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Off grid studio: BUZZING NOISE!!!
Old 30th June 2016
  #1
Off grid studio: BUZZING NOISE!!!

Ive been setting up a recording studio at my new off grid home.

My tube amp (particularly on high gain or with high gain pedals) is generating a loud hum/buzz. It buzzes with the gain pedals powered by batteries or not, as well as (badly) through the amps hi gain channel.

We have a large diesel generator (24k), batteries and will have solar soon.

I've recently bought a furman conditioner/voltage regulator as well as the Furman PST-8D ( I was told it would help reduce noise). I also picked up a small (2000w) Westinghouse generator/inverter, the kind that says its safe for electronics (sine inverter?).

Im getting the buzz on either generator. Its louder on the batteries alone with no gennie running. It gets louder when I take my hands off of the strings. Ground issue Im told...? But the diesel looks to be properly grounded (perhaps its not..?). I grounded the westinghouse and the ambient buzz is less but the drive pedals/channel are still pretty bad. It still gets worse when I take my hands off of the strings on this setup.

So my question is which setup will be best? Safest? quietest (through my amp)? Will a noise gate in my pedal board help or just limit my dynamics? If so, what is the Furman PST-8D for?

I would be so grateful for help on this... suuuuuch a headache!
many thanks!
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Old 30th June 2016
  #2
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Richard Crowley's Avatar
Does the tube amp buzz with nothing connected to the input?
Does it buzz with just a cable plugged (but not plugged in at the instrument/pedal end)?
Does it buzz plugged directly into the instrument (bypassing the pedal(s)?
Do you get the picture of trying all the combinations to narrow down where the problem is?
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Old 30th June 2016
  #3
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just.sounds's Avatar
Don't want to ask the obvious but do you have a good ground pin?
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Old 30th June 2016
  #4
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Your home storage batteries can generate hum/whine (well, not the batteries themselves, obviously, but in the DC-AC conversion process either to or from them), from the diesel or solar generation process or back to AC.

I have experienced this first hand when visiting a solar powered house with storage batteries. Not sure whether it's radiated or line borne...you'll need to investigate it further, could be endemic to the entire conversion process.
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Old 30th June 2016
  #5
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It amazes me that gtrs/amps etc are still unbalanced
Whats the prob ?
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Old 30th June 2016 | Show parent
  #6
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Richard Crowley's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolo 46 View Post
It amazes me that gtrs/amps etc are still unbalanced
Whats the prob ?
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Old 30th June 2016
  #7
The amp only buzzes slightly without anything plugged in. Then gain pedals then amplify it. I understand narrowing it down, for sure.

I Decided to try things on the Westinghouse generator/inverter and even through my studio monitors I was getting the ambient buzz. I grounded the unit, albeit to the same ground the studio is grounded on, and the buzz stopped through my studio monitors and got less on my amp but still too loud to record. It also still gets louder if I take my hands off of the strings. Could this be anything other than a grounding issue? Perhaps that in combination with...? It seems the common denominator given that both systems are giving me the buzz.

Does anyone know if it's even possible to play high gain through a generator/inverter without buzzing ???

The amp does have a good ground pin. All gear is new and in good condition. I didn't have this issue at all months ago before I moved here.

Many thanks everyone. I'll be devastated if I can't get to the bottom of this.
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Old 30th June 2016
  #8
I've also had suggestions to try a device called HumX or running my signal through a DI... Thoughts?
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Old 30th June 2016 | Show parent
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EmptyVessel View Post
...The amp only buzzes slightly without anything plugged in. Then gain pedals then amplify it.
... I grounded the unit, albeit to the same ground the studio is grounded on, and the buzz stopped through my studio monitors and got less on my amp but still too loud to record. It also still gets louder if I take my hands off of the strings.
.... Could this be anything other than a grounding issue? Perhaps that in combination with...?
I think that you may have a combination of overlapping problems with similar symptoms; that makes it enormously more difficult to isolate.

[Studer58] had an observation that the noise could be airborne, and I had (in the other thread you started) asked if you had moved the guitar through 360-degrees to see if there was a directional aspect to the noise pickup. Do you have an impression that it's happening this way too?

From your description, it seems that there's more than one ground point, so one (labor-intensive) experiment is to find a way to 'star-ground' to a single point, and hope for improvements.

Since Mr. Crowley is in the house on this, you're in good hands.
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Old 30th June 2016 | Show parent
  #10
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by EmptyVessel View Post
I've also had suggestions to try a device called HumX or running my signal through a DI... Thoughts?
I advise not looking for a "magic bullet" but instead start with the fundamentals. In this case, a single solid ground.

A solid ground is the basis for a clean power system. Once you've got a good ground, start looking at your power. You should have a nice smooth/clean sine wave. If you don't, start looking for the cause.
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Old 30th June 2016
  #11
I also tried moving around the room, it does not affect the buzz at all. So this rules out RF, I am correct? I also find it interesting that its the exact same buzzing sound on either generator. Identical.
I am wondering if I should try driving in a new grounding rod solely for my Westinghouse, to have a completely independent system. If its not RF, isnt ground the only other option?
Again, Ive narrowed it down that its not anything in my pedal chain, nor any combination of things drawing from the same power source. Guitar straight in to amp with nothing else drawing power= noisy.
Am I correct that a ground lift would be a bad idea/not help?
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Old 30th June 2016
  #12
Id love to upload a recording of the sound but Im not seeing how...
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Old 30th June 2016 | Show parent
  #13
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by EmptyVessel View Post
I am wondering if I should try driving in a new grounding rod solely for my Westinghouse, to have a completely independent system.
I advise you to consult with a licensed electrician. A licensed electrician can make sure your electrical system is safe and meets your local building code.
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Old 6th July 2016
  #14
Ok. Had an electrician out. Check everything. Added a new ground rod specifically for my studio/generator.

Still noisy.

We're trying things solely on generators now as we know that my inverter is a modified sine wave and will definitely add noise.

There is a steady rhythm "under" buzz, about 2 pulses per second (pardon idk what to call that). Its there on either generator and on the solar inverter. Its less prominent on the westinghouse but still there. Im really baffled how it would be there on every setup, the same speed, either amp....

My 50w Tube amp and my 15w amp are both really quiet without anything plugged in. I plug in a guitar cable, with nothing on the end, it buzzes, as you'd expect, right? I grab the end of the cable (not the tip though) it gets quieter. Move the cable around, buzz changes. I plug in guitar to cable, same buzz until I turn volume down. No volume= no buzz.


I was thinking perhaps RF but as my electrician assured me, theres almost no chance way out here.... unless perhaps my gear is creating it...? So if the unplugged cable changes as I move around, and my pickup also does a bit (it gets way louder if I go near my rack or my pedal board) what else could it be? Ive also isolated both amps so that nothing else is powered with them whatsoever.

This is so crazy....
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Old 6th July 2016 | Show parent
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Crowley View Post
Does the tube amp buzz with nothing connected to the input?
Does it buzz with just a cable plugged (but not plugged in at the instrument/pedal end)?
Does it buzz plugged directly into the instrument (bypassing the pedal(s)?
Do you get the picture of trying all the combinations to narrow down where the problem is?
See my reply above^ Ive answered all of these.... So baffled!!! And frustrated!
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Old 7th July 2016 | Show parent
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by EmptyVessel View Post

There is a steady rhythm "under" buzz, about 2 pulses per second (pardon idk what to call that). Its there on either generator and on the solar inverter. Its less prominent on the westinghouse but still there. Im really baffled how it would be there on every setup, the same speed, either amp....

Im hearing this same exact pulse when I power up my furman voltage regulator as well! coming solely from the device.... like the sound of the electricity passing through it- with nothing drawing power from it. And yes, Ive tried all combinations of experiments with this furman out of the equation...

Its like a chk chk chk chk chk

I just tried another experiment, I turned off the breaker that powers this separate studio building, wondering if maybe the wiring was causing some kind of interference on my new genny, even whe n the wiring wasnt in use. Fail. No change.
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Old 7th July 2016 | Show parent
  #17
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by EmptyVessel View Post
Im hearing this same exact pulse when I power up my furman voltage regulator as well! coming solely from the device.... like the sound of the electricity passing through it- with nothing drawing power from it. And yes, Ive tried all combinations of experiments with this furman out of the equation...

Its like a chk chk chk chk chk

I just tried another experiment, I turned off the breaker that powers this separate studio building, wondering if maybe the wiring was causing some kind of interference on my new genny, even whe n the wiring wasnt in use. Fail. No change.
Decades ago I spent months working on a machine tool that was misbehaving. Long story much shorter, the problem turned out to be that ground wasn't clean. This machine sat at the end of a line of induction ovens. They were inducing a 60 Hz saw tooth wave on ground, one volt peak-to-peak. All voltage, no current. At the machine tool, I put a handful of cheap disc capacitors between my signal lines and the ground coming to the machine. Since the noise wasn't power, just voltage, this was enough of a filter to keep the noise out of my signal lines. Problem solved, my servos got instantly solid and and fiercely precise.

So I'm left wondering how solid your ground actually is. Even if you installed a trio of 8' grounding rods (my local code) it doesn't mean it is a good solid ground, just that it's very likely to be a good solid ground.

Since you didn't complete your profile, we don't know where you are. But if you're someplace that's dry (for example, desert southwest USA) your ground might not be a good as you need. If you're near a factory, you might be seeing noise on your ground from them. Your own generators might be throwing enough RFI to induce some noise on your ground. IDK, just some random thoughts.
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Old 7th July 2016
  #18
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You don't have a electric fence nearby, do you?
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Old 7th July 2016 | Show parent
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by JackHenry View Post
You don't have a electric fence nearby, do you?
Nope. We are wayyyy out in the woods. My electrician says he has one of those "tin foil hat friends" and the paranoid guy tested and read up on RF and says we have nearly the lowest RF in the states.
This entire area is totally off grid.
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Old 7th July 2016 | Show parent
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
Decades ago I spent months working on a machine tool that was misbehaving. Long story much shorter, the problem turned out to be that ground wasn't clean. This machine sat at the end of a line of induction ovens. They were inducing a 60 Hz saw tooth wave on ground, one volt peak-to-peak. All voltage, no current. At the machine tool, I put a handful of cheap disc capacitors between my signal lines and the ground coming to the machine. Since the noise wasn't power, just voltage, this was enough of a filter to keep the noise out of my signal lines. Problem solved, my servos got instantly solid and and fiercely precise.

So I'm left wondering how solid your ground actually is. Even if you installed a trio of 8' grounding rods (my local code) it doesn't mean it is a good solid ground, just that it's very likely to be a good solid ground.

Since you didn't complete your profile, we don't know where you are. But if you're someplace that's dry (for example, desert southwest USA) your ground might not be a good as you need. If you're near a factory, you might be seeing noise on your ground from them. Your own generators might be throwing enough RFI to induce some noise on your ground. IDK, just some random thoughts.
Working on the profile... I'm wayyyy in the sticks of Northern California, outside of Sacramento about 3 hours. It's a little dry but far from a desert. It's very green. We now have 2 ground rods both done to local code. No factories for many a mile.
I'd guess if either generator was creating RFI the quality of the noise would change going from my huge diesel genny to my tiny gas genny. Also same noise, albeit louder, without a generator, just off of the batteries.
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Old 7th July 2016 | Show parent
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by EmptyVessel View Post
I also tried moving around the room, it does not affect the buzz at all. So this rules out RF, I am correct? I also find it interesting that its the exact same buzzing sound on either generator. Identical.
I am wondering if I should try driving in a new grounding rod solely for my Westinghouse, to have a completely independent system. If its not RF, isnt ground the only other option?
Again, Ive narrowed it down that its not anything in my pedal chain, nor any combination of things drawing from the same power source. Guitar straight in to amp with nothing else drawing power= noisy.
Am I correct that a ground lift would be a bad idea/not help?
Correction: it does change as I move around. Not much with the guitar, just moving around, unless I move it close to my rack or pedalboard. Which is to be expected I believe. But when it's just a cable with no guitar plugged in the sound changes greatly with elevation: near the floor it's mostly quiet, towards the ceiling its louder. I can coil the cord, hold the metal casing and if I put it in my lap it nearly stops entirely. This seems like my body is grounding it...?
My electrician did multiple tests however and says our ground is good....
Madness...
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Last edited by EmptyVessel; 7th July 2016 at 07:37 PM..
Old 7th July 2016 | Show parent
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EmptyVessel View Post
...But when it's just a cable with no guitar plugged in the sound changes greatly with elevation: near the floor it's mostly quiet, towards the ceiling its louder. I can coil the cord, hold the metal casing and if I put it in my lap it nearly stops entirely. ...
The height factor has got me thinking. I hope I didn't miss the following suggestions as the thread has developed.

There's a small chance that a bluetooth connection could cause electrical noises. Noise is even more likely from wireless analog telephone base stations. More likely than that are dimmers or really nasty old WiMax (802.16, like super WiFi) Internet service. I've not run into any LED lighting that's caused trouble, but dimmers are notorious.

We're all hoping that you can squelch the noise and keep your sanity.
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Old 8th July 2016
  #23
Can you shut off everything in the house except the amp? Basically flip breakers and manually shut down until all that's running is your power source and the amp? If that's clean power up one device or circuit at a time until the noise comes back
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Old 8th July 2016
  #24
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Can you try out your guitar/amp combo in a house that's "on grid" ie in a place where wisdom would suggest you'd be swamped with even more interference...either RF, microwave, cell phone or mains line ? If that checks out ok, then it's something about your off-grid power supply which is awry.

Also, borrow a humbucker type of pickup guitar (or several) from friends or a nearby guitar shop and try them out...maybe it's the pickup ?
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Old 8th July 2016 | Show parent
  #25
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boojum's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by TMetzinger View Post
Can you shut off everything in the house except the amp? Basically flip breakers and manually shut down until all that's running is your power source and the amp? If that's clean power up one device or circuit at a time until the noise comes back
+1
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Old 9th July 2016 | Show parent
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by TMetzinger View Post
Can you shut off everything in the house except the amp? Basically flip breakers and manually shut down until all that's running is your power source and the amp? If that's clean power up one device or circuit at a time until the noise comes back
I've essentially done this. The studio is in a separate "tiny house." I tried shutting off the breaker to the studio and running my amp on solely the little Westinghouse generator, thinking maybe I was getting some interference from the wiring in the walls. No difference. I'll try shutting the whole place down.
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Old 9th July 2016 | Show parent
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by studer58 View Post
Can you try out your guitar/amp combo in a house that's "on grid" ie in a place where wisdom would suggest you'd be swamped with even more interference...either RF, microwave, cell phone or mains line ? If that checks out ok, then it's something about your off-grid power supply which is awry.

Also, borrow a humbucker type of pickup guitar (or several) from friends or a nearby guitar shop and try them out...maybe it's the pickup ?
I just moved out here from Oakland Ca, in the industrial part of town. Couldn't get much more potential for interference than that. My gear was fine there.

My main guitar is a LP with humbuckers. Same noise on all guitars. The CABLE picks up the noise with no guitar plugged in. Then add dirt pedals = unbearable. I find that if I grasp the metal cable housing, where it plugs in to the guitar, it greatly reduces it.
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Last edited by EmptyVessel; 9th July 2016 at 07:55 PM..
Old 9th July 2016
  #28
LETS START OVER.

I just tried yet another power source. A Samlex 600w pure sine inverter. It and my westinghouse 2000ixlt are producing the same exact noise. I seems like it might be at least 2 noises. A very steady hum at a mid/high B pitch. It is very faint from the amp alone but with the slightest gain boost it gets very loud. In addition there is the buzzing that I also get on the big Diesel Generator. The buzzing is comes when the cable is plugged in, even with no guitar. Cable placement and grasping the cable end housing affects the buzz. It goes away when plugged into guitar WITH VOLUME DOWN.

I tested the pure sine inverters with my entire property powered down. No possible interference from the house. We live where, according to a local tinfoil hat conspiracy guy, there is some of the lowest RFI in the country. No electric fences nearby.

Why are both pure sine wave inverters humming.... and buzzing?? How can I test if my new ground rod is truly grounded well?

thanks everybody, I'll get to the bottom of this!
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Old 9th July 2016
  #29
I read somewhere a suggestion might be to connect the amp chassis to the negative(-), any thoughts on this? I barely know the first thing about this stuff guys. But Im learning!
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Old 10th July 2016
  #30
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Richard Crowley's Avatar
Why does your amp hum slightly with nothing plugged in? That may be the root of the problem right there.
Maybe THAT needs fixing before you can proceed with the rest of the chain.

Does the noise increase when you plug in a cable even if the far end is shorted?
Wrap the far plug in aluminum foil plus rubber band to ensure that tip and sleeve are shorted together

What happens to the noise when you plug the far end of the cable into a pedal which is un-powered?

You have to take the audio chain one step at a time and solve the problems before you can proceed to the next.

Just to confirm: You said that EXACTLY THE SAME amp, cables, pedals, instruments, etc. DID NOT make any noise back "on the grid" in Oakland?

What does "connect the amp chassis to the negative(-)" mean?
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