At BeginnerGuitarHQ, we aim to get your tone sounding as good as your guitar playing. Guitar pedals are typically thought of as a way to drastically alter the sound your guitar produces, but the essentials of a good quality base-sound is often overlooked. With a noise gate, you’ll have a crisp, clean and noiseless sound from which to craft your perfect tone.
I’ll be talking you through the 10 best noise gate pedals on the market today. Hopefully, this should guide you towards the perfect purchase.
If you’re looking to get yourself a noise gate pedal, then look no further.
- 1 First Things First
- 2 What Is A Noise Gate?
- 3 How Do You Use It In Your Set Up?
- 4 What Should You Be Looking For?
- 5 Behringer NR300 Noise Reducer Effects Pedal
- 6 Caline CP-39 The Noise Gate
- 7 TC Electronic Sentry Noise Gate
- 8 Jim Dunlop MXR Smart Gate Pedal
- 9 SONICAKE Noise Wiper True Bypass Noise Gate
- 10 Donner Noise Killer Guitar Effect Pedal
- 11 ammoon Noise Gate Noise Reduction Guitar Effect Pedal
- 12 ammoon Noise Gate Mini Guitar Effect Pedal
- 13 BOSS NS-2 Noise Cancelling Pedal
- 14 Electro-Harmonix The Silencer Guitar Noise Gate Pedal with Effects Loop
- 15 In Conclusion…
First Things First
The noise gate remains one of the most consistently underrated guitar pedals (and effects in general) of all time. As such, there is a good chance that you don’t really know what it is, and what it does. We’re here to help.
What Is A Noise Gate?
The noise gate is designed to take the unwanted quietness from your sound. Simple. While a compressor aims to find those annoyingly loud volume peaks, a gate is on hand to sweep the lower end for fuzz, rattles or background noise.
The term ‘gate’ is actually very logical: it’s as though you are opening and closing a physical gate, based on certain factors. You can set up your gate so that only sounds above a certain decibel threshold are able to make their way through.
For example, if you recorded a guitar in a field, and there was a river running in the distance, you’d be able to set the gate up so that the quiet sound of the river was cancelled into silence during times when the guitar wasn’t playing, while allowing the much louder guitar to come through, unaffected. Particularly skilled gate users would be able to tweak the settings to such a precise level that you’d only be able to hear the guitar, making it as though the river was never there.
A noise gate is a very common thing to use in the studio, as it cancels out any low rumblings and allows for your sound to become perfect. In a live setting, it has the practical use of being able to cancel out the background sound of any pedals. For example, an overdrive pedal might emit an annoying fuzz, even when the guitar isn’t being played- if you set your gate up correctly, then you can avoid this and retain that overdriven tone.
How Do You Use It In Your Set Up?
A noise gate in use. Drawmer DS201 Dual Noise Gate-Ducker – left half, angled by Mikael Altemark is licenced under CC BY 2.0.
While VST gates are more well-known than gate pedals, their importance cannot be understated. For this guide, we’re going to focus exclusively on pedals, not plugins.
One of the most important questions to ask regarding a gate, is where it will go in your pedalboard. Luckily, the answer is quite simple and very logical. If there is something in your pedalboard making a noise (such as an overdrive), you’ll want to place it after that, otherwise it won’t be having any impact on it at all.
However, if you’ve got something like a flanger or an EQ pedal involved as well, it would be best to simply leave it at the end of the chain, just to be safe. That way, you’re taking the noise out of the entire signal, rather than getting any weird interferences.
Importantly, though, any ambient effects should remain firmly after the gate. For example, if you have a reverb or a delay pedal, then placing the gate after that would simply cancel it out, right? Your reverb tail might dip underneath the threshold of the gate, and then it would be cut off prematurely. Similarly, the feedback of your delay might end up going beneath this, and thus make the delay pedal pointless.
It’s also very helpful if you know how to edit and control your own gate pedal. The most obvious function is the bypass: click down on the footswitch to turn the gate on and off. Simple enough?
Threshold is the decibel limit at which your signal will be cut. If you’re looking for something particularly staccato, then a high threshold will allow you to craft intricate silences in-between sharp riffs. On the other hand, a low threshold let much more sound through. This could include natural reverb or any long, held chords. Be aware that you’ll probably need to find a middle ground that doesn’t sound unnatural.
The decay is in charge of how long your gate remains open for. If you have a very short decay, then your gate will close pretty much instantly. What this does to your signal is cut the volume very quickly, giving a sound that can sound unnatural and robotic, or perfect, depending on what you’re going for. The longer the decay, the slower your gate will close. If you’re looking for a more natural sounding silence, then this will probably work better for you.
The attack is the equivalent of decay, but based on how quickly your gate opens. It isn’t as essential a setting, as the effect of the attack is mostly masked by the sound of your instrument anyway.
Finally, the reduction level does exactly what it says on the tin: reduction. This determines how much your signal is reduced by. A high reduction will mean the gate brings the noise down to total silence, while a low reduction will just bring its volume down based on intensity. This could leave you with a slight rumble that you may or may not want to retain.
What Should You Be Looking For?
There are a few main things you should be looking for in a gate pedal.
- Durability. This is something you should make sure that all of your pedals have in spades. If you’re taking them on stage with you, then it is essential that your pedal is able to withstand knocks, and being stomped on over and over again.
- Customisability. Not in terms of appearance, but in terms of sound. If you’re working in a VST with a gate plugin, you expect to be able to go into extreme detail and get the exact sound you want out of it. A gate pedal won’t be as specific, but you want it to give you control over most, if not all, of the functions mentioned above.
- Sound. The sound of a gate isn’t something that comes into your mind often, as it isn’t editing the output of your guitar in the same way as, say, a flanger. However, it is still possible that the gate pedal itself could deaden your signal, or even create its own annoying fuzz that another gate pedal would have to cancel out.
- Bypass. As with all pedals, the bypass of the footswitch needs to be a true bypass. Rather than being ‘off’, but still being affected by the pedal, a true bypass simply allows a chain of pedals to run through the inactive one without being affected at all. Luckily, almost all pedals boast a true bypass these days.
Behringer NR300 Noise Reducer Effects Pedal
Behringer are always a pretty good bet for a high-quality guitar pedal. They have years of experience putting out equipment that is affordable, yet rugged and of good quality. Their entry into the gate market is as good as any.
Interestingly, they refer to their pedal as a ‘noise reducer’, which, I suppose, is exactly what it is. However, unlike most gates, it gives you two distinct settings to work with. The first is the standard gate: you can customise the threshold and decay of the pedal, and use it to cut out annoying low noise. Behringer themselves suggest that you use their pedal to get rid of the buzz that comes with single-coil pickups, but it’ll work well in any context. This particular setting has an LED light to tell you when it is on/off, which is very helpful to keep up with.
The pedal also has the added bonus of a secondary mode, which is reached by a simple flick of a switch. You can’t really do this with your foot, which is a little annoying, but it’s still a helpful bonus. In ‘mute’ mode, this noise reducer simply becomes a mute pedal. If your guitar isn’t going to be active at all for a brief period, you can switch off all sound coming from it in the blink of an eye. This is also helpful if you’re getting a burst of unexplained feedback that you can’t otherwise cut out.
Caline CP-39 The Noise Gate
Caline aren’t typically a go-to brand for guitar hardware, and there is a reason for that: their products are often sub-standard in comparison to many of the high-quality options available, while also having a slightly tacky feel to them. Their noise gate, however, changes that.
In terms of appearance or feel it still isn’t an industry leader, but it does exactly what it says on the tin. Thanks to a true bypass, you aren’t getting any interference from the pedal itself onto your signal, but when active, it cuts out noise in the way it should do.
Many might look at it and think that the pedal is a simplification of the gate system, but that isn’t strictly true. The lack of technical jargon and very low price tag actually make it the perfect gate pedal for beginner guitarists.
Rather than hitting you with ‘threshold’ (which many might not understand), the knob in the middle is left blank. As such, the natural assumption is that this simply controls the point at which the gate activates, meaning there is basically no learning curve at all. Similarly, attack and decay are done away with, and a switch at the top just lets you choose between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’.
This might mean customisation is much more restricted, but for beginners who don’t need or understand the technical terms, this simplicity and clarity is probably far better than many of the more expensive models.
TC Electronic Sentry Noise Gate
Just from looking at it, you can tell that the TC Electronic noise gate means business. We’ve got the most controls we’ve seen so far, and each of them is equipped with markers to let you know the exact amounts by which you’re modifying. This gives an unprecedented level of control over your gate. And it explains the much higher price tag…
On the surface, this means you have direct access to your own specific threshold, decay and dampening (reduction) settings. This is a huge benefit when working both live and in the studio, because you can get everything to the exact specifications you want. However, TC Electronic has a much more exciting trick up its sleeve with this pedal.
Their ‘tonepass’ setting allows you to bring a highly customisable tone to the pedal. Not only do they give you the option to edit your own multi-band EQ and thus tell the pedal specifically which frequencies to gate, you can shape the exact sound of the gate via a world-class app. This allows you to tweak every setting with even more specificity than the pedal itself allows, while also allowing you to import ready-made gate settings which are designed to emulate those used by real-life guitarists.
This is the future of gate technology, but I want to make it clear that this is only for those who really know what they’re doing. In many cases, a lot of beginners wouldn’t get much out of this level of customisation
Jim Dunlop MXR Smart Gate Pedal
Jim Dunlop products are known in the industry for being high quality, if a little overpriced. This gate pedal is exactly that. It looks sleek and is finished with a metal that will withstand a good few bumps- perfect if you’re looking to take it on stage.
Despite the relatively high price tag, the pedal isn’t particularly customisable, with a few select settings and a ‘trigger level’ in the middle which is effectively a threshold control. This might be annoying to some, but a blessing for others.
This is because of the ‘smart’ label that the pedal boasts- it is intuitive, which, in many cases, makes the customisation unnecessary anyway. There are three different ‘types’ of gate that the pedal can activate, ranging from a full mute that cuts your signal to silence when it isn’t being played, to a ‘hiss’ setting, designed to get rid of the buzz of an overdrive pedal or a faulty connection.
Within these different types, the pedal then uses its own built-in intelligence to determine things like attack and decay for you. As such, it can tell the difference between the crackle of a guitar lead, and a delicate, quiet piece of playing. Similarly, it’ll know when your chord has finished ringing out, rather than cutting it off early.
The price tag here means that there is a certain guarantee that this system is genuinely impressive, so if you’re looking for a great gate without the work, then this is one of the best options available. If you want to take your own approach, then this should be avoided.
SONICAKE Noise Wiper True Bypass Noise Gate
This entry into the market from SONICAKE has a lot of parallels with the Caline above: price tag, customisation, size.
You are given the threshold control in the centre (this time actually labelled as ‘threshold’, as well as two ‘mode’ settings above: fast and mild. Like the Caline pedal, these pretty much just control your attack and delay. The fast setting means the gate closes quickly and aggressively, while the mild will see your sound trail off more gradually.
The simplicity makes this a great pedal for a beginner simply looking to cut out a bit of unwanted noise from their sound (matched by the perfect price tag), but for a more advanced player looking for a detailed sound, you simply don’t get enough range from those ‘fast’ and ‘mild’ settings.
Donner Noise Killer Guitar Effect Pedal
Donner have a pretty good track record in creating budget pedals that work well, but with simplicity. This bright green pedal will bring a lot of flair to your pedalboard, and a surprising amount of quality to your tone.
It, much like the Caline and SONICAKE above, is centred on ease of use and a low price. You get control over your threshold with the knob in the centre, and have access to two modes: ‘hard’ and ‘soft’. These are the perfect words to use, really, as they explain that in ‘hard’ mode, your volume reduction is going to be sudden and possibly a little robot, while in ‘soft’ mode, it’ll be smoother and more gentle.
Obviously, this has then built-in issue of lack of customisation. A professional guitarist is probably going to want more control over their gate than just ‘hard’ or ‘soft’; there is a lot of middle ground to explore. However, the reviews of this pedal speak for themselves.
Users have commented that it works especially well with metal set-ups. For example, the particularly noisy combination of a Metal Core overdrive and a Cry Baby wah is tamed by the -30 reduction and the ‘soft’ setting. It has also been used by bass guitar players, where it can cut back the boom of bass guitars and their pedals without being at all overpowered.
ammoon Noise Gate Noise Reduction Guitar Effect Pedal
The first of two ammoon pedals we are featuring on this list is their standard noise gate. It has a true bypass and is surprisingly sturdy, considering its low price. However, it is essential to know that this is almost the lowest end of simplicity one can find in a gate pedal.
That doesn’t, however, reflect its quality. The simple design tells you exactly what the pedal is right in the centre, shows off its true bypass footswitch, and gives you just one control: threshold. This means that a guitarist just starting out can pick up this pedal and create a system that cuts out low buzz (if turned left), or creates a intentionally sensitive, jagged tone when turned to the right.
Of course, many would complain that there isn’t more to it, but at such a low price, that isn’t what this pedal is designed to do. All it offers is the ability to reduce unwanted volume with ease, and it does so without impacting the tone your guitar otherwise creates.
ammoon Noise Gate Mini Guitar Effect Pedal
This is where things get interesting. We’ve seen what ammoon offer above, but they have entered a second pedal into the same market, as a direct competitor. For reasons that will soon become obvious, this is the cheapest pedal offered on this entire list.
It is tiny and thin, and offers pretty much the same features as the pedal above. A single, true bypass switch, and a single knob that controls the threshold. Again, customisation will become an issue to more professional users, but at such a low price tag, this isn’t aimed at them.
Interestingly, this is one of the few pedals that doesn’t try to offer a noise cancelling option. The pedal is designed to go at the end of your effects chain and cut out unwanted hum, reducing by a maximum of just 26dB. That isn’t much, but it proves what ammoon are going for here. This isn’t a pedal looking to help you craft a tone, or let you shred through some stop-start Djent riffs, this exists for purely practical purposes.
For such a low price tag and the most unexciting appearance and effects of this entire list, the ammoon Mini gate is actually one of the best gate pedals available for those looking to use them exclusively for practical, noise-reduction purposes.
BOSS NS-2 Noise Cancelling Pedal
After the practicality of the ammoon above, we can dive straight into the higher end of customisation and advanced technology with the Boss entry into the gate world. Of course, Boss pedals are trusted and loved, and have a distinct design that carries through all of their pedals alongside their durability.
This pedal advertises itself as a noise cancelling pedal, which means there is the option to take out all unwanted sound, if that’s what you’re looking for. In fact, the knob on the top right allows you to choose between a reduction, and a mute setting. The mute setting will bring the unwanted noise down to total silence, while the reduction setting allows for something a little more natural, simply reducing the unwanted sounds in volume.
Next to those, you’ll see the most user-friendly customisation on this entire list. The decay setting lets you choose whether you want your gate to act with speed or softness, but the beauty of this pedal is that you can choose a middle ground. Many of the pedals above offer a hard/soft binary, but most players will want to find their own range. Next to that is the threshold, which does exactly what it says on the tin.
This Boss pedal is as hardy and reliable as all Boss products, and sits in the perfect position between simplicity that any beginner could pick up on, and the customisation that seasoned professionals would be able to craft the perfect sound from.
Electro-Harmonix The Silencer Guitar Noise Gate Pedal with Effects Loop
One of the most complex and forward-thinking pedals on this list is Electro-Harmonix’s dramatically named ‘The Silencer’. When being used as a gate, it has a huge amount of customisability. For example, you can set the reduction to be as a low as -70dB, which will take pretty much any signal to silence if necessary. Instead of offering the simplicity of a ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ attack/delay, this pedal switches things up and allows you to edit the ‘release’ time. This is pretty much how long the signal takes to fade into nothing after decaying. In this scenario, you can have anywhere from an 8 millisecond (basically instant) release, to 4 full seconds, which will give a very slow, soft diminuendo into silence.
This makes this pedal an incredibly versatile way to design and use your own very specific gate settings. However, it is the only pedal on this list which actively boasts its own ability to be used as part of an effects loop. This means that Electro-Harmonix want you to be aware that this pedal can be used equally well in reducing the noise from a specific pedal (a faulty overdrive, perhaps), as it could an entire effects loop. Technically all of the pedals on this could do the same, but this pedal is specifically designed with that level of power in mind, which is good to know.
On the whole, this is one of the easiest to use, yet most customisable pedals available. It might be on the higher end of the spectrum price-wise, but for a intermediate guitarist looking to create their own sounds without a complex learning process, then this could be the perfect gate.
Choosing a good gate pedal is a surprisingly difficult task. It seems that a cheap model will do the job and allow you to get rid of that rumble of an overdrive pedal nicely, but if you’re looking to use the gate as an effect, then one of the more expensive models would allow for a more customisable, specific sound.
As with many pedals, it comes down to personal preference, but the ten pedals listed above should offer a range of benefits that should cover just about any performance requirement.