Nobody likes unwanted noise coming out of their guitar amp. Whether it’s a mild hum, an irritating hiss or deafening feedback, you’re going to want a solution. This brings us to the question at hand – Nose Suppressor or Nose Gate?
In this article, we’re going to talk a little about noise in general and maybe help you decide whether or not you need a noise-canceling pedal at all. But first, let’s take a look at which pedal does what.
Noise Suppressors versus Noise Gates
While the term Nose Suppressor and Noise Gate are often used synonymously, there is a difference. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is A Noise Gate?
A noise gate is a dynamic audio processor used to eliminate unwanted noise and feedback by attenuating any signal below an established volume threshold. These are especially useful for metal guitarists using hard-clipping distortion effects.
So, when the noise gate (usually a pedal for guitarists) is adjusted properly, hum and feedback will not pass through the “closed gate”, but as soon as you start to play the gate is “opened” which will allow your entire audio signal to pass through.
What is A Noise Suppressor?
A noise suppressor works to reduce unwanted noise, giving you more control over attack and decay than a typical noise gate would have. While you may have the option to completely “gate” the signal at a particular threshold, you’ll be able to adjust to allow some signal through in an effort to preserve the natural sound.
So, What’s The Difference Between A Noise Gate And A Noise Suppressor?
A noise gate completely blocks the audio signal until your volume threshold is reached (when you start playing). When the volume falls below that threshold, the signal is blocked again. A noise suppressor will allow some signal to pass, while attempting to eliminate unintentional noise.
So, who wins the battle – Noise Gates VS Noise Suppressors? It seems that your equipment, settings and genre may dictate that. Let’s elaborate on the subject as a whole, so you’re better informed to make that decision for yourself.
Do Noise Gates and Noise Suppressors Affect Tone?
Noise gates and suppressors can affect the quality of your signal in some cases. This can be mitigated my using a quality device, placing it properly in the signal chain and adjusting the parameters.
If you’re using heavy distortion, with the proper settings, you’ll likely not notice a degradation in signal quality. One of the most noticeable issues you might encounter is a nasty clipping effect when sustaining notes as they decay. This is also harder to control if you’ve rolled off on your guitar’s volume knob.
Most players who are into raw blues guitar and classic rock tend to steer away from noise reduction pedals, as they’re striving for a more natural-sounding gain structure. You may find that you don’t actually need noise suppression, but let’s touch on that in a minute.
Will A Noise Gate Stop Feedback?
A Noise Gate pedal will stop feedback when used properly. Feedback starts as a sound coming through your amp’s speaker and then gets picked up by your guitar’s pickups. Your signal chain then processes and amplifies that signal over and over again.
Eliminating that initial sound with a noise gate will stop feedback before it even starts.
Do You Actually Need A Noise Gate?
I highly recommend trying to troubleshoot the root of your unwanted noise before resorting to a noise gate. Your culprits could be anything from a daisy-chained power supply to electromagnetic interference or unshielded pickups.
It’s oftentimes the case that you’re using too much gain. Amateur guitarists usually crank up way more gain than they actually need. We’ve all been there. You may think it sounds good by itself, but once you try to put that in with the other tracks, it’s going to sound like mud.
Even a lot of metal guitarists just aren’t using quite as much gain as you might think. When you add the bass and drums in a well-balanced mix, you’ll be surprised if you come off the gain a little. You might even need to roll off the bass some and boost your midrange.
You’re going to get a little noise with high gain settings depending on your equipment. Always be sure to roll off your guitar’s volume immediately between songs and even song parts. And, of course, palm mute the strings during each rest. This will stop a lot of noise.
Only once all this is done if you’re not satisfied, would I recommend a noise gate pedal or a noise suppressor.
Where In My Signal Chain Should I Place My Noise Gate?
As a general rule of thumb, you want to place your noise gate after your gain pedal, but before your time-based effects. More accurately though, it honestly depends on which noise gate you choose and how your equipment is currently set up.
Some scenarios will require you to use a built-in effects loop within the noise gate and there are even a couple of setups where you can incorporate the effects return of your amp. So it can get a little technical if you want it to.
What Are The Best Noise Gate and Reduction Pedals?
MXR Smart Gate
The MXR Smart Gate is straight to the point, tried, true and tested. This is a simple to implement, but quite effective, Noise Gate with a choice of 3 different reduction ranges. MXR often has a package on Amazon where they throw in a couple of instrument cables as well. Can’t beat that!
ISP Decimator II – G String
You can find the ISP Technologies Decimator II on metal-head boards everywhere. Guitarists who rock high gain distortion pedals live and swear by this noise reduction pedal and for good reason. It certainly gets the job done.
In all seriousness, getting the job done is an understatement. If you need a seriously effective noise gate, this is probably your best bet. Often imitated, never duplicated.
The Boss NS-2 is the go-to for noise suppression (in fact, I think they may have invented the term). While the Decimater is the most popular for metalheads, the NS-2 is the most popular noise reduction pedal all around.
There is a small learning curve when you first start using it, but once you get it you’ll surely be thanking yourself. My feeling is that the few guitarists who are critical of this pedal haven’t taken the time to learn their way around it yet.
The differences between Noise Suppressors and Noise Gates are subtle but significant. Arguably your biggest takeaway is that you’ll have more control over what’s allowed through your volume threshold using a Noise Suppressor.
Remember though, you can save yourself some money, and maybe a little tone, by troubleshooting your root causes first.