My electrical issue story so far

I figured I’d write up something I’m experiencing at the moment so others can see what I’ve worked through so far and maybe someone can also give me some idea on possible fixes for the problem as it currently stands.

The story begins thusly: my wife bought me an ESP LTD 5 string fretless for my birthday. I love the guitar but there is an electrical buzzing when I have the volume up. It doesn’t go away when I touch the strings or the bridge. It’s just always there when I play, taunting me. I tried some different cables. I tried plugging directly in to my amp instead of through my pedal board. I tried replacing the 9v battery. If I turn the main volume or the treble knob about a third to halfway down, the buzzing seems to go away.

Let me step to the side here real quick to go over the electronics on this, in case you’re curious. If you’re not curious, skip to the next paragraph for the rest of the main story. This bass uses passive pickups but still has a pre-amp. It is, from my understanding, a hybrid active/passive thing that I have not yet experienced. My amp is a Fender Rumble 40 and my pedal board consists of a PolyTune and my Zoom B2 Four and an MXR bass compressor that I occasionally use instead of the Zoom. Long story on that. Possibly irrelevant.

I wound up setting up a custom preset on the Zoom that essentially fixed the buzzing by way of a funky chain of noise reductions and EQs and such.

Then I realized I was being a bit dumb.

The guitar is new. It’s still under warranty. I should just contact ESP to see if they have any ideas. Their customer support was fantastic, by the way. Quick to respond and very helpful. Wasn’t just sending form letters. But I digress. They agreed that the buzzing was odd and suggested I take it to Guitar Center as they’re a warranty repair partner and could fix it there for free instead of sending it back to the factory.

So I take it to GC and when we plug into the little amp that they keep on the work bench, there’s the buzzing. We then take it over to some of their bass amps. No buzzing. Tried a couple of amps. Couldn’t get it to buzz. Tried a couple of different communal cables. No buzzing.

This just got odder.

Ok, so it likely isn’t the guitar. I actually consider that good news. I bought the exact same kind of cable we were using to test with and brought it back home. Swapped it out with my old cable and plugged directly into the amp. No buzzing.

Ok, so it was the cable. Cool. Easy fix.

Not so fast, Slappy.

I take a step to the left. Buzzing. I step back. No buzzing. I sit down in my chair. Buzzing. Stand up. No buzz. I walk over close to my work computer. Buzzing. Step to the middle of the room. No buzz. Turn 90 degrees to the left. Buzz. 180 degrees from there. No buzz.

Turns out my office/studio seems to have pockets of interference that this guitar just doesn’t like. No problems with my Fender of Spector. Just this one. Could this be because of that hybrid electronics set up?

This is where I am now. Maybe the shielding isn’t very good on this guitar? I would think that all the electronics at GC would have caused a problem then. Maybe the power setup in my office is crap? Wouldn’t be surprising but not sure how I’d go about fixing or at least mitigating it.

At this point, I’m stuck. Has anyone else ever experienced this? Any help or ideas would be greatly appreciated.

TL;DR: Buzz buzz. No idea why.


I haven’t experienced this with any of my active basses, and they all have passive pups

Just want to add that having passive pups on an active bass is not unusual. There are active pups available on some basses, but I would expect most pups on active basses are passive.

1 Like

Good to know. Thanks!


Wecome to the world of “must accept any interference” electronic design.
There are many many many threads on this dreaded topic.

Computers, large motors (compressors) USB, wifi, flouresent lights and many others are notorius for channeling the giant antenni which are basses and guitars.

Just ask @JustTim - he lives this nightmare a lot.
I do too esp on actives, but I generally just roll off the treble a bit and boost it back up in a preamp when in the music room.

All that said, there are sheilding (tape or paint, which must have a ground wire / path running from them to ground) things you can do, again many threads on this, to make things better.

Interestingly enough, I have an ESP 6 string with just about zero noise. Ah, the love of QC and specs! lol

1 Like

I think it’s the most common type of active system. Passive pickups and active preamps. Only small handful of companies make active pickups.


This is actually the most common configuration for basses with active EQ.

This is also probably the most common cause of buzzing. One telltale sign is if it gets worse in certain directions. For me, my PC is a huge RFI leaker.

Doesn’t matter how good the shielding is; the pickup is a huge antenna with like a mile of wire coiled on it. And no hum cancelling pickup is perfect.

So you’re taking that noise, and then amplifying it.

Yes, this is extremely common. Find out what is causing the RFI and work around it.

1 Like

Ooof, yeah.

I have two problems: one, there is something in my house, or my neighborhood - or hey… maybe it’s even the furious firing of synapses in my head because of my massive powers of brain LOL - that just runs roughshod over the standard shielding most basses come with. I either live with it, or I have to disassemble the bass, re-shield and re-ground everything in an attempt to create a Faraday cage around as much of the electronics as I can. Usually that works pretty well, however, I still battle number two… which is the same thing @mr.crispy is talking about: ALL of my basses pick up EMF from PCs and other electronic devices if I step too close to them. Especially PCs. Which kinda sucks, as I pretty much completely stopped using my amp last year and do everything through my PC. But I digress.

For me, there came a point where I realized that a completely silent bass in my environment was a pipe dream. So, it turned into a question of “how much buzz am I willing to accept” and “is it worth the work to get to that point?”

For my Aerodyne that was a no-brainer. And while it’s not whisper quiet, it’s silent enough to be music to my ears. But I still have to step away from my PC to play it, otherwise it buzzes in concert with the spinning of the PC’s non-SSD HDD and CPU activity. But for my Squier Affinity, meh, it’s not worth that effort.

1 Like