Updated: Aug 10
Noise gate pedals are a type of guitar effect pedal designed to reduce unwanted noise or hum in your guitar signal. They work by cutting off the signal when it falls below a certain threshold, effectively muting any noise that occurs when you're not playing. This can help to keep your guitar sound clean of unwanted noise and clearly defined, especially when using high-gain distortion or overdrive pedals.
There are several different brands of noise gate pedals available on the market, each with their own unique features and benefits. Some popular options include the Stone Deaf Noise Reaper, ISP Decimator, Boss Noise Gate, MXR Smart Gate, Fortin Zuul, Pigtronix Gatekeeper, and Darkglass Noise Gate.
What is a Noise Gate Pedal?
A noise gate pedal is an electronic device that works by analyzing the incoming guitar signal and muting it when it falls below a certain threshold. This threshold is set by the user, and can be adjusted to suit different playing styles and levels of background noise.
There are several different types of noise gate typography available, including hard gate, soft gate, and multi-band gate and smooth gate. Hard gate pedals work by cutting off the signal completely when it falls below the threshold - this is typically the only option you get with Low End Noise Gates, while soft gate pedals gradually reduce the volume of the signal with a sharp attack and gradual decay controlled by a threshold knob but are notably too soft to be used on one setting for multiple styles. Multi-band gate pedals use different settings for different frequency bands, allowing for more precise control over the noise reduction process but are typically not seen in guitar pedals.
Smooth gates are the ideal type of gate for guitar pedals in particular because they cover both Hard and Soft gate ranges. These are set so the ADSR envelope is precisely tuned so that the "ATTACK" is quick, below 10ms - unnoticeable to human hearing. The "DECAY" time is smooth so you don't get unwanted squeaks or clicks when moving up or down the fretboard. Unlike a Hard Gate, The "SUSTAIN" is perfectly set so you can sustain long notes without cutting them off but equally doesnt fall below its threshold to allow noise. The "RELEASE" time is tuned to allow for a release that is quick and even and doesn't allow unwanted noise or oscillation into your signal.
Compared to other noise reduction tools like noise suppressors, EQs, and filters, noise gate pedals offer a more targeted approach to reducing noise, allowing you to preserve the natural tone of your guitar while still eliminating unwanted background noise.
In the next section, we'll explore the benefits of using a noise gate pedal and how it can improve your guitar tone.
Benefits of Using a Noise Gate Pedal
Using a noise gate pedal can have several benefits for your guitar tone. Firstly, it can help to reduce unwanted noise and hum, especially when playing through high-gain distortion or overdrive pedals. This can result in a cleaner, more focused guitar sound, with less interference from external sources.
A noise gate pedal can also help to improve your playing dynamics, as it allows you to more accurately control the volume and sustain of your notes. By cutting off the signal when you're not playing, it can create a more pronounced contrast between your quiet and loud passages, giving your playing a more dynamic, expressive quality.
High End & Low End Noise Gates
Before you buy a Noise Gate pedal, it is important that you understand the differences between some high end and low end pedals - there is a reason for the obvious price difference!
High End Noise Gate Pedals are typically built and designed to include either a loop or a key. Without these features, you simply cannot achieve a soft gate which in turn heavily impacts the amount of sustain and the clarity required for many music styles.
Be aware that Low End Noise Gate Pedals and those without a loop or key will only offer you a hard gate and can be very difficult to dial in a suitable threshold for your playing style. This can also then cause noticeable sound problems when you switch between your clean and drive/distortion sounds.
Some High and Low End Noise Gate pedals offer separate Threshold and Attack/Release dials which in our opinion is unnecessary and overcomplicates the use of the pedal - if the pedal has been designed correctly, there is simply no need for the additional dials, a single threshold knob will give you all the control you would ever need.
The Stone Deaf Noise Reaper has been specifically designed as a High End Noise Gate, giving you the fastest response time across our competitors, a single Threshold knob acts as a Smooth Gate allowing you to control both soft and hard gates with unrivalled sustain at a price that sits in the middle of both High and Low End alternatives... An exceptional High End Noise Gate Pedal at a lower price.
Noise Gate Pedals and Their Placement in Your Effects Chain
When using a noise gate pedal, it's important to consider where to place it in your effects chain. Generally speaking, it's best to place a low end noise gate pedal at the end of your chain, just before your amplifier. This allows it to effectively eliminate any unwanted noise or hum introduced by your other pedals BUT this can also shorten and cut dead any modulation, reverb and delay trails.
With High End Noise Gates, we strongly suggest that you place your "noisy" pedals such as high gain, distortion and drive pedals in the loop of the Noise Gate and place any other modulation, reverbs and delay pedals after this chain. This will provide more precise control over the noise reduction process and will give you crystal clear tones to run through the rest of your board - perfectly demonstrated in the Rabea Massaad and Andy Martin video's at the end of this blog.
Frequently Asked Questions About Noise Gate Pedals
There are several common questions that arise when using a noise gate pedal. Here are some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
Is a noise gate pedal necessary? If you're playing in a noisy environment or using high-gain distortion pedals, a noise gate pedal can be very useful.
Does a noise gate pedal stop feedback? It can help to reduce and even eliminate feedback altogether.
Do pro guitarists use noise gates? Yes, many professional guitarists use noise gates to help eliminate unwanted noise and hum from their signal.
Is a limiter the same as a noise gate? No, a limiter is designed to control the overall volume of your signal, while a noise gate is designed to eliminate unwanted noise and hum.
What is the release time for a noise gate? The release time determines how quickly the noise gate pedal re-engages the signal after it has been muted. Slower response times can result in a lag or a slight delay in feel when playing - something that you wouldn't want if you play a lot of high gain chugging/palm muting. Shorter release times result in a more natural, dynamic sound. This is just one of the areas where the Stone Deaf Noise Reaper excels with one of the fastest response time of just 4ms. The Fortin Zuul is similar in response time whereas the Boss NS-2 and ISP Decimator G-String Pro are slower. These 4 noise gates all use a key or a loop to achieve a professional noise gate performance.
Top Noise Gate Pedals On The Market
When it comes to choosing the best noise gate pedal for your guitar rig, there are a lot of options to consider. Here are some of the top noise gate pedals on the market:
HIGH END NOISE GATES
Stone Deaf Noise Reaper: The Stone Deaf Noise Reaper is a high-end noise gate pedal that offers studio quality and simplicity, including adjustable Smooth Gate threshold, one of the fastest response times available, a loop function designed to analyse and match the clean tones with the noisy distortions, therefore enabling you to eliminate and control all the noise that you don't want, and true bypass switching. Its rugged construction and sleek design make it a favourite among many professional guitarists.
ISP Decimator: The ISP Decimator is a popular noise gate pedal. Its a simple design and features an adjustable threshold and a hard-gate mode for extreme noise reduction.
Boss Noise Gate: The Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor is a classic noise gate pedal that features a simple design with adjustable threshold and decay controls, as well as a send/return loop for adding other effects.
MXR Smart Gate: The MXR Smart Gate is another popular noise gate pedal that offers a "Hush" threshold control that allows you to dial in your desired amount of noise reduction, as well as a gate indicator LED and true bypass switching.
Fortin Zuul: The Fortin Zuul is a high-end noise gate pedal designed specifically for metal guitarists. It has a three-knob design with adjustable threshold, release, and hold controls. It also has a "Dark" switch that adds a bit of extra filtering to your tone.
LOW END NOISE GATES
Mooer Noise Killer: The Mooer Noise Killer is a compact noise gate pedal with a simple two-knob design. It features adjustable threshold and true bypass switching, as well as a small size that makes it easy to fit on any pedalboard.
Donner Noise Gate: The Donner Noise Gate is an affordable option that has a simple design with adjustable threshold and a two-mode switch for hard or soft gating. It also has true bypass switching and a compact size to fit on your pedalboard.
Rowin Noise Gate: The Rowin Noise Gate is another affordable option that has adjustable threshold and true bypass switching, as well as a compact size.
In conclusion, a noise gate pedal can be a valuable tool in any guitarist's arsenal. It helps to eliminate unwanted noise and create a cleaner, more defined sound. Whether you're a professional guitarist or a hobbyist, a noise gate pedal can be a worthwhile investment.
When choosing a noise gate pedal, it's important to consider your specific needs and budget. There are a variety of options available and each of these pedals has its own features and pricing, so take the time to do your research and find the one that's right for you.
Ultimately, whether you choose to use a noise gate pedal or not is up to you. But if you're looking for a way to eliminate unwanted noise and improve your guitar tone, a good High End, affordable noise gate pedal can be a game-changer.