Why Does Your Audio Interface Crackle? 8 Solutions


It is practically impossible to standardize any issue in a particular arrangement with numerous audio interfaces, hardware types and software versions, and innumerable optimizable or customizable settings. A simple problem like a crackle can become impossible to remedy.

Among the most common issues that cause audio interface crackling are problems with the audio interface hardware or software. Other common issues include ground loops and problems with your computer’s ports, operating system, CPU, or other peripherals.   

Since your audio interface may have dozens of possible glitches, you can use the process of elimination or differential diagnosis to arrive at a shortlist of potential problems. Then, you can troubleshoot the shortlisted issues, detect the causal problem, and resolve the crackle.

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Why Does My Audio Interface Crackle?

Your audio interface may crackle for a reason as simple as the wrong buffer size or sample rate. Or, your computer port may be unclean. The issue also could be in any of the related hardware or software. Sometimes, the causal problem may be unrelated, like a wireless adapter card.

Fortunately, once you realize what’s wrong with the audio interface, there are a few ways to fix it. We’ll discuss those solutions in the next section.

8 Solutions for Your Audio Interface’s Crackle

Audio Interface Hardware

The crackling sound in an audio interface could be due to a hardware issue, such as faulty cables, preamps, or converters. If the audio interface itself is the problem, you must contact the manufacturer. The cause could also be malfunctioning accessories and third-party hardware. 

An audio interface may record a silence, a buzz, everything mixed up, or a crackle due to a bad cable. Use another cable and test. Some samples may crackle in the loop track play mode, which could be due to complex rhythm and bass. Time-Stretch and BPM adjustment may solve the problem. 

Ensure your computer, laptop, or workstation meets the minimum audio interface hardware requirements. All audio interface makers have standard troubleshooting guides for their hardware. You can refer to the manual to run a few tests.  

Audio Interface Software

Your audio interface may crackle if there is an incompatible, old, or buggy driver. Ideally, use the latest official driver released by the audio interface maker. Unofficial drivers and third-party installation tools may cause problems. In some cases, the operating systems do not support specific audio interface drivers. Contact the tech support of both companies to find a solution.

Check if you have the latest audio interface driver and its compatibility with your operating system. Otherwise, uninstall the driver and install a compatible version. You may consider a completely fresh installation of the audio interface hardware and the software. Ensure your computer, laptop, or workstation meets the minimum audio interface software requirements.

Ports: USB, Thunderbolt, FireWire, etc.

More often than frequently, the audio interface crackle is due to an issue in the connecting port. Older interfaces may not be compatible with USB C or 4.0 and the latest Thunderbolt or FireWire ports. New interfaces usually work best with contemporary ports. Regardless, the ports must be fully functional.

USB 3.0 or earlier ports may not be ideal for state-of-the-art DAWs. The port, along with its supporting driver, influences the sample rate, latency, and polling. The input/output connectors have a more significant role than averting crackle, pop, dropout, or static problems.

Also, a USB hub could be the source of the crackle. Not all USB hubs work perfectly with every digital audio workstation, its operating system, or an interface and its hardware & software. Some people use powered USB hubs. Powered or unpowered, a hub could be the problem.  

Verify if the USB ports are functioning alright. Clean the ports to get rid of dust. Ensure all the cables, connectors, plugs, ports, and jacks are fitted snugly. Try a different USB, Thunderbolt, or FireWire port for your audio interface. Uninstall and reinstall the USB driver if required.

Operating System

Operating systems require class-compliant USB devices and drivers. Windows often loads a standard audio driver instead of the interface-specific device driver. Mac may not recognize or support the audio interface. Sometimes, changing the audio or sound settings to suit an interface may cause problems. The exclusive mode of audio interfaces could be an issue, too.

You have to try OS-specific troubleshoots. Use this Windows guide to solve driver-specific issues. Review the changes in the audio settings using the onboard application of your operating system. Restore to defaults. Upgrade the sound card driver if it is dated.

CPU and GPU

A stressed CPU and GPU may compel a computer or laptop to make strange noises, essentially enhanced vibrations. Neither processor has any moving part, but both are connected to other components inside the system, notably fans. Noisy fans affect a recording session.

Contemporary audio interfaces demand sufficient computing power, not only from the CPU but also from the GPU. Both vibration and noise can hurt the otherwise expected functioning of every device and accessory, especially on the ports connecting your entire setup.

Ensure your CPU, GPU, and the entire setup can work optimally in tandem. In some cases, increasing the number of input channels may stress the system, leading to a crackle, among other symptoms. 

Audio recording or sound mixing has become a processor and graphics-intensive process. Thus, a sufficiently compatible configuration is necessary to perform all the required tasks without any glitches.

Optimizations and Customizations

Most audio interfaces have a ton of possible optimizations and customizations. The two most common features that may cause or facilitate a crackle are the buffer size and the sample rate. 

Your audio interface may use the standard 44.1 kHz sample rate or a little higher frequency of 48 kHz. Some users tap into the full scope of sample rate and go as high as 192 kHz, which may cause a crackle.

Many users prefer a larger buffer size to reduce latency. While low latency is desirable and facilitates a higher sample rate, a faster data transfer speed may cause a crackle. Also, you may have dropouts or data loss and popping or clicking sounds. You may also have a software or system crash.  

Toggle the buffer size and sample rate settings. Try different combinations until the crackle is wholly gone. When editing, mixing or engineering your recordings, you can always use a larger buffer size and enhanced sample rate. You don’t need these highest settings while recording.

Ground Loop

A ground loop can cause an array of noises. You may hear some crackle, popping, clicking, humming, buzzing, and other quaint sounds. A ground loop is a prevalent but unintentional error. It is not unique for audio recording setups. A ground loop may form in your house.

When you plug various systems connected via different electrical ports and cables into separate power sockets, you inadvertently create a single closed loop that doubles up as a kind of an antenna capable of generating electromagnetic induction. Break this loop.

Connect the entire setup to one power outlet, including your DAW, audio interface, and accessories. Use this comprehensive guide to understand, investigate, troubleshoot, and then resolve a ground loop. You can effectively prevent a ground loop from forming in the first place.

Peripheral Issues

A workstation, computer, or laptop has plenty of onboard, installed, and connected devices, whether essential hardware or accessories. Any such fixture may be a peripheral issue causing a crackle in your audio interface. A culprit identified by many is the wireless adapter card.

You may remove, disable, or uninstall components that you don’t need while working on your audio interface. You can remove the wireless adapter card and check if the crackle subsides. Look for other hardware or accessories that you may have, disable, and check for the crackle.

For more information, check out my article about why audio interfaces may sound bad.

Final Thoughts

Desktops or bigger workstations are better suited for audio interfaces and elaborate arrangements. Compact computing systems, such as laptops, have too many hardware components confined to a small space. Vibration, resonance, and other interferences are not entirely preventable in such systems.

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Vinnie

I'm Vinnie, and I'm here to support you to create your own studio at home, whether it’s for photography, recording audio, podcasts, or videos!

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