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Cracling sound coming from speakers

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August 5, 2012 11:58:25 PM

Hi, everyone, I've been reading these forums for the past year, but only today I am in need of some help from this community, hence this is my first thread.

The past few days I've been having popping/ crackling sound coming from my fairly new speaker system...
I tried a couple of things first to make sure what was the problem. So I disconnected my speakers from my sound card audio jacks and the power socket (which I've constantly used to power them) and tested them on another power socked without my PC components or even the guitar amp being close.

I discovered that the crackling/popping sound disappears when the speakers are not connected to my sound card or the mobo sound jacks, they only appear when I plug the 3 jacks in to my sound card or mobo sound jacks.
Thus my suspicion is it's the motherboard PCB getting old, but I was wondering if there was anyone out there who knows a better solution than replacing the mobo.

Cheers, Gh0sy

More about : cracling sound coming speakers

a b V Motherboard
August 5, 2012 11:59:19 PM

Have you updated your drivers?
August 6, 2012 12:10:43 AM

Yes, that was the first thing I've tried, I'm sorry I didn't mention it.
I also forgot to mention, that the popping/ crackling sound persists even with the PC completely off.
Related resources
August 6, 2012 12:13:10 AM

Oh and it disappears if I disconnect the speakers from the PC even when it's off.

(sorry for the double post, could not edit)
a b V Motherboard
August 6, 2012 12:26:02 AM

Are you overclocking at all?
Anonymous
a b Ĉ ASUS
a b V Motherboard
August 6, 2012 1:02:45 AM

have you plugged them into anything other than the PC? like an MP3 player.
a b Ĉ ASUS
a c 130 V Motherboard
August 6, 2012 1:17:43 AM

Along with the above poster, Is anything else connected to the line-in jack on the computer(Do you have a TV card connected to cable by any chance. Some older Asus boards left the sound card in operation with the PC off to connect things to line-in[Asus called it MP3 in])? It is very strange to have that noise with the computer OFF. I have have some ground noise with 3 computers(this is not a pop sound, its more of a humming sound tho) on a single set of speakers(so I backed off to 2 computers only until i can get some isolation transformers), but never with a computer off.

I would try to disconnect things from the PC(Monitor and external usb devices that have separate power supplies.) while it is off one at a time and see if you can get to the bottom of this.
August 6, 2012 2:33:06 AM

I do overclock teh_gerbil, but at the moment everything is at stock clocks until I get some decent cooling installed.

Hey looniam, no I haven't these are 5.1 speakers and my PC is the only computer/ device I've used them on.

Hi nukemaster, I don't have a TV card and nothing is currently connected to Line In jack, since I'm using a USB microphone. (My Asus Xonar DG sound card uses the same jack for Line In and Mic In).
The weird thing is, I've tried unplugging absolutely everything leaving literally just the PC case with no power and nothing connected to it apart from the speaker audio jacks and the noise is still present.

Could it be that the steel case or some sort of component within the case is building up static using speakers as the source?
a b Ĉ ASUS
a c 130 V Motherboard
August 6, 2012 2:50:47 AM

So even with the PC power(and EVERYTHING but the sound) disconnected you get it. This should not be able to do much of anything.

How it is getting strange. For the hell of it, try the onboard sound or even just the onboard sound ports with the pc off and see what happens. I would almost wonder if something strange is happening with the speakers.

Try just front then rear then center/sub and see if it only happens on one set. If it does, try that set on a DVD player or something to see what happens.

Audio problems can be a pain, but this one is strange because it happens with the system off and unplugged.
a b V Motherboard
August 6, 2012 2:56:04 AM

You could be grounding somewhere in the cable, is it a attached cable, or can you try a new cable?

Do you have a can on compressed air?/ Is your mobo very dusty?

What were you doing when you first noticed it?
a c 122 Ĉ ASUS
a c 481 V Motherboard
August 6, 2012 3:04:24 AM

also make sure any wifi/portable phone/cell phone are not near any speakers. new power speakers can pick up and make funny sounds with a cell phone near them.
August 6, 2012 3:25:58 AM

So I tried switching between different audio jacks, but the noise continues to be there on the same speakers. Unfortunately today I can't test the speakers on a DVD player for the reason that everyone in my household is asleep, so I don't want to wake them. I will do so later today in the afternoon UTC time.

The cable is attached to the main front right speaker (my speakers are Logitech x-530 by the way) so I cannot do anything about that I'm afraid. Not sure about grounding as well, I'm no expert in that area...
The mobo is a bit dusty, but not to the point where it would be a hazard to the PC itself. When the crackling/ popping noise first appeared I didn't really do anything in particular, but browse the internet.

On a further note I have found a new symptom. The noise disappears if I adjust the volume to half or anything between the maximum and the minimum volume on the volume adjust wheel which is on the main physical interface.
August 6, 2012 3:35:39 AM

Sounds like a cable issue. Switch over to a new 3.5mm audio jack. Or RCA jacks, whatever you use.

If you use optical cabling. Does the cable have any tight loops, or kinks in it?

August 6, 2012 3:57:20 AM

Is it the cable? Because if I leave the volume control knob on ~60% volume the noise disappears otherwise on 0%-10% and 90%-100% the noise is present.

What keeps me pondering is why the noise completely disappears if I disconnect the 5.1 audio jacks from the PC...
a b V Motherboard
August 6, 2012 4:24:47 AM

I believe you have a dirty Potentiometer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potentiometer. Pull the volume control apart and spray in some electronics cleaner,(any hardware store) turn the knob back and forth, and see if your problem doesn't go away. Good luck!
a b Ĉ ASUS
a c 130 V Motherboard
August 6, 2012 6:03:53 AM

Just make sure its a plastic safe contact cleaner as some will damage this kind of thing.
August 6, 2012 11:02:39 PM

Hi again, just to notify you guys who all tried to help me I found the problem, but it's not resolved.
Basically, I did not take into consideration the 'time' when all this noise keeps appearing, hence I just noticed this morning that the noise is gone.
After pondering the whole day why this phenomenon was happening I also noticed that it came back at ~6PM or when the sun was going down.
Then it hit me, that the night-time lights turn on near my flat's landing, so my speculation is that all this is is just electronic disturbance from those night-time lights.
I will confirm this tomorrow if it is truly happening because of the lights, but now I am wondering what can I do to make the noise stop (smash all the light bulbs!! joke :) )
a b V Motherboard
August 6, 2012 11:30:46 PM

Gh0sy, if it's honestly lights at your flat that's causing the static noise, given noise is voltage fluctuations, I would be more worried about how much of a beating your PSU is taking with this!

Maybe look at replacing your PSU, see if that fixes it, or invest in a UPS device
Anonymous
a b Ĉ ASUS
a b V Motherboard
August 6, 2012 11:46:47 PM

wear a tin foil hat, that will solve everything!

on a side note: that is F'd up your speakers are not shielded
a b Ĉ ASUS
a c 130 V Motherboard
August 7, 2012 1:19:57 AM

That would be very strange. Most power supplies can take small changes in voltage with ease and not even have a noticeable effect on the other side.

Right now, my voltage is at 115(120 normal) and as high as maybe 123v(Canada).

For the heck of it, can you plug the speakers(or computer) to a different power outlet(different circuit if you can.).
August 7, 2012 1:54:19 AM

LOL @tinfoil hat. And yeah, I'll try moving the PC and the whole speaker set to another room.
Since you've mentioned it, my PSU is a pretty cheap 800W model, I don't even know if it has a brand, so it could be it getting old.
If moving to another room solves the problem, I'll be happy to do so, but unfortunately I will do so after a day or two.
I will update you guys later and by the way, thanks for all the help you've given me :) 
a b Ĉ ASUS
a c 87 V Motherboard
August 7, 2012 2:17:42 AM

teh_gerbil said:
Gh0sy, if it's honestly lights at your flat that's causing the static noise, given noise is voltage fluctuations, I would be more worried about how much of a beating your PSU is taking with this!

Since OP said he was getting the noise on his speakers even when his PC is disconnected, the noise he gets is EMI from a RF source, not something that comes from the power outlet.

Grounding everything to a single power bar should solve that problem unless the amplifier has no ground.
a b V Motherboard
August 7, 2012 3:00:50 AM

"I've tried unplugging absolutely everything leaving literally just the PC case with no power and nothing connected to it apart from the speaker audio jacks and the noise is still present."

I misread that statement. OP, disregard my comment about your PSU please. But your power is sh**house if a couple of lights cause your speakers to sound like that.
August 7, 2012 3:11:07 AM

That could be the case InvalidError, if it means anything I can hear very quiet and subtle radio transmission going through my speakers (mostly Russian FM channels) when the noise is occurring, so if it's RF source does that mean I need to ground?

Also, is it normal to receive EMIs or RFs on satellite speakers, or are they supposed to be protected from that in some way?
a b Ĉ ASUS
a c 87 V Motherboard
August 7, 2012 11:01:37 AM

Gh0sy said:
so if it's RF source does that mean I need to ground?

You need proper shielded cables and equipment that has proper ground.

Since receiving FM is a somewhat complex process, what you are hearing is more likely AM which requires little more than diodes to receive.

Gh0sy said:
Also, is it normal to receive EMIs or RFs on satellite speakers, or are they supposed to be protected from that in some way?

Any length of unshielded cable and improperly grounded cables/equipments can act as an RF/EMI receiver. Proper grounding+shielding still receives it but conducts RF/EMI away from the signals of interest to mitigate the impact.
a c 122 Ĉ ASUS
a c 481 V Motherboard
August 7, 2012 11:36:26 AM

check your flat for old magntic cfl ballists. the do make a large field when they come on. if your flat does use a lot of them...and your a renter....look into your local power company for grant and energy savings loans. a free energy audit will show the owner of the flat/apts they can be saving a lot of money by slowy replacing all the old lighting with led...with the right led unit they woint have to pay someone to change a light bulb in the unit for 10-12 years. a lot of the leds have min 30,000 hours before the led will fail. some have 100,000-120,000. a lot of led companies that sell the led version of the 2 by 2 and 2 by 4 parking lot lights have rent to own or 0 percent loans.. you repair for the lights out of the energy savings for the lights.
a b Ĉ ASUS
a c 87 V Motherboard
August 7, 2012 1:12:02 PM

smorizio said:
check your flat for old magntic cfl ballists. the do make a large field when they come on.

The problem with magnetic ballasts that are otherwise working properly is not the "large field", it is the starter tube that may cause intermittent arcs while trying to start up. Old tubes that have trouble reliably re-igniting on every cycle can generate a fair amount of EMI on top of their starter tube working overtime.

Anyhow, swapping magnetic ballasts won't stop the OP's amplifier from picking up AM radio and since the OP said the crackling appears to be related to street lights, those are beyond his jurisdiction to fix.
August 7, 2012 2:02:41 PM

InvalidError is right, but it's not exactly street lights it's just outside my flat. I have taken a picture to give you a better idea...
After you talking about EMI, I just thought could all those lights be enough to generate a big enough field to disrupt my speakers?

A link to the pic here: http://img21.imageshack.us/img21/8476/imag0268pb.jpg (zoom in according to your monitor)
a b Ĉ ASUS
a c 87 V Motherboard
August 7, 2012 2:40:37 PM

Any form of arcing, particularly the erratic arcing from a bad FL/starter/sodium/etc. arc lamp) will create broad-spectrum noise that gets readily picked up and heard/seen on improperly shielded/grounded analog sound/video devices. It requires very little power to cause audible/visible interference on susceptible devices.

Mechanical stove controls, mechanical thermostats, relay-controlled AC loads, just about any other form of mechanical switch will also cause some EMI, particularly when they start to wear out and have poorer/weaker contact more prone to arcing.
August 7, 2012 2:52:54 PM

Well I know for a fact, that it's still daylight and the lights are off and I am not getting any noise, so it must be the arcing or emi from those lights.
Best solution to try now, is to try to move the speaker set to another room (together with the PC) and see the results...
a b Ĉ ASUS
a c 87 V Motherboard
August 7, 2012 3:50:01 PM

Or you could wallpaper your room with grounded tin foil :p 
a b Ĉ ASUS
a c 130 V Motherboard
August 7, 2012 4:39:00 PM

Ok, now i have to wrap some audio cables around some lights(CFL as i have to hi pressure sodium and mercury vapor to try with) just to see what it does.

I assume this is just at the input as i doubt it is strong enough to get into the actual speaker wires and make noise?

I am surprised those lights would not be in a shielded box to block as much of this crap as they can. It is damn close to your computer.

I have honestly never picked this up on cables before(and i am not even careful with placing them).
a b Ĉ ASUS
a c 87 V Motherboard
August 7, 2012 6:18:33 PM

nukemaster said:
I assume this is just at the input as i doubt it is strong enough to get into the actual speaker wires and make noise?

Exceptionally severe EMI could induce enough current in "carefully laid out" output cables to produce some noise. Under normal circumstance though, an amplifier is required to make the noise audible. Since an arc lamp is a gaseous conductor, there is a magnetic field associated with it and if you wrap enough wire around it, you would at the very least get a 60Hz hum, likely with 120Hz harmonics due to the non-linear I-V curve, particularly while the line voltage is under 80V.

nukemaster said:
I am surprised those lights would not be in a shielded box to block as much of this crap as they can. It is damn close to your computer.

If you put a light inside a fully-enclosed metal box to block everything, you also block light.

Properly operating arc lamps produce fairly little EMI after they have lit up and warmed up to a point where the gas remains ionized or at least hot enough to be readily ionizable between cycles. The main benefit of electronic ballasts is that they keep the gas continuously ionized which eliminates the need to overcome breakdown voltage after initial ignition and the EMI that comes with that.
August 7, 2012 9:33:09 PM

But I am picking up frequencies since the noise is present at when the volume knob is at minimum 0-15% and maximum 90-100%.
Not sure if this helps at all, but I've got a close up picture how the light actually looks like.

Pic URL: http://imageshack.us/f/843/imag0272k.jpg/

On a side note, InvalidError mentioned jurisdiction and he was correct, I cannot do anything to the lights because they are the property of my local Council.
August 7, 2012 11:57:39 PM

UPDATE

I went to take the trash out, and where all the trash bins and storage facilities are - light was flickering. This gave me and idea, my noise is in the same intervals as the flickering light, and also the noise was not present when I purchased the speakers it just appeared. The light turns on at ~6PM exactly when the noise starts.

Can this be the case? Can a broken light or circuit mess with the voltage at my flat somehow?
a b Ĉ ASUS
a c 87 V Motherboard
August 8, 2012 1:01:45 AM

Gh0sy said:
Can this be the case? Can a broken light or circuit mess with the voltage at my flat somehow?

It is unlikely that it messes with the voltage. What it likely does is cause EMI bursts every time the the tube strikes an arc as I have already stated, this gets picked up by your amplifier and you end up hearing it on your speakers.
a b Ĉ ASUS
a c 130 V Motherboard
August 8, 2012 3:59:32 AM

The last 2 posts seem to clear it up quite a bit. It happens with the lights flicker. Think you got it figured.
August 9, 2012 5:03:18 AM

The light was recently fixed and also my noise is gone :) 

It was EMI bursts all along just as InvalidError said. Problem solved :) 
!