Noise Reduction and Gate Pedals

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Tubes, ground loops, pickups, air wave interference, and other variables can add noise to your signal. Podcasters may have to choose the hum of the air conditioner over dripping with sweat for hours.

Perhaps your favorite vintage guitar tone is courtesy of a noisy single coil in your Strat bridge. Maybe you built the home studio of your dreams, only to discover the electrical outlets in your basement aren’t grounded. Noise reduction, noise gates, and similar effects can help with these issues.

What’s the difference between noise gate and noise reducers or suppressors?

Noise suppression, noise reduction, and restoration effects attempt to filter out annoying sounds and frequencies while maintaining the integrity of the original input. Noise gates silence all sound until the input signal reaches a set level, but allow all noise and frequencies through once that threshold is hit and the gate is open.

How does a noise suppressor pedal work?

The 60-cycle hum created by the combination of electric guitar and a loud amp is usually created by a ground loop. A noise suppressor or noise reduction pedal filters out this specific frequency while keeping your tone as close to unaltered as possible. Guitarists who are picky about their tone may notice a difference when the pedal is engaged. For more information on reducing hum from guitar and bass, read "Taming the 60 Cycle Hum".

How do you use a noise gate pedal?

Whether you play guitar, bass, or any other instrument using a mini pedal or a rack unit, a noise gate works basically the same. Placement of the effect in your signal chain will depend on the desired result. If you just want to silence the hum from your acoustic pickup during onstage banter, the beginning of your pedalboard is the best place. If you are hoping to emulate the stabby riffs of Dimebag Darrell and ZZ Top, add the gate after all your dirt pedals.

Once you have everything plugged in and powered on, turn up anything you’re hoping to silence. Set the threshold level all the way down, then turn the gate pedal on. Slowly turn the knob clockwise until silence is achieved. Many noise gates, such as the Boss NS-2 offer a decay control. This determines whether the effect kicks on with an instant drop off or a slow descent.

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