Nothing ruins a good recording session like cable noise. In this post, we’ll discuss what causes cable noise in a studio environment, including ways to avoid or eliminate it.
Let’s get something straight. “Cable noise” isn’t actually noise made by cables.
Rather, it’s when a cable picks up interference – typified by an errant hum or buzz in the background of a recording – which then degrades the overall quality of signal, and thus sound, being transferred through the cable.
Cable noise is bad in any environment, but it’s kryptonite when recording. If the input signal isn’t as clean or transparent as possible, the resulting degradation in frequency or sound cannot be fixed. You can’t unmuffle something that lost all its detail or remove noise that was present when you recorded.
Interference can also cause issues during the mixing stage. If a recording is degraded due to cable noise, the producer won’t be able to hear the cues they need to do their job.
So, yeah, cable noise is an issue. But what actually causes it?
3 Biggest Causes of Cable Noise
Cable noise can be caused by many factors. But generally, there are three main buckets that all factors fall into. If you’re experiencing unwanted humming or buzzing in your recordings, these are the first things to check.
#1. Electrical Environment
Some studios have more electrical interference and ground hums than others. That can depend on a variety of factors including the wiring of the studio and the electronics present at the time of recording.
Ungrounded outlets can cause humming and overtones in a recording. If your studio only has two-pronged outlets, chances are you’ll need to get an electrician in to safely and properly rewire your outlets to ground.
Another environmental factor is the amount of electronic equipment in your studio. The more you have, the greater the risk of interference. Make sure your equipment is properly spaced, and that you only have what you need.
Cables are usually made up of four layers – the inner, central core, a dielectric insulator, a metallic shield, and an outer jacket. All these layers are important, but if you want to get a handle on eliminating cable noise from your studio, start by looking at the shielding.
Proper shielding of your cables and electrical components in your studio can eliminate much of the unwanted humming and buzzing.
First, look for copper shielding over aluminum shielding. Next, look at the shielding type and the cable you’re buying. For mic and instrument cables, you’ll want to go with braided shielding. For interconnects between devices carrying line-level, you only need spiral shielding. The greater the percentage of coverage the better.
#3. Cable Type & Quality
The last factor concerns the type of cable being used – balanced or unbalanced – and the material quality of its parts.
Unbalanced cables carry an unbalanced signal using a signal wire and a ground wire. On the other hand, balanced cables carry a signal with a ground wire and two signal wires that are reversed in polarity, helping to cancel out noise as the signal travels down the wire.
Despite what the internet says, balanced cables aren’t inherently better than unbalanced. If they’re properly shielded, unbalanced cables can be used over a short distance in a studio setting. But if your studio is more spread out, balanced cables can help ensure the signal stays pure from point A to point B.
Once you’ve decided on the type of cable, you’ll also want to make sure those cables have high-quality connectors. You’re looking for something that’s durable and forms a clean connection that will last for years being plugged in repeatedly.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to cable noise. Every studio space is unique. Each piece of equipment acts and reacts differently to its surroundings. High-quality, properly shielded cables can go a long way to fixing studio noise issues. But bad cables can do a lot to make the situation worse.
Regardless, a cable’s only job is to transfer signals as transparently as possible. If you’re experiencing cable noise, start with these factors to see what you can do to improve signal quality.
Looking for high quality studio cables? Check out our wide selection of studio-ready cables to get the cleanest sound you need.- Hosa