Extra Class question of the day: system noise; electrical appliance noise; line noise; locating noise sources; DSP noise reduction; noise blankers

Noise is often a real problem for radio amateurs. Fortunately, by understanding how noise is generated and how to reduce or eliminate it, noise can be tamed.

Atmospheric noise is naturally-occurring noise. Thunderstorms are a major cause of atmospheric static. (E4E06) There’s not much you can do to eliminate, but you can often use a receiver’s noise blanker to help you copy signals better. Signals which appear across a wide bandwidth (like atmospheric noise) are the types of signals that a receiver noise blanker might be able to remove from desired signals. (E4E03) Ignition noise is one type of receiver noise that can often be reduced by use of a receiver noise blanker. (E4E01)

One undesirable effect that can occur when using an IF noise blanker is that nearby signals may appear to be excessively wide even if they meet emission standards. (E4E09)

Many modern receivers now use digital signal processing (DSP) filters to eliminate noise. All of these choices are correct when talking about types of receiver noise can often be reduced with a DSP noise filter (E4E02):

  • Broadband white noise
  • Ignition noise
  • Power line noise

One disadvantage of using some types of automatic DSP notch-filters when attempting to copy CW signals is that the DSP filter can remove the desired signal at the same time as it removes interfering signals. (E4E12)

While filters can be very effective at reducing noise, it is often better to figure out what is  generating the noise and taking steps to reduce or eliminate the amount of noise generated in the first place. For example, one way you can determine if line noise interference is being generated within your home is by turning off the AC power line main circuit breaker and listening on a battery operated radio. (E4E07) If by doing this you determine that an electric motor is a problem, noise from an electric motor can be suppressed by installing a brute-force AC-line filter in series with the motor leads. (E4E05)

All of these choices are correct when it comes to the cause of a loud roaring or buzzing AC line interference that comes and goes at intervals (E4E13):

  • Arcing contacts in a thermostatically controlled device
  • A defective doorbell or doorbell transformer inside a nearby residence
  • A malfunctioning illuminated advertising display

Sometimes your own equipment may be the cause of received noise. A common-mode signal at the frequency of the radio transmitter is sometimes picked up by electrical wiring near a radio antenna. (E4E08)

The main source of noise in an automobile is the alternator. Conducted and radiated noise caused by an automobile alternator be suppressed by connecting the radio’s power leads directly to the battery and by installing coaxial capacitors in line with the alternator leads. (E4E04)

Personal computer and other digital devices can also generate noise. One type of electrical interference that might be caused by the operation of a nearby personal computer is the appearance of unstable modulated or unmodulated signals at specific frequencies. (E4E14) All of these choices are correct when talking about common characteristics of interference caused by a touch controlled electrical device (with an internal microprocessor) (E4E10):

  • The interfering signal sounds like AC hum on an AM receiver or a carrier modulated by 60 Hz hum on a SSB or CW receiver
  • The interfering signal may drift slowly across the HF spectrum
  • The interfering signal can be several kHz in width and usually repeats at regular intervals across a HF band

Noise can even be generated by the most unlikely things. For example, it is mostly likely that nearby corroded metal joints are mixing and re-radiating the broadcast signals if you are hearing combinations of local AM broadcast signals within one or more of the MF or HF ham bands. (E4E11)