If you’re curious about the difference between a noise gate vs noise suppressor, you’ve come to the right post!
What Does a Noise Gate Do?
The noise gate is a dynamics-related effect. You may have heard of dynamic compression. Essentially, you set certain parameters and make louder parts quieter and quiet parts louder. You set the ratio and thresholds and the effect does its thing.
But you also have the opposite. This is the so-called expander. It makes loud parts louder and quiet parts quieter. And a noise gate is a form of an expander. To be more precise, it’s a form of a downward expander.
It works the same way its name suggests. Let’s say that there’s this gate. And it will only let a signal through if it’s above a certain level. In practice, it removes the unwanted noise in between the notes.
So if your amp, guitar, or distortion pedal are too noisy, it can keep things silent when you’re not playing. And this can be pretty useful in some settings. It’s especially great for single-coil pickups on high-gain settings.
However, there’s a downside to noise gates. Firstly, if you set the threshold too high, you’ll mute those quiet notes. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for nuanced dynamic playing. But if you set it too low, you won’t remove the unwanted hissing or buzzing.
The second issue is that some types of noise will still appear while you’re playing. And in some cases, it may just sound weird.
However, as I said, it’s useful with active humbuckers and high-gain amps. Some would even argue that you need a noise gate if you’re using active electronics.
What Does a Noise Suppressor Do?
A noise suppressor, by definition, is something different. Contrary to noise gates, these don’t mute the signal entirely. Instead, they filter out the noise, or what we as performers and listeners would consider as noise.
This is, obviously, a much more complex process. And, to be clear, I’m not sure if any guitar pedals actually do noise suppression. Even if it’s marketed as one, they’re all technically noise gates, at least to my knowledge.
Essentially, a noise suppressor will filter out unwanted frequencies. It will, as much as possible, reduce anything you don’t want to hear in the mix. This should happen without damaging the good stuff too much.
However, noise suppression has this reputation for sucking out the life of the tone. Depending on what you want to filter out, you will remove certain frequency ranges from your tone. And in the process, it usually dulls the tone.
As I said, this is a more complex process. And I’m not certain whether it can work in real-time. It’s something that you apply after recording.
Additionally, noise suppression, also known as noise reduction, can’t remove everything. Some things just can’t be fixed.
Noise Gate Vs Noise Suppressor: What’s the Difference?
I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit tricky to wrap your mind around this topic. While these two serve the same function, they give different results.
It’s also a bit of a tricky topic. Almost all of the guitar pedals that deal with noise are, to my knowledge, noise gates.
There are some other examples, like the Electro-Harmonix Hum Debugger. As the company explains, the pedal isn’t a noise gate or a noise suppressor. I’m not exactly sure how this one works. But it can help you remove the cycle hum without damaging the tone.
One thing that you need to bear in mind is that there’s no magic involved here. Nothing can make your tone super clear. You need to set everything up first. And don’t rely on noise gates or noise suppressors. They’re here to help you iron things out.
If you’ve found a pedal out there on the market, it’s most probably a noise gate. And it will help you remove the noise while you’re not playing. Just make sure not to set the threshold too high. Otherwise, you’ll lose some of the stuff that you want to hear.
On the other hand, you can add noise suppression after the recording. However, it’s only good for minor adjustments. If you have a lot of noise in your recording, you’ll suck the life out of it.
The Best Method
At the end of the day, there’s one best method to get rid of the noise in your guitar tone. And that’s setting things up from the very start. If your guitar sounds too screechy or buzzing, then there’s something wrong.
The first thing you should check is whether you have faulty grounding on your guitar. Secondly, check your shielding as it can cause a lot of trouble as well.
And, above all, the electric outlets need to work properly. If you know you have issues with electric installations in your home, try and get a voltage stabilizer.
After checking all this, then you can proceed to set your tone. And noise gate or noise suppression comes at the very end.
I hope this article has helped you think through the differences between these and which is best for you.
Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!