Noise Gates Part Deux (the re gatening)

Harken Rifflords, Riffladies and everyone in between. I hath returned!

Time for some fresh tips, tricks and incites into the diabolical world of guitars and sound production. I've already pontificated on quite a few subjects in the past, so lets go back and add a bit of expansion to a previous topic.

Using noise gates.

Thats right people. Second only to the tuner the noise gate is the most absolutely indispensible tool in the sound production pantheon, and anyone that believes otherwise can simply kiss my grits. You cannot control the environments in which you play, and any number of factors can introduce unwanted 60 cycle hum into your audio output. This is an issue particularly felt by guitarists that favor single coil pickups or who utilise high gain distorted tones.

So we already know this, this is basic knowledge. However in the workshop i am constantly questioned as to where in the signal chain to put your noise gate to get maximum benefit without negatively impacting your sick tonez.
Lets do this.

If your tone method is to use pedals into a clean or cleanish amp signal placement is fairly straight forward. Simply place the gate after your gain stages in the signal chain.

Gain increases not only the parts of the guitar signal you want to stand out but also the trash parts of the signal you dont in equal measure. To clarify what i mean by gain stages this covers any boosts, overdrives, distortions, fuzzes etc. Place your gate after these effects and tame the beast! all the frequencies want and none you dont. And remember (in most cases) to put modulation, reverb and delay after the gate so it is not negatively effected.

Positioning noise gates after distorted signals seems like a totally sensible way to utilise a gate right? So if your running a sound that achieves its main distortion in the pre amp section of your amplifier it would make sense to put the noise gate in the effects loop right?.......riiiiiggghhhhtt?

Well this is where it can get a little tricky.

I find the easiest way to think about it is to consider before the pre amp before and after as two different zones.

For ease of explanation lets call them zone 1 (before pre) and zone 2 (after pre).

When using a gate in zone 1 what you are really attempting to control is the excess noise picked up by the antenna like qualities of your guitar. For most people this is the more crucial area of control as most unwanted sounds due to electromagnetic interference are stopped here.

So whats the deal with zone 2? Well if you use a high gain amp like a Peavey 6505, Engl Powerball, Mesa Dual Rectifier etc you may have encountered a less than desirable noise floor between the pre and power section of the amp. The noise floor is a background hum that increases with the volume or gain of the amp, and in some cases it can be distractingly loud. By running a noise gate in zone 2 by placing it in the effects loop the effects loop you can tame this noise floor.

One of the frequent unfortunate mistakes many make with the zone 2 gate is to attempt using this gate in zone 2 to tame the issues in zone 1. This is rarely very effective and often significantly "thins" out your overall tone. Detracting from the sound qualities that led you to desire the amp in the first place.

So do i need 2 noisegates?
Well not necessarily.

Many noise gate manufacturers have made products that are able to be run with 4 cable method. Meaning they can be setup to effect zone 1 and 2 simultaneously from the one noise gate.

The old Boss NS2, ISP Decimator Gstring, TC electronics Sentry and SMG Cockblocker all have options to be run in 4 cable method. So its important you identify what you need as it applies to your desired sound and amp/pedal choices.

And just remember if in doubt just get the one with the most options. Choice is always better than lack of choice. Well its good to be back.
I hope this helped demystify the in's and outs of noise gate placement for you all.
As always friends stay safe and riff hard.

Chris Reanimator


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