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Church Sound: Track Down The Buzz In Your System

Noise comes from a variety of sources; here's the process for tracking it down and stopping it

By Chris Huff November 30, 2012

Time to can the buzz and move on. (Photo credit: ctoverdrive)
This article is provided by Behind The Mixer.


Buzz in an audio system might be the most annoying sound you’ll ever hear. A close second is the first unexplainable rattle emanating from your new car. 

Buzzy audio has been the source of many an email I’ve received, and today you’ll learn the process for tracking down that audio buzz and stopping it.

Audio system noise comes from a variety of sources. 

These sources include:

—Bad gain structure: If you aren’t providing a high signal-to-noise ratio then that noise could be typical line noise from a mixer channel.

—Crossed cables: Any time an unbalanced cable is run in parallel with an electrical cable, then the audio cable will pick up interference.

—Ground loop hum: Noise from the building’s AC power lines which are attached to your system. Caused when more than one piece of equipment in the sound system is connected to a common ground through different paths, like different electrical outlets on the same circuit.

—Problem buzz: Buzz that’s produced as an indication of failing equipment, failed equipment, or improperly connected equipment.

It’s that last one which is covered in this article.

The First Step In Stopping Audio Buzz

The first step you should take in tracking down the source of buzz is determining where the sound is emanating.  There are four primary areas where buzz can emanate;

—House Loudspeakers

—Stage Monitors

—In-Ear Monitors: You’ll hear the buzz in the house or the stage monitors but you’d hear a musician tell you there is buzz in their in-ears.

—Recording: In this case, you hear the buzz when you listen to your recording of the service.

Tracking down buzz, in-ears and recordings aside, starts by turning down the house volume. If you still hear it, it’s coming exclusively from the monitors. Otherwise it’s in the house or the house as well as the monitors. 

A simple test for monitors is asking a musician to listen to the monitors when the band is quiet.

Audio is routed through your system in many different ways and therefore, when you know where the buzz is emanating, you can focus on the signal chain for that particular output.

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About Chris

Chris Huff
Chris Huff

Chris Huff is a long-time practitioner of church sound and writes at Behind The Mixer, covering topics ranging from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians – and everything in between.


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