Computer noise coming out of my speakers?

Hi everyone,

A few days ago I changed the way I had everything hooked up in my home studio up.
I went directly from my PCI RME 9632 RCA line outputs to my speakers.
Now I hear a lot of interference on my speakers that grow more intense anytime my pc does a task such as launching Cubase for instance.

It’s obvious to me that this noise is coming from the components of my pc.
The question is can I do anything to solve that?

Before, I had an optical cable going from the RME to a digital mixer and from the mixer to the speakers with JACK/XLR cables. I had no interference then.

Does the RME have balanced outs? Even balanced TRS would be better than rca jacks.
But given the fact that the RME is designed as pci and has rca jacks, there shouldn’t be issues.
Check that the card is fully in the slot and all attachment screws are tight.
Grounding can be an issue as well. I have a ground wire from my external interface right to an electrical box. That solved the occasional “ghost in the machine” as well as DI gtr noise.
The issue may just be at the spkr cables. So I would try that first.
But if it’s at the card, the optical, into the mixer and balanced after that could also have cleaned up something that is there. Probably getting ahead of myself. But… If it comes down to it, try another pci slot, preferably farther away from your video card.
Hope this helps

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Thx Rich,
I tried 2 sets of speaker cables and the interference doesn’t go away. So, I rules out the cables.
The RME doesn’t have balanced outputs.
I’ll try another pci slot. I have a feeling that’s the problem.

I’m not usually one to think that balanced output will save all of the world’s problems, but when I got my new computer year or so ago, the video card would put out all sorts of interference, and I’d get nasty noise out of my monitors every time I moved the mouse or did something that involved the video card doing any work at all. I thought it was the mouse or the PCI slot at first, but switching out unbalanced for balanced cables solved the problem 100%.

If you don’t have balanced outputs, it might be worth trying to at least see if there’s a position you can put your unbalanced cables so that they aren’t picking up as much interference, or use cables with better shielding.

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You could also look at the proximity of the cables to the hardware as well. If you can, get them away from the computer and other cables as much as possible. Like, ziptie-ing them to your computer chassis or the power cord to keep them tidy it not a good idea… :slight_smile:
good luck

Thx Bozmillar,
When you say move the unbalanced cables so as not to pick up interferemce what do you mean?
They RCA outputs are fixed in the back of the PC. I pushed away any other cable away from them as well but nothing changed.
Unless you are talking about another PCI slot.

And by the way… all of that came up because of Boz’s mixing contest! :grin:
My digital console is old and doesn’t work on 48Khz which most Personality files are recordered.
So, I bypassed the digital mixer and the previous optical/balanced hook up and look where I ended up… hahaha

Move the way they drape, anything you can do to keep them from picking up interference. They are basically big antennas, so if they are perpendicular to the EMI wave, they’re going to pick up more EMI. It’s the same reason when you face different directions in your room, your guitar pickups will be noisier than when you turn 90 degrees. Same thing applies to cables.

Try to bring up some app that causes the most noise consistently, then just go around moving your cable as much as you can and see if it has any effect.

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Just looked up your interface. It is advertised as balanced in and out. BUT… you need to buy and upgraded analog package to get balanced I/O… not cool. The analog package is probably just a different breakout cable. But it says that it has 4 balanced TRS jacks from what I read.
Hopefully you can get it sorted without having to BUY anything else… :slight_smile:

Yup… I’ve even heard someone espouse that if you don’t use balanced cables that you are only getting 1/2 of the signal. Then he went on to draw sinewaves and explain the difference between AC and DC an other gobbledygook… :slight_smile:

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You sure its not your internet router ?mine does that if its too close to my speakers

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Are your speakers active? As in do they have their own power supply?
If so make sure they are not plugged into the same socket or powerstrip as the computer as this can cause what your on about due to a ground loop.
Failing that turn off every non essential thing and see what makes the noise when you turn it on.
Also make sure your output from your pc is not too high as that will raise your noise floor further.
I had this problem before i used balanced xlr cables .
I went hard core and routed a whole new ring main to my studio so the only things on that power source is my audio gear.

Also like boz said make sure audio cables dint run alongside power cables . Keep them as far apart from eachother as you can. If you need to cross them do it at 90degrees to eachother and not layed side by side.
Good luck


This actually should not be a problem as speaker manufacturers (again should) have this sorted in terms of grounding/isolation. If you think about it the power supply is within inches (or less) of not only the speaker drivers, but the amplifier as well. SO they are fairly well isolated and should tolerate the almost unavoidable ground loop.
There are a few more oddball things that may cause these issues. But I’m figuring on letting the OP try out the good suggestions that he’s already got… :slight_smile:

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You are probably hearing noise being generated by a ground loop. Your system has multiple paths to ground and that results in more than 1 grounded points in your system having a different potential.

As mentioned earlier, balanced connections can sometimes help and you can also use a ground loop isolation transformer to effectively separate the ground connection between your pc and speakers.

If you decide to go with a isolation transformer, skip the $5 ones at Walmart and get something decent. The cheap ones have a tendency to roll off bass frequencies. I would look for specs no less than 20-20khz +/- .5db

Ha - That’s a good one.
Balanced cables have an extra wire that carries a inverted copy of the signal. Electronic circuitry on the receiving end eliminates any signal noise that has been picked up between the transmitting and receiving devices.

I have the same problem. An electrician told me it has something to with “shielding”. Do not know what that means. He is going to help so, if he does I’ll post the solution here.

Yes but the word ‘should’ doesnt always apply. And i used to be able to hear the washing machine making a ‘wiirrrring’ sound interference through my speakers until i ran my audio gear off a seperate ring main. So even though the speakers are insulated they can still transfer noise from the mains.
Nowt wrong with the op plugging the speakers in a different socket see if it helps. Only trying to illiminate possible problems.
But my first guess would be to agree with a badly grounded pc componant.
Balanced cables will sort it

Yup… that’s a house wiring thing in your case.
The OP said that it was fine with the optical out and I’m assuming he had the speakers plugged into the same outlet… maybe even the mixer.

Still most likely EMI/RF at the spkr cable level. RCAs are horrible for this.
A bad connection/ground is also possible.

Probably… However I am still trying to sort out in my head if balanced cables CAN do more than suppress the RF/EMI that they pick up themselves. In other words: Can they eliminate noise from the sound card being too close to the video card and such? Not sure they can. SO in hindsight, when balanced cables solve the issue, I would tend to think the issue HAS to be the unbalance cable. Maybe I’m wrong… :slight_smile:

I would expect RME to do a pretty good job of taking care of EMI hitting the card. They make good hardware, and having a PCI card near a video card is not uncommon. But there’s nothing they can do about it if you are running a big old antenna out of their interface. If the issue presented itself after he switched from spdif out to RCA out, I would strongly suspect EMI on the RCA line being the culprit, and not originating in the card itself.


Yup… I sorta just used that as an example… :slight_smile: But am I right in saying that a balanced cable can only fix the issue of interference from the cables themselves? Any noise from before the cable would still be in the signal… correct?