By Jake Behr –
Review of: Electro Harmonix The Silencer
Reviewed by: Jake BehrRating:5On January 4, 2017Last modified:January 4, 2017
Electro-Harmonix is well-known for their affordable, industry-leading effects pedals. The sounds for which they are indirectly responsible are ubiquitous. The Big Muff Pi, The Memory Man, The Electric Mistress – All borne from EHX’s seemingly indelible drive to innovate and reimagine.
The Silencer… is less indicative of that drive but still stands out as a necessity. Noise gates are effective at eliminating hum, hiss, and string noise by filtering out any sound beneath a certain volume threshold. If you have a high-gain amp or pedal, or even if you’re getting hum from a poor power source, a noise gate should be part of your rig, end of story. While The Silencer functions exactly as any other noise gate does, it is one of the best noise gates out there at this price point: it’s smaller, lighter, and just plain prettier than most of its competitors.
- Noise gate with built-in effects loop
- 3 knobs- Threshold, Reduction, and Release
- Noise reduction is variable from -70dB to +4dB
- Release time can be set between 8ms and 4 seconds
- Built in loop- Send and Return to filter out hum from guitar and effects in two separate loops
- Buffered output (via Send)/buffered bypass keeps your signal strong and clean
- Powered by a single 9-volt battery or optional AC adaptor
When you take The Silencer (and included EHX sticker- woo!) out of its handsome, art-deco inspired box you’re regaled with a lightweight, rugged little unit. And when I say lightweight and rugged, I mean it. To the uninitiated it appears to be made out of some otherworldly alloy with the density of balsa wood and the durability and look of pig-iron. The front is a silver and white screenprint, and the footswitch latches with that satisfying click-clack we all know and love.
The three knobs control the following parameters:
Threshold: Determines the level at which the volume is attenuated. I’ve found this works best at around noon for most general purposes.
Release: Shortens or extends the decay of the signal for either a more natural fade at higher settings or a punchy cutoff at its lowest.
Reduction: Controls how much the overall signal is reduced. This setting might seem counter-intuitive to some, as the higher you go, the less signal you get.
SOUND & PERFORMANCE:
With my amp cranked to its highest-gain setting there is almost always a very unmusical hum that renders my tone muddy in any mix. Almost all reverbs modulate it into an instrument all its own, and pitch-shifters try to track it.
When I picked up The Silencer and used it right after my effects chain, the first thing I noticed was that this hum was almost immediately eliminated as if Electro-Harmonix had exorcised a phantom from my amp with this unassuming noise-gate as a proxy. Upon a closer listen, I noticed that the hum was still technically there, just attenuated out entirely between notes.
Even with its threshold at its peak, your playing comes through loud and clear; you do have to dial in a sweet spot to hear your gentle notes in the same phrases as your heavy ones. I’ve found that this is at around 12-1 o’clock. With the threshold at around 2 to 3 o’clock, the Silencer even rids you of obtrusive string noise. Those of us who embrace that noise may not have as much of a use for that function, but for those of you who think that dragging your fingers on the strings sounds particularly awful behind a delay, this is a godsend.
I noticed that at its lowest setting, the release knob doesn’t cut the signal off immediately. There’s a bit of latency there that is a function of the minimum 8ms release time. Not a huge loss, especially at low gain settings but still worth mentioning. I’ve also seen noise gates that execute other utilities, in particular offering the option to power other pedals via daisy-chain- but if that ability doesn’t concern you as much as size and build do, The Silencer is the way to go.
The way I use this pedal now, I plug my guitar into The Silencer’s input and run that signal through all of my pre-effects loop pedals, then in and out of my amp’s effects loop and back through The Silencer via the return and output to cancel all of the hum from my guitar, my overdrives and my amp. If your signal chain is a little simpler, it works just fine at the end- just make sure you’re putting it before any reverbs or delays. In my experience, you lose some of the more subtle and quieter nuances of your delay or reverb using any one noise gate as a panacea. In other words, you don’t want a high-threshold noise gate getting rid of the hum from your Electro Harmonix Metal Muff but also squashing out the trails of your EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath. Legends tell of an age long past when Periphery’s Misha Mansoor used 3 noise gates to get beautiful high-gain tone without sacrificing any subtleties, a convoluted solution to be sure, but an effective one!
The Silencer from Electro Harmonix is an exceptional solution for cutting out signal noise and tightening up your sound. Noise gates have always been an invaluable staple in the world of guitar, and while tons of other companies are offering circuits that do what The Silencer does just as well, if you a want a noise gate that’s reliable, very effective at eliminating noise, and looks nice on your board, too, The Silencer is the absolute best choice in its price range.
That concludes our review of The Silencer from Electro-Harmonix. Thanks for reading!