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What Causes Speaker Hum & Hiss?

So you’ve got all your HiFi components up and running, yet you can’t get rid of that annoying hum or hiss. It might be very apparent or barely noticeable, but it’s there. Well, this is a good indication something isn’t quite right within your system.

So, we are faced with a problem. What causes speaker hum & hiss? And more importantly, how can you get rid of it? Several things can cause this interference, and I’ll take a look at them in detail in this article. I’ll also give you some helpful tips on how to completely wipe out the gremlins for good.

Amplifier and Speaker Compatibility

Amplifier and Speaker Compatibility

It’s vital that your speakers and amplifier are well-matched. Amplifiers naturally add noise to the audio signal through gain. You can hear this as a hum through the speakers when you turn up the amp without playing music.

This isn’t inherently a problem. Although if you’re speakers and amp are not matched in terms of power output, then this humming will be more noticeable. The answer is to make sure your speakers can handle whatever your amp is throwing at them.

Ground Loops

The most common cause of speaker buzz or hum is what’s known as a ground loop. This occurs when you have more than one piece of kit plugged into different AC outlets at separate locations.

When you connect these pieces of equipment through electrical signal cables (RCA or HDMI, for example), it creates a kind of antenna. In turn, that will pick up different types of electromagnetic noise and play it through your speaker.

Get minimal…

The simplest way to break the loop and get rid of the noise is to make sure everything is plugged into a single socket. You can use a multi-socket extension to plug in all your kit and then connect that into the wall. This should eliminate ground loop hums you’re getting. And as long as you don’t have a mountain of equipment, a single 10-amp plug should easily handle it.

The Lovin Power Strip Tower, Surge Protector Electric Charging Station, 14 Outlet Plugs with 4 USB Slot is a great option and will not only remove the hum but will also protect your hi-fi equipment from surges.

If, for whatever reason, you can’t use an extension cord, then get yourself a hum eliminator, such as the Pyle Compact Mini Hum Eliminator Box. This little piece of kit will interrupt the ground loop, basically breaking the circuit and wiping out the noise.

AC Line Noise

Any electrical equipment in your house that has a motor is capable of creating electromagnetic interference. This can then manifest itself as humming in our speakers. Many types of equipment have motors these days. These include hair dryers, blenders, microwaves, etc.

The easiest solution is to simply not use such appliances when you’re listening to music. This is no problem if you live at home, but if you share accommodation, this isn’t always possible.

The best way to defeat this…

Use an inline UPS (uninterruptible power supply) such as the CyberPower CP1500AVRLCD Intelligent LCD UPS System. This is a battery backup system that will convert the incoming AC to DC and then back into AC. This takes the electromagnetic interference out of the equation, hence removing the noise.

It also protects all your equipment in the event of a power surge and enables you to close things down safely if you get hit with a full-on power cut.

Isolation transformers have the same effect on electromagnetic interference as UPS’s. And are usually cheaper if you’re not bothered about power surge protection. Normally they are used to shield sensitive equipment from AC line noise in places like hospitals, where accurate readings are essential. As a result, they do the same job very effectively for audio equipment.

Blown Speakers

Blown Speakers

Yes, it could be that simple. A blown speaker means any kind of damage to the speaker cone, voice coil, or any of the other vital parts that make up the driver. Minor damage can result in distortion and a limitation in the frequency response when playing music. Serious blowouts may cause the speaker to stop working altogether.

Depending on the severity of the damage, it’s often more cost-effective to replace the whole speaker than try and repair things, especially when it comes to cheaper models.

With more expensive models, it might be worth looking into replacement parts from the manufacturer. If you can re-cone a speaker yourself or know someone that can, you could save a few bucks.

RFI – Radio Frequency Interference

Most wireless and Bluetooth devices use radio frequency signals when they are transmitting data. These signals can be picked up by your audio system and get relayed to your speakers. In particular, mobile phones can cause speaker interference.

You can buy specific RF filters to block unwanted RF interference. Isolation transformers and the aforementioned UPS’s are also effective at getting rid of radio frequency interference.

Cables and Wiring

When seeking to answer the question, What Causes Speaker Hum & Hiss? It’s important to check your cables and wires. Poor quality wiring and bad connections can be a major cause of speaker hum and hiss.

Try and make sure your power cables and audio signal cables are not run in parallel, and if they have to cross each other, do it at right angles. Most cables are pretty well shielded these days. But if there is some unexplainable hum or hiss and you’ve already canceled out other potential causes, maybe it’s your power cable interfering with your audio cables.

Do you have the correct cables in your setup?

Make sure they are audio signal cables and not output cables. It’s a basic error but one that people have made before. Another thing to avoid is any potential looping of your audio signal cables. This can effectively turn them into an antenna which is then capable of picking up electromagnetic interference.

You can avoid most problems with your cabling by buying quality products. But, you don’t need to spend a fortune; however, going for the cheapest options is asking for potential speaker hum and hiss. You also don’t have to go for the most expensive metals when looking at connectors.

Gold is commonly used because it doesn’t rust, rather than its amazing levels of conductivity. The best combination is copper wire and silver connector jacks. Silver is a better conductor than gold and cheaper too. It may tarnish a little, but it won’t rust. EXtreme Professional Grade 14 Gauge Speaker Cable is a great choice and will last you for a very long time.

USB and HDMI Cables

USB and HDMI Cables

When using USB and HDMI cables, the current can leak into the shielding and find its way as a static sound into your speakers. There are a couple of ways to deal with this.

The first is to add a ferrite noise suppressor, such as the Ferrite Ring Core Black RFI EMI Noise Suppressor Cable Clip to the cable. They look like clip-on sleeves, which you can place around the cable. Most HDMI and some USB cables come with them, but if not, they are easy and very inexpensive to buy.

If that isn’t effective, then you can buy a USB noise filter, such as the iFi iDefender+ USB Audio Ground Loop Eliminator. These will 100% eradicate any USB noise, although there isn’t such a device for HDMI cables.

Need Great Speakers?

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What Causes Speaker Hum & Hiss? – Final Thoughts

Hopefully, by using these techniques, you should now know how to get rid of speaker noise. Knowing the causes of speaker hum and hiss, and how to deal with it, allows you to concentrate on enjoying the highest quality sound that comes from your speakers.

Until next time, happy listening.

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About Jennifer Bell

Jennifer is a freelance writer from Montana. She holds a BA in Creative Writing and English, as well as an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Games and Simulation Design.

Her passions include guitar, bass, ukulele, and piano, as well as a range of classical instruments she has been playing since at school. She also enjoys reading fantasy and sci-fi novels, yoga, eating well, and spending time with her two cats, Rocky and Jasper.

Jennifer enjoys writing articles on all types of musical instruments and is always extending her understanding and appreciation of music. She also writes science fiction and fantasy short stories for various websites and hopes to get her first book published in the very near future.

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