Guitar amps can go bad in an instant of time. Buzzing noise, crackling noise, humming etc. There are million potential problems that can occur at any time.
In this article we’re going to analyze those sound problems. Sometimes, guitar amps start to cut out the sound output. It can really become irritating. You can have an amp that’s working perfectly for about 10 minutes, until the cutting starts. Sometimes you hear just too much buzz coming out of a speaker.
How to fix it? There are so many possible things that can cause these sound issues. Here, in this article we’re going to try to cover most usual situations that cause guitar amp to cut out.
Detect The Problem
Cutting out can occur in many different ways. It is crucial to detect in what way does your amp cut out the sound output.
Ask yourself some questions. Does it cut out when you play high notes? Does it cut out soon as you begin to strum? Or is it soon after you turn up or down volume, tone, treble/mid/bass pots?
It is the same with buzz noise. Is it noisier when you turn the volume up? Or do bass strings cause that noise? Or high string notes?
These questions can help in detection of where the real problem is.
1. Bad Cable
Let’s go with easiest things first. Cable. Cable do become bad after some time of use. That’s inevitable.
Maybe the cable itself is in fact the real reason of cutting out or buzz. That can often be the case.
How to check if your cable is in fact causing cutting out of sound?
First, obvious action you can take is to try to play with another cable. If you have another cable, switch it and see if it makes any difference.
Second, you can plug the cable in your amp and put your thumb on its other, free, end. Pay attention to the buzzing sound. Is that buzzing “nice”, like, is it “clean”, straight buzz you hear when you do it?
If it is, then your cable is OK. However, do the next thing, just to be sure.
Try to wiggle your guitar cable while your thumb is pressed on its free end. Does that change buzzing sound?
If the sound you hear is somehow crackling, changing volume, gain, and tone – than your guitar cable is bad. Popping and scratching of sound are most common signs you have a bad guitar cable.
If you don’t hear any difference in the sound while you wiggle a guitar cable, than your guitar cable is perfectly fine.
Cables with thicker cord have better quality, as they provide better protection. Also, they block noise better. They provide better signal, in general.
Check this short and cool video in which you can see for yourself how to check the quality of your guitar cable.
2. Bad Guitar
Next thing you want to check out is your guitar. Guitar itself can be a cause of the sound cutting out, buzzing noise etc.
If you have another electric guitar, try to plug it in to see if there’s a significant sound difference. Ask your friend to try it with his guitar, or take your amp in guitar center and try it on different guitars there.
The most common problem for this particular case is a plug in jack. Plug in jacks can get loose. Wires can detach from the jack itself, also.
Here, from this picture below, you can see a plug-in jack from my electric guitar.
Bolt became loose and it fell from the jack over time. Jack itself hanged loose and wires detached from it. After I soldered their joints back, I taped the jack with scotch tape. Yes, it looks ugly and messy, but the sound stopped cutting.
I know, this might not be the problem causing YOUR amp to cut out, but you should check it, anyway.
3. Amp Jacks
Guitar plug-in jack is one thing, but more common problem are those amp jacks where you plug your guitar cable, or phones.
Maybe the problem is neither your guitar cable, or guitar. Maybe the problem lies in amp sockets not working properly. By this, I mean they do not transmit the sound signal well.
That may be due to numerous reasons, but whatever the reason is – it can often be solved just by proper cleaning.
How to do it? Obviously, you don’t want to use any cleaning agent from your kitchen. For this purpose, you can just apply a few drops of a rubbing alcohol on a Q-tip.
Q-tips are perfect in this case. Put them in your amp jacks and rub them thoroughly. You should see dirt accumulated on a tip, meaning there was a dirt inside your amp jacks.
Try to do it, and then wait for an hour, just to be sure everything dried out. Now, try to plug in your electric guitar. See if there’s a difference. If it is, then those jacks were obviously causing your amp to cut out.
Pots, both on your guitar and an amp, can cause sound cutting out. Especially if they’re not used for some longer period of time. Many factors can affect tone pots proper functioning, which, consequently, affects the sound output.
Does you hear sound cutting when you turn pots around. If that’s the case, then those pots, or one particular pot, is the problem, obviously.
You know these situations when you try to set up the tone, and you need to turn the pot just a little bit? And all of a sudden, sound cuts out? Yes, that happens often, and it’s pretty frustrating.
Luckily, there is an easy solution for this issue. You’ll have to get yourself one electronic contact cleaner. WD40 is perhaps the most recognizable brand for this purpose.
It removes oil, dirt, dust and all kinds of unwanted residues from a surface of any sensitive electronic part. Check this special type on Amazon, here.
Anyway, to do this, you’ll have to disassemble your guitar amp. Once you do it you’ll see something like this. (picture below)
You’ll see this circle wheel for each knob/pot with a hole. Squirt spray inside for a few times. Don’t worry, this cleaner liquids disappear after few seconds completely.
If you’re not experienced in doing this, it is probably the best idea to take your amp to electronic technician, where all of needed actions will be performed correctly and properly.
5. Solder Joints
Broken solder joint on a circuit board inside your guitar amp may be the real problem. Make sure you check it out.
Solder joints broke, due to many reasons. Temperature change, relative humidity being too high or too low, physical damage and so on.
To fix it, you’ll need some professional tools, like solder sucker and solder iron. Anyway, if you’re not experienced in doing this kind of repairs, I strongly advise you to let professionals do it.
If you want to know how it’s done, check out this cool and short video where you can see the whole process.
6. Power Cord
Power cord plugged in back of your guitar amp may go bad. Make sure you check it out. As it’s been already said, thicker cables are better.
They protect the main core of the cable inside better. Usually we step on cables. They are lying on the floor, after all. Thicker cables do provide better protection from outside pressure.
In this case, it can be one of two problems. It is either your power cord has gone bad, or the jack for that power cord gone bad. Or both.
Either way, try to change your power chord and see if there’s a significant difference. Or try this: wiggle your power chord when your amp is turned on, with guitar plugged in.
You see, this is the same trick described for checking if guitar cable has gone bad. If you notice any significant difference in sound output by wiggling that power chord, then the power chord is affecting the sound quality.
If it’s not the power chord, then it may be the jack that makes problems. However, to check this, you’ll need to let your amp be examined by a professional.
7. Room Effect
My guitar amp has significantly better sound output when its put in living room. On the other hand, when I play my guitar on an amp in my small room, it buzz more.
Obviously it’s because of a room where an amp is placed.
Why is that so? It has to do something with sound reflecting from walls back to the speaker. Try to change positions of your guitar amp. Change rooms and see if there’s a difference.
Try to notice if there’s a significant difference when your guitar is facing the front of your amp, or where your guitar is behind the amp.
Play with different positions. There’s a high probability you’ll find a position that makes the buzzing quieter.
10. Electrical Outlets
Maybe the problem is in an electrical outlet your amp is plugged in. Try to change it. Plug in your power chord in different electrical outlet and see if there’s a change.
It’s a long shot, but it takes not more than a few seconds to check it!
9. Major Technical Issues
If you tried every advice described above and your amp still produces bad quality sound, then there’s probably some bigger technical issue that’s causing it.
Voice coil, ventilation etc. There are dozens of causes.
There’s only one thing you can do. Let a professional examine your guitar amp and see what’s the problem.
You don’t want to risk anything. It can also be dangerous to perform some actions on your own, especially if you’re not experienced in doing these actions.
There are some additional tips regarding guitar amp maintenance. If you want your guitar amp to sound perfect for a long time, you have to maintain it.
How to do it. Here, check out these crucial tips for amp maintenance.
1. Store Your Guitar Amp Properly
Store your guitar amp properly. If you plan to leave your guitar amp alone for a longer period of time, it’s best to put it in a dry place, or a hard case.
Do not leave your guitar amp at places with too high or too low temperatures. I got myself a Gator Case (link to Amazon) for a house amp.
It has a foam interior which protects it from any potential physical damage from outside.
2. Watch For A Temperature
As it’s been said already, temperature can be devastating for your guitar amp. Actually, it is rapid temperature change that can damage your guitar amp the most.
When temperature rises, materials expand. When temperatures go low, materials shrink. Different materials expand and shrink at different rates. It’s physics!
Guitar amp is made out of different materials. When rapid temperature change occurs, those different materials expand or shrink differently. That can really change the overall strength and shape of your guitar amp.
That’s why you shouldn’t, for example, leave your guitar amp in a hot or cold car. Check out the article from this page about dangers of leaving an amp in a hot or cold car, here.
Humidity can act devastating, also. Monitor relative humidity of the room where your amp is located.
Ideal relative humidity ranges from 45 to 55 percent. If you live near the coast, or if you live in areas with harsh winters, this is important.
Humidity can cause rust and corrosion development on various metal surfaces. That can, indeed, affect the overall sound coming from your guitar amp.
It’s not only that it can damage your guitar amp, it can even more damage your guitar. Check out the article from this page about potential humidity problems for your guitar, here.
4. Clean Your Guitar Amp Regularly
Cleaning your guitar amp is something you just have to do from time to time if you want it to sound good.
Now, guitar amp cannot be cleaned whole in the same way. Pots should be lubricated now and then, as they can rust from inside, and cause a sound cutting (described above).
Speaker cabinet from the back should be dusted off regularly, like every two weeks or so. Do not use any non suitable cleaning agents for this. Dusting off should be enough.
Wipe the surface with some regular micro fiber cloth to prevent dust and dirt accumulation all over it.
That should be enough for maintaining your guitar amp.
So, here we are. I hope this article provided some valuable information that can be of help to you. If this article indeed helped you in detecting what’s the problem with your amp, I’m more than happy about it.
It is always a pleasure to help a fellow guitar buddy with anything.
While you’re here, and if you’re interested, check out this related article from this page:
Great & Affordable Guitar Amps in 2020
In case you’re interested, check out the article where I picked and reviewed 8 great and affordable guitar amps.
Also, don’t hesitate to see some other interesting articles about various guitar issues and topics, in general.
Cheers, and rock on!