A crackling guitar amp can be a frustrating issue that diminishes the sound quality of your playing.
Why is my guitar amp crackling? Guitar amps crackle because of faulty power tubes, bad volume control dial, a dirty pot, dirty wiring connection, and issues with the capacitor. Power tubes are most often the cause for crackling in tube amps and a dirty pot is often the cause of crackling in non-tube amps.
Continue reading to learn more on why your guitar amp is crackling and how to fix it.
What is Amp Crackling?
Amp crackling typically happens with tube amps. Amp crackling is when random popping noises are emitted from the amp with no warning. For bad cases, the crackling will last the entire time an amp is turned on without stopping until the amp is turned off.
When amp crackling occurs, hearing the output from your guitar or bass will be difficult and tone will suffer. The pitch of your tone will often go up and down while an amp is crackling. This makes it impossible to enjoy playing guitar or bass through a crackling amp.
Why is My Guitar Amp Crackling?
Amp crackling occurs when the power tubes are malfunctioning. This can be caused by a bad tube connection, not having proper grounding for the amp, dirty pots, and faulty capacitors.
To know for sure that the power tubes are the issue, after turning your amp on, let it sit for 8-10 minutes. It will go through it’s heavy crackling cycle and as the tubes get hotter, the crackling will diminish slightly.
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If this occurs, then the tubes are the cause of the crackling and will need to be fixed or replaced. This can be administered yourself and is an easy fix to a crackling amp. A common sign that the power tubes are the direct cause of the crackling is a silver lining that makes up the top of one or all of the power tubes (pictured below).
Another cause of amp crackling is a dirty connection. There can be dust, dirt, and faulty wiring that disrupt the connection between the power tubes and main components. This is the least expensive fix to amp crackling and is most often the problem.
A dirty pot can be another cause for a crackling amp. This is the simplest fix of them all and just requires some light spring cleaning on the pot. Simple as that.
The final and most costly cause of a crackling amp can be the capacitors.
Capacitors are simple electronic components that are typically used in guitar electronics as filters or barriers for certain frequencies. High frequencies will pass through a cap, while lower frequencies are blocked. The value of the capacitor will determine the frequencies that pass.
If the capacitor or transistor is the issue, bring it to a amp tech to fix.
A non-tube amp crackling is much easier to find the root cause of but often more difficult to fix yourself. To ensure the issue is in the amp and not other attached equipment, unplug the guitar and all of the pedals.
Next, move the control knobs one by one. If the crackle changes while doing this, it is likely a dirty pot that is causing the crackling. If not, then please take the amplifier to an amp tech.
This is because the issue likely originates in the capacitor or transistor which are high voltage components and not safe to be fixed without proper experience.
How to Fix Crackling Amplifier
The number one source of amp crackling is from the power tubes which involves simply replacing them. Although, there can be other causes that need attention. Let’s dive into how to fix them.
Replacing Power Tubes
The best way to fix a crackling amplifier is by replacing the power tubes. New power tubes can be found in most chain music stores and all amplifier and sound stores. Replacing them depends on the model of amp although it is rather simple.
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Remove the current faulty power tubes. Get the new power tubes and remember to handle with gloves or a towel. It is believed that the oils on human hands can shorten the life of power tubes so it is best to avoid direct contact with the new power tubes.
The tubes can only go in one way so do not worry about doing it wrong. Line up the connections and push in.
To fix a dirty connection, it is rather simple. Fixing a dirty connection can be as simple as removing the tubes and then putting them back in. Check the input and output connections to ensure they are clean once the tubes are removed.
If you notice dust or out of place components, simply clean / rearrange and then place the tubes back in. This should solve almost all cases of crackling caused by dirty connection in tube amps.
It is beneficial to clean all the connectors in the amp to avoid any future crackling that may arise. It will allow your amplifier to perform at it’s best.
If the above fixes do not work, then the issue likely resides with the capacitors as they can affect the tubes as well. If this is the case, then you will need to bring it to an amp tech to check out.
This is a complex technical issue that requires expertise to avoid causing further damage to your amplifier.
If none of the above fixes work, take your amplifier to an amp tech and they will be able to better pin point the issue and provide expert level work to fix it. I have had a few amps crackle in the past and replacing the power tubes seemed to fix it every time.
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