When you’re trying to record, nothing is as frustrating as picking up sounds you don’t want, especially if you aren’t sure where they’re coming from. After spending a great deal of time, effort, and money creating the perfect equipment setup, the last thing you want is to make a subpar recording.
Your studio monitor could be buzzing due to non-adjusted equipment or electrical interference in cables and components. So, you can enhance noise levels, buy a power conditioner, replace your cables, or distance your input device to eliminate the hum. You can also turn off or insulate other noise-making gear.
Luckily, most of the equipment and interference problems you’ll run into are quick and easy to solve. Adjusting your equipment and your levels and distributing your gear wisely across your power lines will help clean up your audio. Read on for four common problems and their easy fixes.
- 1 The Problem: Feedback
- 2 The Solution: Move the Mic
- 3 The Problem: Over-Amplification
- 4 The Solution: Adjust Your Levels
- 5 The Problem: Too Much Gear, Not Enough Power
- 6 The Solution: Use a Power Conditioner
- 7 The Problem: Unbalanced Cables
- 8 The Solution: Switch to Balanced Cables
- 9 Final Thoughts
- 10 Sources
The Problem: Feedback
One of the most common issues is also the most easily fixed.
Feedback is a high-pitched buzzing or squealing sound that happens when your speakers and your microphones are too close together. The microphone will pick up all of the sounds coming out of the speaker and then play them through the speaker, only to have the sounds picked up again, creating the loop.
Unlike other buzzing, it’s usually easy to tell when feedback is the problem. It’s generally loud and happens suddenly when you turn on your equipment. You won’t need to spend time checking cables and power supplies–you can get straight to the solution.
The Solution: Move the Mic
Feedback is easy to identify, and it doesn’t indicate a problem with any of your equipment which makes it easy to fix. Putting distance between your input devices and your output devices is usually enough to stop the sound.
If you’re short on space, you can always forgo the speakers and use headphones as an output device. That way, you can hear everything as you record without your mic picking up any unwanted sounds. You can also adjust the levels on your microphone to clean up the noise.
The Problem: Over-Amplification
One reason you might hear buzzing in the studio is over-amplification. When this happens, something in your setup is amplified so much that any artifacts in the sound that would typically disappear are now loud enough to hear. Even the cleanest audio can have enough artifacts to create a buzz.
This is especially the case with extra-sensitive equipment. You may not hear ambient noise from things like an air conditioning system or loud pipes because of habituation. Older equipment or equipment that’s overloaded might have noisy mechanical parts, like a loud fan on a computer.
If you hear a small, unchanging noise frequently, your brain will eventually filter it out, and you won’t hear it. However, your equipment could still be picking up these sounds and amplifying them, creating the annoying buzz you’re trying to avoid.
The Solution: Adjust Your Levels
The solution to over-amplification is to adjust your levels. You may need to use the process of elimination to figure out which part of your setup is buzzing. It could be the monitor, the audio interface, or even a low-quality cable.
Test each piece of equipment, one by one, to find your culprit. Start by turning the amplification down, one channel at a time, one piece of equipment at a time. If all of your levels are in the correct zone, and changing them doesn’t fix the buzzing, listen closely to your environment to check for ambient noise you’ve overlooked.
If you can’t control background sounds, you may need to turn your microphones down even further than you normally would. When possible, turn off anything making extra noise in the studio or soundproof it with acoustic foam panels to keep noise from bleeding in.
The Problem: Too Much Gear, Not Enough Power
Overloading a single power source with all of your equipment can create a buzz, introducing electrical or digital noise. So, if you’ve put your speakers on the same line as the rest of your equipment, they’re the main cause of your problem.
Putting too much gear on one power source creates a ground loop or ground noise. The electromagnetism that speakers use can pull various sounds, undesirable buzzes, and hums into your setup via electromagnetic induction. Once that noise is pulled into your system, it gets amplified, processed, and played back, just like all the sounds you want to hear.
While speakers are the easiest way to create this phenomenon, it can happen with a wide variety of audio equipment. You might hear it right away through speakers, but it can happen anywhere along the line.
The Solution: Use a Power Conditioner
The best way to stop this type of buzz is to prevent the ground loop. Interrupting the loop will stop the system from introducing unwanted noises and give you cleaner audio to work with.
Try plugging your equipment into different power sources. However, if you have a lot of equipment and only one circuit, this might be difficult.
Luckily, there’s a tool for that. A power conditioner is a type of power strip that offers filtered power. This feature reduces the amount of “dirty” power you get, which cuts down on extraneous and random electrical noise.
The WAudio AC Noise Power Filter Line Conditioner from Amazon.com is a good choice for a power conditioner. It not only filters power but also offers surge protection to protect your equipment when there’s unexpected surging or spiking on the line. It’s audio-grade, so it won’t cause problems with the rest of your equipment.
- 【VOLTAGE PROTECTION】 - Its circuit detects dangerous voltage irregularities and provides the highest level of surge & spike protection.
- 【OVERLOAD PROTECTION】 - The sockets will be powered off when total current over 15A, press RESET button to restore power supply.
- 【HEAVY DUTY DESIGN】 - Metal casin with thickness aluminum plates, come with 6pcs filtered outlets and 2pcs direct outlets.
Last update on 2022-01-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The Problem: Unbalanced Cables
If your power is clean, your levels are good, and all of your equipment is spaced correctly, but you still hear buzzing, it might be your cables. Cables are susceptible to the same kinds of interference noises as speakers when they’re unbalanced.
Being unbalanced means the cables only have two lines wrapped in the casing. One line carries the signal between your components, and the other is meant to protect the signal line from interference. However, if interference occurs, an unbalanced cable isn’t equipped to get rid of it, so the hum will come through, making a buzz.
The Solution: Switch to Balanced Cables
Getting rid of the buzz in this scenario is as easy as swapping out your unbalanced cables for balanced ones. Balanced cables have the same two lines as an unbalanced cable, plus a third line that works as an additional signal line.
The three-line system works by using the way the cables connect to the jack to reverse their polarity. As the lines are connected to a jack at either end, their polarity is reversed twice, eliminating any interference and, with it, any extraneous humming.
You can identify balanced cables by the number of rubber rings on the jack: there should be two rings for a balanced cable and just one for an unbalanced cable. Amazon.com sells Seismic Audio Patch cables that are balanced and affordable, so swapping your cables out doesn’t have to break the bank.
- Model Number: SATRX-6 (2 Pack - Pick Your Colors)
- 1/4" TRS Male to 1/4" TRS Male
- Length: 6 Feet for each cable
Last update on 2022-01-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Check out my article about how to use monitoring headphones properly.
Getting rid of unwanted buzzing in the studio isn’t necessarily an expensive problem.
You can use balanced cables, connect your equipment to different outlets, and get a high-quality power conditioner to cut down on any electrical interference.
Keeping your amplification levels low and your gear spread out will also prevent you from inadvertently adding sound artifacts to your audio. Another practical workaround is to deactivate or soundproof the noise-producers with absorbing foam or other material.
Find out here if monitor or headphone is better for mixing.
- Sweetwater InSync: Studio Monitors Humming
- Techhive: How to get rid of hum, buzz, and other noises from your audio and video systems
- Edison Tech Center: Induction and Electromagnetism
- PreSonus Knowledgebase: Why am I hearing noise in my studio monitors?
- Musicians HQ: This is Why You Hear Noises in Studio Monitors
- Explorable: Habituation