Hissing/Static from a computer

Recently, I bought some nice in-ear headphones: the Klipsch Custom-2 In-Ear Noise Isolating Earphone. They do a great job of eliminating outside noise because they fit in my ears like earplugs. Here’s the downside to that: I discovered that my main computer, a Dell Latitude D820 (yeah, I’m using a 4-year-old computer, what of it?!), has a low, constant hiss whenever the sound isn’t muted.

When I plug the headphones into my iPhone, there’s no background noise–just perfect silence.

So, I went searching for a solution to the problem. Turns out, it’s not a software update or a configuration problem. I just have a cheap sound card. All sound cards introduce some level of noise (though my iPhone doesn’t seem to) and cheaper sound cards introduce more noise than better-quality sound cards.  Being a laptop, my computer has the sound card built into the motherboard, which makes it prone to this type of background noise.

If this were a desktop, I could simply add a better-quality sound card and plug my headphones or speakers into it. With a laptop/notebook/mobile computer, I need to add an external sound card or USB headphones (as described later). Check the reviews–some are better quality than others.

This problem also extended to recording. I regularly record voice-overs for instructional videos, and I had a seemingly incurable problem with background noise. When I bought a digital microphone (which uses a USB connection rather than the mic-in port), the background noise disappeared. Because I wasn’t using the analog microphone port on my laptop anymore, it wasn’t subject to the motherboard-induced background noise. The headset I bought also had headphones, and those headphones were immune to the background noise, too.

Moral of the story: if you hear noise when you plug a mic, headphones, or speakers into your computer, use a USB connection instead of the built-in analog connection.

This entry was posted in Featured, Hardware, Music, Troubleshooting and tagged , , , by Tony Northrup. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tony Northrup

Tony Northrup, MVP, MCITP, MCPD, MCSE, MCTS, and CISSP, is a Windows consultant and author living in Waterford, Connecticut, in the United States. Tony started programming before Windows 1.0 was released, but has focused on Windows administration and development for the last fifteen years. He has written more than two dozen books covering Windows development, networking, and security. Among other titles, Tony is coauthor of the Windows 7 Resource Kit, the Windows Vista Resource Kit, and Windows Server 2008 Networking and Network Access Protection (NAP). When he's not writing, Tony enjoys photography, travel, and being awesome. Tony lives with his girlfriend, Chelsea, her daughter, Madelyn, and three dogs. You can learn more about Tony by visiting his personal website at http://www.northrup.org and his photography portfolio at http://northrupphotography.com.

One thought on “Hissing/Static from a computer

  1. Just ran across this solution online. You FINALLY gave me a solution that worked (and also a reason to utilize my usb headset). Problem solved, thx

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