White noise is a constant follower of home studios and one of the biggest fears of every home studio engineer.
It often comes seemingly out of nowhere and refuses to go away, so it feels like you need to perform some sort of ritual to get rid of it.
Thankfully, white noise is not a sign of paranormal activity–it usually happens due to problems with cables and connectors, which are easily fixable.
Here are a few tips for fixing white noise:
- Check cables and connectors for a loose connection.
- See if there are ground loops.
- Check for interference.
- Inspect your speaker cones.
- Don’t overamplify anything.
- Unplug your laptop.
- Update your sound card driver.
- Soundproof your room.
- Move your speakers away from other devices.
In this article, I’ll cover some of the most common causes of white noise and what you can do to eliminate them. Soon enough, you’ll be able to set up your speakers in a way that will allow you to have a crystal clear sound with no hissing or hum.
Table of Contents
- 1. Check Cables and Connectors
- 2. See if There Are Ground Loops
- 3. Check for Interference from Audio Equipment
- 4. Inspect Your Speaker Cone
- 5. Don’t Overamplify Anything
- 6. Unplug Your Laptop
- 7. Update Your Sound Card Driver
- 8. Soundproof Your Room
- How To Soundproof Your Room
- 9. Move Your Speakers Away From Other Devices
- Key Takeaways
1. Check Cables and Connectors
Quite often, white noise can be caused by a faulty cable, plug, or jack.
It’s not uncommon for cables to start breaking where they are attached to the plug, which might cause various problems. This problem can easily go unnoticed and make it seem like the white noise is coming out of nowhere. Sometimes, this can even cause white noise when the speakers are muted.
In some cases, the jack might be loose, so the plug doesn’t fit very well into it, or there might be something wrong with the plug. Alternatively, the cable might be damaged at some point.
To see if this is the case, simply unplug your cables one by one. Inspect the connectors and the cable to see what exactly might be causing the problem. If the white noise stops, then you’ve found the culprit.
If you’ve changed the cable, but there’s still some white noise, that points to a problem with the jack. You will likely simply have to replace the faulty cable, and things will start working great again. You might also choose to resolder it, but it’s questionable how useful this repair would be.
Getting a professional to look at this is best, as it might require opening the audio device and seeing what’s inside.
2. See if There Are Ground Loops
In an electrical system, a ground loop happens when you have two circuit points that should have the same ground reference potential but have a different one.
This usually happens when a voltage drop is caused by a lot of current flowing between the two points.
A ground loop is a common cause of white noise and interference, not just in audio systems, but also in video and computer systems. If white noise comes from your speakers or studio monitors, it might be a ground loop that is causing it.
Ground loop hum
Ground loop hum is another one of the annoying sounds you may hear. To check if this is a problem, there are a few steps you can follow:
- Check if there’s a device where the electrical current flows from a power source to your speakers or sound card.
- Turn off the devices and split them up, so they no longer share the same line of current.
- Connect them and turn them on again. The white noise should be gone, and the overall performance of your system should be better.
Alternatively, you can invest in a ground loop breaker. This nifty device will easily do the job for you in the blink of an eye.
3. Check for Interference from Audio Equipment
Electrical interference and dirty electricity are also very common causes of white noise. They disrupt and distort electrical signals, which causes random pulses to be transferred to your speakers and amplified.
There are a few things you can do to get rid of dirty electricity and electrical interference:
- Get a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) device.
- Install a power conditioner.
- Check the quality of your electrical supply.
- Check your speaker wires
It is also possible that the problem is caused by a new electrical device you bought recently. This might be a washing machine or a refrigerator since these devices may create a lot of dirty electricity, which easily gets to your speakers and recording audio equipment. Power conditioners or a UPS can usually solve this.
4. Inspect Your Speaker Cone
If there seems to be no problem with your connectors, speaker wires, cables, cable sleeve, power strip, different ac outlets, and electrical wiring, then the noise issues might be caused by the speakers.
White noise from speakers (speaker damage)
White noise can be caused by a damaged speaker and deteriorated speaker cones, which can easily be undetected by you.
Speaker cones tend to be prone to damage from wear and tear, which can cause various audio problems as they struggle to move. If they deteriorate, you may hear a lot of buzzing and hissing even at the lowest volumes.
If this seems to be the case, then you can either replace the speakers or have them repaired. It’s advisable to at least try to fix them if the other components are in good condition, as throwing away an otherwise perfectly good set of speakers would be wasteful.
Check Your Speaker Settings
If there is crackling from your speakers, the problem might not lie in some physical defect but the settings.
You can try changing them, for example, from surround to stereo. You might run into problems if you don’t have surround speakers.
To check and fix this, you need to:
- Right-click the volume button in the bottom-right corner of your screen.
- Click on the playback devices option.
- Go to Speaker Settings.
- Select your audio channel and test it.
- If there’s noise, change and test it again.
- Repeat until you find an option that doesn’t cause noise or produce sound.
Getting the audio settings right often improves the performance of your speakers significantly. It might do the trick in this case as well.
5. Don’t Overamplify Anything
Sometimes, white noise can appear when some part of the recording chain is amplified too much. This can be your audio interface, amp, preamp, or DAW. Even if just one component is overamplified, it can throw your whole system out of whack.
To diagnose and fix this problem, you’ll have to:
- Play with the knobs on your recording gear.
- Take a look at your DAW and see if anything is too loud, or if there is too much gain or distortion.
- Check the sound settings on your windows.
Chances are, there is something with too much volume or gain, and it is causing problems with your whole system.
6. Unplug Your Laptop
If you’re working on a laptop, you might easily solve the problem of white noise if you unplug the computer from the power outlet.
This solves the problem for some users, but it is not a long-term solution, especially if you’re working on a project that needs the whole day until it’s done.
If you are using an extension cord that powers other devices, try unplugging your laptop from it and plugging it into a different extension cord or directly into a power outlet. Using the same extension cord for a bunch of other devices often causes problems and might be the culprit now.
The same goes for your speakers. Maybe, the problem is not in the laptop, but simply in the fact that your speakers are plugged into the same extension cord in which you’ve also got your fridge, microwave, and oven. Try plugging your speakers somewhere else; it might just do the trick.
7. Update Your Sound Card Driver
Using an outdated sound card driver will, of course, cause a ton of problems, especially if you ignore this problem for some time.
One of those problems may happen to be white noise. Thankfully, updating drivers is a piece of cake.
You can simply visit the manufacturer’s website and download the latest driver. Make sure it’s the right one for your windows version and sound card. If this is too time-consuming, there are several apps that will do the job for you and automatically install the correct drivers.
Installing the latest driver should get the job done, but even if it doesn’t eliminate white noise, it will probably improve the performance of your sound card. You can’t lose by ensuring your sound card is up to date.
However, you should not look only at your sound card. If the other components in the recording chain have their own drivers, ensure they’re also updated and running correctly. And while you’re at it, update your DAW if there is a new version.
8. Soundproof Your Room
If there’s white noise coming from your speakers, it doesn’t have to point to a problem with the hardware or software.
There might not be a problem at all. What could happen is that your microphone is simply picking up ambient noise that is inaudible to you. If you experience white noise only or predominantly when recording vocals, it might be that your microphone is just super sensitive.
This means that you’ll either have to soundproof your room or create some type of recording booth. Even a portable microphone booth might do the trick if it is not picking up a lot of background noise, but if the problem persists, you might have to opt for more robust solutions.
Let’s take a look at what you can do to soundproof your room.
How To Soundproof Your Room
There are different ways to soundproof a room, at least partially. You can achieve this by using some household items you already have or investing in professional soundproofing equipment.
For a simple version, you can:
- Get heavy drapes: Heavy drapes will not just shield you from your neighbors’ watchful eyes; they will also dampen the annoying sounds from your streets, at least to an extent. While this won’t do a perfect job, anything that helps with noise reduction is welcome.
- Buy cushioned furniture: The thick cushions on furniture do a decent job at absorbing sounds. They will do an even better job if you place them in the way of the noise.
- Strategically place blankets or towels: You can roll up blankets or towels and squeeze them under your doors and windows to create some kind of barrier to the noise. They can do a reasonably good job when it comes to soundproofing, and will help you at least to some extent.
If you want to look more professional, you can:
- Hang acoustic panels: Acoustic panels are a great way to soundproof your room, and they’re usually lightweight and inexpensive. You can easily hang them anywhere you wish, but it is best to hang them opposite the source of the noise.
- Use soundproofing foam: Soundproofing foam is also relatively inexpensive and easy to install. It is possible to get a lot of it with very little money and achieve great soundproofing results. Plus, they come in a variety of colors, so you can even make your room prettier.
Of course, there are lots of ways in which you can soundproof your room. The methods outlined here are the simplest and cheapest options, but soundproofing can be quite an ordeal if you want studio-grade soundproofing.
9. Move Your Speakers Away From Other Devices
If your speakers are too close to other devices, there might be some interference that’s causing white noise. Your printer or mobile phone might be causing the problem, but it might be any electrical device, so you should try moving your speakers away from literally any other device.
You should especially watch out for wireless devices, as they’re known to cause interference with speakers, which might be happening to you.
So, there you have it. A few things might cause white noise, but they usually don’t point to a fatal flaw in your sound system or sound quality. As with most things, the key is in proper maintenance.
- Make sure that your cables and connectors are in good condition.
- Make sure there are no faults with the wiring and electrical installations.
- Update your software regularly and ensure everything’s set up properly.
- Don’t put your speakers too close to other devices.
- Take care of soundproofing in your home studio.
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