Electric guitars and amplifiers share a symbiotic relationship, but if one link in this complex signal chain goes wrong, the entire system fails. Every guitarist has experienced an amplifier that keeps cutting out, and it can be a very frustrating issue. Let’s explore the reasons and possible fixes for an amplifier that keeps cutting out.
A guitar amp may cut out due to loose or faulty wiring, a faulty input jack, a damaged instrument cable, faulty amp controls, damaged or faulty soldering, a damaged power cable or socket, faulty or incompatible internal components, or a faulty channel switch. All of these problems are repairable.
There are several reasons that may cause an electric guitar amplifier to cut in and out, and most of them are very simple to fix. Understanding how to troubleshoot the issue is critical, as well as knowing how to find solutions to the issues that you find.
8 Reasons Why Your Guitar Amp May Cut Out
Guitar amplifiers are somewhat complex. This hardware is more delicate than most people realize, and there are several small components within these amplifiers and speaker systems that can fail, causing an intermittent response from the amp.
There are several reasons why a guitar amplifier may cut out, and almost every reason has a good solution.
With that in mind, let’s explore eight reasons why your guitar amp may be cutting out and what to do about it.
1. Loose Wiring
Among the most common causes for an amplifier that cuts out frequently is loose or faulty wiring. This wiring could be anywhere within the amplifier, but the wiring that is usually affected and causes this issue forms part of the signal chain.
Faulty or loose wires that connect the inputs of the amplifier to the rest of the components, wiring that connects switches within the amp, or even wiring in the amp that controls connections, such as amp controls, could all cause the amplifier to cut out.
To troubleshoot this issue, the process involves opening the casing of the amplifier and inspecting any visible wires for any loose or faulty connections.
If you find any connections within the wiring of the amp that has become loose or faulty, the best solution is to resolder them, as this will correct the issue and will usually cause the amp to function normally.
If the problem persists, the culprit of the issue is elsewhere in the signal chain or amplifier.
2. Faulty Input Jack
Another very common reason for an amplifier cutting in and out is a faulty input jack. The input jack is the connector that the instrument cable plugs into and forms the connection point between the guitar and the amplifier.
These input jacks are surprisingly fragile, but they are also very easy to fix, so even if this is the issue, the problem should not be too difficult to resolve.
A faulty input jack is usually indicated by the input jack being loose, as when the jack is loose, it is likely to wobble and dislodge or break wires and internal connections. If the problem gets bad enough, it can cause the input jack to break altogether.
If the input jack on the amp feels loose, or if it has been loose for a while, this is likely the issue.
To check the input jack, simply unscrew the nut that holds the input jack on at the front, and remove the housing around the input jack. This will allow you to pull the jack out of the amp or out of its housing.
There should be two or three wires that connect to the input jack in separate places. If any of these wires are loose, damaged, or faulty, the signal to the amp will be interrupted, which will cause the amp to cut out.
Resolder these connections to the input jack if they are damaged or loose, and be sure to seat the input jack securely into its house with all appropriate nuts and bolts.
Using a locking nut is a good way to prevent the input jack from becoming loose and wobbling in its socket, as this will cause the problem to reoccur if the input jack is not held in place securely.
3. Damaged Instrument Cable
The third item on this list of possible reasons why an amp may cut out is also among the most likely. A damaged instrument cable is a likely reason why an amp may cut in and out, and it may even make it seem as if there is something wrong with the amp itself when the problem lies elsewhere.
To check if the instrument cable is the culprit, simply switch to another cable. If the problem persists, it is likely to be the amp or the guitar causing the issue, but if the problem is solved, then the cable is to blame.
Instrument cables for guitars and amplifiers are simple signal cables that have two internal wires, and these two wires connect to a single point each at either end of the cable. One cable is the ground, and the other is the signal wire, or live wire, that carries the signal from the guitar to the amp.
If the cable is faulty, it is likely to be at one of the ends of the cable. Similarly to the input jack of the amp, the cables are connected to single points each, and if any of the connections within either end of the cable are damaged, loose, or faulty, the signal will be interrupted.
Unscrew the jack connectors on both ends of the cable and inspect the connections within the connectors to look for faults. Any faults should be resoldered, which should resolve the issue.
If the cable has no faults at either end or within either connector, there may be a break within the cable. If this is the issue, then it is likely better to buy a new cable rather than try to find the break and repair it, and there is no guarantee that the cable will continue to function afterward.
4. Faulty Amplifier Controls
Every amplifier has some form of control switches and dials, and all of the signals that flow through the amp are controlled by this hardware. If the dials and switches on the amp are faulty, it is likely to cause signal interruptions and cause the amp to cut out.
If your amplifier buzzes, stutters, cuts out, or outputs static sounds when you use the controls or turn any dials on the amp, then the controls are surely the issue that is causing the amp to cut out.
Dirty control pots, faulty switches, and damaged controls usually need to be replaced if they cause these types of issues, but it is possible to repair them in some instances.
Try to open the panel that seats the amp controls and take a look at the wiring and solder points. If these are damaged or crusty, resolder them to fix the issue.
Pull off the front of the control pots to see if there are any issues with them or to expose any dirt that accumulated within them. Clean the pots and remove any grim that you find.
If the cutting out persists after cleaning and repairing the controls, it is time to replace these parts. Control pots and switches are very inexpensive, but be sure to find the components that are compatible with your amp before installing them.
If the problem does not go away after replacing the controls, it is likely that internal capacitors or wiring have failed, at which point the best option is to take the amp to an amplifier technician for repairs or risk damaging the amp further.
5. Damaged Or Faulty Soldering
Faulty, damaged, or cracked solder joints are a relatively common cause for an amp that keeps cutting out, but it can be very difficult to find.
These older points are everywhere within the circuitry of modern amplifiers, and cracks in solder joints can be so fine that they are almost impossible to see.
If you are looking for an issue within the amp and no other problems are clearly visible, look at all of the solder joints in the amp.
These can be found where any cables connect, they can be on any circuit boards, and they can connect switches and other small components such as resisters, transistors, and capacitors.
If you find any cracked solder joints, the resolution is to remove the solder and resolder the joints. If you cannot find any of these cracked joints yourself, it is time to take your amp to a technician who can fix it for you.
6. Damaged Power Cable Or Socket
If your amplifier is not cutting out regarding audio signal but is rather losing power intermittently, this can be a serious issue and is likely an issue with power delivery to the amplifier.
Before taking any other steps, if your amp cuts out and loses power, switch the power to the amp off at the wall socket, unplug the amp, press the power cable into the amp firmly to ensure it is well seated, and plug the amp into a different socket somewhere else in the building.
If the problem persists, it is time to inspect the power delivery to the amp more closely.
Unplug the kettle cable from the amplifier and inspect the power socket from the outside. If there are no obvious issues, try using a different kettle cable.
If the problem continues, take the amp to a technician before taking any other steps. Amplifiers have built-in capacitors that store a substantial electrical charge. Inspecting the power delivery system of an amplifier can therefore result in a large electric shock if you are not sure about what you are doing, even if the amplifier is not plugged into the wall.
Never try to repair your amplifier’s power delivery system on your own unless you are a trained and experienced electrician or have extensive electrical experience.
7. Faulty, Damaged, Or Incompatible Internal Components
Talking about the power delivery in the amplifier brings us to discuss the internal components of the amplifier, as these components are just as likely to be the cause of an intermittent amplifier as anything else.
If you travel with your amplifier or if it has been knocked over, dropped, or bumped too hard, an internal component within the amplifier may have been damaged, causing the intermittence.
The same is true if the amplifier is not built with compatible components. This is sometimes the case with very inexpensive amplifiers, as the speakers used in conjunction with the amp itself may not be powerful enough for the audio signal.
In this instance, the lower-impedance speakers or lower-capacity speakers will cut out when the amplifier is pushed too hard. The only way to rectify this is to buy a new amp or upgrade the internal components of the amplifier to be compatible with each other.
If the internal components have become damaged, the components must be replaced to solve the issue. This is best done by an experienced technician, or you risk damaging the amp further if you do not know what you are doing.
8. Faulty Channel Switch
Some amplifiers are built with separate channels for cleaning and distortion, and these switches are often a point of failure in this type of amplifier. If the amp you are using has a switch like this and often cuts out when switching between the channels or when using one side specifically, then the switch is likely faulty.
A crossed wire within the switch, a touching connection, a faulty component, or an exposed wire can cause the amp to cut out.
If your amp cuts out and you suspect the switch is to blame, simply open up the up and carefully inspect the wiring and components in this area.
If you notice anything that needs repairs, fix the amp accordingly, and if not, then it may be a good idea to replace the switch and switch components altogether.
Some amp manufacturers make these parts available for sale, and this is always the best option if you need to take these steps to repair your amplifier.
It is not uncommon for amplifiers to experience issues that cause them to cut out. Many amps go through these issues, and every guitar player must know how to troubleshoot and solve them when this happens.
Take the time to inspect your rig and your amplifier to find the issue and take the appropriate steps to rectify it. An amp that cuts out is very frustrating, but it is always fixable. Find the issue, resolve it, and your amp will be back to fill speed in no time.