Noise gate pedals are becoming more and more popular among guitar players of all ranks and skill levels. Long gone are the days when having gear like this was too expensive for most. Nowadays, you can arm yourself up and make sure that your signal path is crystal clear, all at an affordable price. Speaking of noise gate pedals, even though they are nowhere near as prolific as overdrives or similar stompboxes, you still have a large selection to choose from.
Even so, not every noise gate pedal is created equal, and some will give you a better performance than others. With that in mind, what we want to discuss today is a topic that comes naturally when you go shopping for a pedal of any kind – what makes a good noise gate pedal? Lets get into it right away, and get you the info you need.
When we say that noise gate pedals are more of a tool than an effects pedal, we mean it. In the grand scheme of things, the use of this stompbox is going to go unnoticed by everyone except for the few experienced guitar players in the crowd who pay attention during breaks between songs. We have already talked about how noise gate pedals work in our article that deals with that subject in detail ‘What Are Noise Gate Pedals For?’, but it’s worth recapping that part of the story for the sake of this piece.
In most basic terms, a noise gate pedal will kill your guitar’s signal once it falls bellow a certain threshold in terms of volume. That means that once you stop playing, your amp will be quite. The moment you hit a note, the volume is back up and you are ready to rock.
This threshold we are talking about it adjustable. You can set it on every single noise gate pedal out there – from worst ones to best ones. It’s just the way this effects pedal is mean to work. Now, being able to adjust the threshold doesn’t mean that the pedal you are using will flip on when it is supposed to. So, the first thing you are going to look for in a noise gate pedal is a precise threshold knob, and the circuitry that is capable of tracking your volume quickly and accurately.
To expand on this a little, there is a pretty valid reason why you would want precise tracking. Remember that most users who have noise gate pedals, also have a large number of other pedals on their board. Depending on which combination of pedals is on at any given moment, your signal may or may not wildly vary in volume. Because of that, you need a noise gate unit that is capable of recognizing when you’re done playing.
One common attribute that is sought in just about any effect pedal that doesn’t impact the nature of your guitar tone, is to be neutral. Effects such as noise gate, or boosters and so forth are supposed to be transparent. If a noise gate pedal adds any noticeable color to your tone, something is not right or that pedal is just not that good. With that said, some of the best noise gate pedals out there are known to add some spice to the tone when linked up to a signal chain. Even so, you want this impact to be minimal, if not completely absent.
Some of the most affordable noise gate pedals will bring you the core function of this effect, and not much more. That is completely understandable and acceptable so long as their performance is decent. On the other hand, some of the more advanced models will come packed with features that might help you root you that hiss in a more efficient way. What these features are going to be depends on the specific pedal you are looking at, but they are generally useful. With that said, having addition features almost always means a higher price tag. Since they are not essential, you can still get a pretty awesome noise gate pedal for cheap.
Shopping for noise gate pedals is rather simple if you think about it. There are two main requirements that need to be met while everything else is optional. Fortunately for us, there aren’t many bad noise gate models out there. Due to their simple function and circuitry, most of the pedals belonging to this category are more than capable of performing the job they were built to do. At the end of the day, it is our recommendation to get the best noise gate pedal you can afford. That way you will know that you got the performance you need at your disposal.