Why Are My Studio Monitor Speakers Crackling?
It’s not unusual for speakers to spit out strange noises, but it can certainly be frustrating when your equipment starts crackling and you can’t figure out why. What would cause studio monitor speakers to start crackling?
There are a variety of issues that can cause studio monitor speakers to crackle, including problems related to your buffer and block size, software compatibility, driver installation, and more. Identifying the source of the crackling is the first priority, then troubleshooting can begin.
For example, random crackling usually has different causes than persistent crackling. Thankfully, identifying the causes of crackling in studio monitor speakers is a fairly simple process of elimination. From there, you can fix the issue and take steps to prevent similar problems in the future.
Causes Of Crackling In Studio Monitor Speakers
It’s important to remember that crackling and noise aren’t themselves a problem, but rather a symptom of an underlying issue. If you hear unusual noises coming from your monitor speakers, it means that something is wrong.
To get rid of the crackling, you have to first figure out what’s causing it. It could be that some equipment is set up improperly, is being used improperly, or a similar problem.
Typically, there are two types of crackling sounds: intermittent and random crackling or regular, rhythmic crackling.
Intermittent or random crackling is usually caused by a software setup or configuration issue. It could be that something is wrong with your iOS, DAW, or device drivers.
But regular or systematic crackling is often caused by a damaged interface or an improperly installed driver.
Here are some possible causes of crackling noises and their solutions:
- Buffer/ Block Size – Make sure your interface buffer or block size isn’t set too low
- Compatibility – Check your software and interface for compatibility issues
- Dust Caps – Though less common, make sure your dust caps aren’t pushed inward
- Equipment Damage – Ensure your software, cables, and interface aren’t damaged
- Installation – Double check that your driver and other equipment are properly installed
- Software – If necessary, reinstall your software and check if you have the latest drivers
- Adapters – See if you have wireless or Bluetooth adapters or devices running on your system
- Overamplifying – Set limiters on master channels to avoid overamplifying your sounds; similarly, don’t drastically up the volume on your speakers or audio interface
- External Devices – Turn off external devices that are connected to your setup, such as hard disk drives, webcams, compressors, etc.
- System Requirements – Make sure your computer meets the minimum system requirements for your hardware and software
Snaps and pops often accompany crackling sounds and have the same core causes.
But if you’re also hearing pops specifically, check to make sure your circuit capacitors aren’t discharging into the cones of your speakers.
How To Properly Check Your Studio Monitor Speakers
Before you start searching for underlying causes, check to see if the crackling is coming from one speaker or both. This will help you during troubleshooting and cut down on any unnecessary work.
For example, if crackling is only coming from your left speaker, you’ll be able to focus on cables and equipment connecting to just that speaker.
After you’ve figured this out, you can begin searching for the underlying causes. The best way to search for issues is to systematically review your equipment and check for any of the problems discussed above one at a time.
If you unplug everything at once, you’ll never know what’s causing the problem. Though it may seem time consuming, work down the list of possible issues and use the process of elimination.
When in doubt, isolate your monitor speakers from the interface. Then, check the interface with a different playback system (headphones instead of monitors, or vice versa, etc.). This will help you locate the problematic element and identify the steps you need to take to resolve the crackling and any other symptoms.
Tips To Prevent Crackling Sounds in Studio Monitors
Once you’ve solved the problem causing crackling sounds in your studio speakers, it’s a matter of keeping the issue from recurring.
Here are some tips to help you keep your equipment at peak performance:
- Use Separate Power Sources – Connect your speakers, computer, and interface to different power strips or supplies; alternatively, isolate your speakers to their own individual power strip or supply.
- Use Power Conditioners – High-quality power conditions (also known as surge protectors) offer two primary benefits: they protect your equipment from power spikes and surges and cut down on noise in the line.
- Follow Powering Order – Speaker monitors should be powered off first and powered on last. Make sure to turn off your system entirely before connecting, disconnecting, powering the speakers on or off.
- Perform Regular Maintenance – Regularly check your equipment for damage or maintenance. Pay special attention to your cables, such as those from your audio interfaces to preamps or power cables to monitors, which can become easily damaged.
- Follow Instructions – Though instruction and setup manuals can be frustrating, it’s important that you follow them for each new piece of equipment you get; setting up your equipment properly the first time around can prevent issues and crackling later on.
- Use Balanced XLR Cables – These are less susceptible to environmental interference (A/C, heating, wind, etc.) and work great for connecting your interface and monitors. They can also carry high integrity signals over a longer length than other types of cabling.
When it comes to balanced XLR cables, don’t be fooled by imitators or low-quality cables. Well-made balanced cable connectors should have three pins or use Tip-Ring-Sleeve (TRS) connectors and have a housing that you can unscrew. Check the cables for dry joints, cracks, and bad connections prior to purchasing them or before using them.
Unbalanced cables lack a crucial third wire, meaning they still carry signals but lack ground shielding. This means your monitors aren’t protected from interference, and therefore are more likely to crackle.
Using these simple tips, you help prevent problems before they appear. This will ensure crackling noises and other noises don’t interrupt your sessions.
Other Common Studio Monitor Speaker Noises And Their Causes
There are several other common noises you might hear coming from your studio monitor speakers, either in addition to crackling or on their own.
White Noise from Studio Monitor Speakers
This is a constant, high-frequency hiss often caused by the gain or amplification being turned up too high. Double-check your interface levels, software, and speakers to make sure nothing is over-amplified.
Remember to take your environment into consideration. Air conditioning and heating, outside noise, etc. are all noises that you often discount, but which microphones will easily pick up.
Studio Monitor Making Digital Distortions
This manifests as a grinding or buzzing sound that may change as you use your computer. For example, the buzzing may grow louder or quieter as you navigate through different programs.
Usually, this is caused by an issue with the audio interface. However, it may also happen if you’ve connected your monitors to the same power strip or socket as your computer.
Check to see if your monitors/ playback solutions and computer/ digital hardware are connected to separate power sources. If this doesn’t work, you can also check your power conditioner to make sure it’s working correctly.
Feedback Issues with Studio Monitor Speakers
This is a high-pitched whine or squealing sound that happens when you place a microphone too close to the playback speakers.
The microphone picks up audio from the speakers, which the speakers then play back, and the microphone picks it up again— and so on and so forth, in an endless loop until the issue is resolved.
You can easily fix this by using headphones during tracking, recording further away from the speakers, or turning down your microphone’s gain.