Are your speakers crackling when changing the volume? In general, this issue only occurs whenever you turn the volume up or down. The speakers sound OK whenever the volume knob remains in the same place. In this article, we will show you how to troubleshoot and fix this issue.
Cracking speakers during volume change may be due to a dirty connection within your volume knob or potentiometer. It may also be due to dust or flaked off track particles inside the volume pot. A quick and easy fix is to spray a cleaner and gently turn the pot to clean it up.
However, if the conductive track is damaged, then even a spray cleaner will not work and you will need to replace the pot.
Quick Fixes For Speakers Crackle When Changing The Volume
Here are some quick fixes for this issue:
- Contact Cleaner: Spray some cleaner like deoxit through the holes on the case of the pot and slowly rotate the pot gently forwards and backwards. Its simple, just switch off the amp, open the cover and spray a little amount inside the knob assembly. Do not rotate it vigorous or you will risk causing damage to the conductive track.
- WD40: If you don’t have a proper cleaner, you can use WD40. with WD40, you can do it a few times again after a few hours. In addition, wait for a couple of days before switching on the amp.
- Pure Alcohol Solution: You don’t need to get specialized liquid if not necessary. Any pure alcohol would do the efficient cleaning. You could even use aftershave.
- Compressed Air: Using compressed air to blow out the pot is an easy way to get rid of dust while turning the pot clockwise and counterclockwise. However this may not work if the dust is stuck to the pot.
Let’s get into more details about this issue and how to fix it.
By the way, if what you are hearing is static and not crackling, check out our article on how to stop static in speakers.
What Causes Speakers To Crackle When The Volume Is Changed?
Speakers will most commonly crackle especially when you attempt to change volume but something interrupts the electrical current.
Remember, speakers are simply electrical transducers. They convert audio signals in the form of electrical energy into sound. Sound signals are electrical signals with alternating current. The signal produces a pop or crackle from the speaker when interrupted.
But What Does Speaker Crackling Mean?
Speakers respond to audio signals by moving linearly and in a magnitude equal to that of the applied signal.
When an AC current bearing the sound signal passes through the speaker, the drivers of the speaker move outwards and inwards. The speaker then reproduces the sound waves. This is done by the diaphragm of the speaker.
Because the signal alternates, it has both maximum and minimum points at the instances where the signal peaks.
When the signal reaches the maximum positive voltage, the speaker driver is pushed outwards to the maximum position it reaches during that cycle.
When the signal reaches the minimum or maximum negative voltage, the speaker driver is pulled to the farthest inward position it reaches during that cycle.
This kind of oscillating motion repeats as long as the speaker receives audio signals in the form of electrical wave motion.
This kind of motion is similar to the sine wave signal that is driving the speaker. However, if this pure sine wave signal is interrupted, you will hear that crackling sound.
To properly understand crackling, consider a simple sine wave signal with peak and trough. The sine wave is a good representation of a single frequency audio signal. A horizontal line passing through the middle of the wave represents zero voltage.
Because the current alternates, it reaches the maximum positive voltage when the signal peaks during the forward flow of current.
On the other hand, the maximum negative voltage is reached when the signal reaches the trough during the backward flow of current. The sine wave also represents the speaker’s motion.
As you can imagine, the speaker’s motion is as smooth as the sine wave. As a result, the speaker produces a smoother uninterrupted sound.
This continues as long as the current-carrying the sound signal flows through it. No crackling, therefore, occurs during this time until the current in the signal is interrupted.
Crackling And The Sine Wave
The sine wave, therefore, ceases to be smooth and depicts an interrupted motion with the speaker trying to appear in two different locations at the same time.
This results in pops or clicks in the audio output, a phenomenon commonly known as speaker crackle.
Crackling And The Square Waves
This is yet another waveform but instead of taking the form of a normal wave, looks more like a square. As regular sine waves experience more distortion and interruptions, they tend to appear more like square waves.
When a speaker experiences a perfect square wave, the sound distortion will be horrible.
The sharp signal adjustments from maximum positive to the maximum negative voltage that occurs in every cycle cause an inherent speaker crackle.
A steep transition however occurs between the maximum and minimum voltages such that the speaker oscillates more linearly without struggling to appear in two places at the same time.
Is This A Clipping Problem?
No this isn’t a clipping problem if crackling only occurs when the volume is being adjusted. Clipping is different.
Clipping is an electrical problem that occurs when the output signal has reached it’s maximum level and tries to exceed that and the signal distorts and looks ‘clipped’. Clipping is sometimes the cause of regular crackling and popping.
Why Does My Speaker Crackle When Changing Volume?
As we have mentioned, a speaker crackle is caused by an electrical interruption resulting in the interruption of the audio signal passing through it.
For every audio device, changing volume means changing the magnitude of the electrical signal passing through it. Because this signal carries the audio signal in it, as the electrical strength varies, so does the sound.
Is Vinyl Crackle The Culprit?
Speaker crackle and vinyl crackle are two different things. Electrical interruption leads to speaker crackle.
On the other hand, vinyl crackle is caused by dust and static electricity. As it occurs, vinyl holds static electricity, some of which is picked up as noise by the speaker.
Can I Fix The Speaker Crackle? How?
Speaker crackles can be fixed and we in fact have a complete guide on how to fix speaker crackling and popping. Follow the procedure outlined below to fix the problem.
- Whenever you experience a speaker crackle, begin by turning off the stereo receiver.
- Once the stereo is switched off, check the speaker wires to ensure they are properly connected to the stereo receiver and the speakers themselves.
- Nearby electronic devices have more chances of interfering with the audio output of your speakers. Turn them off.
- If the speaker wires occur near other electrical cords, move them away from the cords.
- Reconnect the speaker to the stereo receiver and check if the problem is resolved. If the crackle is not fixed, follow the instructions on the receiver manual to reset it to the factory setting.
- If all the attempts do not resolve the issue, replace the speaker wires and try again.
- Use a vinyl brush to remove dust from the speaker to resolve the issue if related to vinyl crackle.
- If the pop still occurs, try replacing the speaker with another or a new one. If the crackle disappears, it will be clear that the speaker was the cause of the crackle. However, if the problem persists with the new speaker connected, hen the receiver is the cause of the problem.
Are Digital Clicks Similar To Speaker Crackle?
Digital clicks occur when a digital audio signal is cut off abruptly. When this happens, the signal drops suddenly from some amplitude to zero.
The effect appears as an interruption in current especially when the signal is made to pass through a digital-to-analog converter.
Digital clicks are therefore very similar to speaker crackles and are the reason why crossfading is important in digital audio editing.
You can fix your speaker crackling when changing volume issue or with electrical interruption and deliver improved sound quality quite easily. Just clean the volume pot and ensure that it is always free of dust and other particles. Another option is to use conductive plastic pots instead of carbon.