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How To Fix Static Noise in Headphones

Last updated: 4 months ago
6 min read

Do you ever hear an annoying crackling and buzzing noise coming from your headphones? Let’s see what causes the hum and how you can get rid of static noise in headphones.

Woman in studio wearing headphones

There are many reasons why you hear static noise in the background. It’s mostly noticeable when your headphones are just plugged in or during silent song passages.

These problems can occur in both wired and wireless headphones. To fix the issue, you have to find the cause for static first. It can be basic physics that are ruining your listening experience or actual hardware issues.

Let’s go step by step, category by category, and solve the most common problems with static noise in headphones.

Table of Contents

    What Causes Static Noise in Headphones?

    Static noise is usually a result of outside interference.

    Remember that loud buzzing sound coming from speakers a second before you receive a call?

    That’s because a specific radio frequency used for telecommunications interfered with electrons in the cable, which we hear as static buzzing.

    Once, I heard a radio broadcast through our old computer speakers because the cable acted as an antenna.

    Not only radio and cellular devices cause static. Every electrical device produces some level of radio wave radiation, which finds its way into your headphones (if the cable isn’t shielded correctly).

    What Is Noise Floor?

    The noise floor is an unwanted hum that prevents you from hearing all the details in a song.

    Imagine opening a window and hearing birds chip nice and clear. But, if your window is next to a busy road, the traffic noise would overpower the bird’s singing.

    Headphone amplifier
    You can improve on audio quality if you get rid of static noise.

    Every audio/video equipment suffers from noise floor issues. No connection is perfect, and there’s always a little bit of noise present in the background.

    In audio terms, there’s something called signal-to-noise ratio. The higher the number, the less noisy the audio output.

    Also, the more equipment you use in your audio system, the more background noise you get. Keeping things simple and only having a few devices is usually a key for battling noise floor.

    • To see how your equipment battles noise, plug in your headphones and crank the volume up without playing music. In many cases, you will hear a constant white noise.

    Wireless Headphones

    Using wireless headphones in crowded urban areas can be problematic.

    Bluetooth protocols that are keeping your headphones connected with your smartphone are only reliable to a certain degree.

    Man wearing headphones in public

    If you want to listen to music in a packed bus with everyone having a Bluetooth headset, then expect problems.

    In contrast, if there aren’t too many Bluetooth devices around, you should be fine.

    Static Noise in Bluetooth Headphones

    Commonly referred to as Bluetooth noise, it occurs when there are too many Bluetooth devices in one area.

    The only practical solution is to keep your smartphone as close to your headphones as possible and avoid overly crowded areas.

    Bluetooth is a relatively robust connection. Even though it operates at a similar frequency as Wi-Fi and even microwave, it uses multiple channels so that the signals don’t get mixed up.

    However, with more in more headphones relying on Bluetooth connection, interference is frequent.

    High Noise Floor in Wireless Headphones

    Typically, this noise is present right from the beginning. If it’s severe, it’s probably due to the low quality of the built-in digital-to-analog converter (DAC) or amplifier.

    Aukey-Key-Series-B80-earphones
    Aukey Key Series B80, that we tested, have a constant noise present in the background.

    However, in some cases, there might be something wrong with your headphones. Sadly, there’s nothing you can do on your own.

    The best thing to do is contact the retailer who sold you those headphones and send them for repair, or, in a best-case scenario, you receive a brand-new pair.

    As mentioned above, background noise is always present due to the shortcomings of electronics.

    Static Noise in Wired Headphones

    Wired headphones are tricky since there can be many things that can cause static noise. However, the most common reasons are:

    Electromagnetic radiation from external sources

    These range from your cable picking up radio broadcast, phone calls, and even power supply in your PC if the cable hangs near a stationary computer.

    • If that’s the case, and you have the option to use different wires. Pick the ones with balanced connectors.

    Standard cables are usually unbalanced, meaning that only one copy of the signal goes from the audio source to your headphones.

    In contrast, balanced cables send two copies of the signal, with the second one having an inverted phase. At the other end of the cable, the phase gets flipped again, which makes that the noises cancel each other. Active noise cancelling tech works similarly.

    Meze balanced cable

    Loose or damaged wires

    That is a widespread problem, especially in cheaper headphones, where quality control isn’t as thorough. Also, poor handling like twisting and pulling the wire can cause damage, both external and internal.

    • You can pinpoint a problem by inspecting a wire to see if it’s damaged.
    • Also, wiggle the wire a bit near both ends and observe how it affects the sound. If it does, the wire is undoubtedly damaged.

    If your headphones are still in warranty, use it to send them for repairs. Otherwise, consult with a professional to help you replace a broken cable or connector.

    AUX port problems

    To make sure it’s the audio jack, try plugging in different headphones to see if the problem persists.

    If you have an older device, there might be some dirt inside the port. You would be surprised to see how much gunk gets build up inside frequently used ports like a headphone jack or USB for charging.

    Dirty AUX connector

    You can either send your device to a repair shop or try to do a bit of cleaning yourself:

    • Grab a toothpick or cotton swap and wrap it with double-sided tape. Gently insert it into a port and circle around. Try to pick up as much as you can. Repeat this a couple of times.
    • (Optional) In the end, use a Q-tip and some alcohol to clean the port (use dedicated alcohol for cleaning electronics).

    Speaker driver malfunction

    Sometimes it may as well be a speaker that is causing the problem. Sadly, if hardware issue is the case, you can’t do much apart from using a warranty.

    • If you’re handy with a soldering machine, you can try to find a spare driver and replace it on your own.

    Also worth noting is that a bad connection can sometimes completely mute one side of the headphones.

    • Try to crank to volume to the max and play some music. In some cases, the muted driver comes back to life.

    Other Things That Cause Unwanted Noise

    Music apps

    Sometimes an app can glitch out and produce a strange robotic noise as if there’s something seriously wrong with your headphones.

    However, a quick app restart usually solves the problem.

    Also, if the app was recently updated, the reason for audio issues might be some new playback settings. Try disabling sound effects to see if the noise issue persist.

    Corrupted audio drivers on your PC

    If everything worked fine, but after the last software update the sound got noisier, the issue must be in audio drivers. Try reinstalling drivers or reverse the update.

    • In Windows 10, right click on the speaker icon in the bottom right corner and select Open mixer volume.
    Audio settings
    • Click on the small speaker icon. A new window should open.
    Audio settings
    • Under “Controller Information” click on Properties. Another window should open.
    Change audio driver settings
    • Click on the Change settings button with a blue-yellow shield. You will need administrator access.
    • In the “Driver” tab, you will find a button called “Roll Back Driver.” If you can’t click on it, uninstall the device (driver) and let the computer reinstall the drivers again.
    Roll back driver button

    See if the software issues still persist.

    Power-hungry computer components

    The solution is to change the power supply with a stronger and more efficient one. Next time you buy a motherboard, look for one with a shielded audio processor.

    Above, we discussed the power supply causing static noise in headphones. Electronics produce electromagnetic radiation, and the more electricity that goes through them, the more they radiate.

    That affects not only your headphone wire but also audio processing inside the computer case. The radiation gets picked up by the circuitry, which you can hear as static noise in your headphones.

    Wrong sample rate & bit depth values

    Sometimes asking too much from your DAC on your sound card can result in static noise in headphones. Thankfully, that’s an easy fix.

    • (For Windows 10) Right-click on the speaker icon in the bottom right corner and select “Open mixer volume.”
    Audio settings
    • Click on the tiny speaker image. A new window should open.
    Audio settings
    • Under the “Advanced” tab, use different bit depth and sample rate values.
    Changing bit and sample rate
    • See if the problem is gone.

    “Do Not Disturb” switch on the iPhone

    Yes, this can also be a cause for weird sound behavior on your playback device. Turn off the feature on your mobile phone to see if the problem is resolved.

    Conclusion

    Since there are so many things that can go wrong, it’s possible we didn’t cover them in this article.

    Of course, you can always try googling the very specific issue that you have. In most cases, you’ll find a forum or a video discussing the same problem and hopefully showing solutions.

    Otherwise, if your current pair is old, it’s probably time for an upgrade. Sadly, all electronics are disposable and don’t work forever, even the most expensive ones.