The causes of a buzz or hum coming from your guitar amp can be rooted in the pickups you’re using, interference picked up by your guitar or a grounding issue.
In this article, I’ll go over the most common causes of an amp buzzing, and how to fix it.
So without further ado, let’s just get straight into it, shall we?
What is causing the buzz and how can you fix it?
The pickups you’re using are picking up electrical noise from other sources
If you use single-coil pickups, there’s almost always going to be some sort of buzz or hum depending on your configuration (humbuckers will also create noise, but it’s typically not as much)
This is because when these pickups are directly in front of the amp, they are picking up all the noise that’s coming from it.
This is why most guitars with single-coils require a noise gate in order to reduce this noise to a minimum.
You’re playing close to a computer, TV, fridge or some other piece of electrical equipment that emits interference
Many modern devices are constantly emitting varying types of interference.
When they are close enough to the guitar’s pickups, this is what causes most of the problems related to hum and buzz.
To fix this, you simply need to move the guitar further away from the offending device.
I recommend trying to get at least 2 meters (about 6.5ft) of the distance between your amp and any sources of interference when possible.
When the grounding of your amplifier is not optimized, you will get a constant buzz.
To find out if this is the case for your amp in particular, simply touch the metal casing on your guitar’s strings when it’s buzzing.
If you feel an electric current, then the ground is most likely not properly grounded or set up.
To fix this, you need to make sure that the metal casing on your strings (the string ground) is connected to the same ground as the rest of your amplifier.
If it’s not already the case, you’ll have to get a tech or someone who knows what they are doing in order to set up your grounding correctly.
You are using faulty speaker cables
This is a very common cause, especially if you are using cheap or otherwise unreliable speaker cables.
When the quality of the cable is not adequate, it can pick up interference and create feedback loops that manifest themselves as buzzing.
The only way to fix this issue is by getting new high-quality speaker cables. In the meanwhile, try to get as far away from the amp as possible.
The different types of amps and how to determine if your amp is buzzing
Tube amps are typically more prone to causing buzzing issues, because of how the circuit is designed.
These amps essentially have one long signal path where different components along that path can cause noise or feedback if they are defective or poorly adjusted.
Solid-state amplifiers on the other hand have a much simpler design where this type of issue is less likely to arise.
That being said, the more gain a solid-state amplifier has, the higher the chance that it will cause some sort of noise or hum.
To find out if your solid-state amp is causing any issues, simply use an overdrive pedal in front of it and play at low volume while you are facing it.
If you hear any buzzing or humming coming from the amp, then it’s most likely a grounding issue.
Conversely, if there is absolutely no noise coming from the amp even at high volume and with an overdrive pedal in front of it, then your solid-state amplifier is not causing your issues.
How to troubleshoot your amp and fix the issue
As briefly mentioned above, there are different potential causes for buzzing effects.
If you have no idea which one is affecting your amp, then the best way to find out is by simply checking your wiring and grounding.
Follow each component of your amplifier’s circuit in order to make sure that there are no faulty parts or issues with how it’s set up.
The first thing to check is the wiring of your amplifier.
You should make sure that everything is perfectly insulated and shielded from each other to prevent any unwanted buzz.
You can also try checking your ground by using a multimeter set to the AC voltage setting.
If you see a relatively low voltage (with a maximum of around 10V), then your amp’s ground is most likely not set up correctly.
If this is the case, then you’ll need to get someone who knows what they are doing in order to properly fix it for you.
Another thing you can do, if you have experience with amps and know how to use a multimeter, check the mating surfaces where different parts of your amp connect to each other.
If you see any signs of arcing or a high amount of resistance, then there may be some issue with the mating surfaces that require a tech to deal with it.
Lastly, if none of the ground-related issues seem to apply to your case, you should move on to checking your cables.
Another thing you can do is to use the same ground check procedure as before, by using an overdrive pedal in front of your amp.
If you are still hearing any buzz or humming, then it’s probably time to get new speaker cables.
Different ways to reduce or eliminate the buzz from your guitar amp
If you are experiencing buzzing issues but cannot seem to figure out the cause, then there are ways to reduce it.
The first thing you can do is to try and move your amp’s position around.
You should find a quiet corner of your room or wherever you typically play music at and put some sort of barrier (like a bookshelf or a piece of furniture) between you and your amp while it’s buzzing.
The other thing you can do is turn down the volume on your guitar.
You should only ever use your amplifier at the lowest possible volume that you need in order to hear yourself properly.
If none of these work, then it’s best to consult a tech and have him or her look into your particular case of buzzing.