To an extent, electrical noise is an unavoidable occurrence. In simplified terms, it happens when there is an unwanted variation in electrical signals in audio—or any—devices. The good news is, although electrical noise occurs in all devices, those that are top of the range are within such slight limits that you do not have to worry about it having an effect on your recording output. Electrical noise does, however, become a problem when certain components are out of control, wired on a budget, or getting old.
The different types of electrical noise
Ideally, scientists would be able to eliminate all forms of electrical noise, but that just isn’t how physics works. Noise can occur due to components within the device itself, or when the device reacts to another source of electricity close to it. For example, you may have noticed that most hospitals do not place their primary diagnostic rooms close to lifts or mains centres. This is because both can generate electromagnetic interference that distorts the signals they are trying to read. Audio recording equipment acts in a similar way. When a mains connection produces a ‘hum’, it can interfere with the sound output.
Electrical noise from within audio recording equipment occurs when budget compartments or a reduced number of parallel circuits are used. The best brands of audio equipment in general do not charge through the nose because of their brand, they do so because their engineers meticulously place parallel circuit after parallel circuit, lining device capacitors neatly to reduce noise as much as possible. When capacitors have to bear a high load alone, heat friction can occur, causing them to vibrate and produce noise that translates into audio recordings.
Eventually, the capacitors placed in most circuits will undergo enough strain to become old and loose anyway. Capacitors are made of two different plates that can generate electricity between them. This electricity is then discharged when needed. After a while, the continuous strain of electricity generation can cause them to expand and become loose, leading to more uncontrollable oscillations that translate into audio recordings.
All of this unwanted electrical activity translates into one of the ugliest words in the music industry: distortion. That freakish buzz that makes otherwise beautiful tunes sound grotesque is something all musicians are likely to experience at some point or another. Fortunately, manufacturers are growing wise to the need for increased parallel circuits, stronger transformers, and electrical noise reduction materials.
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