How To Eliminate Noise in the Studio

It's time to stand up for our rights as studio musicians and producers! It's time to say NO to buzzing and NO to humming. Keith Crusher explains how to kick noise out of your studio for good.  

We've all experienced it'"the errant hum, buzz or noise getting into our signal chain and making our lives difficult. There are no '

Keith Crusher founded RTFM Records in 1999 and is a 25-year veteran of the music and technology industries with an extensive background in music, video and web design. His many roles have included audio and FOH engineer, producer, photographer, video editor and graphic designer. His technical expertise assists countless companies, prod... Read More

Discussion

Bonzo
Great article Keith, thanks for the pointers. I was trying to record through my line 6 interface onto my laptop a few days ago and couldn't get rid of some high end crackle even though i had unplugged the laptop so it was running and battery and nothing was plugged into the mains (except for the speakers). Is it possible that noise can sneak through from the speakers somehow or is the culprit likely to something else? I live in an old building in Egypt and i don't think the electrics have been touched in 50 years, and we still have the two pin plugs.
Keith Crusher
Bonzo -

Crackle is typically caused by an intermittent connection somewhere in the chain - a bad cable, a loose connection and so on. I'd start by testing your cables one by one to see if you can find the culprit.

Another possible cause is related to buffer sizes and possibly other settings in your DAW. If your computer runs out of CPU power it can sometimes exhibit it as crackles, rather than stopping the DAW and posting an error.

There may be other factors at play - if you can give more details, I can try to help further. Let me know your computer model, the DAW and version you're using, your buffer settings, your signal chain, types of connections you're using - no detail is insignificant and better to provide too much info than not enough.

Cheers!
Bonzo
Hi Keith,

So i've tried out a few different cables and connectors but I have a limited set up so there wasn't really that much i could do. I've upload a sample of the sound for you to one of my Soundcloud accounts (my noise project of course). I only ever plug my guitar in to record, and the sound largely goes away when i'm touching my strings (but not completely). The audio file is of me lightly touching my strings and then removing my fingers a few times. I turned it up much louder than it actually is:

https://soundcloud.com/corruptedbyangels/noise-sample

I'm using a year old HP laptop with Windows 8.1 installed. It's 64 bit with 8GB of RAM. I plug into it a Line 6 UX2 soundcard, which i plug my guitar into. I'm using a (what i thought was) pretty pricey threaded shield which gives me no issues when i'm using it with my amp. I don't have a mixer and to connect to my speakers i use a 1/8 inch stereo jack. It's always seemed the flimsiest part of the chain to me but if i use a 1/4 inch guitar cable i can only hear through the left channel, and as it comes after the recording in the signal chain i assumed it couldn't be the culprit.

I use Ableton 9 as my DAW with the UX2's native driver, but i sometimes use ASIO4all and i don't really find any difference between the two. When i'm recording i always turn the buffer up as high as it can go and mute the channel so the latency doesn't throw me off.

One thing i have noticed is that when i switch my laptop off or it goes to sleep, i start to get a similar (but lower) hum / crackle from the speakers which only goes away if i unplug the 1/8 jack from the soundcard or switch the PC back on.

I'll briefly mention again that there are only two pin plugs here and the concept of earthing a connection is largely unknown. Many times in the past a stray appliance has caused noise for me and i sometimes wonder if it could be something belonging to one of my neighbours who are on the same circuit as me. However, as i get the same problem when i don't even have my laptop plugged in so there are nothing but the speakers plugged into the mains, i'm not so sure any more.

Thanks a lot for having a think about this! :)
Keith Crusher
Bonzo -

Quick question - do any of your devices anywhere in the recording chain have 3 a 3 pin power plug or are you using any 3 pin to 2 pin power adapters (like the one in the 'Please...just don't' image)?
Bonzo
These are the beauties we use here: http://i.stack.imgur.com/1ThlH.jpg
Hence my near certainty that the lack of grounding was my problem :)
Bonzo
After pulling my hair out trying to fix this, I was convinced I was overlooking something basic, and I finally found the culprit to the problem, so I'm writing back quick before I waste any more of your time! :)

Please feel free to use this as an example of why not to overlook the simple reasons because you feel that you are slightly more experienced than to fall for something like a loose connection.

When holding my shields firmly in place in the soundcard input, i noticed that the sound had gone. It was then that i realised that when i let the cable go, the weight of the cable itself was pushing downwards on the connector in the socket and that caused the interference to enter the chain. The shield is pretty long and sturdy and it does weigh a bit. I'm not sure if this is flaw in the soundcard or something gave way in there but it definitely wasn't anywhere close to the building electrics like i suspected in the beginning.

To be honest, if it wasn't for this article making me rethink things, i probably would have just suffered for a while longer while using loads of filters and noise gates to temporarily abate the problem. I will definitely refer back to this article from time to time as my home studio gets incrementally bigger. Thanks again Keith!

John
I have build an battery power bank to power my Roland Mobile-AC and Line 6 Pocket Pod combination. So I'd like to run them both with the same battery source to avoid the hassle with battery swapping and for longer runtime. Unfortunately the Pocket Pod has a significant noise issue from both outputs while having it connected to the same power source as the Mobile-AC. I checked it with my headphones. The issue isn't there when I either drive the Pocket Pod or the Mobile-AC from a different battery power source or the internal batteries. So my question is, why is it so and is there anything I can do against it other than just not use the same battery source.

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