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RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby Gary_W » Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:43 pm

Hello all,

I've had this problem for months now and it's driving me to drink. I occasionally try to fix it, fail miserably and then move on; if I think about it too hard I go around the twist...

Has anyone here experienced airborn interference from a hard drive that picks up really badly on single coil guitar pickups? Details of my problem are as follows...

I built a new Windows 7 based PC last Christmas (for Wham covers obviously with a sentence like that). I re-used a few bits, but it's a new motherboard (Asus P6X58-D) with an i7 950 chip, 12 gig of ram and yet another hard drive. The hard drive in question is a Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB. It's a 6gb transfer jobbie and I'm using the cable that came with the motherboard to connect it. All of this is in an aging but rock solid Antec quiet case.

Since the build, I cannot use single coil guitars anywhere near the PC..... Every time the hard drive accesses (which it does a lot) I get a loud 'tick' through whatever the guitar happens to be plugged into.

The 'tick' happens when I'm plugged into the Saffire LE firewire interface OR if I leave the interface out of the equation and plug straight into my Matamp C7.

The further away from the PC, the better. But it's only a small studio and I can't get far enough away to sort it! The old build did not do this.... I know that single coils will pick up just about anything but let's just say the problem to the extent I have it only arrived with the new build. Going to an inbetween position or switching to a humbucker equiped guitar sorts the problem / seriously reduces it. But I want to record my single coils :tongue:

I do not believe it to be a ground loop problem but am happy to be corrected here - I have checked the earth on the PC and on the amp and both are fine.... When I use them, I plug them in to the same wall point and this does indeed minimise hum but the ticks are still there. I have ensured that my guitar cables are good(they are good quality) and that no signal cables are running alongside mains cables.

I have screened both of my guitars really well and re-wired both using decent quality screened cable. With the PC off, they are lovely, quiet beasts through the Matamp. I can wave either guitar right next to my wife's PC and they don't seem to mind it! It's just mine....

My PC is well earthed and all of the sides of the case / the drive enclosure etc are all grounded nicely. Yet it still does it!

Any thoughts gratefully received. Even if it's 'replace the drive' :)

Gary
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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby ef37a » Tue Nov 08, 2011 11:25 pm

No, not a hum loop Garry, switching coils would have little effect on that.

I think you have covered just about all the bases! You will have to try another hard drive I fear.

1TB is huge for a "C" drive so you could pickup a cheaper 160-250G drive and fit that, you would only need to install Windows and some DAW software to prove the point and if it fixes it then go ahead and do a full transfer. The 1TB drive you could format and use as a music data only store, it should then never kick in while you are playing. If this does not fix the tizz..Well a spare HDD is NEVER a bad thing!

Er? Do HDDs not have to comform to EM regs? One other thought: You say "leaving the Saffire out of the equation"? But have you tried playing with the AI off? I am thinking pesky Fussywire cable radiating?

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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby Gary_W » Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:54 am

Hello Dave,

Thanks for your reply - much appreciated.

When I said 'left the Saffire out of the loop, I meant that I'd unplugged the firewire cable from teh Saffire itself, though I must confess I'd left the cable in the PC ;) I just tried it again and ripped the cable out of the PC end. Alas, no noticable difference.

I guess the obvious fault finding thing to do now would be to find up an old HDD and whack Windows on it to the extent that I have a booting PC.... If I do that and leave the (suspected problematic) HDD out of the equation then I'll know for sure if it's the drive or A.N.Other bit of the PC that is behaving odd with any old drive.

It's just such a faff! My DAW is Reaper, so that's nice and light. But then I have NI Komplete 8 Ultimate sitting on there. That is one chunky monkey :headbang:

But I think you could be right. At least if I just do it as a faultfinding thing then I'll know the way forward.

Thanks again.
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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby Gary_W » Wed Nov 09, 2011 1:27 am

OK, that was less painful than I thought - I had an old drive with XP still on there so I stuck that in and disconnected the 1TB WD.

Result - much less noise.... I put the 1TB back in and the ticky ticky is back. In both cases, I was running with the side of the PC off so hardly a fair test, but the fact remained that the older HD gave a touch of noise, the WD does shedloads.

So..... 2 questions:

1. The WD is a 6GB eSATA (SATA III). I am using the SATA III cable that came bundled with the Asus motherboard. What are the chances that it's the drive vs chances that it's the cable squirting out noise? Thoughts gratefully received! No objection to spending a few quid on this if there's a chance the problem will go away.

2. Is there any point in the SATA III connection for a conventional drive??? Whilst it supports it, a little bit of googling seems to suggest that it's only really SSD's that can take full advantage of the 6GB eSATA interface. So is the 6GB on this drive a case of unnecessary snake oil? If so, I can try any of my other standard SATA II connectors into a SATA II port on the MB and see what happens. Tomorrow, though!

Thanks

Gary
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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby dmills » Wed Nov 09, 2011 3:02 am

PCs are a funny area WRT the requirements for radiated emissions (And immunity).

Basically the complete machine has to meet the emissions standards if you are bringing it to market, but the individual components do NOT (Because they are components that can be used in many ways). The CE mark only says that a product complies with the regs it needs to comply with, so it is possible (easy in fact) to assemble a system out of all CE marked components that does not itself meet the EMC requirements.

It is up to the person or company bringing the machine to market to do the testing and any required modifications to make the product as a whole meet the EMC and LV directives.

Of course many people put a machine together from components without any intention of ever bringing it to market (which is when all this stuff kicks in), in which case almost anything goes, but you have no one to blame when it causes interference except the person who designed the complete system (Yourself!).

I would be having a good look at the wire dress, and at the earthing on the motherboard (Usually there is one screw that has a metal stud under it. Possibly winding a few things around some 73 mix ferrite cores might help.

Even the commercial stuff sometimes has 'issues', this laptop for example hates me going key down on 137Khz, the touchpad goes crazy at field strengths that should be within the immunity requirements.

Regards, Dan.
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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby ef37a » Wed Nov 09, 2011 7:43 am

Well that pretty much nails the WD drive as the culprit Garry!

Two things come to mind: I have a usb external drive kit and that comes with an earthing tag to go to the drive casing. The implication is therefore that the casing relies on a good bond to the computer chassis, is that the case?

Power leads: Might I suggest that a 1TB drive pulls more amps than a smaller one? Power leads are not screened AFAIK so it might be worth trying some turkey foil!

Hi Dan, thanks for the info. Yes ferrites. If indeed the computer is well screened the interference must be getting out via one or more cables?

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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby Pete Kaine » Wed Nov 09, 2011 11:23 am

Gary_W wrote:

2. Is there any point in the SATA III connection for a conventional drive??? Whilst it supports it, a little bit of googling seems to suggest that it's only really SSD's that can take full advantage of the 6GB eSATA interface. So is the 6GB on this drive a case of unnecessary snake oil? If so, I can try any of my other standard SATA II connectors into a SATA II port on the MB and see what happens. Tomorrow, though!


Sure, give it a try. Your pretty much right through, mechanical drives can't even clear the upper limits of SATA I through let along II or III so the's no real disadvantage of hooking a SATA III mechanical with a SATA 2 cable.
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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby Gary_W » Wed Nov 09, 2011 11:43 am

Thanks for all the posts - much apprecitated.

I'll fiddle with different cables and pop to Maplins later to see if I can get a few ferrite cores. Is the suggestion here to put them around the SATA leads OR the PC internal power connectors from the PSU to the mainboard / fron the PSU to the drive?

Pete - nice to hear from you especially as it was you guys that I bought all the components from so it must be your fault :tongue: :D

Whilst your on, Pete - I replaced the PSU at the time as well..... The whole reason for doing the new build was that my old PSU packed in and I managed to sneak a complete re-build past my wife under the 'the computer has blown up and I need to fix it, it'll be expensive' banner. Worked a treat.

This one is an Antec Trupower 650. Ever heard of noise problems of this nature with them? There are no ferrite cores on the power cables coming out of it but then my brain fails to remember if this is usual for PC Power supplies or not?

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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby Gary_W » Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:17 pm

OK, so I had a spare SATA II cable and have now connected the offending drive to a SATA II port. It's either no better or possibly slightly worse, but the latter could be my fertile imagination.

So I guess I'm down to ferrites and then new HDD? And noticing the skyrocket prices at the moment due to the floods I guess I'll be living with it for a bit if the ferrites don't work or someone has further thoughts?
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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby Gary_W » Wed Nov 09, 2011 11:40 pm

I've now tried ferrites on the PC mains cable, the amp mains cable, the PSU cable that is feeding the drive. No change :frown: I also checked all the screws on the Motherboard are nice and tight as suggested earlier in the thread. I have bought a new Sata cable from Maplins but haven't opened it yet..... Noticed that they are £5 on Scan, I paid £10 at Maplins and I would bet you it won't make any difference.

A sound file, should you wish to feel my pain, is here http://soundcloud.com/gary_w/hdd-noise-not-a-song

As it was a mic'd up guitar cab, I was proud not to have screamed whilst it was being recorded.

Any choice but a new HDD? And, if the HDD is doing this and it's only 11 months old, is this classed as a fault or not? From a data point of view it's been perfect (touching wood) though it is physically a fairly noisey bugger compared with Seagates I've had in the past.
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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby dmills » Wed Nov 09, 2011 11:55 pm

Unfortunately the hard drive, being a component of the computer does NOT have to meet any limits for radiated emissions, so no the drive is not faulty, the computer could possibly be argued to be, but that is no help to you.

Question: Have you got the drive in one of those noise isolating sleeves (That often avoid metal to metal contact between the drive and the case?), they are sometimes the kiss of death from a RF perspective.

Regards, Dan.
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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby Gary_W » Thu Nov 10, 2011 12:03 am

Hi Dan,

Thanks for the reply. No, it's not in a noise resistant sleeve.... It's in the metal cased pull out bit of the Antec case, though I've tried it in / out and been tempted to shake it all about :) The earth connection is good between the drive and the system case so it should be doing its job.

If I do grab another hard drive, I think I'll go with a smallish solid state effort. Have these gone through the roof too due to the flooding? Currently looking at £130 delivered for a 120gig from Scan but I've no idea whether that is the going rate or currently high? If I have to live with this for a few months then I do.... but I'd rather not! If a solid state would sort me and they haven't flown up in price I may see if I can get one.
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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby Pete Kaine » Thu Nov 10, 2011 10:52 am

Gary_W wrote:
Pete - nice to hear from you especially as it was you guys that I bought all the components from so it must be your fault :tongue: :D

Of course, what I don't mention is that I have a rather large generator in the back of stores running a 24 screen setup rigged up to a flight sim box all set up on hydraulics. It's pretty sweet for the odd lunch time session but occasionally it overloads, and electricaly charges all the crates of hard drives we stack near by...

:blush:

Gary_W wrote:
Whilst your on, Pete - I replaced the PSU at the time as well..... The whole reason for doing the new build was that my old PSU packed in and I managed to sneak a complete re-build past my wife under the 'the computer has blown up and I need to fix it, it'll be expensive' banner. Worked a treat.

This one is an Antec Trupower 650. Ever heard of noise problems of this nature with them? There are no ferrite cores on the power cables coming out of it but then my brain fails to remember if this is usual for PC Power supplies or not?

Ferrites used to be common but they stopped appearing with PSU's a good number of years back. It could be worth a go, as I've had some luck with them in the past but YMMV. I'm afraid I've not spent any time with the Antecs of late as I've not been overly enamored by them in the past... it's not to say I don't like them (I'd rant like a mad man at this point, if that was the case) and I do still make use of them, but only for home office type systems so I've not had any reason to build/software/test a rig with one in. If you've got a spare none Antec psu about anywhere through (or even just access to one for the afternoon) it could be worth rigging it up quickly to rule it in/out.

Gary_W wrote:
Any choice but a new HDD? And, if the HDD is doing this and it's only 11 months old, is this classed as a fault or not? From a data point of view it's been perfect (touching wood) though it is physically a fairly noisey bugger compared with Seagates I've had in the past.

Outside of the inital 7/30 day rejection it would be hard one to get processed. I suspect that this won't prove to be just the harddrive as it's not acturly the harddrive reproducing the noise, rather a combination of factors causing it to be broadcast around the system. We'd in the event of it not being provable would have to fire it back to the makers who I doubt would take the time to recreate the same senario. As you say it's a physically fine drive data, and the normally testing routine would be a round of WDtools to see if the's any low level media issues which would be pretty much all that WD would do too so it's unlikely they would accept it back from us.

Gary_W wrote:
If I do grab another hard drive, I think I'll go with a smallish solid state effort. Have these gone through the roof too due to the flooding? Currently looking at £130 delivered for a 120gig from Scan but I've no idea whether that is the going rate or currently high? If I have to live with this for a few months then I do.... but I'd rather not! If a solid state would sort me and they haven't flown up in price I may see if I can get one.

I've just done a purchase history on our 4 or 5 main sellers and all have had reorders in the last 2 weeks and all of them are at an all time low. £1 a GB sounds about right from memory.

Something that might be worth a look is Spread Spectrum settings in the bios. The could be anything between 1 and 3 of them so have a look through and toggle them and see what happens.
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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby Gary_W » Thu Nov 10, 2011 3:51 pm

Many thanks for the reply, Pete. It is very much appreciated.

I am very happy and excited as I have now managed to fix it. :bouncy:

Google showed that quite a few people have had big problems with these boards in terms of noise and the comments at the bottom of this review thread were what sorted it for me.


http://benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=533

I tried Pete's Spread Spectrum turn-offs but there was no noticable difference. The thing that actually solved it was turning off C1 in the BIOS!!!!

I now can pick up the HDD and other electrical noise sounds if I put my guitar < a foot away from the PC. When I'm in normal playing position it's absoultely fine now. This has cured the fault for my external amp and also when using guitar rig via the Saffire.

The overall noise level has gone down on the guitar as well, but the most welcome thing is the lack of HDD spike noise. What a relief to have fixed it!

Prior to finding it, I had actually put a sheet of turkey foil in front of my guitar (from top of neck to the tailpiece) and earthed it. I still got the noise, which was leading me to read up on all of the ground loop articles but still coming up blank.

So whatever C1 actually is, it causes huge RF gremlins with this board and brings out the worst in everything else that is plugged in. The P6X58D-E is apparently not the only board that can be helped out by turning C1 off, but there were enough posts out there about this when I phrased the searches a little differently to show I'm not the only one to have been here!

Thanks again for all who tried to help on this thread - I am so glad to have found it. I was about to pull the trigger on an SSD and that would have helped out but this was a much better solution! :bouncy:
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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Nov 10, 2011 7:12 pm

Gary_W wrote:So whatever C1 actually is, it causes huge RF gremlins with this board and brings out the worst in everything else that is plugged in. The P6X58D-E is apparently not the only board that can be helped out by turning C1 off, but there were enough posts out there about this when I phrased the searches a little differently to show I'm not the only one to have been here!

I’m very pleased to hear you’re finally sorted Gary, but I suspect we all thought disabling ‘C1E CPU Enhanced Halt state’ in the Advanced CPU Features section of the BIOS was fairly common knowledge now, otherwise I’m sure someone would have mentioned it before.

I’ve covered it several times in my PC Notes columns, and we’ve discussed it numerous times on our forums in the past as well.

It’s all to do with CPU throttling - here’s a link so you can find out more:

www.soundonsound.com/SOS/oct10/articles ... s-1010.htm

Hope this helps!


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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby Gary_W » Thu Nov 10, 2011 8:40 pm

Hi Martin,

Thanks for the reply. I think this is one of the cases where, if you search with the words of the solution, it's obvious that I should have done the BIOS C1E tweak. Indeed, if I search the forum here using the term C1E then I get a few threads from the last couple of years detailing this issue on Gigabyte boards. The penny would have dropped.

Unfortunately, I did not know to search for C1E :) Instead I searched for 'Guitar Interference' and found the following useful thread


http://www.soundonsound.com/forum/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=PCMus&Number=946626&Searchpage=1&Main=946626&Words=guitar+interference&topic=&Search=true#Post946626

This chap had very, very similar symptoms - hard drive activity driving a guitar nuts. You've told him you believe it to be a ground loop. By the look of it, he still hasn't fixed it. I shall post now to ask if he's looked in his bios.

Another recent thread

http://www.soundonsound.com/forum/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=PCMus&Number=951321&Searchpage=1&Main=949280&Words=guitar+interference&topic=&Search=true#Post951321

Again, blamed on ground loops. No-one mentioned anything about looking at power saving in the bios.

Also looked at the 'noises' sticky at the top. I confess to not reading the entire thing, but most of the steering there is towards groundloops and DI boxes. Can you see why I would go down the routes I've been down?

I just read the article you linked to - I had read that before but it did not add up for this fault as it was talking (to my mind) about glitches and dropouts, not about generating enough RF to roast a chicken at 20 yards.

So if it is such common knowledge, why doesn't everyone quote it??

Sorry if I sound like a stroppy git, but having been chasing ground loops that don't exist and farting around with tin foil for days on a big wild goose chase and then being told 'oh yeah, we all assumed you'd checked the bios before doing all that cos that's obvious in cases of interference'..... Well, you can imagine can't you? ;)
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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby ef37a » Fri Nov 11, 2011 7:56 am

Yes Gary I can certainly understand your frustration! I certainly did not think of that "C1 E" solution.(did not know wtf it was till yesterday!)

Martin. "All to do with CPU throttling" Yes indeed! Nowt to do with hard drive induced noise as far as I can see?

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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby Pete Kaine » Fri Nov 11, 2011 11:20 am

I did facepalm when I saw the thread result. I think a year or two back this came up on here on a daily basis almost, but having just tried to do a search via the forum search tool, it looks like it doesn't index anything before the refresh a few months back, so no wonder you didn't find anything.

It was very common with the X58 boards but seems to have disappeared pretty much with the Z series these days (so wasn't at the front of my mind). It's capacitor cross talk as Martin noted it's caused by the bios throttling and boosting the cpu clocks, which in turn requires voltage changes on the board and it's these in turn you hear polluting the audio signal as they ramp up and down. The spread spectrum suggestion I made is the other half of this fix and can be a potant cure for coil whine and other signal noise.

Should have clocked it when I saw the X58 board in the hardware list, but also I wouldn't have given it much thought as you rightly say, it was far more noticable on the Gigabye's at the time.

Think we may have all be thrown off by the hard drive correlation!
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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby Gary_W » Fri Nov 11, 2011 11:49 am

Thanks for the replies, Dave and Pete.

I believe the system is quieter now in general, but the foremost problem was certainly the hard drive RF noise hence the nature of my searches and why they bore no fruit. I would never have believed that a bios setting could do such a thing to an external device like a guitar pickup but that shows that I am a mere tinkerer with such things as opposed to an expert :)

IMO, this bios setting info is worth adding in the first post of the sticky on PC noises.... This is a wonderful forum but so busy that it is impossible to keep up with all of the threads. Searches and stickies are essential in these kind of situations :) Pointing someone to check the bios is a great 'first line' check that takes 2 minutes in any 'I've got weird noises on my PC' but the sticky sends you down the physical route a bit too early IMO.... The BIOS need to be excluded from the equation before going down the 'physical problem' route - it might save someone else the dusty knees and turkey foil horrors of the last few days.

I was absolutely losing the plot on this one. I spent a tenner on ferrites, another £10 on a better screened cable and was about to drop £130 on an SSD (and then go through the hassle of re-installing NI software, Windows, ensuring all paths are correct etc etc). I'm so glad to have stumbled upon such an easy fix before major cash was involved!

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Re: RF Interference caused by hard drive...

Postby ef37a » Fri Nov 11, 2011 12:03 pm

I understand what you are saying Gary but telling folks to IMMEDIATELY start rummaging about in their BIOS is a recipe for disaster IMHO.

The vast majority of people do not have a clue how to get into BIOS (I didn't for my W7 pc!) and if they manage it they can do some serious *hit in there...Ok. I KNOW it can be set to factory defaults but the punter will probably have panicked by then, called SOS a load of bad names and spent a fortune with a back street pc spiv.

The fact is most often it is obvious that the problem IS a ground fault and even here most peeps are banjaxed by some pretty basic electrical doings! Leave us not encourage them into the BIOS, at least we need to think very carefully about phrasing such a suggestion!(You will have them hacking the Registry next!)

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