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Why Is My Microphone Crackling? (And How To Fix It)

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When we use a microphone, we expect it to produce a clear sound, and not to hear the microphone crackling.

Unfortunately, microphones have a signal-to-noise ratio which among several other factors, may lead to annoying crackling sounds.

Crackling noises come about when software or hardware elements are interfering with the flow of the sound signal.

This interference produces popping or crackling noises that are unpleasant and distracting.

Why Is My Microphone Crackling?

If you’ve always suffered from your microphone crackling, you may wonder what the causes are.

It’s caused by a series of reasons which we’ll be looking into now.

So, why is your microphone crackling?

The first question we need to answer is this: is my microphone making noises because of a hardware or a software problem?

Hardware problems may include jacks, connectors, and cables being wrongly used, poorly connected, or worn out.

On the other hand, software problems like outdated drivers, outdated BIOS, sound enhancements, or sound settings that are not compatible with the microphone being used, can lead to static noise.

Other factors may include interference, volume settings, faulty hardware, poor connectivity, or internal static noise from the microphone itself.

We will discuss each of these problems and give solutions to each one.

Loose Physical Connection

A jack or cable that is not securely fixed in a port will produce an incessant crackling noise.

If any of the cables is wriggling in its port, it could be causing a static noise.

This could be your microphone cable, a cable connecting to a speaker, amplifier, mixer, or interface.

It can also be caused by a steep bend right where the connection is causing a cable to become loose due to the weight pulling it down, for instance, off the corner of a table.

How to fix it

Insert cables all the way into their ports without any jiggling space by giving each of them a slight push to secure them firmly.

Also, move the equipment being used slightly away from any edge to shift the impact of the weight pulling it down thereby giving the connectors support.

You may need to replace a jack or connector that fits loosely even after being completely inserted.

Volume

When a microphone can’t handle the volume level it’s detecting, it distorts the sound that it’s sending into the sound system causing crackling or popping noises.

Pushing speakers to give louder sounds output than they were manufactured to transmit will lead to a distorted output.

How to fix it

Try lowering the volume being inputted or transmitted until the crackling noise diminishes.

Keep the microphone 2-3 inches from your mouth and don’t scream into it.

Faulty Cables

Broken, improperly bent or corroded cables are cable problems that cause buzzing noises when in use.

This happens because the cables are not used or stored properly.

When the cables are subjected to knots, sharp bends, and heavyweights, this could damage the cables and cause interference with the flow of the sound signal.

Exposure to static electricity may have also caused the hardware to degrade over time.

How to fix it

Untie any knots in the cables and avoid any sharp bends.

Remove any weights that might be lying on the cables and causing a cutoff.

Keep the cables away from pathways where they will likely keep being tagged and pulled at causing damage.

Also, ensure that the cables are not too tightly pulled between connectors because such a strain may cause internal breakage.

If you inspect the cables and notice damage, you may need to buy new, preferably reinforced cables.

Weak Batteries

Using a battery-powered wireless microphone with weak batteries causes it to transmit low-level interference.

The battery won’t be able to support the power requirement of the microphone, especially at higher volumes, leading to distortion.

How to fix it

Replace your batteries with newer, stronger ones that can handle the power requirement.

Wireless Interference

Interference is essentially the conduction of radiofrequency energy that causes an electrical device to produce noise that interferes with another adjacent device.

These radiated emissions degrade the performance of audio equipment.

Such devices may be within the connection such as amplifiers, speakers, and interfaces or they could be away from the connection, for instance, fans, sockets, air conditioning units, radios, or TVs.

Interference could occur as a result of a current from a power outlet that’s producing static noise.

As a result, the noise being projected into the air and cycling back through the microphone produces feedback over and over again in the form of crackling and popping noises.

Electronic devices that have low-quality electronic shielding can also be a source of this buzzing sound.

How to fix it

Position your microphone 10 ft (3.0m) away from speakers, amplifiers, or any other electronic devices.

Place the microphone away from devices that you are carrying in your pockets or remove these devices and place them away.

Position the microphone at least 2 inches from your mouth and not further than 3 inches away to avoid picking up noise that is around the microphone.

Switch off air-circulating devices such as fans and AC units alongside any washer or dryer whose noise might get to the room where you are using your microphone.

Sounds from these devices may be getting picked up by the microphone causing the noise.

Ensure that the main electrical cables are not running across any audio cables because the electromagnetic force produced by such cabling can cause additional interference.

Unplug your sound connections from their current power supply or USB port and put them into new outlets.

Since some outlets and ports produce varying currents, this could rid you of the noise.

Non-Wireless Interference

Although less likely, interference can also penetrate the microphone’s audio systems through the cables connecting to the mixer.

This type of audio bug is referred to as non-wireless interference.

If you can hear distorted voices within the sound of the microphone buzzing then nearby AM radio interference is the cause while high-pitched noises are often a result of feedback from local radar systems.

How to fix it

Upgrade to shielded audio cables and plug your receiver into a grounded electrical outlet.

Amplifier clipping

Clipping is a form of waveform distortion that takes place when an amplifier is overdriven and tries to produce an output current or voltage beyond its capability.

This causes the amplifier to output power above its power rating.

It then becomes impossible to amplify the incoming audio signal without compromising its form.

A speaker system consisting of high-performance speakers and a weak amplifier will be especially susceptible to clipping.

How to fix it

Pair your speakers with an amplifier that’s powerful enough to deliver a clear and undistorted sound signal.

You would have to really turn a speaker system on full blast for clipping to occur so you could try and reduce the gain and volume.

Poor Network Connection

If you are using your microphone over a network or the internet, for example, for a phone call, video call or you are recording online, then a poor network connection could be affecting the quality of the sound being captured.

Audio signals may be band-limited to save on the transmission capacity when there’s limited distribution capacity in the network.

Poor transmission and reception conditions have an impact on the sound quality captured.

How to fix it

Ask your service provider to increase your network bandwidth so that the quality of your sound isn’t limited during transmission.

Reduce the tasks or devices that are relying on the same network as the one that you are using to record.

Connect to a better network that has a higher bandwidth to enable quality online transmission.

Outdated Software

Outdated, missing, incompatible, or malfunctioning drivers when using an inbuilt or connected microphone with a phone, camera, iPad, or laptop leads to static noise.

When auto-updating, devices can end up with the wrong driver’s configuration.

The conflict between audio drivers in a computer can cause a buzzing noise because the driver instructs the signal to go to two different places at different frequencies at the same time.

How to fix it

We can try to simply roll the drivers back to their last stable configuration or update the audio device driver and reboot the device.

In the case of missing drivers, observe any errors from the device that state the missing drivers and install them through the device manager.

In case of conflicting drivers, disable the driver causing the most noise and only enable the compatible one.

Another solution is to restart any audio services.

Ensure you’re on the latest BIOS version for your motherboard, then make sure your operating system is on the latest updates.

Make sure your USB drivers are also up to date if the microphone you’re working with is USB driven.

Depending on your device’s audio settings, you can troubleshoot and seek support to fix any software problems.

Sound Enhancements

Audio enhancements found in devices such as phones and laptops may cause crackling and buzzing noises.

Enhancements can skew the pitch of your computer’s audio, alter its equalization or distort it with excessive reverberation

Such enhancements can be found in a device’s audio settings and may include the environment, equalizer, pitch shift, and noise cancellation among others.

How to fix it

Reset your sound settings to their default and disable all sound enhancements.

Also, don’t allow other applications to manage your device’s sound settings.

Revoke permissions granted to other applications to alter the sound.

Dirty Audio Connectors, Audio Jacks, and Ports

An audio connector can have a layer of dirt that insulates it from conducting the sound signal accurately.

Dust, lint, and particles could have also settled in the pores causing a blockage.

How to fix it

You’ll need to switch off your devices and clean your audio jack, audio connector, and port.

Use a 90-percent or higher solution of high-purity octyl alcohol and a non-abrasive cloth to gently polish the connector.

Don’t use rubbing alcohol because it leaves a residue after evaporating.

Use an air can or compressed air to blow out dust and lint that may have settled in your jack or port.

You can also pick out dirt from your port using the pointed tip of a cotton swab or toothpick as gently as you can so as not to damage the port in the process.

Transformer

If there’s something wrong with the transformer you use, you can consider changing to a better transformer that has the same output voltage.

Noisy Environment and Vibrations

The microphone may be picking up sounds from within or outside the room, even though you can’t pick up any noise with your ordinary ear.

You could check on this by increasing the gain or volume and go around the room pointing out using your microphone.

Such an inspection could help you identify where most noise is emanating from so you can keep your microphone at a faraway distance when using it.

How to fix it

Soundproof the room using foam over the walls or insulate with carpets and tapestry.

Use soundproofing boards or curtains along the walls to limit the sound in the room.

This will reduce external noise and internal vibrations in the room which will consequently reduce the feedback from the microphone.

Power Quality and Wiring Problems

Microphone crackling sounds can be generated by random fluctuations in electrical current through a conductor or sudden voltage drops, all of which signify danger.

Several electricians leave wires messing when working on electrical installations and they may not have done proper grounding.

How to fix it

Hire an electrician to do rewiring and install proper grounding.

Also, never run a power cable across or near audio signal cables.

Light Bulbs and Fixtures

Light fixtures often make a humming sound that stems from vibration caused by the voltage applied.

How to fix it

Switch off the bulb when using the microphone.

You may need to switch to a different fixture type or upgrade to a high-quality LED bulb to eliminate the hum whilst keeping the light on.

Ground Loop

Ground loops can occur when there are multiple devices connected to a common ground such that a closed conductive loop is formed.

This sounds like a low-frequency hum, much similar to touching the end of a cable connected to an amplifier.

It creates a single loop antenna that sucks in various types of noise through electromagnetic induction.

How to fix it

Do away with ground loops by sending all signal grounds to a common point.

If you must use more than one grounding point, the signal must be isolated on one side away from its neighbors.

If you have devices with a significantly high demand on your power, place them closer to the power supply.

Preamplifier or Audio Interface

When using preamplifiers or audio interfaces, some can produce bad signals that can cause humming background noises.

This could be because the gain is too high or considerably low.

Gain is basically a measure of how much an amplifier intensifies an input signal.

When it’s too high or too low, it could raise crackling or hissing noises.

How to fix it

Find the gain or input knob on your amplifier, audio interface, or mic.

Turn it down and talk into the microphone again.

Adjust the sound until you find a level where the buzzing noise is gone.

Computer Microphone Boost

A microphone boost is a setting on computers that acts as an artificial gain, mimicking an amplifier.

How to fix it

View the devices list on your computer and open the audio devices.

Once you identify your microphone on the list, click on it and turn off the microphone boost.

Self Noise

This is the signal the microphone produces of itself, even when no sound source is present.

The higher you have to put the volume or gain on the preamplifier, the louder the transmitted noise.

Some microphones are quieter than others while some transmit more self-noise.

How to fix it

Reduce the gain on your preamplifier.

Use a quieter microphone in place of the one with more self-noise.

Any rating above roughly 20 dBA means the microphone will output a significant hiss of noise.

Damaged Microphone

A microphone can be damaged by being stored horizontally, unplugging it too roughly, dropping it, or by constantly blowing into it.

Jamming your connector in without care could bend a pin in the microphone especially for microphones that have many pins.

Also, constantly dropping the microphone can cause the diaphragm to dry out and crack.

How to fix it

Avoid blowing into the microphone.

Carefully plug-in connectors and ensure the connectors are compatible with the microphone.

Store microphones carefully and away from direct sunlight.

Replace the damaged microphone with a dynamic microphone that has a humbucking coil.

Wind

When recording outside, as the wind interacts with your microphone diaphragm, it will produce extra low frequencies.

It sounds like an irritating rumble that dominates the overall sound.

How to fix it

Keep the wind away from the mic capsule, either by keeping the mic in a sheltered position or by directing it away from the wind.

Equipment That Eliminates Crackling Sounds

Place A Hard Limiter On The Audio

If the static is caused by loud sounds you can make use of the hard limiter in your effects tab.

A hard limiter is a setting that puts a cap on audio volume.

Set the threshold to 1 dB or more which will reduce any crackling noises triggered by high volumes.

Because this will lower the volume of the recording.

You can compensate by turning up the overall volume of the master recording.

Pop Filter for Microphone Noise Reduction

To eliminate plosives and sibilance from your recording, you should consider using pop filters for your microphone.

Plosives are produced when we pronounce certain breath heavy consonants which in turn strike a microphone’s capsule.

Sibilance is the overproduction of the high-frequency hiss at the beginning of an “s” sound along with a few other consonants.

A pop filter serves to dissipate popping sounds caused by the intense impact of fast-moving air on the microphone from plosives during recording.

Filters for Microphone Static and Background Noise

Filters are used to highlight the signals in certain frequency ranges and get rid of signals in other frequency bands such as those associated with crackling, buzzing, popping, or humming noises.

You should apply a high pass or low cut noise filter which removes low-frequency rumble and DC offset.

Noise Reduction Software

There is free software available for eliminating background noise by controlling elements such as the noise gate, attack, and threshold.

Free online tools that are designed to remove background noise include, but are not limited to, Audacity, WavePad, and Wavosaur.

These types of software isolates and removes unwanted background noise.

Shock Mounts

Shock mounts can protect microphones from damage but their main use is to isolate them from mechanically transmitted noise.

It’s especially important to use a shock mount if there are many vibrations in the room, if your microphone is placed on a surface such as a table, you move a lot around your microphone or if there are handling noises on your boom poles.

Internal shock mounts are built into the microphone to mechanically isolate the capsule from the body of the microphone while external shock mounts hold the microphone in place while connecting to a stand to mechanically isolate the entire mic

Final Thoughts

We can conclude that there are many reasons why your microphone could be crackling and various ways to eliminate this noise.

Some problems are straightforward and easy to solve such as a loose connector while others are hard to detect and are even harder to solve like problems in electrical wiring.

We’ve noted that microphone crackling sounds can suggest that certain devices or software in your sound system have failed.

So it’s smart to troubleshoot every section of our sound system and eliminate potential sources of this noise problem.

So whether the sound signal gets distorted during input, transmission, or output, whatever the problem may be, hope this article points you in the right direction.

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