How do you get truly noise-less guitar tones?

I’ve been playing at playing guitar and home recording for quite a while now. I only record for my own enjoyment and I’ve got some pretty basic gear. One thing that has eluded me is how to get those truly clean (free of extraneous noise) guitar tones. My clean tones always seem to have some noise in the background and adding gain just makes it worse. I can’t manage to dial in a pristine tone, clean or distorted.

I have a MIJ Strat (single coils) that I’ve shielded with copper tape and conductive paint. I also use a Washburn/Lyon with humbuckers. My interface is a TC Konnekt 6, I use a PODxt and sometimes a small Behringer mixer. I’ve tried all sorts of wiring configurations. I’m plugged into the same power circuit (I don’t believe I’m dealing with ground loop issues). Noise gates help some but no matter what, I get noise in my signal.

I’ve been thinking of maybe trying some ‘noiseless’ pickups or maybe even active pickups? I don’t know.

I hear lots of great recordings here from folks with nice clean guitars… I’m just wondering if there is something basic I’m missing?

Yeah that’s an interesting topic, I do have a similar issue sometimes, only on distorted sounds though. Sometimes I use substractive EQ to get rid of the most offensive frequencies but only as a last resort. I hate noise gates, you can rarely get away without getting a hideous result on sustained notes.

A passive DI (transformer based) box can help. Hi-Z input, low Z balanced output that you plug into a microphone input on your interface.

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I have a Fender American Strat with N3 noiseless pickups, and they aren’t actually noiseless. There’s less noise than I had from regular single coils, but it’s still there. Just FYI. :slight_smile:

What sort of noise are you getting? You can do some troubleshooting to see where the noise is coming from. Some things to consider:

Are you using a power conditioner?
If you move/rotate the guitar around, does the noise change? For recording, you can often find a pretty good guitar position and stick with it. Certain other electronics in the house can really effect this sort of noise as well. I’ve heard that dimmable lights are pretty big offenders here.
Is the noise there if you just run through an amp?
Does the noise change depending on what pickup you’re using?

Just some ideas. I would try and figure out where the noise is coming from. Something else you can try is one of those noise cancellation plugins on the track. If the noise is quite loud and takes up many frequencies, it’ll probably ruin the tone, but if it’s just something minor it could help clean it up.


@Cristina is right with her answer(s) and this tip (moving, changing positions) is one of the best places to start. It’s not uncommon to run into some interference when your guitar is facing your computer monitor while recording. Either way, turning different directions can help isolate if the noise is from pickup interference or ground related issues. It’s a great starting point

Thanks for the tips. Good to know about the ‘noiseless’ pickups :slight_smile:

I am only using a surge suppressor and my home is an older structure with cranky old wiring. My recording rig has two flat-panel monitors that don’t seem to be a problem. (My old CRT’s used to induce all sorts of noise depending on the position and proximity of the guitar.) So it seems the noise is coming from the various connections (so maybe it IS a ground loop related issue?).

Typically I’m going from the guitar > PODxt > TC Konnekt 6 (FireWire) > PC. JBL Powered monitors are connected to the Konnect 6 (1/4" to XLR.) I have an amp but typically it goes unused. I’ll have to pay closer attention and test the same signal chain to the guitar amp. I don’t have any dimmers to consider. Recently I’ve even removed the PODxt in favor of some amp-sim plugins.

Perhaps I should consider an actual power conditioner for my setup for a cleaner power source. I took a look at some DI boxes as well. They seem to be rather affordable options to try out.

Is you wiring 3 prong (hot/neutral/ground) ?

Yes… all grounded plugs.

You probably know this, but just because there is three prongs doesn’t mean everything is hooked up properly. A $10 circuit tester should get plugged into every plug and register properly. Also good to have all power to all equipment on one circuit if possible, and check grounds on all equipment, audio or otherwise. Here’s an article.


Good tips above. Gain staging is ultra important as well.

There are many ways to look at this. It would probably help a lot if you could post an audio file (or several) of what you are talking about. It seems you have addressed guitar noises, and are not using regular guitar amps but a modeling amp (which could actually be a noise maker).
Some things to consider:

  • Is your guitar playing technique contributing to noise? To play a guitar smoothly, with no muted string noise or fret buzz, can be quite an accomplishment. Until you reach that point, playing guitar can be quite frustrating. You say you have been playing for quite awhile, but from my own experience it is something I struggled with for a long time … even after I felt I could “play well”.
  • Are you measuring this noise effect in a mix with other instruments? A focused guitar player can also be a perfectionist. If you listen to guitar tracks on professional recordings, you might be surprised by the background noise, slurred notes, and peculiarities of the soloed tracks. But when the whole song (tracks) is played together, some of these distractions disappear. Make sure you’re not being overly picky in how your tracks are going to be used.
  • As mentioned, noise gates can be rough sometimes. You can try an Expander instead, which is usually a bit gentler in boosting the louder sounds and suppressing the lower sounds (i.e. noise).
  • Worst case scenario, you can edit your recorded guitar tracks to take out the noise between chords and notes. This may take you .5-1 hour per track, but may be a workaround for now compared to other options.

Thanks. I’ll have to research this part further… but just read an interesting introductory piece here:

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While I have not actually tested each outlet, I have kept all gear on the same circuit. I guess I have my work cut oout for me for the next weekend or two. :slight_smile:

While I don’t consider myself an accomplished player, the noise I refer to is not from my ham-fisted technique. :slight_smile: It’s definitely electronic noise, mostly static/hum in the background. A gate can quiet things down in between playing but you can still hear it while notes are ringing. I’ll be trying all of the various suggestions provided. If I continue to have the issues I’ll try to put up some examples. Thanks a ton!

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Try arming a track and turn up the input of your preamp/interface all the way with no axe plugged in and see if you get the same extraneous noise (but louder). If that is the case, it’s your interface picking up interference and might have a grounding issue. Physically move the interface around and see if the sound changes. When I record thru my small presonus interface I can get away with just turning it upside down while I record gtr or bass. It’s dumb, but it works.
On my laptop setup, I was able to just run a ground wire from the chassis of the interface to the center screw of the outlet the laptop was plugged into.
Ground loops are everywhere and yet they only cause issues when there is a significant difference in the path. Adding a superior, solid ground close to the source can help in many cases.
But the problem in most cases is less than ideal grounding rather than multiple grounds.
Try the interface first…
have fun

Thank you all for you suggestions. I tore my rig apart and reassembled my gear in a new configuration. I paid close attention to all connections (both audio and power) and made changes to audio levels each step of the way. I also set up my FX in an effects loop style instead of just putting things inline.

At this point I think this is the quietest I’ve ever had it! I believe concept of ‘gain staging’ has probably helped the most and it caused me to totally re-think how I go about setting levels between bits of gear. Even with the single-coils of my Strat I’m getting some really nice, noise-free, clean tones. I might still pick up a DI box to have… but your collective advice has made a huge difference in the quality of sounds I’m getting,

Currently I’m running the following setup:

Guitar > Ch1 UB1202 Mixer > Fx Out > PODxt > an old HUSH pedal > Ch2 UB1202
UB1202 > TC Konnekt 6 > PC/DAW
Powered Monitors and headphones connecting to the Konnekt 6 for monitoring.

This is allowing me to use the PODxt when I want to and to dial it out if I want to send the no-FX guitar signal direct to the DAW for PlugIns and Amp Sims. The only thing I’m giving up for now is the stereo effects of the POD.

Thank you .


I too have used a DI box alongside my primitive recording skills, and yes, it certainly helps!

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I have one of these and they help with noise: GND Lift button. My Fender creates a fair bit of noise , but i turn the volume gain down on guitar a touch.I also use a noise gate on the input of the Axe Fx but you need to careful it doesn’t squash the life out of the tone… My Gibson SG on the other hand is fantastic on clean tone (not noisy at all) …

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An Expander would be worth a try.

Do everything you can to reduce the noise and then after that use things like gates, expanders and spectral tools to reduce it further. If you are only using those tools it will cause artifacts, but if you use just a little they can get rid of that last little bit of noise.