It’s only normal to expect clear and high-quality audio from your headphones, no matter the brand or model. So, it can be very frustrating when your headphones produce crackling sounds that interfere with your audio. Don’t worry! You’ve come to the right place.
Headphone crackling can be caused by audio playback, hardware, and connectivity issues. For instance, the audio content might be damaged, or the equalizer (EQ) settings could be incorrect. The same issue can also happen from the headphones’ hardware, like its driver or Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) feature, being faulty. Lastly, the wireless or wired connection could be problematic with a damaged cable or audio jack.
Let’s dive deeper into each likely reason and the solutions that you can use.
Audio Playback Issues
Audio Content Is Damaged Or Corrupted
What happened: When experiencing crackling sounds coming from your headphones, the first thing to check is the audio content and medium itself. There’s a likelihood that the crackling sound is coming from the audio source and not the headphones.
For example, crackling, popping, and other sounds are very common when listening to music from a vinyl record player. The same can also happen with digital audio if the file is damaged or corrupted.
How to fix it: Suppose the audio content is the reason behind the crackling you hear. If that’s the case, you will need to troubleshoot the audio source instead of the headphones.
Vinyl records that produce crackling noises will require a thorough cleaning to remove any dust in the grooves. For the best results with digital audio, you will need to re-download the same file again.
What it is: The audio equalizer (EQ) is a collection of settings that alters the audio you hear through your headphones. The EQ allows you to isolate different frequencies in your audio and manipulate them. For instance, you could boost or lower each frequency so the audio sounds precisely how you want it to.
The equalizer is available on many electronic audio devices, including your computer, through its audio settings menu.
What happened: Crackling sounds can happen if the equalizer is set incorrectly. For example, one of the isolated frequencies might be set far too high. Because your headphones can’t produce that frequency at those levels, the sound you hear will be distorted in many ways, including with crackling noises.
How to fix it: You will need to access the equalizer and readjust the settings. The most straightforward solution is to reset the equalizer back to normal.
For example, on a computer’s equalizer, you can select from one of many ready-made presets that will make your headphones sound normal again.
Headphone Hardware Issues
Active Noise Cancellation In Noisy Environments
What it is: These days, many headphone models feature Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) technology. This feature is beneficial because, as the name suggests, it cancels out external noise so you can hear the audio more clearly.
ANC works with the help of small microphones which sense the external noise. Then, the headphones will neutralize those noises, so you do not hear them.
What happened: The ANC feature on your headphones will react to external noise. So, if you’re using it in exceptionally noisy environments like on a plane, the ANC feature will go into overdrive, trying very hard to cancel all of that noise before it reaches your ear.
Unfortunately, when the external noise is more than the ANC can handle, you will end up hearing distorted noise in the form of crackling audio.
How to fix it: To solve this problem, you will need to disable the ANC feature if your headphone model allows it. Although you will hear external noise, at least your headphones will no longer produce crackling noise while you’re in noisy environments.
When there’s less external noise, you can reactivate the ANC feature again.
Damaged Headphone Driver
What it is: The headphone driver is a component that converts electrical signals into sound, and there’s one driver on each of the headphones’ ear cups producing the sounds that you hear.
In other words, your audio source will travel wirelessly or through the audio cable. Once it reaches the headphone drivers, the signal converts into the audio that you hear.
What happened: As a result of damage or extensive wear and tear, one or both drivers in your headphones may suffer damage. That damage will prevent the driver from correctly converting audio signals to sound, resulting in distorted audio-like crackling.
How to fix it: Unfortunately, headphone drivers cannot be repaired, so they can only be replaced.
Still, you have a few options when it comes to fixing this issue. They are:
- Option 1 – New Headphones: Depending on the overall cost of your headphones, you might find that purchasing a brand new pair might be the best solution for you. Spending time, effort, and money repairing the ones that you have might not be worth it.
- Option 2 – Professional Repairs: If that’s not an option, like with high-end headphones that are very expensive to replace, you can contact the manufacturer to see if they will replace them for you. You could also visit a professional audio store for repairs, as they would be familiar with this issue. This option is best, especially if your warranty coverage is still active for those headphones.
- Option 3 – DIY Repairs: Lastly, you could attempt a DIY replacement of those damaged drivers. The challenge here is that the ease or difficulty in replacing those drivers depends on how your headphones are designed. Some models have ear cups that are easy to open and drivers that are easy to buy and replace. Others are incredibly complex, making the replacement very challenging and time-consuming.
Headphone Jack/Audio Jack Problems
What happened: When it comes to wired headphone models, the problem of crackling sounds could be caused by an issue at the jack. In this regard, we’re talking about the jack at the audio source where you plug the audio cable into.
Some headphones also have an audio jack on the unit itself, where you plug the other end of the audio cable into.
Here, the jack itself might be damaged, or the connector on the audio cable isn’t inserted correctly. These can cause a range of sound problems, including crackling.
How to fix it: Firstly, the quickest troubleshooting step is to test the audio jack with another pair of headphones. That will quickly tell you if the problem is with the jack or with the headphones.
Next, clean the jack of any dust or debris that might get stuck inside. Anything that gets trapped inside the headphone jack could cause the sound to crackle.
Lastly, make sure that the audio connector is inserted all the way. That way, it will have full contact with the port and receive the audio signal as clearly as possible.
Related post: Why Sony headphones aren’t connecting?
Damaged Sound Cable
What happened: Crackling sounds could also result from a damaged sound cable on wired headphone models. Even though the cable is insulated, the wiring inside could be damaged or torn due to excessive twisting or stretching of the audio cable.
This damage is a typical result of headphones that have been in use for a long time or used in active environments (like while performing sports).
How to fix it: A damaged sound cable needs to be replaced. This task is relatively straightforward to do, as you can purchase replacement cables directly from the manufacturer. Another option is to buy generic replacement cables from third-party sellers.
The challenging part here is to connect the wiring to the headphones unit. This process will involve opening the headphone cup where the wire goes in and removing the existing sound cable. Then, you will connect the wiring to the connectors the same way as the old cable.
The precise steps involved will depend on the design of your headphones. So, be sure to refer to the user manual for instructions unique to that model.
Wireless Connectivity Issues
What happened: Wireless headphone models can also experience crackling sounds due to connectivity issues. These headphones connect to the audio source through a Bluetooth connection or with radio frequencies.
The most likely wireless connectivity issues that can cause this problem include:
- Interference: When there is more than one wireless device operating in the same room, their signals can interfere with one another. For example, wireless routers or having multiple wireless headphones in the same room could cause interference.
- Distance: Wireless headphones must always be used within the recommended range from the audio source. The audio signal will become unstable when the headphones move too far away and cause distortions like crackling sounds.
- Unstable connection: Bluetooth connections and audio transmitters can sometimes get buggy and fail to work correctly.
How to fix it: To fix or improve the wireless connection to your headphones, follow these troubleshooting steps:
- Firstly, add more distance between multiple wireless devices in the same room. For example, place the wireless router or other audio transmitters further away from your computer or TV.
- Next, ensure that you’re always using your headphones within the recommended distance from the audio source. Check the user manual to understand the range capabilities of your headphone model.
- Lastly, reset your wireless connection from scratch. That means removing the headphones’ Bluetooth or radio frequency pairing and then re-establishing it from scratch.
Also see: Why Sony headphones are not charging?