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Snaps, crackles & pops through speakers...


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Hello Folks,

I'm trying to determine what exactly has gone wrong with my sound system. For quite a while now, my 5.1 speaker system and headphones have been plagued with snaps, crackles and pops. It may have even cost me the loss of my 4.1 sound system (more on that below)…

Needless to say, I’m trying to determine the most likely cause of the gremlin-sounds.

Basic System Specs


Dell Dimension XPS from 2003

ATI x1950 AGP graphics card

SoundBlaster Audigy 2.0 sound card

Belkin powerstrip in use (medium grade, about $40 when first purchased)

Plugged into an UNgrounded power socket

Here are the symptoms


The symptoms appeared shortly after we set it up where we now live.

The computer is plugged into a room that shares a wall with the bathroom—whenever the bathroom’s lights are turned on, there’s an immediate and SINGLE “snap” sound heard over the speakers/headphones; this single-snap is also heard if a hairdryer is activated in the bathroom.

Rarely (like once a month, if that) there aren’t any snaps, crackles, or pops to be heard.

The quantity and quality of the gremlin-sounds VARY, and I haven’t been able to determine a pattern to it. Sometimes, for DAYS at a time, the pops may be very few, and/or also very quiet, or a little more frequent and.or somewhat louder than normal.

Demise of the 4.1 sound system


We lost our original sound system about two years after the symptoms first appeared. They died a very slow death, with the chief sign of their demise being a very gradual reduction in volume. When they were brand new, turning the volume up to even 1/4 the potential was so loud as to hurt the ears, but by the time they died, the volume was cranked up to maximum and the sound could be barely heard. Does the way that this sound system died act as an indicator of the culprit, or did they expire just because of how old they were (almost 6 years old)?

Attempts made to address the problem


Have run a three-pronged (grounded) power chord from a GROUNDED power socket to the Belkin power strip. The result is that the snaps, crackles and pops were STILL heard, and did NOT affect the quantity nor quality of the gremlin-sounds.

Contemplated theories


The UNgrounded power socket was the source. Why? Gremlin-sounds heard from bathroom which shares a wall with the ungrounded power socket. BUT the power supply was changed from an ungrounded one to a GROUNDED one via a three-pronged (grounded) extension chord and it did not affect the quantity nor the quality of the gremlin-sounds.

Also, if the power supply, whether grounded or not, were the issue, why do we then NOT hear the gremlin-noises over our TV’s speakers, or through the stereo system? They’re nearly as old as our computer is. Yet we have never heard a single snap, crackle or pop through them—if the power supply is the cause, wouldn’t they be affected too?

We also just acquired a laptop, which has a minimal set of speakers built into them. Thus far not a single gremlin-noise has come from it.

The house that we live in is most likely built around 1914. Only a portion of the power sockets are of the three-pronged and grounded variety. Could some of these be better than others? If so, then perhaps the grounded sockets in the living room are supplying a “cleaner” energy than the other grounded sockets that I ran the extension chord to? The three grounded sockets that I ran the extension chord from were all from the kitchen. And every single one of those had no impact on eliminating/reducing the gremlin-noises coming out of my computer’s speakers/headphones.

Is the sound card the real issue?


The only theory that seems wide open to exploration is that the sound card is the culprit. But prior keyword searches hasn’t helped me come to a determination on this. The 5.1 system is plugged into the back of my SoundBlaster Audigy 2 sound card, while my headphones, when in use, is plugged into the front of it. But how could I test for certain that the sound card is the real culprit? I don’t want to invest in replacing it only to discover that it’s not the solution.

If anyone feels that the sound card is the problem, where would be an ideal site for me to look for a sound card that’s compatible with my almost 8 years old system?

Thanks in advance for any advice that can be directed my way.

If there’s any diagnostics you’d like me to perform, please be as detailed as possible in your directions so that I don’t make a gaff that could lead to a misdiagnosis.



Dec. 4, 2010

Edited by Kyle_K_ski
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maybe it's eating rice crispies?

i'm thinking it's just electric interference, as for the 4.1 speakers, its just age and use wear and tear.

things happen like that, some speakers are better than others.

but thats my opinion sorry it isnt very informative.

Edited by zeealice
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In my experience audio issues can be the most frustrating to correct.

Does this happens with every program, game or application?

For testings sake, take your rig to a location that has modern wiring?

Plug the headphones directly into the sound card. The front jacks on my computer give very poor performance compared to using a jack on my Mobo(I have onboard sound). I'm thinking if you get the pops and crackles through the headphones too, it has to be computer related but not necessarily your sound card.

Are there any device managers associated with either the sound card or the 5.1 sound system? My onboard sound has a Realtek Audio Manager is why I ask.

Maybe the sound card has a Creative Console associated with it?

This is not solely targeted at SB Audigy 2 but may be worth a look.

More ideas

Might try googling for crackling sounds for either SB Audigy or the 5.1 sound system.

If another slot is available for your sound card, try it.

Give the PC a good blowing out with a can of compressed air. I usually get mine at Walmart or the local hardware store.

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Thanks for the advice.

Before I even read any responses, I went through the trouble of wiping down my longest three-pronged grounded extension chord, as it was filthy from usage, and ran it from my entertainment center's outlet to the Belkin powerstrip, and all to no effect. The gremlin-sounds were still there, cackling at me.

I cleaned out my tower several days ago, and regularly clean it at least once every month or two.

I plugged my headphones into the rear jack of the sound card, and while the gremlin-sounds were not there, what I got instead was a very prominent level of "snowy static" sound that could be clearly heard over any type of sound source that I played. No good on that.

It never dawned on me to see if there was a difference between the quantity/quality of the gremlin-sounds inside different applications, and here's what I discovered:

Playing .mp3's=almost no snaps, and when they're there, they're very quiet.

Playing video through VLC Player=gremlin-sounds, but only half as frequent, with their volume nearly identical.

Playing Ghost Recon (and I assume other games as well)=the typical gremlin-sounds, as already reported above.

NOT playing anything=the same level of gremlin-sounds as if I was playing a video game. Weird.

After your assistance, and my more thoughtful exploration, yeah, the sound issues are definitely tied to my system setup.

I started reading through the supplied articles, and my stomach tightened up over any mentioning of adjust the graphic card's clock speed. I really don't want to mess with that.

That said, the drivers for the ATI x1950 AGP card and the SoundBlaster Audigy 2 are the most up-to-date. In fact, I just started using a really sweet demo-version sound driver program called SRS HD Audio Lab that certainly has broadened the range of sounds I'm hearing in-game, but unfortunately did nothing to address the gremlin-sounds.

So, at this point, would you still advise following the one article's advice about adjusting the graphic card's clock speed? Are there any other adjustments that you'd recommend as well, or...?

Nervous me.

Edited by Kyle_K_ski
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If you have a friend that would let you borrow his/her sound card that would help allot in narrowing down the cause.

Allot of that stuff about graphic cards in the Creative article was Nividia related.

I think adjusting clock speeds in your case is a stab in the dark IMHO.

May be of no help but open dxdiag and turn down hardware acceleration in the sound tab. Win7 doesn't have this feature so I'm not positive of the tab it is under.

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I adjusted the sound settings via dxdiag. initially, when I loaded up GR, there weren't any gremlin-sounds. But as soon as I started up an actual mission, they were back, and behaving as usual.

The sounds were there once I quit out to the desktop as well.

I'm going to see if I know anyone who has a sound card that's compatible with my system that they'll let me use, but that's going to be a longshot.

It looks like the overall consensus of everyone here then is that there is some kind of software compatibility issue that I'll need to work some magic on. I better be Gandelf from the looks of things. :huh:

I don't know if I'll have any time today to get this done. Maybe next weekend.

Thanks guys. Please update me if you think of anything else that might be helpful and hopefully easy.

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A quick update on some discoveries.

As we decorated our home we played some holiday music over my system today. For the first 4 min. or so there were the usual reduced gremlin-noises for when music's played, but then it stopped altogether, UNTIL a different Firefox tab was checked, or the mousewheel was scrolled. Then the usual gremlin-noises returned, only to virtually disappear if the desktop was left alone for several minutes.

When I tried GR, the gremlins were still crying, per usual.

I have TWO "Sound" listings when I run dxdiag, "Sound 1" and "Sound 2." After reading some articles for a while, I turned off the Hardware Sound Acceleration Level all the way off. If it had an impact on the gremlins, I couldn't discern it.

My chief concern is this: I uninstalled Creative's driver yesterday, and then installed that SRS driver-program that I mentioned above, yet I noticed today the following under the DirectX Diagnostic Tool's Sound 1 tab, it states that the driver's Name is: ctaud2k.sys, which I think is the driver provided by Creative, and the Sound 2 tab has SRS_HDAL_i386.sys listed. Now why would ctaud2k.sys be listed if I uninstalled Creative's driver yesterday, and how would that impact SRS' performance? It just seems strange to me that the Sound 1 and Sound 2 tabs don't agree with each other in regards to who is providing the driver.

Should I use CCleaner to remove all listings dealing with Creative? Is this a non-issue, or...?

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Here's an update.

Since I had just recently updated my sound and graphics drivers, I went ahead and moved the sound-card to a new PCI slot that's as far away as possible from the motherboard.

The external speakers were on when I rebooted, and there wasn't the typical flood of pops and clicks when the computer boots up. I thought, "Hey, it worked!"

But then there wasn't ANY media that would produce sounds, so I came to the conclusion that the driver "lost" the card when it was moved. I uninstalled the driver, double-checked Creative's site to ensure that I did already have the most up-to-date driver, and half an hour later came to realize that I didn't. So, I downloaded and installed the latest driver. Creative's support site SUCKS by the way. It should NOT have to take me that long to find a driver for a product whose model number I'm typing into their damned search engine.

Anyway, on reboot, the newly installed driver started working, because the pops and clicks were back on the speakers.


I guess that at this point, I either get the extension chord and get the electricity from the far, back-corner bedroom to see if that eliminates the pops/clicks, or I just get a new sound card and hope that does the trick. Running the power from yet another room seems like a real long shot. As I stated earlier, our entertainment center has its sound running through the stereo, and that's never produced a single pop or click. I even cranked the volume up on the TV (which is normally mute) and even that is gremlins-free. I've already used that entertainment center's electrical socket, which I know for a fact is on a different breaker than the bathroom's, and sadly I still had the gremlin-sounds.

If it was the electrical system that was causing the issue, shouldn't it cause the pops and clicks in the TV and the stereo system? And if it isn't causing any gremlin-sounds for those units, then why would it then "target" my computer when I plug it in to the very same electrical source that they're using without any issues?

I'm coming to the conclusion that it's the poor design of the sound card that's the real culprit.

So, to ask but one more time, how strongly do any of you feel that it's the card that's at fault? If you feel that it is the card, and knowing how old my system is, is there a sound card that you would recommend for me that's economical yet supplies great 5.1 sound that's free of gremlin-sounds issues?

Thanks in advance. Your patience is appreciated, as I'm nearly out of mine.



Dec. 12, 2010

Edited by Kyle_K_ski
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My nephew was over today, and played a copy of Armagetron on my computer. That Tron-inspired lightcycle game did not produce a single gremlin-sound, much as when a video's played.

But my other games are still a torrent of gremlins.

If it was the electrical system causing the issues, then the snaps, crackles and pops should be equally prevalent, and it's now obvious to me that they're not.

It's got to be the sound card.

Any recommendations on a replacement, and where I'm most likely to find the best price for it?

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Thanks Wombat. My heart sank a bit seeing all of those Creative products along with Asus. My own experience with SB is already well documented, but I've a couple of friends that have had Asus cards, and let's just say that they weren't very happy with said firm's performance. And it looks like those two companies have pretty much the entire market covered, so...

Yeah, picking the "right" card is going to be..uh...fun.

But it's a start, and we all have to start somewhere right?

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Just a quick update.

I installed some graphics card-adjusting programs and the initial results were pretty terrible.

Both atiTool and ATI Tray Tools promised their users the ability to adjust the latency of PCI devices. These two products would completely freeze up my system shortly after logging in to my User Account. Talk about a panic! I found out ways to stop their start up process and get them uninstalled.

One program that worked as advertised was PowerStrip. No lockups, and it allowed me to adjust the PCI latency for any PCI device that was on my system.

I spent an entire day alternating between testing out Ghost Recon and running PowerStrip, each time lowering the latency value by a factor of 8. I got down to 88 with there being NO impact on the gremlin noises. I even elevated the latency value for my Sound Blaster Audigy 2 card up to 96, which was superior to what I had set my Radeon x1950 to. Not a single decline in the snaps, crackles and pops.

A common fix for most didn't work for me.

So, it looks like I'll be steering some cash shortly for a new card.

I'm happy to see two votes for Turtle Beach cards.

Firefly, would you mind telling me the exact model of Turtle Beach card you used to replace your SB Audigy 2 card with?

Again, thanks for your help and advice everybody!

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make that 3 votes for turtle beach cards :P i bought one on friday to go with my CoD7 game and it hasnt dissappointed me yet :D

the integrated sound drivers stopped working suddenly and i coultnt reinstall them kept saying that there wasnt any matching hardware (when there blaitntly was) so i went out and bought a turtle beach riviera, so far so good :P

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The irony is, that I'm using a Soundblaster (Fatal1ty I think) card along with ASUS and I've never had any audio problems.

i bought [...] CoD7

:nono: Oh dear. :)

i was forced to :( its okay actually a little annoying if anything. the sensorship has been done by a deaf 3 year old thats for sure, it leaves a few swear words in their original form then puts in &$%@ for another few and that reznov guy is one of those people who youd just wanna punch in the face

Edited by zeealice
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I've done some searching after visiting the Turtle Beach Riviera site, and I can't find any info in regards to the following...

The Riviera is compatible with PCI 2.1 slots (5 volt only, not compatible with 3.3V). Note that the Riviera is not compatible with PCI-e or PCI-X slots.

That quote's from here:

My link

I've searched and can't determine if my Dell Dimension XPS has PCI slots that are compatible with the Riviera. For years, it's handled the Sound Blaster Audigy 2 card, so any advice on how I can exactly determine whether or not my PCI slots are Riviera-friendly?

Thanks in advance!

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