Tone Knob Noise?

I’ve got a Squier Affinity J Bass, and I think I’ve reasoned out what the three knobs do… The one closest to the neck adjusts the volume of the neck pickup, the middle one adjusts the bridge pickup (I’m guessing) which would leave the last one to be the tone knob? Anyway, that small knob introduces a crazy amount of noise when it gets turned on. If it’s all the way off there is virtually no noise from either pickup but the higher you turn the tone knob, the more scratchy stereotypical “I’m going through a tunnel, the connection is getting cut” noise you hear.

Is this typical? Is there an electrical wiring issue? I took off the little metal plate to take a peek behind it and it doesn’t seem like it’s corroded and the soldering all looks okay to me. I didn’t unstring it and take the pickups out or anything as I don’t really know anything about stringing a bass or adjusting pickup height.

Honestly I don’t really have a good enough ear to know where I would like to set the tone knob for any given song so I can just practice with it off, but is this something I can fix?


You are correct.
Turning the tone knob up rolls the treble side of the range in, and usually any noise in your system will start to show easier. This is true for both passive and active systems.

Crazy amount of noise…no. Most likely a loose ground connection somewhere, OR, you have some other electronic device close that is adding interference. PCs, USB cables, refrigerators, fluorescent lights can all cause noise.

When you touch your strings, does it go away?


Also if your pickups on a J have a different volume, you will have a baseline hum which the tone exacerbates. When you play it goes away. Just part of the instrument. But could be grounding like @John_E said


But he said when the treble is rolled off there’s no noise. If he has a grounding issue it would have hummed the entire time.

It’s common on a passive single coil when you have the volume up and treble up pass halfway point especially all the way.

I find this to be true on one of my older Js because of the single coils. As soon as I roll the tone down half way the noise disappears. The difference for me is I don’t get a ‘crazy’ amount of noise. Could it just be the pots i.e. 500K vs 250? If you can do a little soldering changing the pots is not an expensive mod.

I tried it again and maybe it isn’t crazy amounts of noise, but it did seem very noticeable. Touching the strings made it go down a little, and it seemed like the closer to the pickups the better, but it might not be the case.

I do practice in front of my computer, so maybe it’s the interference. But the noise starts as soon as I turn the knob on at all. I can hear the bass past it, though, so maybe the answer is to just ignore it.

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There was another thread about this not too long ago. It could very well be your computer creating even more noise than single coil pickups are prone too. Can you play somewhere away from the computer to see if there is a difference? Either through an amp or headphone amp? If you play with a mobile phone near by remove it from the immediate area too.


Yeah. Enough EM noise will even be audible with split coils and humbuckers, if it is bad enough. It’s hard to eliminate all possible receivers, even with good shielding. There are still small gaps and wires underneath.

And computers can radiate a lot of EM interference.

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Yup I believe its cause of PC, I experience same issues. Try moving away from it and see if issue persists.

Having just gone through something like this, I’d recommend first off moving your amp and bass to other rooms, to see if it is interference from something in the room with your PC. If the noise still happens, try a different cable. If the noise still happens, try a different amp (which might mean you have to lean on a local music store).

Basically, what you’re doing is ruling out locational interference, cables, and amps, which is a lot easier to do before you confirm your bass is the culprit.

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In my case, it was a pot light in the ceiling that was giving off Hz and giving me the gyp. Also, crappy ballasts in fluorescent lights, cell phones, crusty cracked wiring in old houses and a myriad other things can be a problem. As @howard mentioned, confusers put off all sorts of EF noise.

Shielding the cavities in your bass helps a lot. Moving away from a known source of noise is good. You can also turn down the volume of both pups a bit and turn the amp a little. If your whole house is a problem, you can try to plug your amp into a power conditioner.

And take your phone out of your pocket when playing!


If the sound of the bass is getting cut off as you turn the knob, you may have a bad pot, maybe some corrosion inside of it. You can try spreading some DeoxIt in it to see if it helps.

If it’s just slight white noise you hear, it’s probably 60 cycle hum. Something in your environment like lights, screens, the fridge, electrical, etc… could be causing it. Turning both volume knobs to 10 should help alleviate this a bit, since the pickups will act as a humbucker. It could be that the bass is poorly shielded as well. I’ve had a bass buzz while others didn’t playing in the same exact spot in the house.

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Upgrade day, properly grounded house. Worth it for the sake of bass.


Sorry @John_E , I wasn’t clear. I only had the potlight problem. The others are just could best.

Ok, moved away from the computer with the following setup:

I don’t have an amp unfortunately, I’ve been using an audio interface and my VOX headphone amp (though I don’t know where it is right now and I find it a little too quiet).

It would appear the issue definitely is the electronics. If I touch my finger to the tablet screen I can hear a slight increase in the noise, and the further the tablet is from the interface, the quieter the buzzing gets even if I can’t get it to totally go away. Additionally, if the tablet screen is turned off the buzzing decreases as well. I also notice that touching the cable connected to the bass on the metal part reduces the buzzing quite a bit, though there is some left.

Maybe some of the issue is with the inexpensive interface I’m using, but it definitely seems to be an EM interference issue. I wonder if shielding the inside of the bass would make a difference (since some of the signal gets grounded out through me when I touch the cable, right?). Though I don’t think I’m brave enough to try and do that myself since I don’t know how to change the strings or reset the pickup heights lol

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Shielding the cavities is dead easy. I just did it for the first time in my life. It really helped my P-bass when I changed the pickups. I put in a much hotter, higher-output pickup and it’s a whole lot quieter nonetheless.

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How is all this powered? I’m running a similar setup: bass into Zoom into a laptop, and I find that I need to have both the Zoom and the laptop plugged into the same power outlet/strip to keep the noise down.

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The interface eats power from my tablet. I think I can plug it in straight to the wall, but then I don’t hear the lessons through the headphones too.

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Does the tablet feed audio into the box via USB along with USB power? If that’s the case, then your noisy household electrical supply isn’t the issue as it’s not connected to it.

It’s likely a problem within the bass itself (shielding, grounding or the pot). Speaking of the latter, have you tried spinning the pot back and forth a few times? Sometimes that cleans the contacts and lessens the noise.