting as a return to the amp. A small wire runs from the ground connections on your potentiometers to the instrument’s bridge. Copper tape or paint covers the cavity to provide shielding.
Good guitar grounding is essential to combatting guitar amp buzz. Additionally, it’s also best practice for safety, as it lets the electricity travel back to the amp to dissipate. This eliminates the chance of any electric shock while playing your instrument.
Culprit #2: Your Guitar Pedals Are Causing Buzz
If you are incorporating pedals into your setup and still pondering, “why is my guitar amp buzzing” the issue may be your pedals.
Guitar pedals introduce more circuitry to the signal path between your electric guitar and the amplifier, and any faults held within them will contribute to undesired noise.
The easiest way to identify whether noise is the culprit is to isolate each pedal.
If the noise issue is consistent across all pedals, the case may be related to the power supply used to power the pedal chain.
Using an isolated power supply, such as the units offered by Voodoo Labs and Caline, are often a superior option to the cheaper wall wart with daisy chain alternatives.
Many players feel that the extra cost of these units is justified as they ensure a noise-free rig; however, the daisy chain method may work for some people.
As the name implies, an isolated power supply will send voltage to each pedal individually instead of the pedals being powered in series by other methods, such as the daisy chain.
Another way to provide isolated power to each effects unit is using 9v batteries. However, not all pedals take them, and this method will be pretty expensive over time, mainly if you are gigging and regularly undertaking studio sessions.
It is also essential to check that you supply the correct voltage to your pedals, as not all units will run off the common 9v standard.
For example, Seymour Duncan,
Culprit #3: Your Guitar Cables Are Causing Buzz
We often take our cables for granted, but in some cases, they can be the lone culprit for the player who is scratching their head and asking themselves, “why is my amp buzzing?”.
Instrument cables go through immense wear and tear as they are constantly being rolled up, laid around on stages, and are regularly subjected to twisting and coiling. All these movements take their toll over time, and some cables will become less reliable throughout their lifespan.
Bent cables are also a common cause. Damaged cables suffer from solder connections coming off, resulting in intermittent shorts in the signal flow.
Another reason is the quality of shielding utilized in cheaper cables, specifically those that use stranded shielding. These are less desirable than the braided shielding found on more expensive offerings.
The best way to avoid these issues is to invest in quality cables and practice properly rolling up and storing any wires in your guitar rig. This applies to the smaller patch cables utilized on your pedal board which can also encounter the same issues as their longer counterparts.
Culprit #4: Dirty Power Is Causing Buzz
Dirty power is a term that gets thrown around amongst many musicians and audio engineers.
In a nutshell, dirty power results from sub-par electrical wiring that may be present in older homes, venues, studios, and other buildings. This type of wiring setup will result in a fluctuating electrical current that can cause numerous issues for audio equipment, including guitar amplifiers.
The only way to eradicate this issue is to rewire the building, a costly and invasive procedure that most will not be willing to entertain. Fortunately, there are cost-effective solutions, such as introducing power conditioners like the Furman AC210A and its other competitors.
- Check out our guide to the best power conditioners available today.
You can also invest some time into noting what appliances and other devices are powered on the same circuit as your amplifier. If you switch off the breaker and notice that your microwave or computer shuts down, plugging your guitar amplifier into a different wall outlet may yield more desirable results concerning guitar amp buzz.
What is a Ground Loop?
Ground loops are one of the most significant factors determining the presence of noise within a guitar rig.
A ground loop is created when a signal path has two or more paths to the negative terminal of the guitar’s output jack. Ground loops can also be present in your guitar amp or pedalboard, sounding similar to the 60-cycle hum in traditional single coil pickups.
Any circuit that features more than two pieces of grounded electrical equipment plugged into the same power outlet can harbor ground loops and in the world of audio, these loops will more often than not contribute to noise issues.
In the past, players would use two-prong A/C adapters to remedy these issues. However, this method is outdated and extremely dangerous — and we do NOT recommend doing this.
There are much more effective and safer means, such as using isolated power transformers or devices with ground lift switches like DI boxes. Unfortunately, in some cases, it is simply best to have your amp or guitar inspected and potentially rewired by a technician.
Culprit #5: Your Guitar Amp is Causing Buzz
If you have scoured through all of the mentioned causes for guitar amp buzz and still haven’t found the culprit for your woes, the issue may lie in the amplifier itself.
However, amplifier malfunction will generally result in more severe issues such as loud clipping sounds, distinct hissing, and occasionally a lack of signal.
When it comes to amplifier servicing, it is highly recommended that you seek the services of a trained technician as, unlike guitars, working with amps poses high safety risks.
A licensed tech can inspect the amplifier’s ground wire and adequately diagnose and remedy any other issues within the amplifier’s circuitry.
It’s also vital to ensure that your amplifier’s power and preamp tubes are in good working order if you play through a tube amp.