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Author Topic: Intermitent buzz through all sound devices  (Read 3722 times)

Dan Tuttle

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Intermitent buzz through all sound devices
« on: November 04, 2018, 01:07:18 pm »

This may seem like a silly question and I really don't know if there is a cure for it, I've noticed for years now what seemed to be a buzz for a few seconds coming through my home entertainment system, like an old freezer starting up, around five years ago I started a very small recording studio, the house I lived in at the time was a farmhand house built in the thirties, I always attributed that buzz with the old structure, how could you not, non-grounded cloth covered wiring has got to cause some sound issues, lol, I moved over 35 miles away into a place in town, I know the builder and the place is only fifteen years old, good wiring, same buzz, I started unplugging things, the freezer, fridge, well to a point almost everything except the audio equipment and still the buzz, I moved the studio to a downtown building in which only music and recording equipment were plugged in and still the buzz, it comes from everything putting out sound, guitar amps, PA, studio monitors, tv, but strangely not anything recorded direct, say a guitar through a direct box straight into the daw, though a live session it's audible through the mics as it's an audible sound. I hadn't payed too much attention before getting into recording and this has probably been happening for years, I've just never payed attention to it, now that I've heard it, I can't unhear it, it happens once or twice a day, or sometimes four or five times an hour, I've come to the conclusion that it's got to be something to do with the power station switching for more or less power consumption in my area, I am within a hundred miles of three power producing damns and a lot of power comes from them, so the question is, am I the only one hearing this anomaly? and is there anything to lessen the effects of it, I'm just curious what others thoughts are, it hasn't been a real big problem though I have had to redo some tracks because of it, thanks in advance for any comments on this.
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Intermitent buzz through all sound devices
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2018, 01:19:15 pm »

This may seem like a silly question and I really don't know if there is a cure for it, I've noticed for years now what seemed to be a buzz for a few seconds coming through my home entertainment system, like an old freezer starting up, around five years ago I started a very small recording studio, the house I lived in at the time was a farmhand house built in the thirties, I always attributed that buzz with the old structure, how could you not, non-grounded cloth covered wiring has got to cause some sound issues, lol, I moved over 35 miles away into a place in town, I know the builder and the place is only fifteen years old, good wiring, same buzz, I started unplugging things, the freezer, fridge, well to a point almost everything except the audio equipment and still the buzz, I moved the studio to a downtown building in which only music and recording equipment were plugged in and still the buzz, it comes from everything putting out sound, guitar amps, PA, studio monitors, tv, but strangely not anything recorded direct, say a guitar through a direct box straight into the daw, though a live session it's audible through the mics as it's an audible sound. I hadn't payed too much attention before getting into recording and this has probably been happening for years, I've just never payed attention to it, now that I've heard it, I can't unhear it, it happens once or twice a day, or sometimes four or five times an hour, I've come to the conclusion that it's got to be something to do with the power station switching for more or less power consumption in my area, I am within a hundred miles of three power producing damns and a lot of power comes from them, so the question is, am I the only one hearing this anomaly? and is there anything to lessen the effects of it, I'm just curious what others thoughts are, it hasn't been a real big problem though I have had to redo some tracks because of it, thanks in advance for any comments on this.

I can assure you it's not The Grid switching or there would be pitchforks and torches from the unwashed masses...

Since the problem moved when you relocated - logic says you took the problem with you.

My guess is you have a piece of gear with a PSU problem.  Unplug every piece of non-essential gear from both the signal chain and the electrical service.  Wait and see what happens.
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"Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."  - Kurt Vonnegut

Dan Tuttle

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Re: Intermitent buzz through all sound devices
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2018, 03:38:08 pm »

Thanks Tim For the comment but as I stated I've unplugged everything in the house except my alarm clock and it didn't go to the studio, I've also heard this at my parents, a few of my friends, and a few businesses in the area, I, like you thought it was something I owned and brought with me, but when I first noticed it I was using my home computer with the DAW and a Presonus audiobox, when I moved I started using a laptop and an 18 ch A/D converter, when I moved the studio downtown, I got a new desktop and a new A/D converter, amps are stored unplugged, and I've had a few different sets of monitors, the thing is it happens at my house and my studio, if I'd brought the culprit with me only one place would have the sound anomaly but it is present at both and in all sound producing equipment, amps, PA, monitors, and home electronics. It happens less in winter and way more the hotter it gets which leads me to the theory it's the grid as more AC units are sucking more juice in the heat, and a sound like this is easily dismissed as a fridge or freezer starting up by the general public, in fact when I've mentioned it to others they've said they had never payed attention to it but since it was pointed out they've been hearing it as well, it's like you hardly ever see a certain kind of car until someone mentions it, then they are everywhere, lol
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Mike Sokol

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Re: Intermitent buzz through all sound devices
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2018, 09:17:23 pm »

I once chased my own tail around for weeks until I figured out a buzz that was happening in my studio nearly every day around sunset was actually caused by a cheap triac dimmer in the dining room of my neighbor's house. There were houses on my block that were all served by the same transformer, and when she ate dinner as the sun was going down she would turn on her lights to about 50% brightness. I figured this by noticing that the buzz only happened for an hour around sunset. So I went outside and watched for anything happening around sunset. When I saw the light come on in her dining room two houses away I had a feeling that was the source of the buzz. The point is rather than simply randomly unplugging things trying to find the source of the buzz, see if you can identify a pattern. Failure patterns can often hint at their source. 
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Intermitent buzz through all sound devices
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2018, 09:34:26 pm »

Thanks Tim For the comment but as I stated I've unplugged everything in the house except my alarm clock and it didn't go to the studio, I've also heard this at my parents, a few of my friends, and a few businesses in the area, I, like you thought it was something I owned and brought with me, but when I first noticed it I was using my home computer with the DAW and a Presonus audiobox, when I moved I started using a laptop and an 18 ch A/D converter, when I moved the studio downtown, I got a new desktop and a new A/D converter, amps are stored unplugged, and I've had a few different sets of monitors, the thing is it happens at my house and my studio, if I'd brought the culprit with me only one place would have the sound anomaly but it is present at both and in all sound producing equipment, amps, PA, monitors, and home electronics. It happens less in winter and way more the hotter it gets which leads me to the theory it's the grid as more AC units are sucking more juice in the heat, and a sound like this is easily dismissed as a fridge or freezer starting up by the general public, in fact when I've mentioned it to others they've said they had never payed attention to it but since it was pointed out they've been hearing it as well, it's like you hardly ever see a certain kind of car until someone mentions it, then they are everywhere, lol

Then a call to your utility company PQ engineers might be in order.  If it's really grid switching, there is no solution other than full conversion UPS power for your studio gear or your own generator.

I grew up on the Left Coast and we got some of our power from the PNW via DC interconnect and convertor stations (the Sylmar, CA station wasn't far from us) so there was a fair amount of switching as load rose and fell.  Never noticed it, never had neighbors mention it.  Might have been the SOTA for audio back then - lots of iron cores, big capacitors, etc. that kept us from noticing.  If Walter Cronkite didn't fade out the power was okay!

It's odd to me that switching would present as a buzz.  I'm no distribution guy but the only thing I can think of is switching between frequency-unsynchronized sources, and that's pure speculation.  Again, a call to your PoCo's engineering dept might be revealing or at least educational.

If you call them let us know what they had to say.

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"Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."  - Kurt Vonnegut

Stephen Swaffer

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Re: Intermitent buzz through all sound devices
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2018, 10:19:08 pm »

But why would noise on the grid cause a buzz in a sound system?  A lot of modern equipment uses switching power supplies that are happy with anyting from 90-240 volts at 50 or 60 HZ and put out DC voltage(s) that actually power the electronics involved.

I've had a bad CFL create interference in our system at church-but I don't think the entry path for the noise was power wiring.

Of course, every switching power supply is a potential source of distortion and noise on the grid-but still the audio amps are pretty isolated from the grid.
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Steve Swaffer

Mike Caldwell

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Re: Intermitent buzz through all sound devices
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2018, 11:57:48 pm »

I worked quite a while for a cable TV company and at one point we started getting complaints of "static" in the picture on a couple of off air channels we were pulling in from the tower antennas. Every night to some degree bands of electrical interference would show up on those channels and come and go all night.

One night I was leaving work and just as I stepped outside one of the mercury vapor security lights shut off and just barley glowed for a while and then kicked back on and cycling like that all night I guess.
Guess what was causing the intermittent interference......watching the TV while looking out the window proved the hunch I had. The next day a new ballast in the light, problem solved.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2018, 06:01:23 pm by Mike Caldwell »
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Brian Jojade

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Re: Intermitent buzz through all sound devices
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2018, 11:33:23 am »

You are using the same audio equipment, yes?  Do you have a surge protector in your system anywhere?  If so, a failing/leaky unit can certainly cause the issue you are describing.
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Jerome Malsack

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Re: Intermitent buzz through all sound devices
« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2018, 11:51:16 am »

it is possible that a switching power supply could cause the hum.  are there any non polarized plugs on the switching power supplies?   try reversing the plug and see if it removes or reduces. 
« Last Edit: November 06, 2018, 12:24:49 pm by Jerome Malsack »
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Intermitent buzz through all sound devices
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2018, 11:57:44 am »

Until someone explains how grid switching will cause the problem described by the OP, I'm sticking to the problem existing in his rig, somewhere.... somehow.
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"Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."  - Kurt Vonnegut
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