How to Fix Buzzing Speakers
LESLIE: The beauty of calling in to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show is that most of the time Tom has an answer; some of the time I assist him; and in this unusual case, we might have to go to a third party. David in Kansas would like to make his speakers stop buzzing.
Dave, tell us about it.
DAVID: Well, what I have going on is I have different speakers throughout the house. One of them is an AM-FM radio in the kitchen, I have a set of speakers hooked up to a computer, and I also have a speaker on the home entertainment center. And every now and then, I’ll get a buzzing out of the speakers for no reason whatsoever. And it can happen at any time of the day and there’s nothing that I’ve seen to trigger the event. I’ve gone outside; there’s no ham radio towers; there’s no cellular towers, so I’m really stuck as to what the cause is.
TOM: Well, I’m thinking a loose wire or a bad ground or something like that. But I’ll tell you what. Why don’t we turn to one of the Money Pit experts that makes this show buzz every, single week.
Jim, are you available to come on the air with us?
Let’s talk to Jim Kenzie, our engineer.
LESLIE: Explain who Jim is.
TOM: Jim Kenzie is our engineer, master engineer; owner of the largest collection of pocket protectors ever assembled.
JIM: And I have athletic tape on my glasses.
TOM: That’s right.
LESLIE: (chuckling) I think that’s a requirement.
TOM: Right. Jim, why do you think that David is having a problem with speaker buzz?
JIM: Let me ask you a few questions, David. Can you hear me?
DAVID: Yes I can.
JIM: Wow, some things work. (Leslie chuckles) Do you have – when this happens, does it happen to all your speakers or a select few speakers?
DAVID: It happens to all the speakers but not all the speakers at the same time.
JIM: OK, so it’s happening one at a time to them.
DAVID: Exactly. I can be in the kitchen and I’ll hear the speaker, the portable AM/FM, buzzing and it’s the only one that I’ll notice buzzing. Obviously I’m not running up and down the stairs.
JIM: OK, are these on separate circuits, power-wise?
DAVID: As far as power-wise, I’m not 100 percent sure. I believe they are. I mean just the way the house is wired, it makes sense that they are. But it’s a rental house I just moved into two months ago, so …
JIM: OK, you had touched on one thing: a ham radio. Sometimes when truckers go by with either ham radios or high-powered citizens’ band radios, they can cause issues like that. The other thing you might want to check is if you have any fluorescent lights in the home. You may have a ballast going bad.
DAVID: You know, I’ve thought of that and I’ve made sure all the lights are off when it happens. I do have fluorescents down in the garage.
TOM: Are you listening to a radio, the same radio station? Because I’m wondering if something is interference with the signal and maybe when it’s hitting a certain level of interference it causes a vibration.
DAVID: Yeah, I’d say no. And then also, remember I have a set of speakers up on the computer that does the same thing. That’s not on the radio.
TOM: Well, that’s true. Do you think that something could be electrically – a situation with his entire house, Jim? Is this something – like for example, if you had a brownout. Let’s say you had a bad transformer on the pole and the power in and out of the house is fluctuating.
JIM: Yeah, that could be. The other thing I would check is to make sure his panel is properly grounded. He may have an issue there; although you would expect the problem to be more frequent.
DAVID: Now one of the things I did do was – and I don’t know how worthy this test is – is I took one of those polarity testers you get at Home Depot for $5.00.
TOM: Yeah. That’s just going to be either a go/no-go. It’s going to be wired correctly or not wired correctly. What I was thinking is sometimes you get situations where some of the electric utility’s line to the house tends to wane a little bit; it tends – because you have a bad transformer somewhere, maybe you’re going from 110 volts to 120 volts to 125 volts and it could be varying and that could be causing some of these problems. It sounds to me like it’s something systematic.
JIM: What you might want to give a try to is get a hold of an uninterruptable power supply, which keeps your voltage regular or relatively regulated.
DAVID: (overlapping voices) Yep. Yes.
JIM: Try that on your computer first, which you probably should have anyway, and see if it reduces the problem there. If it does, then you can be pretty safe bet that you’ve got some sort of power influence issues coming in.
How does your phone system work? Do you have glitches with your phone system?
DAVID: Well, OK, I have high-speed internet connection and I have an IP telephone.
DAVID: And the speakers that are upstairs on the computer right now, the whole computer system is on a fairly substantial UPS system.
JIM: And it still does that?
JIM: OK, that would rule out your power then. I would go back to the RF situation, radio frequency. You have something in the area – more than likely you have something in the area broadcasting extreme amounts of power and speakers can pick that – you can have a stereo system turned off and sound will come out of the speakers if you have a real high radiofrequency interference issue.
DAVID: Exactly, and I have noticed that. The system will be off and the speaker will just sit there and buzz.
JIM: One thing you may want to do is you can contact your FCC office in your region and they would be able to set you up with proper testing for that kind of thing.
TOM: So David, there’s a whole host of possibilities there and we hope that Team Money Pit here, all pitching in together, is able to get you to quiet those speakers down.
David, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.