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Senior Member
Username: edwin

Post Number: 2277
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Thursday, April 14, 2016 - 6:38 pm:   Edit Post

Some of you may have followed my shielding saga. Tonight I went down the Boulder Theatre for Dark Star Orchestra's soundcheck, partially to show their bass player, Skip, my Starfire. I hadn't had it in that room since doing all the latest work on it, so I had high hopes there would be no issues. Well, the directional buzz is still there. It's also present on Skip's Series I with upgrades. But, what makes me think it's not an Alembic thing is that it was also present on Rob's Ibanez WITH HUMBUCKERS! Also Jeff's Travis Bean. They had a kind of comical moment where they all maximized the buzz just for fun.

So, it's clearly a problem with the room. The other day, I was visiting with a neighbor, and he had discovered a wiring problem with the house across the street. Apparently there were huge EMF readings in his house which he traced to the house across the street, which apparently had a wiring fault that resulted in current going into the water pipe and through the houses nearby to get to ground. He found this out because he had a meter that measured electrical fields. He lent me the meter, so when I head back down tonight, I'm bringing it with me to see what I can find.

This whole thing is crazy!
Senior Member
Username: elwoodblue

Post Number: 1879
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Thursday, April 14, 2016 - 9:41 pm:   Edit Post

Cool Edwin!
I love progress when troubleshooting invisible things.I hope later you'll have interesting things to report.

(and I hope that guy fixed the ground fault,a lightning strike wouldn't go well.)
Senior Member
Username: edwin

Post Number: 2278
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Thursday, April 14, 2016 - 10:16 pm:   Edit Post

He did fix the ground fault. My neighbor called the power company and walked them through the neighborhood and showed them with the meter what was going on. He was especially concerned because he has a 1 year old who has lived in this field her whole life. A lightning strike is one thing, but putting the surrounding houses at the potential (pun intended) risk of the effects of high current fields is not cool. My question is how many other houses in our neighborhood have the same problem?

Anyway, during setbreak, we walked around the stage with the meter and there were definite hotspots and the entire area had higher readings than other parts of the building and substantially higher than out in the alley. I'm thinking it would be great to find someone who's really an expert on these things and get them to come down to the theater and try to find the source. One of the techs at the theater said he has been trying to get this sorted out for a long time, but has met minimal enthusiasm from the company that runs the venue when it comes to putting resources into fixing the problem. Everyone knows it's there but no one wants to fix it.

DSO played a great show, though. It sounded really good (and they have front of house engineer, Ralph Pitt, who is one of the best. I've worked with him for years and was psyched to see he's signed on with them). Skip's Alembic sound fantastic.
Senior Member
Username: jimmyj

Post Number: 644
Registered: 8-2008
Posted on Thursday, April 14, 2016 - 10:17 pm:   Edit Post

Any neon signage perhaps at the Boulder Theater? That nice marquee for instance? That's a likely source.

There's a studio in Hollywood on the second story of a small building - with power cables and transformers on the poles right outside the room's long wall. I worked there before upgrading my bass and it was a serious challenge. I plugged headphones into the bass and walked around searching for the quietest spot - which happened to be on the couch in the lounge - so I played my part from there. Even after Ron's magic upgrade there is still some serious hum in that room. But as you say, when the EMF is that heavy we are not alone in our battle. That studio in particular just deals with it as best they can

Your Starfire is probably 100% improved by your efforts. But all the shielding in the world doesn't change the fact that we are applying tremendous gain to the outputs of little antennas, which need to be exposed enough to hear the strings move. That's the nature of it!

Jimmy J
Senior Member
Username: edwin

Post Number: 2279
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Friday, April 15, 2016 - 12:26 am:   Edit Post

Thanks for chiming in!

The neon signs are way at the other end of the building. I'm suspecting either the lighting rig or perhaps the electrical services, which are at the back of the stage. It could easily be that there's a problem in one of the service boxes that is radiating a ton of noise. My guess is that there has to be someone who really knows this stuff and knows how to trouble shoot it. I was blown away to hear how much noise was coming through a guitar with humbuckers.
Senior Member
Username: keith_h

Post Number: 2403
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Friday, April 15, 2016 - 5:45 am:   Edit Post

In old theatres like the Boulder EMF problems could be caused by just about anything. While they get renovated and rewired that doesn't mean all of the early 1900's electrical technology gets removed. I've run into large transformers being left in place that were used for the original (antique) light boards after they upgraded. One historic theatre I ran lights for in the 70's even called the 1920's board Sparky (you can guess why). There are similar electrical noise makers in those theatres that still have their original pipe organs in place. About all you can do is try to find a quiet spot and live with it.

Username: 5a_quilt_top

Post Number: 85
Registered: 6-2012
Posted on Friday, April 15, 2016 - 8:00 am:   Edit Post

Re: noise with humbuckers - if he was using a tube amp, that could be another possible source of the noise issues.

My most recent experience with this was few weeks ago when I played for a wedding in a refurbished old warehouse where the power was unbelievably bad. I was using a humbucker-equipped guitar (normally dead-quiet and chosen specifically for this performance for that reason) through a tube-powered amp and the noise was significant. Not only that, the tone was flat and lifeless - almost like the amp was straining or struggling to breathe.

I've found that poor power has more of an impact on the performance of tube amps than their solid-state counterparts.
Senior Member
Username: flpete1uw

Post Number: 624
Registered: 11-2011
Posted on Friday, April 15, 2016 - 8:28 am:   Edit Post

Back in the day I worked at the Hit Factory recording studios.
On the 5th floor we had a Neve 8068 with unbalanced busses that would pickup local radio stations. No matter what we tried, all the usual grounding tricks, star grounds, a new very substantial grounding cable sent from 5th floor to the basement, etc. we couldn't get it to stop being a very expensive radio! We had a very competent maintenance staff. Eventually we had the space tested and it was found at this height and location was a peak in radio frequency amplitudes!
The fix? A new Neve VR series with balanced busses.

We live in a world of waves
Senior Member
Username: edwin

Post Number: 2280
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Friday, April 15, 2016 - 9:24 am:   Edit Post

Here's a couple shots of Skip and his Series I

Front view:

Hippie view:
Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 6419
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Friday, April 15, 2016 - 9:45 am:   Edit Post

Do I see the infamous third arm in that second pic?

Bill, tgo
Senior Member
Username: edwin

Post Number: 2281
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Friday, April 15, 2016 - 10:38 am:   Edit Post

David, was the noise you were getting with your hum bucking equipped guitar directional? The noise experienced in the Boulder Theater was quite directional.

I do need to readjust my trim pots. So, maybe some more careful work with that might help.
Username: 5a_quilt_top

Post Number: 88
Registered: 6-2012
Posted on Friday, April 15, 2016 - 11:20 am:   Edit Post

Edwin - yes and no. The noise was always present - a hum - and it increased or decreased significantly as I moved around in my space. It was also present in the PA and the solid state keyboard amp, but not as bad as my tube amp (I had the only tube-power piece of gear there).

Also, the first outlet I tried to use for my main power source was far worse than the one I wound up using - which, ironically, was the same one the rest of the band was using. I say "ironic" because typically using the same outlet as the rest of the band will result in increased noise issues for me.

One other unusual thing about that night - we didn't use any lights. Normally those will also create some noise issues, but the venue was well-lit, so we didn't need them.
Senior Member
Username: 811952

Post Number: 2440
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Friday, April 15, 2016 - 12:43 pm:   Edit Post

As one who grew up around am and fm radio stations, the description sounds like RF to me, which could come from any number of adjacent locations..

Username: rv_bass

Post Number: 37
Registered: 8-2014
Posted on Saturday, April 16, 2016 - 5:37 am:   Edit Post

That's a nice looking bass (but the Eden stack looks like a back breaker)! Maybe utilities associated with city hall across the street are affecting things?

I lived across the way from an airforce base at one time. When they fired up their jet engines they would send out communications jamming frequencies (I assume) that would interrupt cell phone and wifi at my house. Happened every time. I asked a friend in the air force about it once, he just smiled and would not confirm or deny. I guess there are lots of things going on now that have unintended effects on electronics.
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 4884
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Saturday, April 16, 2016 - 8:25 am:   Edit Post

GSM Cell phone noise !



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