Imagine this: you’ve invited a few friends over on a Friday night to have a few drinks, chat, and listen to music. You’re excited to show off your new home theatre but, after putting your favorite song on, you notice there’s a continuous, low-pitched buzzing noise.
Sounds annoying, right?
Sadly, this scenario is all-too-common, and the source of the problem may not be what you expect… your LEDs!
LEDs can interfere with audio systems and cause speakers to buzz. This is usually due to a ground loop problem, radio frequency interference, or low-quality unshielded wires.
Luckily for you, plenty of others have found themselves in similar situations, so there are a few possible solutions.
Keep reading for a comprehensive guide on why speakers buzz, how to determine the root cause of the buzzing, and how to go about fixing it.
Why Do Speakers Buzz?
Let’s start at the beginning.
There are three main reasons why your speaker could be buzzing: a ground loop, radio frequency interference, or unshielded wires. I’m going to discuss each problem in turn.
The number one cause of buzzing speakers is a ground loop. These pesky connections are surprisingly easy to create.
Ground loops occur when you have two or more pieces of equipment plugged into the same AC (alternating current) circuit at different locations. Mainly, all devices in the circuit are connected via a common ground, creating a loop.
Since they’re connected, electric current can flow from one device’s ground to the second, and then back to the first. During this process, the dirty electricity produces an audible hum.
Ground loops commonly occur in areas where there are lots of high powered appliances, such as kitchens or band practice rooms.
The second cause of buzzing speakers is radio frequency interference. As the name suggests, this occurs when a nearby appliance emits some sort of radio frequency.
Problems occur because this radio frequency is strong enough to penetrate the shielding on your speaker’s cables. In turn, the cables convert the frequency to a sound, which the speaker plays back.
If left unresolved, the radio frequency can degrade your WiFi speed and interfere with your radio and TV reception!
Last but not least is poorly shielded wires. You see, in the U.S, most households rely on AC (alternating current) electricity. The name derives from the fact that the current reverses direction multiple times per second.
For the most part, this is unproblematic. However, every time that the current changes direction, it creates a magnetic field.
If your speaker wires are parallel or adjacent to other wires, they will pick up on this magnetic field and convert it to sound. Poorly shielded wires are particularly susceptible.
Ultimately, if poor shielding is the problem, the hum you’re hearing is the sound of electricity running through the wires.
How To Determine That LED Light Causes Buzzing?
Now that I’ve got the basics out of the way, it’s time to jump into the practical stuff. So your speakers are buzzing, how do you find the source of the problem?
Unfortunately, there’s no quick and easy way to pinpoint the offending device. Instead, you’ll have to work it out through a process of elimination.
First things first, I’d start by unplugging your speakers and taking them to a different room. If possible, you could take them to an entirely new location, such as your office or workspace. The further away from their original location, the better.
Test your speakers in this new location to verify that they’re fully working with no buzzing. This signifies that the source of the buzzing is something external.
From here, you can take your speakers back to their original location and carry on experimenting. You’re going to have to work through every other device in the room.
Choose a device, unplug it, and then turn your speaker on.
If the buzzing persists, you know that this device is not the source of the problem. If the buzzing ceases, you’ve found your culprit!
How To Identify The Underlying Problem?
Once you’ve identified that your LED lights are causing the buzzing, it’s time to determine which individual component is at fault. There are three possibilities: the bulb itself, the wiring, or the power supply.
Let’s start with the bulb, as this is the most straightforward element to test. Simply unscrew your current bulb from the fixture, and replace it with a different one.
Then, turn your speaker on. Does it still buzz?
If your current fixture uses LEDs, I recommend trying another LED first. Don’t bother buying a new bulb, just use what you already have available in your home.
If the second LED doesn’t buzz, bingo! Just replace your current LED with a new one, problem solved.
If both LEDs buzz, I’d recommend trying a different kind of bulb, such as an incandescent or halogen. This serves as a control to verify that both LEDs aren’t defective.
Once you’ve eliminated the bulb as the source of the problem, you can move onto the next component. That is the wiring or the power supply.
How To Fix The Interference
Now that you’ve sussed out what is causing the buzz, you can eliminate it.
As I just mentioned, if the root cause of the buzzing is your LED bulb, simply switch it to a new one. Easy peasy.
However, solutions become a little trickier if you suspect that the buzzing is caused by a ground loop. In this scenario, the easiest thing to do is to try a new plug socket.
You have two options.
First, you could plug either your LED lights or your speaker into a wall outlet that forms part of a different household circuit. Moving the devices apart by just one or two feet can make a huge difference.
Alternatively, you could try running the lights and the speaker through the same AC socket. In either case, the ground loop will be broken, and the buzzing should stop.
If changing your outlet isn’t plausible, you’ll probably need to purchase a new piece of equipment.
Suppose you believe that the buzzing is caused by low-quality wiring. In that case, you need a cable suppressor strip like this one on Amazon. For audio wires, you’ll probably need the 3mm size.
To put it simply, cable suppressors make it harder for ‘dirty electricity’ to pass through the wires. In turn, this prevents the speaker from buzzing.
Now let’s talk about power supplies.
Unfortunately, cheap power supplies are a common source of friction. This is because they’re bad at filtering away 50/60Hz signals, which leads to buzzing.
Therefore, I recommend investing more money into a higher quality power supply. This power supply from Amazon costs just under $9 and has over many 5-star reviews. High-quality products don’t have to break the bank!
If you’ve exhausted all of these solutions, there’s one last thing you can try.
Hum eliminators are specifically designed to break the ground loop between offending pieces of equipment, preventing buzzing. They’ve become somewhat of a lifesaver product within the music industry.
The downside of this approach, nonetheless, is that hum eliminators (Amazon) are a slightly more expensive solution.
So there you have it. Who’d have thought that LEDs and speakers would have such a volatile relationship?
Buzzing noises may be driving you crazy, but don’t give up hope. If you’re persistent, you’ll find an adequate solution.
Have you experienced speakers making a buzzing noise? What was the cause, and how did you fix it?
Write a comment in the box below, it would be great to get further insight on this topic.