Hissing Sound From Speakers When Not Playing Music?

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Silent Home Hub Hissing Sound From Speakers When Not Playing Music

Imagine enjoying a peaceful day at home. Out of nowhere, you hear a hissing sound piercing through the silence. It bothers you, so you search for its source.

“Oh. It’s coming from near my computer.”

You wonder what’s making that hissing noise. You listen more closely and find it’s coming from your SPEAKERS!

“Why are my speakers making this faint hissing sound when it’s not playing music, though?”

Simply put, it’s highly likely because of the wiring. If you’ve looked it up yourself, you’d probably have already pinpointed the same problem.

If nothing you find is helping, we’re here to lend you a hand. We’ll discuss with you why your speakers are making this hissing noise.

Table of Contents

Why There’s a Hissing Sound From Speakers When Not Playing Music

A speaker that can make a hissing noise when not playing music can ruin your listening experience. A hissing sound, in particular, can be irritating to deal with. Anyone caught in this predicament would probably HATE IT.

In this post, we’ll clarify why your speakers are producing that hissing sound even when it’s not playing music.

Just to be straightforward, it can be because of wiring, or it can be structural.

If one of the two is the cause, it will be in the following:

  1. An electronic circuit in your speaker’s amplifier
  2. Unbalanced audio cables
  3. Grounding issues in your power supply cord

To be frank, you’re probably stuck with the hissing sound if your speaker has a built-in amplifier. It’s not really an issue since you can ELIMINATE the hissing noise WITHOUT any hassle.

The next two possible causes also won’t be much of a headache.

  1. The cords in question are easily replaceable. Your speakers should just have individual ports for different types of cables.
  2. You might have to upgrade to pricier audio monitors if your speakers don’t have that. However, you could downgrade to cheap speakers that don’t make that hissing sound when playing music.

There are also some other possible factors making your predicament worse. Let’s go through them.

Electromagnetic Interference Might Be Causing It

If the unbalanced audio cables are your issue, electromagnetic interference makes it worse. That means it would become worse when you approach your speakers with your phone or other electronic devices.

Why? It’s because your phone might have a strong magnetic field that can cause electromagnetic interference.

Phones aren’t the only things that can do this, though. Other electronic devices could cause this too. A case where your computer or Wi-Fi modems causing electromagnetic interference with your speakers is an example.

Different unbalanced cables could also aggravate each other. SEPARATE your electronic devices if you have a bunch lying around.

How Do You Know Unbalanced Audio Cables Are the Issue?

You’re probably using unbalanced cables IF the volume of your speakers decreases AFTER you’ve done the tests mentioned above.  You can always perform a visual inspection to double-check.

If you have professional audio monitors, you’re more likely to hear a hissing noise. Look for several ports in the back of your speaker.

You probably have unbalanced cables if your audio input cable connects to an RCA port.

In some cases, these cords can also be unbalanced cables:

  • Quarter-inch instrument cables
  • 3.5 mm aux cords

By simply looking at the jack, you should be able to tell. It’s unbalanced if it only has one black ring. On the other hand, having two black rings means it has a balanced signal like a TRS cable.

What Does That Mean?

To answer this question, unbalanced cables only have two wires inside them.

  • One carries the audio signal
  • Another is a ground wire protecting against interference

Balanced cables have an additional wire. THAT extra wire carries the audio signal with a negative polarity. This cancels out background noise and electromagnetic interference.

Potential Culprit

You should know by now what causes speakers to produce that hissing background noise when they’re not playing music.

We should point out, however, that other factors could be worsening the hissing noise

At this point, you know everything that might cause speakers to produce a low hissing sound when they’re not playing music. However, there are other factors that could be making the hissing noise worse like:

Physical Damage to Your Speakers

This could amplify the hissing when you’re using your speakers. Even worse, it might conceal the real cause of the noise when you aren’t playing music.

An example would be having a blown speaker or cheap speakers with faulty parts. This doesn’t produce any noise without audio input. Any crack on any of its external parts would make the speakers produce that hiss while playing music.

This situation makes troubleshooting more difficult, so you should consider addressing multiple issues. This is especially true if you still hear some background noise whether your speakers are playing music or not.

Based on the information above, you should take care of all the visible physical damage first, if there’s any. Consider finding the other culprits afterward.

If the amplifier’s wiring or unsuitable cables are causing your problems, DON’T WORRY. That hissing should be close to gone when you’re playing music.

If the Hissing Sound Coming from Your Speakers Worries You

What we’ve mentioned so far aren’t significant concerns. Unbalanced cables have their own benefits. As for the grounding pin, it’s there for safety. They’re not dangerous despite causing a hiss.

That hissing sound coming from your speakers when not playing music could actually be because they’re sensitive. That would be the case, especially if you hear it when your speakers aren’t playing music.

This will surprise you, but when you hear a HISSING SOUND, it could mean you own efficient speakers.

Let us give you an example. High-fidelity speakers tend to emit a subtle hissing sound even if it’s not in use.

On the other hand, less-sensitive, cheap speakers often have a quieter level of background noise.  They also have a more limited sound reproduction.

You’re playing music and love the listening experience. So…

Now, Ask Yourself:

Should I still try to fix the hissing sound?

Honestly speaking, if the background noise doesn’t get in the way of your listening experience, don’t do anything about it.

The hissing sound often goes away once a speaker receives audio input. If the noise goes away, don’t worry.

If you still want to escape that hissing sound when you’re playing music, sacrificing audio quality might be a choice you have to make.

By getting speakers with a LOWER DECIBEL OUTPUT, the background noise will decrease. It’s the first possible solution to your issue.

The speakers should be about 10 decibels quieter than the ones you have.

Getting Rid of the Hissing Sound Coming From Your Speakers: 5 Ways to Fix That Awful Noise + Bonus Basic Tips

Let’s go over some of the things you can do to eliminate that noise coming from your speakers. Some of these fixes are for when your speakers make that hissing noise whether or not you’re playing music.

1. Turn off or Unplug Your Speakers When Not in Use

Do your speakers have a built-in amplifier? If they do, they might be consuming power even when they’re not getting any audio input.

If that’s the problem, you can avoid background noise by cutting off their power when you’re not playing music. Most speakers have a power switch in the back. If it’s not the case for you, simply unplug your speakers.

The question you’re probably asking now is, “But how do I find out?”

Here’s How to Do It

  • Well, traditional speakers don’t consume power when they’re not receiving audio input. They wouldn’t be able to produce that hissing sound even if they were loud enough.
  • On the other hand, professional audio monitors or higher-end speakers would usually have their own individual power cord. That’s an indicator that it has a built-in amplifier as well.

Professional audio monitors don’t get their power through a subwoofer and aren’t like regular computer speakers. They receive a constant supply of electricity through a direct line to a power outlet.

This constant supply of electricity makes them produce that hissing sound, even when you’re NOT playing music. If this is the problem, the solution is simple.

If your speakers have built-in amplifiers and individual power supplies, they should have power switches in the back. Just keeping them TURNED OFF when not in use eliminates that hissing sound.

If your speakers don’t have a power switch, simply unplug them instead or flip the switch on the power strip they’re connected to.

For the Sake of Safety

Even without that background noise, make sure to keep your speakers turned off if you’re not using them. It’s a potential safety hazard since they may overheat.

Other than that, there’s an increased risk of damage to your speakers from power outages or surges.

2. Balanced Cables

Some equipment have the option for you to use balanced inputs or outputs. If you have it, do it.

Using unbalanced cables INCREASES THE SUSCEPTIBILITY of your speakers to electromagnetic interference.

If that’s causing your speakers to make that hissing sound when not playing music, avoid RCA cables and TS cables. Go for balanced TRS cables and shielded auxiliary cords.

Which Do I Pick?

The answer to this question is it depends on the ports your speakers have.

Do your speakers have a balanced quarter-inch port? Use a TRS cable.

TRS stands Tip, Ring, and Sleeve.

  • Tip of the jack carries the positive signal.
  • Ring of metal between two black lines is the negative signal. This cancels out the interference.
  • Sleeve part is the ground wire conductor. This also exists in TS cables.

Do speakers only have the basic 3.5 mm jack port? A shielded auxiliary cable prevents the possibility of electromagnetic interference.

On a side note, TRS cables tend to transmit better audio quality. If you can choose between the two, go for the TRS cable.

If you don’t want to buy new cables, there are other alternatives.

3. Fix a Ground Loop

What is a ground loop? This typically occurs after plugging in one or more pieces of equipment into the AC at different locations.

They’re connected together by electrical signal cables — RCA cables, for example — whose shielding connects to the ground.

Simply put, this makes a single-loop antenna that sucks in different types of noise via electromagnetic induction.

Attach your 3.5 mm aux cord to an audio ground loop isolator before plugging it into your speakers. This ELIMINATES MOST signal interference.

This device works by isolating electrical noise before it can pass from the amplifier to the speakers.

4. Use a DI Box

Similarly, a DI box might make your unbalanced instrument cables less susceptible to noise.

DI stands for Direct Inject. What does this DI box do? Simply put, it takes the unbalanced signal coming through the cord and converts it to a balanced one.

It should help you eliminate the hissing sound when you’re not playing music and remove the need to buy all new cords. See if this works for you.

5. Plug the Power Cable Into a Two-Prong Adapter

Do you have a three-pronged plug on the male end of your speaker’s power supply cord?

If so, this could be the solution to eliminate that hissing sound when not playing music. We’ll explain now how your power plug can cause the hissing noise we’re trying to prevent.

If you use regular type B plugs and outlets, the flat pins are your standard AC power conductors.

See that third-round prong? Yeah. That prong. Pay attention to it.

Its purpose is to provide grounding and prevent a fire hazard in the event of an electrical accident. The downside is grounding pins can also be the cause of the hissing sound that’s bothering you.

Don’t Do This Please

In this case, people think the answer is to rip that third prong out.

It does eliminate any EXCESS background noise, but that’s not the point. It’s there for a reason. Don’t rip out one of the things saving you from an electrical fire!

The Right Choice

Get a grounding adaptor. You can convert your three-pronged type B power cable plug into a two-pronged type A power cable with it.

Remember to double-check. Make sure the adaptor you get is COMPATIBLE with your home’s power outlets before making your purchase.

A Little Extra: Other Basic Fixes

These handy tips are simpler and aren’t exactly related to the ones I mentioned before. These are more straightforward and don’t require as much explaining.

1. Check the Volume of Your Speakers

That annoying hissing sound problem could actually be something minor. The simplest solution could be checking your volume level. This applies when listening to music.

You should have the loudness of your speakers at a minimum of 75% of its max capacity. If it isn’t, just adjust it and listen. Sometimes that’s all it takes to correct the sound problem you’re having.

2. Check the Audio Cable and Port of Your Speaker

The solution above didn’t work, and your speakers still emit that hissing sound problem?

If that’s the case, it might be your audio cable or port. Switch them up and see if the hissing noise persists. Current signal cords are well-built, but that hissing noise can continue if it isn’t a ground loop.

Also, check if your cables aren’t output cables. They SHOULD BE audio signal cables. If they are, that there could be your problem.

3. Last Resort: Check the Transformer

The last place to look at is your transformer. It’s last on the list because this is the likely cause when all the above solutions have failed. Honestly put, one of the issues mentioned above is usually the cause, though.

We’ll warn you right now — if it’s unstable, you should get a replacement immediately. Having it blow would be a disaster!

Bid That Hissing Sound Goodbye

Desk set up with Logitech speakers and MacBook Pro

Since we’ve covered a lot of ground, we’ll briefly summarize things for you.

  1. There are different causes and solutions for the hissing sound coming from your speakers.
  2. If the noise is happening when you’re not playing music, it’s probably because of magnetic interference.
  3. Do you have unbalanced cables and grounding issues with your power cords? They make your audio monitors more susceptible to that irritating hissing sound too. These two items are easily replaceable, which is good.
  4. If your hardware doesn’t have separate ports for different types of cords, replace it with something that does.

We’ll tell you now — you may not have to fix this issue at all.

Surprised?

If the hissing sound problem doesn’t get in the way of you enjoying your music, it’s fine. Just turn off or simply unplug your speakers when you’re not using them, and you’ll stop hearing that noise.

If you got what you were looking for, great!

OTHER TECH-RELATED SOUND REDUCTION GUIDES:

About the Author

andrea_adams

Andrea Adams

Fidgeting with gadgets and electronics has long been Andrea’s expertise. She has assembled, disassembled, and tweaked almost every type of device you can think of. Through the years, she has come to realize that technology should never be fussy. And that’s where her interest in quiet products stemmed from. She hopes to become your go-to person for insight when deciding on noiseless goods to purchase.