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Horrible buzz with single coils in my apartment

ItsGiusto

Member
Messages
99
Hey everyone. When I take my strat to go play somewhere, it's always a crapshoot. Some places, it works great with minimal hum, and other places, the hum is so loud that it's almost impossible to play while not putting the pickups in a hum-canceling position (like pickup selector positions 2 and 4). This is always the sort of "directional hum" which changes in sound and intensity depending on which way I'm facing and holding the guitar. Sadly, there's often no direction I can face that gets rid of the hum entirely, only mitigate it to some small degree. In places like this, playing with any gain beyond a completely clean tone is an impossiblity.

The problem is not with the guitar, or at least not entirely. The guitar is shielded, grounded, etc and the thing is that it sounds wonderful in many venues. I have been in some situations where turning off theater lighting (possibly fluorescent?) made the hum go away almost entirely. I understand that hum is an occupational hazard with playing strats, and I'm totally cool with that - the only issue comes when the sound is ridiculously loud and overshadows the actual sound of the strings.

My current issue is that the apartment I'm living in has this horrible hum situation, and I don't know how to make it better. What are some things which can make the hum worse or better? Turning off the lights in my place doesn't help, and yet at some times the hum gets a little quieter and it's almost bearable, so there must be something that I can do to make it better. I'd really like to do some recording in my apartment, but it would be impossible to do so with this degree of hum.

I want to emphasize again that the problem is not with the guitar. All of my single coil guitars sound like this in my apartment, and all of my humbucking guitars sound just fine. If anyone has any ideas to try, I'm all ears!
 

EL34

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,277
I grew tired of this problem many years ago. I now have Kinman and Dimarzio Area pickups in my strats and teles. If you take the time to dial them in, the tonal compromises are minimal, if at all.
 

vashondan

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,933
One thing that made a difference in my house was one of the electric heater thermostats. When it was above 60 it hummed like crazy. Another thing you could do is check the sockets in your house to make sure that they're grounded.
 

ItsGiusto

Member
Messages
99
Thanks for the replies. I should have also mentioned that I have no interest in replacing my pickups. Many will disagree, but to me, noiseless single coils just don't sound at all like single coils.

Vashondan, thanks for the suggestion about the electric heater thermostat. My apartment does have electric heating, but I haven't used it since April. Is it possible it's still causing noise, though? I guess I also don't have any idea or any control over what the other people in the apartment might be doing with their thermostats, so it's possible that there is hum coming from their places.

The sockets in my apartment are grounded, at least according to the indicator lights on my surge protectors. Do you have any other ideas of what could be causing the noise? TVs (I don't have a TV, but probably the other people in the apartment have them and it could cause noise) or refrigerators maybe? Should I just start unplugging every appliance to see if it helps?
 

Totally Bored

Member
Messages
9,125
Thanks for the replies. I should have also mentioned that I have no interest in replacing my pickups. Many will disagree, but to me, noiseless single coils just don't sound at all like single coils.
Enjoy your Hum :bonk


Dimarzio 67,67 and a Solo Pro. Have you ever tried this combo. :dunno

I get lots of Hum in my house and I tried lots of stuff and went noiseless a long time ago. I've got all differant types of noiseless pickups in my guitars but I really like the Dimarzios. I have a 2012 Strat that came with Fender Fat 50's. Right away I put the Dimarzios in. I keep reading that many don't like noiseless pups so I put back the Fat 50's to re-evaluate.

Conclusion
Fat 50's sound great but they're not Noisless in the 1,3 and 5 position. The Dimarzios sound just as good if not better and they're dead quiet. YMMV
 

StratoCraig

Member
Messages
3,215
If you can't rewire your home and you don't want to replace your pickups, the best solution is probably the Ilitch backplate. I almost went that route myself, but I decided to get Zexcoil pickups and I'm happy with that solution. Great, classic single-coil tone, no hum.

I don't think it's necessarily true that noiseless pickups can't sound like single coils (except, of course, for the hum). It is true that many noiseless pickups, such as Fender VNs, don't sound right at all. But there are better options out there.
 

335guy

Member
Messages
5,228
Should I just start unplugging every appliance to see if it helps?
This is a reasonable idea. If the hum you're experiencing is from an appliance or electrical fixture, then turning off that appliance/fixture should solve your problem. But if your hum problem is something else, like a ground loop within the apartment's wiring, then perhaps try a device like this. If it doesn't help, you can always return it.

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/HumX
 

ItsGiusto

Member
Messages
99
This is a reasonable idea. If the hum you're experiencing is from an appliance or electrical fixture, then turning off that appliance/fixture should solve your problem. But if your hum problem is something else, like a ground loop within the apartment's wiring, then perhaps try a device like this. If it doesn't help, you can always return it.

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/HumX
335guy, is that device to prevent ground loops? Are ground loops the sort of thing that could make noise only for single coils, but not for humbuckers, because my humbucker guitars sound fine. I assumed that meant the problem was some sort of electromagnetic interference, but I don't really know much about how all of this works.
 

335guy

Member
Messages
5,228
335guy, is that device to prevent ground loops? Are ground loops the sort of thing that could make noise only for single coils, but not for humbuckers, because my humbucker guitars sound fine.
Hum in audio components maybe caused by a number of things, and in my experience, traditional single coil pickups are much more susceptible than humbuckers, which are deigned to "buck the hum". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humbucker

So while your guitars with humbuckers may not have problems, the single coil equipped guitars can. A ground loop is only one type of hum inducing phenomena. All you can do is try to find the source of the hum, and eliminate it. I can't say if a ground loop in your apartment's wiring is the problem, only that it might be. I've used humbucker equipped guitars in poor environments and had no hum. Then in the same environment, a single coil equipped hummed and buzzed badly.

"Ground loops are a major cause of noise, hum, and interference in audio, video, and computer systems."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ground_loop_(electricity)
 

ItsGiusto

Member
Messages
99
Install an Ilitch System = No more noise!
Well, for all of you pushing the ilitch system I guess you've piqued my interest, though I would only install it if it were on a switch so I could get the original tone back for non-noisy environments (I'm not convinced that there will not be tonal side effects of the system). Is there a way to install it as such?
 

ItsGiusto

Member
Messages
99
Dimmer switch
Notorious for inducing hum
I do have a dimmer switch in my apartment. Are those supposed to cause noise even while the lights are off, because the buzz is there regardless in my situation.
If the dimmer is the problem, what might I do to fix it?
 

Silent Sound

Member
Messages
5,247
You're going to have to find the root of the hum in order to eliminate it. And unfortunately, there may be more than one source of hum. There may be dozens. And the problem might not be in your apartment, but in your neighbors. In other words, the only way to eliminate the hum for sure is build a Faraday cage inside your apartment and run everything inside it off of batteries. Otherwise it could be your lights, your dimmer switch, your refrigerator, your neighbors lights, the power lines outside your window, a bad connection in your circuit breaker, a bad instrument cable, a poorly connected wire inside your guitar, gremlins, a funky power generator your neighbor thinks he needs for the end times, that neon Budweiser sign your neighbor thinks looks so rad that you don't even know about, a botched wiring job from when the contractor used his idiot brother to wire the building instead of doing it himself, etc, etc. Hell, it could be the power transformer off the amp you're playing the guitar through!

So, either get new pickups, learn to live with it, use the hum canceling positions, or get started testing every electrical device within a 100 yards or that's plugged into the same circuit. It might be something simple. It might be something strange. It might be multiple things causing it. But if I was the captain of a sinking ship, I'd rather look for a way to plug the hole than figure out a way to drain the ocean.
 

1radicalron

Senior Member
Messages
2,054
The Ilitch can be defeated with a push pull pot. Essentially removing it from the signal. - It does not color the tone!
 




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