In the world of high gain modern rock and metal a noise gate/suppressor is essential. Playing with loads of distortion typically results in a lot of excess noise. You need something to remove this hissing and buzzing, and with some styles you want a complete cut that noise gates can provide when set high.
There are a number of pedals out there today that can provide you with these features, but quite often they can drastically colour your tone in an unwanted way. You typically need to spend a considerable sum of money for a pedal that doesn’t colour at all.
The MXR Smart Gate is a fantastic pedal that is easy to use, only colours your tone in a minimal way when using extreme gate settings, and most importantly is reasonably priced.
The Smart Gate is quite easy to use, and fairly simple to operate. It has a nice sturdy footswitch to turn the pedal on and off, a single knob for adjusting what MXR call the Trigger Point, and a Noise Band Cut Switch. This switch allows you to select the frequency band of noise you are trying to stop (with the settings Full, On and Hiss). There is also a light which informs you of when the noise gate is kicking in.
Basically the way to operate this pedal is roll the Trigger Level knob fully counter-clockwise, and set the Noise Band Cut Switch to the type of noise you wish to block, play your guitar, and turn the knob until you are cutting the undesired noise, but still retaining an acceptable level of sustain.
This is all nice and simple in theory, but how does the Smart Gate operate in reality? I personally found the pedal very usable indeed. My purpose for trying out this pedal was to try and kill some 60 cycle hum coming from my power source, and quiet down some noisy pedals somewhat. The Smart Gate did an admirable job of this, even with the Noise Band Cut Switch set to Full. and the Trigger Level knob rolled close to half way when I was using my other noisy pedals.
I was really impressed with how little effect the MXR Smart Gate had on my over all tone. It didn’t really affect my tone even on the higher gate settings that I required with my noisy pedals running. There was a little compression going on perhaps, but nothing to really complain about. Running a tube amp with high gain can compress your tone a little anyway, so it wasn’t really an issue.
I found my best results were when I ran the Smart Gate in front of my Blackstar HT-5 head, before my distortion and compressor pedals. These are the two pedals that create unpleasant noise when engaged on my dirty channel, so keeping it between the amp and your problem pedals is where I would suggest you use it.
The Smart Gate did what anyone would want their noise gate pedal to do, and that is control undesirable noise when there is nothing coming out of the speaker, but still allow for nice sustain, and minimal effect on tone.
If you are looking for a reasonably priced, easy to use noise gate to clean up your unwanted noise problems then definitely check out this great little unit. I think you will be impressed.
I have also reviewed this on Jemsite’s comparison shopping. Go check it out for more reviews on this product, and prices at different online stores.