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View Full Version : How do you deal with guitar amp hiss/noise?


Scott Whigham
December 16th, 2011, 02:55 AM
This isn't your run of the mill guitar tracking question, I think, so I'm asking for some help here. I'm trying to track a solo, instrumental electric guitar album. We're talking no drums, no bass, no vocals, and no overdubbing - just straight up, one-take guitar (think jazz guitar - except with some gain/OD/distortion/hookers).

It's not that I have noisy amps, it's that I can hear a hiss/white noise as I crank it up and/or play back a recorded track. I have some great amps that I'm tracking - a 60s Fender Vibrolux, an old Marshall JTM45 and both have recent service - but I'm cranking the ##%% out of them to get ThE tOnEz and I can hear the hiss when I play it back.

In a normal, multi-instrument setting (i.e. drums, bass), this would be great - you'd never notice any problems. But when there is just a solitary instrument and it's a bit noisy it builds up as you add compression, tape "effects", EQ, and possibly makeup gain for mastering.

Any suggestions? I'm super careful on gain staging but it's just that amps from the 60s aren't ultra quiet; they just have noise associated with them when they are cranked.

iCombs
December 16th, 2011, 04:50 AM
Well...editing/muting a track whenever the instrument isn't playing is just common sense if you're looking to minimize hiss/noise.

If you're talking about in a solo track...trying to knock it down at the source is about the only way you're going to deal with it. Some guys will go to pretty crazy lengths to keep that at a minimum...I heard Eric Valentine mention that he made guys play in a Faraday cage that he built to keep 60 cycle out of the guitars.

Otherwise...eh. I don't sweat it unless it's so loud that it becomes a real distraction.

weedywet
December 16th, 2011, 05:45 AM
yes, the issue is SIGNAL to noise

when the guitar plays, you really shouldn't hear the hiss.

when she stops, you need to gate or ride down the holes if the noise is annoying.

no amp is dead quiet when you'e not playing

J.G.
December 16th, 2011, 10:33 AM
Midi guitars!

:Razz:

; J

Pimp-X
December 16th, 2011, 12:15 PM
Firearms.

Ein Mangfaldig Kar
December 16th, 2011, 02:13 PM
Take away the processing, is it still there?
Is it the amp or something else?
Are you still tracking?
Does the amp make less noise somewhere elsewhere, with the guitarist somewhere else?
try some other mic-position...
Still there?

I should say is it still unpleasant/unmusical?

Scott Whigham
December 16th, 2011, 02:31 PM
If you're talking about in a solo track...trying to knock it down at the source is about the only way you're going to deal with it. Some guys will go to pretty crazy lengths to keep that at a minimum...I heard Eric Valentine mention that he made guys play in a Faraday cage that he built to keep 60 cycle out of the guitars.ha - awesome. It's not the 60 cycle hum quality; it's just a white noise/hiss type. Noisy tubes, I think.

yes, the issue is SIGNAL to noise

when the guitar plays, you really shouldn't hear the hiss.

when she stops, you need to gate or ride down the holes if the noise is annoying.

no amp is dead quiet when you'e not playingYeah, that's the issue - some of the songs feature stops/breaks and you can hear the white noise of the amp. Gate it? It happens too fast and too often in at least one song to manually pop the fader up/down (think of a one bar rest at 100bpm).

Take away the processing, is it still there?
Is it the amp or something else?It's the amp, I'm sure of it. I've switched guitars, switched cables (even trying low capacitance to high capacitance). I've even run it through my MW1 and tried changing the impedance down but no luck.

I think I'm just maybe being paranoid - if this was to be used in a mix w/ drums/bass, I'd think it was ideal. It's just that it's completely solo'ed and I can hear it in the monitors. I'll play with it a bit today and see if I can post a clip.

Thanks!

mardyk
December 16th, 2011, 03:36 PM
Noise reduction? I use Izotope RX. Very easy to use and quite transparent.

Scott Whigham
December 16th, 2011, 03:59 PM
Cool - I just checked out some threads/vids on that and it looks promising. Pricey but there's a fully functional free trial that's worth a shot. Thanks!

meLoCo_go
December 16th, 2011, 04:19 PM
I hate noise reduction. Maybe RX is advanced, but I wouldn't let it any close to my guitar sound, as ww said, when the guitar plays you shouldn't really hear the noise if something is not broken. Editing or gating noise in pauses is the way. The only problem is long bassy sustained note when the rasp decays much faster than boom. In such cases I automate a LP filter.

Brendo
December 16th, 2011, 06:27 PM
Last time I did heavy guitars, we ran an MXR gate in front of the amp and an ISP Decimator in the series effects loop, turning off the MXR for solos. Worked a treat, especially since something in the chain was microphonic and causing bad feedback (either a tube or a pickup or both, not sure).

eagan
December 16th, 2011, 10:53 PM
High explosives.





















OK. Seriously.

If your biggest problem in the universe is hearing guitar amp electronics softly hissing away in moments when there are no notes sounding, your life isn't so bad.


JLE

Ein Mangfaldig Kar
December 16th, 2011, 10:58 PM
How true

DPower
December 17th, 2011, 01:09 AM
Feature it with a big swooshing phaser.

:grin:

Le chef
December 17th, 2011, 01:35 AM
Btw, is it more the power section or pre section that's hissing?

redbone
December 17th, 2011, 01:28 PM
I'd copy the playlist, apply noise reduction to the copy, and then insert NR'd soundbites into the original playlist Only where the noise is a problem...if I cared enough...

Bob Olhsson
December 18th, 2011, 07:47 PM
A classic fix was to grab the AC isolation transformer out of the studio shop and plug the amp into it. Unfortunately few studios have shops, much less isolation transformers for servicing tube gear these daze.

An alternative that sometimes works remarkably well is a wireless hookup between the guitar and the amp.

Le chef
December 18th, 2011, 09:54 PM
I'm lucky that the owner of the first studio I worked in was an electrical engineer, you should have seen the tech shop. It was a whole floor of the building. Everything was modded/hot-rodded in the place. (Custom pre section for the desk, EQs modded, custom AD for the PCM-1630, custom cross-overs for the monitors, the whole bit...

I could always go ask a question for a tech problem and get down with an answer and the equipment needed to resolve it if needed.

Great studio & a great learning environment. Unfortunately he eventually closed the place as he was (understandably) making much more money from his design consultancy business.

John Eppstein
December 18th, 2011, 10:42 PM
A classic fix was to grab the AC isolation transformer out of the studio shop and plug the amp into it. Unfortunately few studios have shops, much less isolation transformers for servicing tube gear these daze.

An alternative that sometimes works remarkably well is a wireless hookup between the guitar and the amp.

Those fixes will work if it's hum/noise pickup off the power line or RFI off the cable/pickup but they probably won't help if it's straight-up hiss, which is usually generated inside the amp. Does the amp make noise without the guitar plugged in, and is it is/white noise rather than hum/buzz? If so the problem is either tube noise or thermal noise within the amp. Thermal noise is caused by the fact that thermal energy will cause any resistance to act as a noise generator*, the amount of noise determined by the resistance, the temperature, and the material of the resistance. Usually it's so low as to be insignificant in a well designed and constructed circuit, but with today's high gain guitar amps it can become significant. Modding the amp by replacing the inexpensive carbon resistors in the first stage or two of gain with mil spec metal film resistors sometimes can help to some degree. If the noise is generated by a tube itself sometimes hand selecting a tube will help. Note the word "sometimes" in both cases - since thermal noise can never be totally eliminated, only minimized, in some really high gain situations there's not a whole lot you can do other than use less gain.

* - the actual cause is the agitation of the electrons by thermal energy (Brownian motion) in any material which is above absolute zero. This produces random (white) noise in proportion to the thermal input. Of course this means that the higher the operating temperature of the circuit, the noisier it's likely to be.....

weedywet
December 19th, 2011, 07:30 AM
I find cooling the studio to -273 C seems to help for some reason...

John Eppstein
December 19th, 2011, 12:19 PM
I find cooling the studio to -273 C seems to help for some reason...

No shit!

Comte de St Germain
December 20th, 2011, 10:09 PM
1. Clean studio power.
2. Good working, well maintained amps. (Caps can be an issue when it comes to hiss)
3. Great cabling.
4. Proper guitar grounding and wiring. (copper grounding tape is handy)
5. If all else fails a properly implemented Izotope Rx is incrediblt transparent at moderate levels. I did an entire jazz trio record where we opted for the noisy tube custom amp with Rx rather than the clean amp without Rx.

otek
December 23rd, 2011, 11:05 PM
The only times I've come across noise levels that actually bothered me in context, were when there was some kind of more or less serious problem with amp rig gain scheduling, or stupidly excessive amounts of gain. I would generally deal with this sort of problem at the recording stage.

In mix, I almost always solve it by manually truncating the tracks. On some occasions, if there is an inordinate amount of pauses, I may use a gate.


otek

BOOM CRASH SING!!
December 24th, 2011, 01:07 AM
Good advise posted so far..

One thing to consider is whether the player has the instrument it's self turned all the way up.. Sometimes, a desired tone will require backing the guitar volume down a bit, but it will reveal the amps noise floor..

BOOM!!

Omni
December 28th, 2011, 06:15 AM
Hello, first time poster here.


The only time I recorded a solo electric guitar, I LIKED the never ending noise. Noise is part of the atmosphere, and part of what I like about cranked guitar sounds.

So, my suggestion is to learn to love the hiss/noise.

Scott Whigham
December 31st, 2011, 03:53 AM
Downloaded iZotope RX2, tried it on a few tracks, and it was eye opening - wow, that was really killer in an unexpected way. Bought!

Thanks, everyone!

gilligan204
January 3rd, 2012, 07:15 PM
If you get a chance have a list to SRV's version of "Little Wing"... you can hear the tubes hissing in the background, it sounds like teh amp is ready to explode. Personally although its not always desired, I'd almost leave it.

HAVE A LISTEN NOT A LIST.

JamieMuffett
January 3rd, 2012, 07:58 PM
I know this is kind of sorted now but I just wondered at what point are you hearing the hiss sound? Is it while the guitar is playing or between notes/sections? As previously pointed out this is a signal to noise issue.

I agree with the previous comments also that if you make a solo electric guitar recording you are going to get all the characteristics of an electric guitar being recorded, hiss and all. Maybe I am just a sloppy engineer but beyond a certain point I have to just accept a certain amount of hiss/buzz/crackle/spring jangle/etc... I think it's kinda cool.

haze
January 3rd, 2012, 09:54 PM
Boss noise suppressor before the amp, edit (sometimes).

JamieMuffett
January 4th, 2012, 05:18 PM
In case anyone is interested there is an article on dealing with errant sounds in Sound On Sound this month (the one with the egg monitors on the front).

Toonman
January 10th, 2012, 09:56 PM
I've tried several things in the past around this problem, but to be honest, the ONLY one I accept is hand-editing.
Amp noise when the guitar is playing doesn't bother me. Actually, it gives the tone a certain "body" I have grown to expect.
Getting rid of this "natural" noise seems to be detrimental to the guitar tone. EQ seems to thin out the guitar, and gates sound unnatural to me (only use them in situations like Bob explained).
I have not tried RX yet, but honestly, I haven't gotten into a situation yet where the levels of noise affect the recording that much (I'm not a high-gain player either, anyway).
Let us know how RX works out for your recording!

ManRoom Studio
January 10th, 2012, 11:50 PM
Actually, the hardware solution that I prefer is the ISP Technologies Decimator ProRack G. You can crank a high-gain amp and it sounds like you're on standby with the Decimator. Also, try as I could, I couldn't hear any noticeable effect on the initial attack. Another thing about the Decimator is that because of the way you connect to it, it responds directly to the guitar, rather than being the last in a chain of effects and putting a blanket on the entire signal. Also, you don't get the chatter on decays you'd get from a noise gate.

The Decimator comes as a footpedal (Decimator G String) or 1U, stereo rackmount unit (ProRack and ProRack G). It's pricey, but when I heard it in action (well, didn't hear it, actually) I was sold.

As an aside, the Decimator was designed by Buck Waller, founder of ISP, who invented the Hush technology for Rocktron (formerly his company as well). According to Buck, his problem when he started ISP, was to come up with a dramatic improvement over the Rocktron Hush pedals. I'd say he succeeded.

http://www.isptechnologies.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=52&Itemid=65

(This sounds like it should be in the Gear section, but it is in response to the question.)