Have you ever turned your guitar amp on and head the radio coming through the speakers?
I know, it’s annoying! Why is it happening and how can you stop it?
Why do guitar amps pick up radio stations?
The problem is due to lack of shielding on the electronics cavity is the main reason for radio interference. Similarly, potting of the pickups or guitar cables acting like antennae may also result in amps picking up local radio airwaves and playing out your amplifier speakers.
According to professional musicians and A/V sound experts, this noise issue is a question that continues to be posed by electric guitar players of all skills and levels.
Guitar amps are designed to amplify sounds coming from electric, bass, or acoustic guitars. As electronic stand-alone devices or integrated systems, amps strengthen weak electric signals from pickups on electric guitars. The sound is then channeled through loudspeakers which are usually based in wooden cabinets. Amplifiers are even powerful enough to pick up local radio signals and radio station. This causes guitar amp interference from radio frequencies when playing and may or may not affect your practices or performances. Problem radio noise from an AM station is no fun!
How To Stop Guitar Amps From Picking Up Radio Signals
The first thing that you are going to want to check is the shielding in your guitar’s electronics guitar cavity. Sometimes the shielding was not installed correctly or not installed at all.
What You Will Need
- Shielding material. There are a couple different options – copper foil tape or conductive shielding paint. Both will do the job but each have their own pros and cons. Copper foil tape is cheaper to buy but a little more finicky to install because you have to measure, cut and fit it just right. The paint is very easy to use but it is more expensive. For recommendations on shielding material, I would recommend this Copper Tape EMI Shielding if you decide to use copper tape. For conductive shielding paint, I would recommend this one made by StewMac.
- Multimeter – this one from Amazon is what I would recommend because it is inexpensive and works very well.
Shielding Your Guitar Process
To access the guitar’s electronics cavity, you simply just need to either remove the pickguard or the plastic cover on the back of the guitar. This will depend on the type of electric guitar you have.
Next, either install the tape or paint the shielding on to all the wood in the cavity. The goal is to make sure to cover all wood in the cavity.
When the cavities have been shielded, you will need to make sure that all cavities are connected in order to ensure conductivity. The easiest way to do this is to use a small copper wire or strip of copper foil tape to connect two separate cavities together.
Test the connection between electronics cavities to make sure there are no broken connections.
Check out this video that goes into this in more detail and gives you a visual of what you need to do.
Still Hearing The Radio? Next Things To Try
A good tube amp technician is just a phone call or e-mail away. He or she can check your amp to see if it’s up to date or needs replacement components. The latter may include a new solder joint or solder joints, along with wiring for grounding purposes.
The technicians will also check to see if the amp is picking up radio signals on its own — or only when your electric guitar or acoustic guitar is plugged in to your combo guitar amp. If it’s happening due to the latter, you may need a new cord with durable shielding and protection to stop it from serving as antennae.
They may check the controls on the amp like guitar gain and volume. These may be loose or compromised due to poor wiring internally. For example, noise interference or feedback may only occur when you raise the gain and get a hissing sound.
With this in mind, all inputs, outputs, and controls will be meticulously checked and refortified to perform one function only — amplify your guitar sound.
Here are some more steps to take to prevent amps from getting radio station interference:
- Make sure all the equipment (amp, pedals, etc) are on the same electrical circuit or outlet. This will prevent inter-component interference and signals that your amp may pick up.
- Connect the soundboard and speakers on the same circuit as well. Try swapping out your instrument cable or cables which may reduce or completely stop the amp radio interference.
- You can stop RF noise into the amp by using a shielded cable rather than a guitar one. Also, look for a Radial guitar SGI which converts guitar or pedal to balanced amp signals. This is also ideal in shielding the amps, wires, and connected components from unwanted radio interference.
- Another thing that may help is a power conditioner. I recommend this one from Amazon.
Also check this out – amp humming nothing plugged in
Now you know that the reason why you may be hearing the radio in your guitar amp is because of improper or lack of shielding in your guitar pickup cavities. You should also know how to fix it now! I hope this allows you to now only hear your guitar and not the radio!