You are here

How Can I Stop My Pots & Switches Crackling?

Customising, building or repairing your own gear? Need help with acoustic treatment or soundproofing? Ask away…

How Can I Stop My Pots & Switches Crackling?

Postby Martin Walker » Mon Mar 16, 2009 2:28 pm

N.B. Updated 08/05/2009 to add warning about WD40 & Isopropyl Alcohol.

N.B. Updated 20/08/2014 to further clarify the difference between DeoxIT D5 and DeoxIT F5 Faderlube (formerly CaiLube MCL)


It's amazing just how many forum posts complaining about audio interface pops and crackles or PC 'interference' problems turn out to be simply due to dirty contacts or components. Personally I use Caig's DeoxIT D5 spray ( http://store.caig.com ) to deal with such problems, and to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Image

It has a good reputation in the audio industry, being widely recommended by manufacturers of mixing and DJ desks, guitar, hi-fi, and power amps, and rack effects (even on elderly boutique audio gear), and is good for cleaning:

· Plugs & Sockets.
· Valve/tube pins.
· Rotary pots and faders.
· Contacts on computer expansion cards.

The reason for this reputation is that many generic contact cleaners simply use solvents to remove surface contamination, but DeoxIT not only removes this muck, but also leaves a thin layer of lubricant behind that improves conductivity and helps to prevent further contamination/oxidation much better than many other 'contact cleaners'. Basically, if you've got crackly pots or faders, a quick squirt of a generic contact cleaner generally makes things better for a few days, but then the noises come back, while with DeoxIT the effects generally last for months or even years!


Zap Those Crackles!

For preventative maintenance, I go round my studio about once a year and pull out each audio plug in turn and give it a wipe with a cloth on which I've sprayed a little DeoxIT D5. If you plug/unplug it a few times this will also get a little DeoxIT D5 into the socket as well. Don't forget your mains connections, since these can sometimes get very tarnished over the years. I pull out the fuses in the mains plugs and give their ends a wipe, and also make sure the pins on my mains plugs are really clean, since this will help prevent intermittent connections and make sure your gear gets a good earth connection, which in turn can lower your noise floor.

With crackly pots and faders, apply a quick spray of DeoxIT D5 and move them back and forth a dozen or so times to help break up any dirt and to distribute the lubrication. Leave overnight and then listen again - if any crackles remain try repeating the process, although in a few cases you may have to replace the pot/fader due to excessive wear. The DeoxIT D5 5% formula has a carrier solvent that helps flush the muck away, but then quickly evaporates, leaving the lubricant in place to carry on doing its job.

By the way, don't be tempted to try a squirt of WD40 - 'WD' stands for 'Water Displacement', so while it's a great way to resolve problems with rust, corrosion, or squeaks, and even removing chewing gum from carpets, it's not the most appropriate product for fader crackles.

Similarly, Isopropyl Alcohol will strip any lubrication from faders, leaving them clean but with a dry and scratchy action rather than the smooth silky one you're expecting, which is likely to get significantly worse fairly quickly.



DeoxIT F5 Fader For Spills

Caig's DeoxIT F5 Fader is a more specialist product, described as a 'moving contact lubricant'. On their web site, Caig state that DeoxIT D5 and DeoxIT Gold are both formulated for conductive metal surfaces, while DeoxIT Fader is formulated to lubricate and enhance signal transmission on conductive plastics and carbon-based controls.

In essence, D5 removes oxidation/tarnish on metal surfaces, improves conductivity, preserves and lubricates, as well as helping reduce radio frequency interference, while F5 won't deal with oxidation/tarnish, but instead lubricates faders, switches and pots with sliding surfaces and reduces future wear/abrasion.

In practice, Caig recommend DeoxIT D5 as a routine alternative treatment for faders (so if you only buy one Caig product this is probably the one to go for), but DeoxIT F5 is preferred when your pots/faders have a heavy contamination of dust or other dirt, if you've spilt beer or coke on your mixing desk, or for use on heavy-duty moving components in DJ and other mixing desks when the original lubrication has been worn away through extensive use or over-enthusiastic cleaning. Rane only recommend DeoxIT F5 Fader for use on any of their pots and faders ( Detailed Slide Pot Care Procedure ). You use it in much the same way as the standard DeOxit D5 (spray and then move the pot/fader back and forth a few times over its full travel to distribute the product).


Caig also sell DeoxIT Gold for those who have lots of gold-plated plugs and sockets. This provides extended protection for indoor use that you can wipe on after you've removed any muck using the basic DeOxIT D5 spray, or can be used directly onto plated connectors that are already clean. There's lots more information on their web site, and you can download a useful PDF file containing further instructions at:

http://store.caig.com/s.nl/it.I/id.52/.f?sc=17&category=...

Caig products are widely available in the US and elsewhere around the world, and in the UK can be found on-line at Russ Andrews ( www.russandrews.com )

or in eBay e.g. http://stores.ebay.co.uk/CableStopOnline/Accessories-/_i.htm...

Ban those studio crackles for ever!


Martin
User avatar
Martin Walker
Moderator
Posts: 9841
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:44 am
Location: Cornwall, UK

Steampunk & Synth News | Mad Scientist Mode


Noisy Pots - a Practical Before/After Cleaning Session

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Nov 05, 2009 1:47 pm

Given how many of us suffer from the occasional noisy pot, here's a before/after story from my own recent experience.

For the last few months my MIDI controller keyboard had been developing a dodgy modwheel - it worked fine from about half way up its travel, giving me smooth and gradual MIDI output However, in the first part of its travel it not only glitched but had become dirty enough for the pot's wiper to disconnect itself from the track and give intermittent full value glitches.

Even moving it anywhere in the bottom half of its travel and leaving it there finally resulted in glitching when playing the keyboard, simply due to the vibration.

Opening up the keyboard proved not be the nightmare I was envisaging (only about a dozen screws to remove in all) and a quick squirt of DeOxit followed by a few moves back and forth over the full travel of the modwheel helped a great deal.

However, after leaving the excess DeOxit to evaporate I was still left with the occasional crackle, so I applied another squirt and wiggle (love these technical terms!) and this cured the problem completely.

In all it only took me about twenty minutes, and you can see the before/after results of recording a steady modwheel move from minimum to maximum in the screenshot below (before on the left, and after on the right):

Image

Notice in the left hand 'before' image the spiky noise generated by the dirt, and the big missing chunk of MIDI data in the lower part of its travel, compared with the comparatively smooth curve of the 'after' image on the right.

The moral of this tale is not to put up with noisy pots until they get really aggravating - a little squirt can sometimes work wonders!


Martin
User avatar
Martin Walker
Moderator
Posts: 9841
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:44 am
Location: Cornwall, UK

Steampunk & Synth News | Mad Scientist Mode


Re: Noisy Pots - a Practical Before/After Cleaning Session

Postby mjfe2 » Mon Jan 09, 2012 12:14 pm

Brilliant, thanks for that Martin! Now to order some Deoxit....
User avatar
mjfe2
Frequent Poster
Posts: 558
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2009 11:00 pm
Location: London, UK


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests