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captainate
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18th October 2010
Old 18th October 2010
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RF interference in Guitar Amp...

So I've been picking up radio in my really nice guitar amp, always thought it was the strat I "shielded" but forgot to ground it (which will happen as soon as it needs new strings). It's not the amp, because it is completely noise-free with no cable plugged in. In fact it isn't the guitar, as I discovered when I plugged in my new Rhodes.

So I read up on RF interference, and tested the cables I was using by shorting them out and plugging them in. Every single cable acted like an antenna. I checked them all, they are in perfect working order, no continuity errors or crosstalk between connections. So I know I live in a radio "hotspot", but is there nothing I can do?

Found this link in another thread, any experience with these?
RFI Radio Frequency Interference chokes, EMI filters, EMI suppression cores

Thanks.
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19th October 2010
Old 19th October 2010
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You could build a snubber into the input jack...



-tINY

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19th October 2010
Old 19th October 2010
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As much as I'd like to be, I'm no techie. Isn't a snubber circuit for protecting against voltage spikes? How would you go about installing one (outside the amp only, I'm not willing to modify it) and would it affect the sound in any way?
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19th October 2010
Old 19th October 2010
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It could just be the cables too, I recently sheilded all my guitars only to find is was my cheap ass cable.
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19th October 2010
Old 19th October 2010
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Yeah it couldn't possibly be the cables. I only use good stuff, mostly make my own. But even to check the remote possibility that I did something wrong making those I used my nicest pre-made cables as well.
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19th October 2010
Old 19th October 2010
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Try soldering a 3.3pF cap across the contacts of the plug on the side that goes into your amp.




-tINY

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23rd October 2010
Old 23rd October 2010
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hmm, just called my local electronics store and they only have 3 or 5 pf caps. Does it have to be precisely 3.3?
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23rd October 2010
Old 23rd October 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by captainate View Post
So I've been picking up radio in my really nice guitar amp, always thought it was the strat I "shielded" but forgot to ground it (which will happen as soon as it needs new strings). It's not the amp, because it is completely noise-free with no cable plugged in. In fact it isn't the guitar, as I discovered when I plugged in my new Rhodes.

So I read up on RF interference, and tested the cables I was using by shorting them out and plugging them in. Every single cable acted like an antenna. I checked them all, they are in perfect working order, no continuity errors or crosstalk between connections. So I know I live in a radio "hotspot", but is there nothing I can do?

Found this link in another thread, any experience with these?
RFI Radio Frequency Interference chokes, EMI filters, EMI suppression cores

Thanks.
First, adding a 3pf or even 5pf bypass cap across your amp input won't do much. A foot of your guitar cable has more capacitance than that, perhaps by as much as 20 times.

Is it an AM station or an FM station you hear? Or some other type of radio? It makes a difference in how we address the problem.

Is this a low impedance pickup or a high impedance pickup? For either, do you know the pickup's specified impedance? Again, it makes a difference to the solution.

Jim
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25th October 2010
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But, the distributed capacitance acts differently than the lumped capacitance of a capacitor in the plug.

5pF or even 10pF should be fine - at 30pf, you may start hearing a difference in your tone (though it'll be subtle until you get up to around 500pF).



-tINY

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25th October 2010
Old 25th October 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by captainate View Post
So I read up on RF interference, and tested the cables I was using by shorting them out and plugging them in. Every single cable acted like an antenna. I checked them all, they are in perfect working order, no continuity errors or crosstalk between connections. So I know I live in a radio "hotspot", but is there nothing I can do?
How exactly are you conducting your test? How are you shorting the cables out? Is the amp quiet with no jack inserted (I assume it has a shorting switch in the input jack to ground it)?

If a shorted cable (tip to sleeve) causes noise when inserted in the input jack, I'd suggest you take a look at the jack itself....perhaps the ground connection isn't good mechanically when a plug is inserted. Try cleaning/burnishing the jack...

Cheers

Kris
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25th October 2010
Old 25th October 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tINY View Post


But, the distributed capacitance acts differently than the lumped capacitance of a capacitor in the plug.

5pF or even 10pF should be fine - at 30pf, you may start hearing a difference in your tone (though it'll be subtle until you get up to around 500pF).



-tINY

Yes, but if the cable is 20pf/ft then the last foot is 20pf, an additional 5 isn't going to do much at 1MHz, especially if it's a lowZ pickup. If you assume a 100K pickup, the -3dB point for 5pF is just over 300KHz, so at 1MHz, you haven't made enough difference yet. That's assuming pickup Z is real at RF, which it probably isn't.

But the real source Z you're concerned with is source Z of the RFI, which relates to the antenna impedance, which will be frequency and wire length dependent.

That's why I asked if it's AM or FM. The pickup Z is just to put us in the ballpark.

There's always the cut-n-try method too, try a 5pf, try a 20pf, try a shorter wire, try a ferrite bead, etc. Since you can't run out and buy a ferrite bead, it's helpful to know what frequency we're dealing with first. Ferrite materials vary a lot.

Jim
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25th October 2010
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Oh, another thing to try would be to look at the grid stopper resistance on the input stage.

Grid Resistors

Cheers

Kris
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25th October 2010
Old 25th October 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrFrankencopter View Post
Oh, another thing to try would be to look at the grid stopper resistance on the input stage.

Grid Resistors

Cheers

Kris
Preamp grid resistors are usually lower in value, or not used, but in either case the grid capacitance would create a roll-off that would be up into the low RF area. But clearly, in this case, that's not enough. The RF is getting in and some part of the amp is acting as a detector. The first stage would be most likely but it could be elsewhere. The idea is to stop the RFI before it gets too far into the amp, hopefully before it gets to the grid.

Jim
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25th October 2010
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An LC filter in front of the first gain stage is probably the best medicine. But, that's really a job for a tech.

So much for the "nice" tube amp... probably sounds open because it has no RF protection.




-tINY

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26th October 2010
Old 26th October 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tINY View Post


An LC filter in front of the first gain stage is probably the best medicine. But, that's really a job for a tech.

So much for the "nice" tube amp... probably sounds open because it has no RF protection.




-tINY

If we knew what the preamp tube was, this would be fun to run in simulation. There was a time I never thought I'd see SPICE models for tubes, but they're certainly out there now!
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27th October 2010
Old 27th October 2010
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You know, almost any amp will do this if you're in a spot where there happens to be a lot of radio signals close by (city, close to towers and college campuses etc). It's likely not the amp, which could actually be properly RF protected, as there is no signal when nothing is plugged in.

I always assumed that the instrument pickups/cable act as an antenna and your amp just does it's job.

I used to pick up the classic rock and jazz stations (both FM, but the jazz may have been AM) depending on conditions and instrument used at my old place. The reverb knob would act as radio signal volume, to add to the hilarity. I once turned on my amp to hear scratchy AC/DC coming out the 8x10 cab - that was something. Happened with every amp in that room. Moved and problem solved. Common, known issue among guitarists and amp techs (people come in complaining about it but problem won't happen in the shop - location dependant). Try moving the amp to a differant room/your friend's place accross town or someone else's amp in the same place as yours to prove the point. Sometimes, just moving the amp to a different location within the same room is enough.

Incidentally the vast majority of guitar pickups are hiZ (LoZ exists but is very specialised and rare.... I do have a LoZ bass though), and 100K is far from realistic; most single coils are under 15K (DCR) and buckers are usually under 20K - the highest DCR pup I know of was the Gibson Sidewinder (aka mudbucker) from the EB bass series. At a whopping 31K that thing really tests the mettle of a preamp circuit with regards to headroom. Steep rumble filter at 30-40 hz highly recomended for those.
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28th October 2010
Old 28th October 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Granny Gremlin View Post
You know, almost any amp will do this if you're in a spot where there happens to be a lot of radio signals close by (city, close to towers and college campuses etc). It's likely not the amp, which could actually be properly RF protected, as there is no signal when nothing is plugged in.

I always assumed that the instrument pickups/cable act as an antenna and your amp just does it's job.
Well, sort of. Guitar amps aren't know for being distortion-free. In order to recover audio from an RF carrier, something besides amplification must happen, some non-linearity, which on one hand gives a guitar amp color, on the other hand makes it a radio receiver. In the case of AM stations, a simple non-linearity would be enough to "detect" the modulation. In the case of FM, it's typically a type of "slope detector", where as the carrier frequency modulates up and down with audio, a change in RF frequency response creates an AM component, which is then easily demodulated.

It's not surprising that guitar amps are also radio receivers. The combination of high input Z and high gain in an unbalanced input in a amp that isn't designed for linearity is about the worst possible combination. However, amp could be designed to be RF immune, it just costs more, significantly. It's not just about filtering the front end, it's chassis construction, overall shielding, power decoupling, etc. But it's possible to do, just pricey. Consider that there is a lot of audio equipment operating at broadcast transmitter sites, where the RF is about as hot as anywhere, and it works without a problem because it's designed to keep RF out of its circuits.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Granny Gremlin View Post
Incidentally the vast majority of guitar pickups are hiZ (LoZ exists but is very specialised and rare.... I do have a LoZ bass though), and 100K is far from realistic; most single coils are under 15K (DCR) and buckers are usually under 20K - the highest DCR pup I know of was the Gibson Sidewinder (aka mudbucker) from the EB bass series. At a whopping 31K that thing really tests the mettle of a preamp circuit with regards to headroom. Steep rumble filter at 30-40 hz highly recomended for those.
Well, that makes RF proofing much easier! Thanks for the info, I'm not a guitar player, but find all this interesting.
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28th October 2010
Old 28th October 2010
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Oh totally agreed. My point was that there's nothing wrong with the amp.

I wonder if the simple addition of a metal panel to the grounded chassis (usually open on one side - the one that bolts to the wood cabinet, whether head or combo) alone would be a significant improvement. In my case the RF wasn't very strong but rather faint unless I cranked everything (and then it was noisy). Balanced inputs are going overboard considering the signal source is a gloriously noisy-ass coil that picks up everything.... now maybe with non- traditional pickups or piezos or something (but piezos just don't sound the same, they have their uses, but not for everyone)....

Part of the sound of electric guitars is these imperfections also. You can't make it everything too hifi, but there is definately a niche for something like that.
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28th October 2010
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Yes, a guitar amp is awful from a high-fi perspective.

But the guy is having issues where he plays it, so something has to be done. ...even if there is "nothing wrong" with his amp.




-tINY

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30th October 2010
Old 30th October 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tINY View Post
something has to be done. ...even if there is "nothing wrong" with his amp.
Thanks for that. I was surprised the first comment wasn't "move"

It's hard to tell but I think by moving the cable around in all different directions the station is changing. It certainly drops in and out as I move it, but I think the music changes as well. I haven't really had time to deal with it or try anything these last couple weeks due to heavy workload.
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30th October 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Granny Gremlin View Post
Part of the sound of electric guitars is these imperfections also. You can't make it everything too hifi, but there is definately a niche for something like that.
I appreciate the silver lining technique as much as the next guy... but if I want random radio signal in my recordings, I'll put it there
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30th October 2010
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I never saw what kind of guitar amp this is. Is the "sleeve" of the 1/4" input phone jack metal, and also tightly screwed to the metal front panel?

Best,

Bri
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30th October 2010
Old 30th October 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brianroth View Post
I never saw what kind of guitar amp this is. Is the "sleeve" of the 1/4" input phone jack metal, and also tightly screwed to the metal front panel?

Best,

Bri
Go to bed! Who in their right mind stays up at this hour??

It's an amp built by a local (Eugene, OR) guy named Ken Luker. It's basically a dual-rectified tweed on steroids. The jacks are the high quality plastic kind. Don't know why he used those instead of the metal ones, but I'm sure it's still grounded properly on the inside. Plus the chassis is painted/powder-coated, so would that contact point even matter to begin with?
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30th October 2010
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Couple of questions:

Is it an AM or FM station you are "receiving"? I'll guess FM because it changes when you move, but that's not 100%. The remedy for each is different.

Are there amp or guitar settings that minimize or maximize the problem? What are the?

Can you solder? If not, do you know a tech or someone who can solder?

The idea is that I can suggest a few add-on parts that may help keep RF out of your amp, but I can't install them for you. It will require some soldering, at least. I also am not familiar with the physical design of the amp, so you'll need to either be comfortable with disassembly and surgery, or find someone who is.

There are very few remedies external to the amp: you can move away from the RF source, install an RF screen around your studio, buy the radio station and turn them off when you want to play, or get a really short guitar cable. That last one is easy to try. The longer the wire the more RF voltage it picks up. So if you can live with 3', it could actually help. If you have the time an patience, you can get a roll of metal screening, like "hardware cloth" or "chicken wire" and hang it on every wall, ceiling and floor. You have to make sure the sheets of mesh make good electrical contact with each other so that the entire room has one continuous conductive screen around it. Then ground the entire screen. This will kill all forms of RF by at least 30dB, which will get rid of your problem, but look weird. It's actually not that expensive, but pretty labor intensive.

I once built a radio studio in a very hot RF field. We shielded the entire studio core in thin copper sheet, and filtered every cable entry and exit so RF wouldn't sneak in on a wire. It was so effective we couldn't receive an radio or TV in the studio at all. It also cost over $80K about 20 years ago, but it was cheaper than finding a different location. With today's cost of copper where it is, I suggest chicken wire. Not as good for UHF TV, or microwave RF, but find for AM and FM.

Jim
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30th October 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by captainate View Post
Go to bed! Who in their right mind stays up at this hour??

It's an amp built by a local (Eugene, OR) guy named Ken Luker. It's basically a dual-rectified tweed on steroids. The jacks are the high quality plastic kind. Don't know why he used those instead of the metal ones, but I'm sure it's still grounded properly on the inside. Plus the chassis is painted/powder-coated, so would that contact point even matter to begin with?
Well, not everyone is familiar with the "pin 1" problem, as clearly documented in these various articles (see "Shields and Grounds....."):

AES Special Publications: Journal Issues

I work with many types of facilities, and...what can I say....this is a common problem, ESPECIALLY if the so-called shield (and especially in the situation of an unbalanced input) does NOT directly connect to the chassis at the input.

But...what do I know......I have to assume Neil Muncy and others are idiots.

Bri

PS...just on a whim...try wiring something like a 0.01 uF ceramic disc cap from the "ground" of that isolated input phone jack...with very short leads...directly to chassis right at the input jack. No harm...no foul...easy and cheap to try.
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11th December 2010
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What this is...

Quote:
Originally Posted by captainate View Post
So I've been picking up radio in my really nice guitar amp, always thought it was the strat I "shielded" but forgot to ground it (which will happen as soon as it needs new strings). It's not the amp, because it is completely noise-free with no cable plugged in. In fact it isn't the guitar, as I discovered when I plugged in my new Rhodes.

So I read up on RF interference, and tested the cables I was using by shorting them out and plugging them in. Every single cable acted like an antenna. I checked them all, they are in perfect working order, no continuity errors or crosstalk between connections. So I know I live in a radio "hotspot", but is there nothing I can do?

Found this link in another thread, any experience with these?
RFI Radio Frequency Interference chokes, EMI filters, EMI suppression cores

Thanks.
For the first time I started getting radio through my amp w the high gain on either tubes or a box without playing. I was going nuts thinking the shielding on my guitar or my power conditioner was not working properly.

Being a former Engineer I was determined to find out why this was happening as I run very nice high end gear, excellent cables and shield filtering.

What causes this??? THE 12AX7A PREAMP TUBE!
I had just switched from running JAN 5751s in my preamps back to the higher gain 12AX7 and the raido interference began. It is NOT a guitar shielding problem, cables nor a filtering power conditioning problem. IT IS THE INHERENT NATURE OF A TUBE AMP CIRCUIT USING 12AX7 preamp tubes (or any other device that uses them).

It is the inherent nature of physics of the 12AX7 tubw as it gains up, it can pick up radio high freq and run it through the signal AND it can continue to do this no matter how you turn or twist, and if you filter or try to resistor the input you will cut high end out of your signal.

WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?? Either switch away from using 12AX7s if possible OR electronic theory indicates a "Faraday Cage" which will shield block the tube.
Easier than it seems, all you need to do is install a tube cage shield only needed on V1 position. You can get one of these from the tubestore.com for like $17, fits over the V1 tube and grounds to the socket. This will block anything external from getting to the tube and will NOT effect your signal or tone except for cleaning it up! (the "tube cage", a copper mesh sealed can that goes over the tube and grounds to the socket.) They say it all comes from the V1 tube, you could shield the others if you like it cannot hurt anything. It will also act as a cold sink which should not hurt your tubes but actually help keep the heat from killing them.

That is the physics of the issue, plain and simple.
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11th December 2010
Old 11th December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by captainate View Post
So I've been picking up radio in my really nice guitar amp, always thought it was the strat I "shielded" but forgot to ground it (which will happen as soon as it needs new strings). It's not the amp, because it is completely noise-free with no cable plugged in. In fact it isn't the guitar, as I discovered when I plugged in my new Rhodes.

So I read up on RF interference, and tested the cables I was using by shorting them out and plugging them in. Every single cable acted like an antenna. I checked them all, they are in perfect working order, no continuity errors or crosstalk between connections. So I know I live in a radio "hotspot", but is there nothing I can do?

Found this link in another thread, any experience with these?
RFI Radio Frequency Interference chokes, EMI filters, EMI suppression cores

Thanks.

You need to build a Faraday cage to rock out in.
Build it strong so you can add a stripper floozy or two to hang in there with you and dance.

Sry, darkhorse beat me to it. Seriously though, the cage just goes over the tube.
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11th December 2010
Old 11th December 2010
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Probably your amp has very low value of a grid stopper. Classic amps used 68k on inputs.

Also, it may be the problem caused by improperly wired ground in the amp, so shield of your cable acts as an antenna. If something oscillates in the amp it may work as a good super-heterodyne receiver.
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#29
19th December 2010
Old 19th December 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boschen View Post
You need to build a Faraday cage to rock out in.
...
Sry, darkhorse beat me to it. Seriously though, the cage just goes over the tube.

Just a note of further weirdness.
I have not got the tube cage yet but I switched back over to JAN Phillips 5751s in the preamps which have less gain than 12AX7s and less tendency to latch onto radio interference BUT it is still there if I step on the high gain without playing. These 5751s really help cut down on fizzy gain but they still crank up when you want them to.

They do not magnify the radio as much, but enough to drive a perfectionist nuts. I thing it is also complicated by the Vox JS Satchurator which seems to latch onto the radio and bring it in where the tubes magnify it. Not a real quiet box like many others I have had. I do like its tones so I do not plan to drop it off. I have no noise at all until I kick this box on and without playing here comes the radio interference. Bad design inherent in the Satchurator??

Another thing I have noticed is some weird effect w humbucklers and single coils. My one strat has three dual rail single size HBs and some shielding under the controls (no pickguard or large route on this guitar. The pickups screw into the wood with just a hole space made for them (no pickguard) so adding normal pr more shielding is not possible.
Picks up the radio really bad (as per above) no matter what pickups are on, even the 2 & 4 combination which usually makes a further humbuckler.
These are humbuckler type single coils and yet still noise even w 2 together) I am hoping the cage will stop this, "thetubestore.com" guys told me all you need is just 1 cage over the V1 tube.

My other strat a kit I put together, also gets the radio but not as bad and these are 2 AP-11s modified with metal base plates (neck & middle) the bridge has a full size humbuckler which still gets the interference.
Now here's the weird part. If I turn on position 2 with the two modified AP-11 base plate pickups, every bit of noise stops! I am not sure what does this, as it is more than humbuckler as the dual rails even together are not this quiet. Must be some sort of really good ground shielding, beats me but damn does that position sound great, sounds like the mid woody tone on a Les Paul but with the Strat plunk tone.

I did try and shield this guitar really well and the two base plates are grounded to the pickups ground at the switch. By the way, FYI, the pickup base plates do really alter the tones and improves the pickups. More defined bass and mid and when I engauge the 2 together in position 2 they have so much more punch and dynamic, that position does not sound thin anymore. Cool mod for any single coil BUT it has to be a flat level mate on the bottom with a tape or barrier to avoid any metal to metal or magnet contact, use epoxy to bind the plate in place. The better ones have a pre soldered lug for ground that goes to the pickup ground (not just a common lug). For those wondering, like I did for some time, this relative inexpensive mod really works to increase the punch and power of weaker ohm pickups. My dual rails are already very high output pickups and they have a plate already integrated in their design.

My board, note I use hard gold couplers where possible and really heavy shield no loss Core X2s on my short lines and loop. I only have a 10ft from guitar and only a 6ft to the amp in.



Here is the amp.


The major cool Strat:
Also note the Ebony fingerboard!!
#30
24th December 2010
Old 24th December 2010
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Seems like everytime I post a picture of my board, I change it.
Obsessive compulsive pedal addiction.

I just got a new phaser for xmas. God do I love that sound. Decided on the new Nano Small Stone over the MXR models. Gets that cool Pagey phase on some of the old Zep classics. Will go before the Vibes near chain end. By the way you should hear both the Lovepedal and the Viper Vibe going together, sort of passifies me until I can get that Ubervibe one of these days.

I just do not like phasers or vibe before gains or ODs, just does not work well for me. Degrades the real sweep of the vibe and the phaser pre dist sort of loses control of the gain structure.

I like them after so I can feed them some gain which increases the sweep intensity. Running them into a gained amp channel does that EVH thing and this way you have all the options available. EVH got that phaser tone by running into a gained Marshall preamp not a gain box, there is a difference. I chose the Stone because it has a weird sweep nothing else quite gets. The new Nano's are so low in price ($78) and they have improved the old stone and added by pass and no vol drop. Sweet!!!! God I forgot how much I love the phaser over other modulators.
I love the Vibe pulse but it has limited musical uses. The Phase is just cool. I was watching that new release of SRV playing w Freddie King back in 83, Freddie had a phase going all the time under his guitar, sounded so cool. Man when he hits some of those bends than phaser undertone goes crazy. But... how in the hell does he play that guitar upside down??? It is very limiting to say the least but some can pull it off. Doyle Bramhall Jr does it. It hurts my brain just trying to imagine what to play.
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