Playing at high gain, or with a lot of pedals in your chain can cause numerous noise issues, combining both even more so.
A noise gate is the perfect thing to help control unwanted noise, but they can introduce their own set of problems. Some noise gates can alter a players tone, and many may not be happy with that. If a noise gate is set with moderate gating it’s not usually a problem, the difference in tone is fairly marginal. If the noise gate needs to be set very high things can get pretty messy.
The Noise Clamp comes with the regular input and output jacks, and then also has its own effects loop, where you can plug in all of the pedals you may have in front of your amplifier. With this setup the Noise Clamp can sense your guitar’s dry signal, and then reduce the noise level inside the pedal’s effects loop.
It has a single trigger knob which allows you to set the desired volume threshold to activate the noise gate, and a green LED to indicate when the gating is active. The Noise Clamp will reduce noise by up to 26dB, meaning that you can control much of the noise you may get with extremely high gain tones.
As with all MXR pedals, the Noise Clamp is one very solid unit with the standard MXR small pedal enclosure, and high quality jacks, switches and pots. It has a very bright blue LED to indicate when the pedal is on, and as mentioned earlier a green LED to indicate when the noise gate is active. Jim Dunlop know how to build a high quality pedal, and this is no exception. It can run off a nine volt battery or power supply.
I have a variety of typically noisy pedals in front of my Blackstar HT-5. I usually run a distortion or overdrive pedal, my MXR Micro Flanger, Boss CS-3 Compression/Sustainer, and Ernie Ball Wah. The combo of distortion/overdrive, flanger and compressor all create various amounts of noise which are a bit of a bother when playing. They were perfect candidates for being put in the Noise Clamp’s loop.
After hooking everything up and warming up my amp I set the Noise Clamp to twelve o’clock and started testing out my noisy pedals on the overdrive channel.
My band performs a cover of the Nine Inch Nails song Wish, and on this track I use a high gain distortion pedal to really push the gain up for the verses. This typically creates an issue, as I have to constantly turn the distortion pedal on and off when there is no guitar being played, leaving room for error.
With the Noise Clamp engaged I no longer had to worry about excess tap-dancing. All I had to worry about was turning the distortion pedal off for the appropriate parts of the chorus and breakdown. I could set the Noise Clamp to “clamp” on the noise gate as soon as I muted the strings, and I would hear from my rig was silence. With the threshold set correctly I could coax controllable white noise out of my guitar, perfect for the intro to the song.
In one of my band’s original songs I use my MXR Micro Flanger with a middle or neck single coil tone to create a swirling dirty psychedelic tone for the chorus. In the lead up to the breakdown after the second chorus there is a stop start section, where typically I’d have flanger noise carrying on during the silent moments.
The Noise Clamp took care of all of this though. No longer did I have swirling white noise during the moments where there should be silence.
So the actual noise gate part of the Noise Clamp is great. The next part of the test is whether or not it displays any tone suck when engaged.
I tested the full range of the Noise Clamp’s Threshold control and could find no noticeable change in tone. Most noise gates typically start to alter tone as the threshold rates go up, but I could find no such thing occurring with the Noise Clamp. All I had was my pure tone.
Turning the Threshold knob around will limit the amount of sustain, just like any other noise gate. I found that I was able to get plenty of sustain out of the lower range of the Threshold, and if I needed I much higher Threshold setting I wasn’t typically wanting any real sustain anyway. This is fantastic because it just means that I can leave the Noise Clamp permanently on, and just adjust the Threshold if I feel the need to.
Overall I found the MXR Noise Clamp to be the perfect addition to my pedal board. It controls any unwanted noise that may be introduced by pedals and rehearsal/gig volumes, and keeps my tone just as it were, which is probably the most important thing. Combine this with an excellent price and I believe the Noise Clamp is a sure-fire winner.
A big thanks to Brandon from Jim Dunlop for providing the MXR Noise Clamp for me to review.