One of the most prevalent complaints about speakers is that there’s an audible hiss that emanates from them. For the most part, listeners don’t mind having to listen to that hissing sound because it can’t be heard when playing music. However, it can be bothersome when the hissing gets too loud.
Powered speakers will hiss or hum due to issues with the ground loop, wires, or radio frequency interference. Speakers may also produce AC line noise or USB or HDMI cable noise. To fix this, simply remove the source of interference or check that equipment is properly shielded or grounded.
If your speakers are emanating a low hum or a soft hiss, it might be a regular occurrence. And if you want a quieter room or recording studio, you’ll need to do something about it. Luckily, you’re no longer forced to live with the hissing sound; read on and discover what you can do.
Is It Normal for Powered Speakers To Hiss?
It’s normal for powered speakers to create a low hissing noise. In fact, it’s expected from active speakers that have active inputs and powered drivers. A soft self-generated hissing noise is so common on active speakers that some manufacturers publish the level of self-generated noise for their products.
For instance, Genelec says that their 8010a Studio Monitor Dark Grey generates less than five decibels of noise.
You usually can’t hear the self-generated hissing noise when music plays, only when the speakers are silent and you move close to them.
Several users also note the hissing when you deliberately listen for it and when you get too close to your speakers. So don’t worry if your active speakers hiss. You may find it annoying or worrisome, but it’s not because of faulty components or a bad design.
But there are more reasons why active speakers hiss, and some seem to cause more of an audible problem than the hiss most powered speakers make by themselves.
What Causes Powered Speakers To Hiss?
There are many reasons why powered speakers hum or hiss. The most obvious is the noise that your audio signal has.
Your speakers are designed to reproduce audio signals. If there’s noise in the signal, the speaker will pick up on it, and you’ll hear the noise and hum.
A ground is vital for safety reasons and to reduce noise when you’re recording. However, it can cause a ground loop, which happens when you have two or more pieces of equipment plugged into different alternating current power supplies.
These devices will then be connected by electrical signal cables such as component, composite, HDMI, or RCA.
When these cables have shielding that is connected to the ground, then the ground loop happens. What occurs is that this setup will create an electromagnetic induction field that will attract noise into your speakers.
This TaylorGuitars video will explain the ground loop in more detail:
AC Line Noise
Aside from ground loops, another source of hissing or humming on your speakers is AC line noise. The interference can come from blenders, hairdryers, and anything with a motor.
Failing lighting fixtures and dimmers are also likely suspects.
There are several reasons why wiring and wires can be a source of the noise. For one, poor-quality cables can introduce noise.
You can’t go wrong with a copper wire with gold connectors such as the GearIT 12AWG Speaker Wire Cable.
However, don’t feel pressured to get the most expensive speaker wires. There are several cheaper cable options that also do a good job.
Also Read: 5 Myths About High-End Audio Cables Debunked
Radio Frequency Interference
Radio frequency interference can cause hissing sounds with your speaker. Wireless devices such as a smartphone, computers, wi-Fi devices, and computers can have RFI.
The best solution to noise coming from radio frequency interference is to keep the devices that emit radio frequencies away from your speaker.
If that’s not possible, like you’d need your computer where your digital audio workstation is installed near your equipment, then be sure to shield these devices properly.
USB or HDMI Cable Noise
When you use a device such as an audio interface that uses a USB connection, there are times when hissing sounds or static are introduced to your speakers.
It turns out that current sometimes leaks into the shielding of these USB cables. The leak can affect the audio signal and produces an audible hiss.
What You Can Do To Stop Hissing in Speakers
Now that you know the different reasons your active speakers hiss or hum, here are some tips on how to remove hissing or humming sounds from your speakers. For some of these issues, the solution is relatively simple.
For others, you might need to buy another device to get rid of the noise or set up your speakers properly.
Here’s what you can do:
Getting a Better Audio Signal
If the noise is being introduced by the source that you’re playing, then there are some ways to minimize the hissing.
If you’re recording a song or an audio clip, the best way to get rid of hiss and noise is by making sure that the recording is clean. You can use treatments when recording.
For example, you can use a small condenser microphone rather than a large one if you want to cut down on the noise from recording an instrument such as an acoustic guitar.
Here’s how you do that:
Or you can put up a thick rug or blanket as some acoustic treatment to help reduce echo and noise. If you have a recorded track, you can use a digital audio workstation to denoise the songs as shown in this video:
There are also ways to reduce microphone noise from your recorded tunes. You can set up your microphone to reduce microphone boost and cancel out the acoustic echo.
You can also use software such as Krisp to remove unwanted noise. You can also invest in equipment such as a ground lift adapter or microphone attachments that can block out air currents and vibrations.
Getting a better quality sound file is also a good idea. If you’re listening to an MP3 with a 96 kilobit per second bitrate, you might want to find another MP3 with a 320 kilobit per second bitrate. Or you might find another file that uses lossless compression, such as FLAC.
Eliminating Ground Loops
The fastest remedy to get rid of the noise coming from ground loops is to plug all your equipment into a single AC outlet.
If that’s not possible, you can always use a hum eliminator such as the Ebtech Hum X Ground Line Voltage Filter.
This device will break the loop and eliminate the hum.
Getting Rid of Interference From AC Lines
You should avoid using any device with a motor or using the light dimmer when you’re listening to your favorite tunes. Or you might want to invest in an uninterruptible power supply.
These devices will force the alternate current to be converted to direct current and then back to AC. This dual conversion will remove all the noise.
Eliminating HDMI or USB Cable Noise
If you’ve just bought a new audio interface and you can hear static emanating from your speakers, products like the Jabinco Clip-On Ferrite can help.
This PSAudio video explains how a ferrite core works to reduce noise:
You can also run a less resistive wire, such as a speaker wire, along the length of the cable from the case of your computer and the case of the cable. Doing so will redirect the flow of electricity and act as a ground shunt.
For the most part, hissing sounds emanating from your speaker are normal. It’s barely detectable, and you need to get close to your speakers to hear it.
But if it gets too loud, you’ll need to check the wiring or figure out what’s causing the interference. Then follow the remedies above.
If your speakers are broken and you can’t fix them, why not make your speaker into a microphone? It’s actually a fun and easy little project to test out.