Friday, February 26, 2021


Noise? Meet Gate!

by Mark King

A “noise gate” is a unique pedal gadget and it packs one of the most useful and dynamic effects of all, SILENCE. A noise gate is an automatic switch which turns off audio based on a “Threshold” level that the user sets according to the situation. 

If you use distortion pedals a noise gate can be your personal sound engineer (and best friend). The Silencer noise gate turns down the noise, hum and hiss in direct response to your live guitar performance. Your picking and playing on the guitar triggers the gate to open and lets your sound be heard. When you stop playing the gate senses the lower volume level of no guitar input and responds by turning down all the volume until you start playing again. How fast the gate turns down the guitar and how low the gate turns it down are variables.


The EHX noise gate is called “The Silencer” and it provides three control knobs to adjust the gate to match your performance style. The Silencer also includes an “effect loop” which dramatically improves the audio performance of the gate, more about that shortly.

Rotary controls on The Silencer include “Threshold”, “Reduction” and “Release”, an on-off footswitch is also provided. An LED above the footswitch tells you the effect is ON or OFF but there is no visible indication of whether the gate is open or closed, you’ll need to rely on your ears to determine that.


This knob controls how much level is needed to open the noise gate and allow your signal to pass through. At full counter-clockwise the gate remains open and passes all sound through. As you turn THRESHOLD clockwise more level is needed to open the gate. With typical distortion pedal noise present the Threshold knob may be up between 12 and 3 o’clock.


This knob controls how far down the audio is reduced when the gate closes. Reduction is variable between -70 dB at full clockwise to +4 dB at full counter-clockwise. If you go for maximum reduction the difference between off and on becomes more noticeable. Reducing noise by only 20 dB improves the noise floor of your performance and makes the gate turning on and off less noticeable. A little experimentation is all that is needed to dramatically reduce noise and increase quietness where it’s intended. 


This knob controls the speed of the envelope signal that closes the gate after the input signal drops below the current THRESHOLD setting. RELEASE time varies from a quick 8 ms at full counter-clockwise to a slow 4-seconds at full cllockwise.


The footswitch selects whether The Silencer is engaged or in buffered bypass mode. When the gate is engaged, the LED is lit. The effects loop remains in your signal path while The Silencer is bypassed. 


Line level noise gates like we use in the studio have an input called the “Key Input”. The Key Input is the path to the detector circuitry that causes the gate to open or close. The detector can be fed by the signal being gated or by some external source that provides superior sonic performance. 

The Silencer has that important Key Input and it’s labeled as the INPUT on the pedal. You plug your guitar directly into the INPUT jack which provides a trigger to the detector circuit, that makes the gate open or close. The INPUT jack feeds directly to the SEND jack via a buffer amplifier.

Next you connect the input to your noisy effects chain to the SEND jack on The Silencer. The output from your noise producing effects gets connected to the RETURN jack which is controlled by the gate on/off function. 

This means the direct guitar sound can trigger the gate rather than having the noisy output from your effects triggering the gate. Why does this matter? The gate detector-circuit has trouble distinguishing between noise and music but with your guitar performance directly triggering the gate detector the function of the noise gate can be much more controllable and pleasing in sound. When you turn your guitar down or silence your strings, beautiful silence happens because the lack of guitar input tells the gate detector to close and block noise from being amplified. 

The importance of the Effects-Loop on The Silencer can not be overstated, it adds a user control which helps minimize false gate triggering and makes the delivered sound musical without technical distractions or limitations. Is it perfect? No but it can be a huge improvement, especially in recording situations. 

Gated effects in Marshall send-return loop

In extreme high gain performance situations, where the musicians playing is covering up any system noise The Silencer can be bypassed so you’re never working against the gate (which is always trying to do its job when it is ON). Use bypass for big blasting solos and when you’re getting ready to transition to a less distorted part, stepping on the footswitch brings The Silencer back into your signal path so it’s ready to engineer a quiet outro for you when you silence your guitar. The silence brought about by a correctly adjusted noise gate is like magic if you’re accustomed to working around all the noise which typically accompanies high gain distortion effects. 


I like The Silencer by EHX a lot. I own three of them, one is permanently on my big pedalboard and provides gating to my Marshall effects loop. 

Before I used The Silencer I was constantly working a volume pedal to minimize the Marshall DSL high gain preamp noise during a performance. If I spend a few seconds tweaking the settings on The Silencer I can completely disappear residual noise from the stack of effects in my Marshall effects loop. As soon as I open the volume knob on my guitar the gate detector senses the volume increase, the gate opens and my guitar notes spring out of pure silence.

When maximum distortion is needed I use a Klon Clone to feed my favorite overdrive and this duo can make a lot of background noise and garbage. The Silencer noise gate makes all that noise vanish and leaves beautiful pristine silence. Noise, hum and hiss make me insane, The Silencer helps me regain my sanity and focus on the beautiful notes not the hash and trash that sometimes accompanies them. 

If my Silencers were stolen overnight I’d be ordering replacements tomorrow. The Silencer is reasonably priced, well built, compact and delivers incredible performance. 

Thanks for reading High on Technology, Good music to you!










Look for this in stores :-)

This work is ©2021 by Mark King, it’s not ok to copy or quote without written permission.