Why Your Speakers Crackle and How to Fix It

Why Your Speakers Crackle and How to Fix It

Hearing popping and crackling in your sound system is usually a cause for concern. When you spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a hi-fi audio system, you want to have a clear, high quality sound. The last thing you want to hear coming out of your speakers is crackling sounds. So, what causes your speakers to do this and how can it be fixed?

 

If you're looking for the short answer, popping and crackling is typically caused by a bad connection. Check all the connections and cables in your sound system and you should find the source of the problem.

 

It could be that a cable has wiggled loose -- this is a common issue if you have pets in your house. It also could be that a cable has worn out and needs to be replaced, so try replacing your cables one at a time if it isn't just a loose connection. If that doesn't work, there could be a loose connection inside one of your speakers. If you feel comfortable, check the connections inside the speakers, and you may find a worn down solder that needs repair. Alternatively, take it into a repair shop and it should be a quick and easy fix.

 

If you want to know more about why these sounds happen, read on.

 

Why do speakers pop and crackle?

 

The main cause of crackling sounds in your speakers is an interrupted electrical current. Audio information travels as electrical energy and is transferred into mechanical wave energy when it reaches your speakers.

 

If you think of the electrical audio waves that travel from the source to the amplifier and through the cables, you can imagine it as something that looks more or less like a sine wave. It has peaks and troughs, and the transitions between the two are always smooth. These waves correlate to physical vibrations of the speaker's drivers. The sine wave tells the drivers how to move, and that movement produces sound.

 

Now, if we think about an interruption in the electrical audio signal, that would look like a sharp break in the wave. Rather than the transition from peak to trough being smooth, the signal will immediately drop to resting position as the audio information is lost.

 

When this information reaches the driver, it is basically being told to instantaneously move to resting position and stop producing sound. The driver can't exactly stop producing sound instantaneously, but it sure will try. The quick and abrupt movement of the driver is what actually causes the popping sound that you hear. When you have an audio signal with multiple interruptions, this can happen multiple times in quick succession, which might sound more like crackling.

 

What about crackle on vinyl?

 

When it comes to vinyl records, the crackle sound that you hear, and that many love, is caused by something completely different. With vinyl records, this sound is caused by noise in the audio signal, and most crackle is caused by static electricity and dust.

 

Naturally, vinyl records hold some amount of static electricity within them. Some of this is picked up by the needle cartridge as noise before it is sent to the amplifier. This amount of noise is fairly unavoidable, and this is what gives vinyl its nostalgic character that is often sought-after.

 

Another common culprit of a noisy signal is dust and debris that falls into the record grooves. The static electricity in vinyl doesn't help with this problem, as it usually attracts more dust to the surface. However, dust and debris can cause damage to a needle and a record over time, so it's important to keep vinyls clean. Using an anti-static vinyl brush is a great idea if you want to maintain your record collection.