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Very annoying noise problem

Discussion in 'Soundcards' started by Crazy Horse, Mar 13, 2007.

  1. Crazy Horse

    Crazy Horse Guest


    Earlier today my system¹ developed a very annoying problem -- the
    "sudden" and seemingly permanent presence of electronic noise coming out
    of the headphone/(powered)speakers (female) jack. I say *electronic*
    noise because, it's not just a static noise of anything resembling a
    constant nature. Well, it may be that too, but only as a background

    This electronic noise seems to reflect what's actually going on with the
    hardware and changes according to movement of the mouse (this is the
    most noticeable) and harddrive activity. Another interesting aspect is
    that if the CPU is running at 100%, this noise subsides to the point of
    being almost inaudible.

    I browsed through the applicable DELL forum and I didn't find another
    problem whose description really matched mine. I did pick up one
    suggestion: see if there's a difference when running off the battery vs.
    AC power -- presumably with the idea that the sound may be coming from
    the AC current, somehow; that running off the battery would be quieter
    if that were the case.

    Interestingly and troubling, in my case, the sound was worse when
    running off the battery. Actually, the other electronic noises may have
    still been going on, but they became drowned out by a very constant hum,
    at an unwavering pitch that's easily duplicated by the human voice.

    In the DELL forum, there were a number of comments from people who were
    trying to be helpful, and many of these revolved around trying to find
    some software-related reasons. In my case, I think the problem is much
    more fundamental. Here's why:
    <#> the sound is present while the machine is booting up
    <#> even after booting from a DOS CD, the sound is present (tho' less
    so, vis-a-vis no mouse support)
    <#> essentially, the noise becomes present as soon as the computer is
    powered on.

    I'm posting this on the off-chance that there might be something I can
    do about it,² but I'm not optimistic. Even if it can't be fixed, I'd
    sure like to understand what it means and what may have caused it.
    Regarding potential causes, I can report one possible related event:
    just before I noticed this, I plugged a microphone into the microphone

    Why Am I Posting This Here?
    Recently I've rediscovered my newsreader software and have been using it
    for some other topics. As I've looked over the input from Usenet
    participants and compared them to what I see on the DELL site, I have
    the very distinct impression that the really heavy hitters are over
    here. I'm just hoping that one or two of you may be able to shed some
    light on this nasty development.

    Sorry 'bout the length of this post, but I figure if I can provide all
    the potentially relevant info from the get-go, it might save potential
    responders from having to ask more questions than necessary.

    Anyway, thanks for whatever help you can provide.
    1. Win/XP Home/SP2 on a DELL Inspiron 1000 laptop, purchased early July
    of 2004. So far, I've had to replace the harddrive and have recently
    discovered the CD-ROM can no longer handle -RW discs. Nice! :-(
    2. short of replacing the motherboard, and I don't know if even *that*
    would be a possibility.
    3. It's a cheapo microphone I found (can't remember where). But it
    appears as though it had never been used before. I was attempting to
    use it in a Skype session, having just updated my Skype software.
    Crazy Horse, Mar 13, 2007
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  2. Crazy Horse

    Arno Wagner Guest

    Not necessarily.
    There is one distinct possibility: There are different types of
    microphones and some types need an additional amplification
    boost in order to be lound enough. Possibly plugging in the
    microphine activated that one. If the microphone input is on
    and ''boosted'', but no microphone is plugged in, it is
    sensitive enough to pick up all sorts od stray electronic
    emissions. (The microphone sort of shortens these emissione
    out if plugged in.)

    So the solution would be to bring up your sound control and
    a) turn off microphone boost and/or b) turn of the microphone

    These may be an additional problem, that is in the hardware:
    Your mic-input may have an activation switch that turns
    off the input when nothing is plugged in. These can lock-open
    in some cases. Unfortunately these connectors are notoriously
    low quality. The sound control should still be able to turn
    the microphone off.


    Arno Wagner, Mar 13, 2007
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  3. Crazy Horse

    Crazy Horse Guest


    Thanks for getting back to me. See my comments below...

    You know, after reading this, I took that cheapo mic and plugged it back
    into the female jack. And, as suggested by your comments above, the
    background noise subsided, and almost to the point of being completely
    inaudible. Unfortunately, the effect was only transient. And the
    "stray electronic emissions noises" resumed their previous volume, in
    fairly short order. Still, this makes me think you're onto something

    However . . .
    The Windows Volume Control slider buttons and Mute checkboxes have no
    effect whatsoever on this background noise. In fact regardless of the
    slider positions of any of the sliders (e.g., Master Volume, Wave,
    *Microphone* etc.) there is no difference in the volume of the
    electronic noise.

    Anyway, I'm very grateful for your feedback. I *do* think you're onto
    something here, I just don't know if there's a remedy or not, and if so,
    how I'd go about implementing it.

    Thanks again for the help.
    Crazy Horse, Mar 13, 2007
  4. Crazy Horse

    M.I.5? Guest


    Earlier today my system¹ developed a very annoying problem -- the
    "sudden" and seemingly permanent presence of electronic noise coming out
    of the headphone/(powered)speakers (female) jack. I say *electronic*
    noise because, it's not just a static noise of anything resembling a
    constant nature. Well, it may be that too, but only as a background

    This electronic noise seems to reflect what's actually going on with the
    hardware and changes according to movement of the mouse (this is the
    most noticeable) and harddrive activity. Another interesting aspect is
    that if the CPU is running at 100%, this noise subsides to the point of
    being almost inaudible.

    Question: Does this noise exist when operating on mains only, or is it
    present on battery as well.

    If it is present on mains only, then it is an earth loop causing the
    M.I.5?, Mar 13, 2007
  5. Crazy Horse

    Bob Masta Guest

    One thing that you might try is wiggling the headphone or speaker
    plug in its jack. The symptoms you describe could indicate a bad
    ground connection, which might be (momentarily) re-established
    by wiggling. Also, if you haven't done so already, try different
    phones or speaker cable in case the break is in the plug instead
    of the jack.

    If you do discover that there is a bad ground in the jack, you
    might be able to fix it just by judicious poking and bending,
    (with power off!) but the odds are you will need to open up the case
    to get at the jack and possibly replace it. On a laptop, this is
    not for the faint of heart, and you are likely to screw up
    something else in the process. (Don't ask how I know this!)

    Best of luck...

    Bob Masta

    D A Q A R T A
    Data AcQuisition And Real-Time Analysis
    Scope, Spectrum, Spectrogram, Signal Generator
    Science with your sound card!
    Bob Masta, Mar 13, 2007
  6. Crazy Horse

    Arno Wagner Guest

    Ok, that is bad. It means it is not the mic input alone.
    Well, with the volume controls not having an effect, it needs to be
    a more serious problem. Perhaps the filters on the soundcard supply
    voltage have gone bad. Or it has a preregulator that has given up
    the ghost. Only fix then would be to replace the broken components
    or add another filter. Since the soundchip likely sits on the mainboard,
    that is a tricky operation requiring considerable soldering experience
    and dexterity.

    Or even more serious, the output filters on the main supply for the
    computer may have gone bad. In that case you can expect crashes, HDD
    errors and finally destruction of the notebook.

    I think this should be looked into, as the worst-case is a real
    possibility. Needs someone competent with electronics and an
    Oscilloscope. If it is the main regulator, it may or may not be
    repairable. In any case I advise you to update your backups of all
    important data on the notebook.

    Arno Wagner, Mar 13, 2007
  7. Crazy Horse

    Crazy Horse Guest

    Perhaps you did't see the two ¶'s that followed the ones above:

    So the answer to your question is, when running off the batter only, the
    background noise (I think) still exists, but it was hard to be certain
    since it was being drowned out by a much louder constant hum.

    In any case, thanks for getting back to me.
    Crazy Horse, Mar 14, 2007
  8. Crazy Horse

    Crazy Horse Guest

    Good heavens, Arno, you've scared the beegeezus outta me! I'm not
    complaining, or criticizing... just reporting my reaction.

    I have one other interesting thing to report, that I'm pretty sure is
    related to the other (unwanted) phenomenon:
    In WinXP, in the ACCESSIBILITY OPTIONS » /Keyboard\, bottom section,
    "ToggleKeys" ... I have the Use ToggleKeys box checked. This means that
    whenever I pressed any of the "lock" keys (CAPS, NUM, SCROLL), a loud,
    brief tone would be emitted. In fact, this tone *was* so loud that it
    was actually a bit annoying, especially when I had the headphones on.
    And the reason I couldn't turn it down is that its volume seemed to be
    quite independent of the Windows slider volume controls. It was in its
    own little world of volume control, and it was always at that annoying
    loud setting.
    ¶ You may have notice that I used the past tense, "was" and this is
    because simultaneously with the appearance of the system noise, that
    sound went away. I double-checked to make sure the box is still checked
    (and it is), but... no sound. Following up on this discovery, I
    unplugged everything from the hdph/spkr jack to make sure I'd still get
    sound out of the onboard speakers, and I do.

    I'm not trying to get you to back down from you earlier dire warning,
    but I want to run this by you...
    Because of the very close proximity¹ between plugging in that cheapo
    microphone and noticing the system noise and other symptoms (mentioned
    above), it seems quite clear to me there is a strong cause-effect
    relationship between the two. So, *if* that's the case (i.e., if
    plugging in this microphone somehow *caused* the noise problem), then
    would that suggest the problem is in one area over another?

    To be more specific, prior to suggesting the most dire potential reason
    (bad output filters on the main [power] supply), you'd also said,
    What I'm trying to get at is this: if the problem was caused by plugging
    in that mic, would doing that more likely be able to effect the
    soundcard[/chip] subsystem, vs. being able to effect the main power

    I guess I want to believe that the problem is not about the power
    supply... and intuitively, it just seems like it's related to the sound
    subsystem. On the other hand, it might not be a good idea to gamble the
    safety of my computer, etc., on my intuition. Still, I think my
    reasoning may have some merit, which is why I wanted to run it by you.

    Any feedback?

    In any event, thank you very much for the time you've already taken to
    help me. I really appreciate it.
    1. And by this I mean that I'd been using the earphones right along.
    Took them off long enough to fetch the microphone, take it out of its
    sealed plastic bag and plug it in. I popped the headphones back on and
    immediately noticed the noise which hadn't been there just a few minutes
    before, or at any other time.
    Crazy Horse, Mar 14, 2007
  9. Crazy Horse

    Arno Wagner Guest

    Don't panic. It may still be an isolated problem with the soundcard.
    But the fact that the sound-settings do not influence the problem
    is a bad sign....
    Hmm. Interessting. This raises a new possibility: The toggle-sound
    circuitry may be broken and injecting the noise now instead of
    nothing or the anoying loud toggle sound. Or something may be wrong
    with the sound-system that also kills the toggle sound.
    It is just a warning. I suspect the soundcard. But as a system failure
    is really bad, even a smaller probability merits a warning.
    It may. It could be a very broken sound design (hardware and/or software)
    and plugging in the microphone could have left the ''toggle-input''
    of the soundcard open. An open input can catch the noise you mentioned
    from direct RF input.
    It would not effect the main power at all.
    Your reasoning has merit. And the additional info about the missing
    toggle-sound would suggest that it is sthe sound-subsystem only.
    And since you have backups anyways (you do, don't you?), a very small
    risk of a power problem does not merit drastic action.

    One possibility is what somebody else here mentioned: A broken input
    jack. Another one is that a broken driver just does the wrong thing
    on microphone plug-in. One thing you can try is pluging in and
    removing the microphone say 20 times or so. This may get a broken
    connector to work again. It may just be that is does not ground the
    input anymore. This could (in a cheap design) also kill your

    You can also try to disable the sound complete;y in the BIOS.
    If you still get the noise, then it is not a driver problem.

    More questions: Is normal sound still normal? Or is "worse"
    than before? And does the mircrophone work?
    Ok. Even more indication that something went wrong on plug-in. That
    would be a localized problem in the sound system.

    Arno Wagner, Mar 14, 2007
  10. Crazy Horse

    Crazy Horse Guest


    Thanks so much for your most recent reply. I will be doing some more
    experimenting and will answer the questions you posed, later on today.

    Thanks again... much appreciated.
    Crazy Horse, Mar 16, 2007
  11. Crazy Horse

    Crazy Horse Guest

    Something like this sounds right to me, intuitively... I really don't
    grasp the hardware knowledge underlying your comments, though.
    I take it RF stands for "Radio Frequency", and you know some of the
    sounds are reminiscent of noises I've heard coming out of broadcast
    radio sets.
    This is reassuring.
    As for backups... er, uh, uhmmmm... NO!
    I don't think my BIOS gives me that kind of granularity. Perhaps the
    diagnostic disk would.
    Normal sound is still the same -- no discernable degradation of audio
    quality: volume, frequency response, etc. No spurious noises when I
    move the sliders, or anything like that, either.
    Yeah, it worked but the throughput seemed weak unless I blew on the mic
    -- that came through loud and clear (the wind noise, that is). But it
    sounded like crap. Like I said, it's a cheapo. Can't tell you how much
    I regret ever plugging the thing in.
    Guess that's about it for now. Meant to get back to you sooner, but got
    a little sidetracked. It's now Friday at 2AM in northeast USA, and I
    still think it's Thursday. Up until dinner, I thought it was Wednesday.
    The days are blending together, I guess.

    Thanks again for your help, Arno.
    Crazy Horse, Mar 16, 2007
  12. Crazy Horse


    May 16, 2007
    Likes Received:
    hi crazy horse! i've been reading your post's and i have the same problem! i have a laptop for dj-ing and it makes a horrible noise when hooked up to my mixer! with my laptop the noise goes away when i pull the plug of the adapter out. first i had a usb audio card and thought that was the cause of it. Now i have a pcmcia audio card because i thought the problem would be solved but that didn't happen. I,m pretty sure it's a electricity issue because when i plug my laptop into my hifi in the livingroom, there is no problem. I have been working real hard to fix this problem by making a earth loop in my studio and trying my laptop in different places. so far only my livingroom is problem free. i hope you got any results with your problem? I'm almost at the point of ditching my laptop!
    hope to hear from you
    tameesh, May 16, 2007
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