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 stations. This causes interference when playing electric guitars and may or may not affect your practices or performances.
So why do guitar amps pickup radio stations? According to professional musicians and A/V sound experts, lack of shielding on the electronics cavity is the main reason for interference. Similarly, potting of the pickups or guitar cords acting like antennae may also result in amps picking up local radio airwaves. This is a question that continues to be posed by electric guitar players of all skills and levels.
Guitar Amp Interference Causes
Here are some more reasons for guitar amp interference:
- Poorly shielded cables to and from the guitar will cause interference in the amp. If you need new cables, I highly recommend these ones from Amazon.
- Power cords may also pick up radio signals even if they are carrying 115 VAC.
- The wiring of your home may also cause the amps to hone in on local radio signals and station airwaves. You may hear static and fuzziness — but stronger amps will produce clear radio sounds.
- Guitar amps serve as both input and output speakers so they are designed to capture and emit sound. You may also have electronic items that are in the way of amps causing interference and varying levels of sounds that are being picked up.
Amp shielding and grounding must be current in order to prevent radio interference. If your amplifier is picking up interference or radio nose, there are several ways to restore its optimal functionality and performance. In the next section, we will discuss some of the techniques used to keep your amps noise and radio signal/airwave free.
How To Stop Guitar Amps From Picking Up Radio Signals
A good 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 new 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 electrical guitar is plugged in. 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.
The technicians will also check the controls on the amp like gain and volume. These may be loose or compromised due to poor wiring internally. For example, noise interference 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 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 cables which may reduce or completely stop the amp radio interference.
- You can stop RF noise into the amp by using a shielded mic 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 great option is to shield the electronic cavity with metal tape. The latter is specifically designed to prevent interference from one component to another. If all the above fails, simply take your amp into a local music instruments center for more assistance or replacement.
Keep your Guitar Amps Interference Free
There’s nothing more exciting for an electric guitar enthusiast to produce innovative music with an amp. However, constant radio interference truly takes away from the excitement of powerful cords and riffs over amps and speakers. With this in mind, make sure to use new wires and balanced lines everywhere possible. This is very important in reducing or eliminating static, hiss, and especially interference from both internal and external signals.
Inspect your guitars to ensure they too have proper shielding. Sadly, many instruments have minimal shielding so it’s important to see which units may need additional refortifications. For folks with smaller spaces or cramped apartments, consider moving your studio to a new location. Another option is to build a metal cage around the studio and ground it. This will definitely protect your amps, wires, and components from annoying RF and AM/FM signals.