Better headphone = more buzz. Why?

My amplifier is a Fender Rumble 25 and my bass is a Squier Fender Jazz Bass, both bought in last june.

The amplifier has always made some buzz when turned on and there´s clearly buzz coming from a ground loop, but, at least in usual volumes, the overall buzz is barely noticeable, despite if the sound is going out through the speakers or through one of my very cheap headphones (connected in the amplifier phones output) (a Philips SHPS2500, a Sony MDR-XB550, both over-ear, and the in-ear that came with my smartphone).

In other words, in my ordinary playing, listening through the speakers or the cheap headphones, the buzz has no significance.

There are some intriguing facts about this buzz:
1) The relation between the volumes of the pickups has a huge influence the intensity of the buzz: if both volumes are similar, the buzz hits its minimum, but, in opposite way, if I turn the volume of one pickup to the maximum and the volume of the other to the minimum, the buzz reaches it´s maximum, becoming really loud.
2) Despite the ground loop question, if I touches the strings, the buzz stays virtuallly the same.
3) If I walk with my bass away from the amplifier or if I rotate whily I´m playing, the buzz vary considerably (some eletromagnetic field interference?)

Today I bought a Audio Technica ATH-M50x, and it sounds really great, both for listening music or playing bass, but the problem is that the buzz becomes much louder, reaching a level that makes impossible to play the bass.

In US this is an average headphone, but you have no idea of how much it costs here in Brazil (something about 1/3 or 1/4 of the month pay of the regular middle class guy), so the decision of refunding it or not is very important (please, Josh, never call the Squier Jazz Bass a cheap bass again hahahaha :rofl:).

This new buzz situation too has some intriguing facts:
1) The overall volume of the amplifier has influence over the buzz, but what really matters for the buzz is the level of the treble (the mid and bass makes virtually no difference) and the overdrive (if on or off).
2) If I turn off both the volume of the pickups of the bass and the volume of the amplifier, the buzz is still there, easily noticeable. Both these volume changes makes no great difference in the buzz, which is strange for me.
3) There´s little difference in the buzz level if the amplifier has no cable connected or if is connected on the bass (strange too, no?).

That being said:
Someone has any idea why with my old and cheap headphones connected in the amplifier or through it´s speakers the buzz isn´t disturbing but with my new headphones connected in this same amplifier the buzz becomes really loud, making it impossible to play the bass?

Thanks for the help!


@bernardo_furtado Welcome to the BassBuzz forum!

When you have time, join us on the Introduce Yourself thread.

This is a lot of information and it’s going to take a little while to unpack all of it since there are a number of different things going on with your gear. I’ll try to address what I can and hopefully others will chime in and fill out some of the details that I miss. I’ll take some of the easy stuff first and then get into some of the more complex issues.

I know you were kidding around but I want to be clear that the modern Squier basses are considered a really good deal in their price range. Any use of the word ‘cheap’ was probably meant more along the lines of ‘inexpensive’ rather than ‘poorly made’. Lot’s of people on BassBuzz really enjoy their Squier basses.

I tried the Audio Technica ATH-M50x with my Fender amp and didn’t have this issue but I wasn’t having the grounding problems you’re having.

The main difference between the Audio Technica headphones and your other headphones are the Audio Technica’s are designed to give a flat response where the others are designed to make listening to music better. What this ends up doing is making any sound problems more pronounced. My best guess is that is what’s going on here.

Josh generally recommends using whatever headphones give you the best listening experience. As long as they have good bass response, then that’s all you need. Given the cost of these in Brazil and the fact you already have headphones you like, might not be a bad idea to send them back. That’s a call that only you make.

Pickups work like antennas and pick up all the environmental electromagnetic interference and that creates hum and buzz. Humbucking pickups are designed to negate this.

Jazz bass pickups (and all single coil pickups) when used by themselves, as in your example, don’t have this hum canceling effect. However, when you use the pickups together, it does create a hum cancelling effect. That’s why you see those changes when adjusting the pickups.

Having said all of that, the buzz and hum still shouldn’t be what you are describing.

If I understand all this correctly, this should only happen if the bridge is not connected to the ground. Maybe @terb @howard @Korrigan or one of the many others that know this stuff better than me can chime in to confirm.

Hold off on worrying about this until you get to the end though.

Yes, definitely getting some EMI. This gets back to the ground connection to the bridge. It’s impossible to tell how much of a problem the EMI really is if your ground isn’t connected all the way through.

Since the buzz is on the high end when you increase the high end it’s going to increase the loudness of the buzz. The overdrive on the Fender is more pronounced on the high end. That’s why you would hear more with the overdrive on.

This is where it all gets even more complicated. Specifically the part where the amp still buzzes with no cable plugged in. The makes me think the amp is what’s giving you the biggest problem as opposed to a possible problem with the ground connection to the bridge.

If the amp is picking up the interference causing the buzz then touching the strings won’t matter since the buzz is being introduced in the amp and not the bass.

The first thing I would try is moving the amp to different outlets in different rooms to see where you get the least amount of interference. Also try turning off other electrical devices to see if they are having an effect on the amp. Once you figure out what’s causing interference there, then you can move on to looking at what might or might not be happening with the bass.

I hope some of that helps and let us know how troubleshooting goes. I’m curious to see what you find.


Welcome @bernardo_furtado

Great answer @eric.kiser :+1:


Eric pretty much nailed it, sounds like you’re getting EMI, and the fact that it affects your amp alone is pretty indicative it’s not your bass. Your bass is just acting as an antenna.

Tracking down the source is the next step, as mentioned. It might even be your amp :slight_smile:


What about his power source, i.e. whatever outlet his plugging into. Could be “dirty” power line, bad ground on that line, etc…


These testers aren’t very expensive. They will tell you if the power you are plugged into has a proper ground. It won’t tell you if there’s something else noisy on the same circuit. Dimmer lights and motors (refrigerators) make a lot of power noise. If there’s no ground at the wall outlet, the noise has no place to go.

Versions of socket testers are available for UK, EU outlets and others too.


Also, the electricity has no place to go if there’s a problem. It’s a shock hazard if there’s no ground.


This is a great suggestion among all others. I would also take the amp to a place where you would be sure that the outlets have good grounding. Simply a friend’s house if the building is kinda new or a workplace without machinery working.

I don’t know how easy would it be to find but if you find out that the problem are the power outlets in the house you can consider an EMI filtered power strip…

Something like this

Like @eric.kiser said most signs point to power but just to be sure you can plug the audio cable on your bass and measure the resistance between your bridge and the long metal piece on the connector with a simple multimeter/tester.

You can also try your bass and headphones in a different location with a different amplifier. You could go to a music store where they sell the same amp.

Good luck! Keep us informed we love this tech stuff!


I will jsut chime in and say to have the exact same “issue” with the Fender Rumble 25. When too close to it, the buzz gets awkwardly loud but as I am playing ~1m away from it, its fine to me.
I have it connected to a 3 socket power extender which powers as well a Fender Guitar Amp and a dimmable ceiling lamp. I will remove it and see if that at least works for me! Good thread :slight_smile:

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But do you also mean with headphones ?


Havnt tried with Headphones yet but I can confirm upping Highs or enabling Overdrive on the Amp increases Humm by alot, and upping Mids increases humm slightly. Furthermore tuning any of my Bass Knobs doesnt have ANY impact BUT using the EQ-Switch alters Humming as well. On Pick and Slap EQ it is much louder then on Flat or Finger.
But This Humm is even their when the dimmable lamp is disconnected but at least I can get closer to the Amp again, so at least that seems to work.

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Well I have similar humm with the Vox Amplug Bass when tone is all the way up and gain at maximum. Which works on batteries…

I believe this is due to small amps needing switching regulators for efficiency and those kind of regulators go in and out of sleep mode a lot when there is small or no load.

I hear humming everywhere if I turn the tone/treble on anything (Amp Line out, mixer or DAI) but it usually also means that the signal will start clipping if I play harder…


Pretty cool you were able find a fix and witness the difference. :+1:

In addition to the very insightful advices we’ve got so far, I would recommend the following as well:

  1. Hum and hiss are not the same, neither as for the sound nor as for the cause. Il addition, Bernardo talks about buzz. For more detail, see, for example,
  2. The AmPlug Bass produces a very strong hiss with the settings described by Fahri. It is not an external noise but an inherent issue of this headphone amp mentioned in several reviews (and experienced by myself too). You can’t do anything about it if you want to use the AP2B with the tone fully open. However, I’m joining the opinion of those who recommend to systematically proceed by elimination in seeking for the source of the buzz described in the original post.
  3. Last but not least, I’ve experienced exactly the same problem with more than one bass. Shielding of all the cavities of the body with copper foil reduced DRAMATICALLY, if not completely stopped, all the noise. I’ve spent some time with it as I wanted to do it well, and checked everything with a multimeter, but the result is worth every single minute. (Copper lining ameliorated noise cancelling even in the case of a Squier Strat the cavities of which were originally treated with shielding paint.)
    Good luck!

Thank you all for the welcoming and the help.
And thank you, @eric.kiser , for the huge attention spended. And thanks everyone for the useful observations.

With all that has been said plus what I observe, I think that I´m having an EMI mainly because of ground loop, because the amplifier has no grounding, and, in opposite way, I tried connecting the amp in a tension stabilizer but the noise didn´t change, which makes me think that variations in the tension of the energy supply isn´t the cause. Does it makes sense?

Let´s add some more things that’s important:

  1. I tried in other rooms, the buzz remained and I couldn´t notice any difference in its level

  2. I use a Fender deluxe 3 m cable to connect the bass to the amp, so I think it´s an ok cable

  3. Because my amp is a Fender Rumble 25 and it´s new (bought in june), I think amp problem is not the cause

  4. There´s no grounding at all here in my apartment (@DaveT) . In Brazil (I think it’s the same in US), the power cable plugs have, nowadays, 3 pins, with the middle one being the ground, but in my apartment there´s no grounding (all power cables has just 2 pins). But most of the buildings have been built before the change, so most of the houses has no proper grounding.

  5. @Fahri, about the power outlets, I tested with a device like this one you´ve recommended and it hasn´t changed the buzz. Nevertheless, I don´t know the quality of the surge protector that I have. But the buildings here aren´t well designed and built, so likelly the electric wires of the apartment´s electric systems has a lot of wires that are thinner than the recommended, improvised connections, and so on.

  6. @Fahri, I didn´t understand: these surge protectors like the one you´ve suggested minimize the EMI? I thought they would only estabilizate the voltage.

  7. I tried with a voltage stabilizer (a cheap one, I guess) and the buzz remained the same. Despite the fact repported in 5) about the poor electric systems, I think this eliminates the possibility of the cause of the headphone’s buzz being the power supplied, no?

  8. With overdrive on + all volume + all highs, I heard a voice (probably radio) , which was almost inaudible but definitely happened.

  9. I tried the headphones in a electric piano (which needs the p10 adaptor too) and there´s no buzz. In the same room, with the bazz + amp, there´s all the buzz that I´ve repported.

@Chevee , I used the word “buzz” and not “hum” or “hiss” not because I´m differentiating one from another, but because of my limited english knowledge :rofl:. I used the word “buzz” meaning the generic term “noise”.
The noise that the Audio Technica headphone maximized is a “shhhhhhhh”, not a “zzzzzzz”, but there´s a “zzzzzz” in the deep too.

I´m sorry if I´ve missed someone, but there´s a lot of information. And thanks again.

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I don’t speak Portuguese but utilizing some Italian and google translate I figured out the term here would mean " protection against noise "

  • Ideal para protecao de alto desempenho contra surtos de tensao, ruidos e descargas atmosfericas

I did not want to refer to a product that you wouldn’t be able to find where you are so I checked it in Amazon. Some detective work there on my behalf.

My inspration comes from here please read the comments

Of course main use case is surge protection but some of them has extra filtering which might be helpful.

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@Fahri, “noise” in portuguese is translated as “ruido”, but “ruido” may means too an interference of some kind (like an eletromagnetic one), which is the sense that is used in the amazon link you´ve posted.

The text quoted means something like that: “ideal for high performance protection against tension changes, interferences and atmospheric discharges”.

Free portuguese lessons here :rofl:

Thanks for the suggestion, anyway :slightly_smiling_face:

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That’s likely a cause of trouble then. I’d suggest grounding your amp. If you wish to do so, run a wire between a ground point on the amp and clamp the other end (stripped bare to the metal of course) to a cold water pipe. There may be a screw on the case of the amp that connects to ground, but I’m not sure on that one. There is certainly ground on pin 3 of the XLR on the line out connector. You could take a premade XLR cable, plug it into the line out, cut the connector off the other end exposing the wires, make sure red/black or whatever insulated wires aren’t shorting out, and finally attach the outer shield wire to the cold water pipe. That could likely help.


I actually do this. Japan does not have grounded outlets and relies on heavy and ubiquitous use of breakers and fault interruptors to keep the country from burning down. As a result, equipment in general doesn’t share a common ground on the power main. This really sucks because of course it means that the equipment will find a common ground over other cables, like (say) ethernet cables or audio cables. I hate it.

High voltage stuff is grounded, though. So I bought a wiring harness and ran a ground wire down from one of my air conditioners so that I could make my own common ground on a set of power strips in one room. I have everything plugged in to those. It helped, at least psychologically :slight_smile:


Besides the suggested grounding solutions, I would try copper foil shielding as well anyway. (My outlets are grounded but I still had EMI as long as my instruments were not properly shielded.)

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