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My new home studio is being ruined by electro-magnetic aliens...
Old 7th September 2011
  #1
Gear Nut
 

My new home studio is being ruined by electro-magnetic aliens...

So, I just moved into a new apartment -a huge house just outside Boston -and have been very excited, as it has a really nice large room perfect for a home studio. Thus I've spent the last several weeks treating it, building bass traps, planning out diffusers -the works. Awesome.

Except, today I finally was able to unload the last of my guitars and set up the amps to start playing and... hum. Really freaking loud hum. Like turn off your god damn bug zapper hum.

This is where it gets interesting: it has nothing to do with the building's wiring. At first I was thinking the same thing you are: probably a bad ground, or a ground loop, or inconsistent voltage, or a really noisy guitar, or amp, or.... none of that.

I've tried 2 different guitars: a strat, and a 335
through 3 different amps: a fender tube amp plugged into the wall, a Roland micro cube RUNNING ON BATTERY POWER AND NOT PLUGGED INTO ANYTHING BUT THE GUITAR, and DI into my mac
and the hum doesn't go away.

...unless you move the guitar. If I face the guitar due south at juuuuuust the right angle: no hum. Any other direction? Bug zapper.

And... it only happens in the one room. The room that happens to be the only room in the freaking house that is perfect for a home studio... other than the guitar humming. Which sucks 'cause that's what I play. Maybe I should take up drums? Cause nothing else: mics, equiptment, cables, etc... picks up any hum. Just magnetic guitar pickups.

So that led me to conduct my next experiment: grabbing two cast iron skillets out of my kitchen and shielding my guitar (front and back) with them. And what do you know: hum went away just like when I turned the guitar due south.

WTF.

Is there anything I can do to be able to play guitar in my studio? Lead paint? Electric fencing? Concrete entombment? I never saw this one coming... It's such a nice studio otherwise... I'm gonna start crying here.
Old 7th September 2011
  #2
Lives for gear
 
ritelec's Avatar
 

Gotta shield the guitar.

Check out some sights.

My brother in law had that issue with his strat.

He shielded it.

Hum lessened but did not go away.

He now uses a variax when we get together.

His strat does not visit anymore.

-rich
Old 7th September 2011
  #3
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ritelec View Post
Gotta shield the guitar.

Check out some sights.

My brother in law had that issue with his strat.

He shielded it.

Hum lessened but did not go away.
If only it were that easy. As an experiment I actually wrapped the entire body of one of my guitars in several layers of tinfoil and ran it to a copper ground. Made no difference -because it's not a shielding problem. The only shielding that worked was to hold up two cast iron skillets to either side of the guitar. However, doing so is not shielding, as there was no grounding of that took place. This was just putting mass in front of the the magnetic pickups to block whatever the real problem is.

Does anyone know what could be causing this? Power lines outside? Anything?
Old 7th September 2011
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

Maybe its just your electric guitar wire?
Old 7th September 2011
  #5
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ritelec's Avatar
 

Shielding and grounding are two different things I would think.
You shielded (blocked) with the skillets and that did something for you.

Fender Stratocaster- Shielding for Hum Reduction


Maybe we can write to Jeff Beck............he should know.

"I actually wrapped the entire body of one of my guitars in several layers of tinfoil and ran it to a copper ground"

What ground??? You may have just made a larger a finer tuned antenna and receiver.
Old 7th September 2011
  #6
Gear Nut
 

This video does a really good job explaining what shielding actually is. To quote this video: "Shielding without a destination, without a drain, doesn't work." http://youtu.be/FrgupGEXKNs
Old 7th September 2011
  #7
Gear Nut
 

UPDATE!

So, in an effort to figure out what where the hum was coming from (in the air) I conducted yet another experiment. I figured that the first thing to do would be to determine if it was coming from outside or inside the house. So I went downstairs and had my wife throw the main breaker while I sat upstairs with my guitar humming away through my battery powered micro cube.

And..... IT STOPPED. So it's inside the house.

But there was something else that was very interesting... When we turned the power back on... it didn't come back. At least not yet -as we only did this about 10 minutes ago.

Here's what I think is happening: Somewhere in the house there is a piece of copper wire wrapped around some time of iron pipe that's creating a GIANT ELECTROMAGNET. When we flicked off the power it discharged the electromagnet and it's going to take awhile for it to charge back up and create more humming.

So, I think I have two possible solutions: either recirculate the power on a daily basis, or when it happens again flip each breaker one at a time until it goes away, and then trace the wires to see where the magnet is being created.

Does my theory sound feasible?
Old 7th September 2011
  #8
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_Nicks View Post
Maybe its just your electric guitar wire?
No, I've tried two different electric guitars, three different guitar cables, and 3 different amp setups. No differences = Not the problem.
Old 7th September 2011
  #9
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
a piece of copper wire wrapped around some time of iron pipe that's creating a GIANT ELECTROMAGNET.
Sounds so unlikely that the electrician guy that did the wiring of your house will make something like that.
Old 7th September 2011
  #10
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_Nicks View Post
Sounds so unlikely that the electrician guy that did the wiring of your house will make something like that.
Why would that be unlikely? The house I'm renting is quite old, and most of the work appears to be quite DIY. And all it takes to create an electromagnet is a few wraps of wire around a piece of iron, or maybe even around more wraps of wire? Either way, how else can you explain the hum going away when the power was flicked on and off, and then staying away for what has now been about an hour?
Old 7th September 2011
  #11
Gear Maniac
 

ok.. if thats what you really think is the case.. then.. how bout trying to map which area in the room causes your guitar to hum, then tear out anything close to that. be it walls, flooring, ceiling hopefully you would discover theee electo magnet :D
Old 7th September 2011
  #12
Gear Maniac
 

Ohh. heres a wiser idea first. Turn off all your circuit breaker. Run a wire from the main line then towards your room and then to your guitar, see if the hum is still there. This would rest you electro magnetic case :D
Old 7th September 2011
  #13
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_Nicks View Post
ok.. if thats what you really think is the case.. then.. how bout trying to map which area in the room causes your guitar to hum, then tear out anything close to that. be it walls, flooring, ceiling hopefully you would discover theee electo magnet :D
Well, when the hum comes back I'm going to go through each breaker until I find the circuit that's causing the hum and then I guess we'll find out. Also, it's not just one area of the room -it's the entire room, and even a bit into the hall and out onto the street outside. It's a BIG freaking magnetic field.
Old 7th September 2011
  #14
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_Nicks View Post
Ohh. heres a wiser idea first. Turn off all your circuit breaker. Run a wire from the main line then towards your room and then to your guitar, see if the hum is still there. This would rest you electro magnetic case :D
Can you be more specific because this doesn't make a lick of sense.
Old 7th September 2011
  #15
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Rod Gervais's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by oakleaf View Post
This video does a really good job explaining what shielding actually is. To quote this video: "Shielding without a destination, without a drain, doesn't work." Noise Reduction Pt. 2 - YouTube
He is specifically speaking about a shield that is part of the guitar assembly....

Shields that are external from the guitar can work quite well without a ground - for example a Faraday shield does not have to be grounded - it all depends on the shield and the particular frequency you are dealing with.

Rod
Old 7th September 2011
  #16
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ritelec's Avatar
 

Fluorescent lights, motors, dimmers. Magnetic flux/skin effect from a wire wrapped around a pipe........ you need MANY wraps around a core to create that and you would have to be very close.

The video was informative. Thank you. However he was talking about "system" ground. Not radio waves and interference. It's the Strat..... that's what they do.

I'm glad your problem stopped for now..... I doubt turning the breaker off had anything to do with it (but ya never know), it also may have been coincidence that some other factor changed when you turned the breaker off (I've been there). I'm an electrician, and the wraps around a pipe doesn't sound right ....but then again, I've seen stranger things.


edit: just posted, and saw who may be able to help you out.........Hey Rod !
Old 7th September 2011
  #17
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ritelec's Avatar
 

I may be rescinding the strat thought........you say it's happening (or was happening) with a Gibson/Epiphone 388 also?

"it's the entire room, and even a bit into the hall and out onto the street outside. It's a BIG freaking magnetic field."


You living under some high tension wire???? ha ha ha heh


Aliens?????
Old 7th September 2011
  #18
Gear Nut
 

Thanks for the replies guys! But the guitars aren't the problem -as they don't hum when you move them to other rooms in the house. Also, last night (Before I flipped the breaker) I tried unplugging everything in the room (there are no lights in the room as we use lamps) and it didn't help with the humming either.
Old 7th September 2011
  #19
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ritelec's Avatar
 

You mentioned hall and outside????


Just one room? That's an easy one...........There's a portal, some sort of doorway between our reality and another plain. Spooks if you will.



All kidding aside. You may not be able to troubleshoot it till it happens again.

So play away till it does (if it does) and try not to let it bunch you up.
Old 7th September 2011
  #20
Gear Nut
 

Update, update!

Ok, so this morning when I shut off power to the house, and that stopped the humming -even when the power was turned back on.

That is until I turned back on the power strip for my my studio monitors. Then the hum came back. But here's the crazy part: the hum STAYED even after I turned off the studio monitors. And it appears that it's not just the studio monitors: ANYTHING in the studio (lamps, power strips, etc...) that gets turned on makes the hum worse, and turning it off again doesn't really improve it. So it appears that just the circulation of power in the room on any level is making the place hum.

AND REMEMBER: this is happening through a guitar amp that is running on battery power (as well as regular ac guitar amps) and there is no problem in any other rooms of the house... I own 7 guitars, and 4 amps and all of them hum in every combination (if you're just joining us) BUT ONLY in this room. Therefore it has nothing to do with the guitars or amps. Just the wiring.

Is there an easy fix or do I need to replace all of the wiring in the studio?
Old 7th September 2011
  #21
Gear Nut
 

Also, when the power is off in the room (but my battery powered amp is on) -NO HUM.
Old 7th September 2011
  #22
Gear Head
 
Tubemaster's Avatar
 

Replace the wireing in the studio! Electromagnetic fields like that are not very healthy.
Old 7th September 2011
  #23
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ritelec's Avatar
 

Be careful, but you may have to open up boxes and check your hot/neutral/ground connections. If it's the old cloth wire, watch that it doesn't fall apart on you.
Old 7th September 2011
  #24
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ritelec View Post
Be careful, but you may have to open up boxes and check your hot/neutral/ground connections. If it's the old cloth wire, watch that it doesn't fall apart on you.
I tested all the outlets with a standard plug tester and they all checked out as properly grounded and working fine. And it is in fact cloth wire (two wires) running through metal conduit which is what everything is grounded to.

What's my next step before I start ripping out wiring?
Old 7th September 2011
  #25
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ritelec's Avatar
 

Can you locate the 2 wire bx at the panel location? (it also may be a 3 wire at the panel and they're sharing the neutral). You could check that it was actually ground your reading at the receptacle. Separate the metal sheath of the wire from it's bx connector at the panel and check that you do lose ground at the receptacle. Do this with the breaker off. When you turn the breaker back on, don't get between the wire metal sheathing and panel or any other ground as if current is running thru the ground it will go thru you. Ground could still show up at the receptacle if the neutral and ground are touching in the field. Again with out you touching between the sheath and panel, you can use a tester between the sheath and panel to see if you have voltage.... or put some lamps on so there's a load (amperage), and hold ONLY the metal sheath and don't touch anything else. Touching the metal sheath to the box if current is going thru the metal sheath will create a spark (you know what....don't do that. I don't want to see you get hurt....On second thought, I'm in Jersey, I wouldn't see it! Only kidding.....Don't do it).
Also after turning breaker off and removeing wire from connector, turn breaker back on to see if lights come on. If they don't the ground was the return......but......the lights may still come on if the neutral and ground are connected in the field as its returning on the neutral alone now and not both the neutral and ground.

??? I would still open boxes. The neutral could be touching the metal grounded box and current may be traveling across the metal sheath (ground) of the wire back to the panel.

Sorry. You have to confirm that the wiring method and terminations are correct.

FORGET EVERYTHING I JUST SAID.

CALL AN ELECTRICIAN.
Old 7th September 2011
  #26
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ritelec's Avatar
 

Oak,

Can you identify and turn only that circuit off?
Can you identify everything thats on that circuit?
Can you unplug everything thats plugged into that circuit.
If there's an installed switch for any mounted lights on that circuit, turn the switch off.

Check results and start installing plugs and things back on.
Can you look around for the obvious and not so obvious?
Is the basement ceiling open?
Did anyone do Half assed shotty work or splicing in the basement ceiling, or attic (bell transformers, exposed ballasts).

You may have to open boxes in the end. And maybe do some rewiring. Or maybe not.

Put your Sherlock Holmes hat on and be creative.

Very interesting case Watson.........
Old 7th September 2011
  #27
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ritelec's Avatar
 

OK.....one more thought before I bow out.

I'm doubting its your high voltage.

I might suggest getting one or two brand spanking new 1/4" chords and check your gear again...........


Did you mention in your last post "conduit"? Is it Conduit (a pipe,raceway) or is it Sheathing (metal BX as apposed to plastic romex)?

If the two conductors are in a conduit, and there's no ground "wire", that may have something to do with it (as he looks a round his room at the lighting and convenience receptacles that are piped with no installed "ground wire" and there is no hum).

If there's a conduit system, replacing wires shouldn't be too bad as you don't have to rip walls and ceilings apart to pull new single wires through the conduit.


Check you cables Oak.
Old 7th September 2011
  #28
Gear Nut
 

Thanks Ritelec,

I'll mess around when I get home. As I mentioned, each outlet has two cloth covered wires running through a metal conduit that is what each outlet is being grounded to. It's creating an electromagnetic field (only thing it could possibly be) as the guitars are still picking it up even when they are running through a battery powered amp.

I'm curious if anyone has any idea what work of satan could create such a strong electromagnetic field as to make all my amps hum like they are. Maybe there's some hot wires touching the conduit?
Old 7th September 2011
  #29
Lives for gear
 

What type of walls do u have?
Might they be plaster with a wire backing?
Old 7th September 2011
  #30
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ritelec's Avatar
 

Oak,

Check at about 2:20 not sure it will help, but something else to think about.

Ground Loops - YouTube

Its interesting that the loop is in itself starting at about 3:30.

Not sure if it applies but maybe it does or at least something else to ponder on.???.

You did mention amp was in battery mode. Also when your buzz came back (monitors), equipment was interconnected right???
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