How to reduce static in my audio?

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Some sound editors, like Audacity from SoundForge can reduce static noise, but the disadvantage is that it deforms the audio. Therefore, it is best to quelch static before it hits the sound card, so to speak.

Headset with attached microphoneThe most common problem is the microphone (or headset) related to its surroundings.
If you are recording sound next to a whirling hard drive or noisy computer, you will produce an audio that appears to have a lot of static but it actually is primarily environmental sound.   It is important to make that distinction because static and environmental sound needs to be treated differently. So, the next question should be: “How do I reduce environmental sound?” and this will be discussed in the next post; Let’s first tackle the static problem.

If you have overwhelming static, it can have 3 main causes, presuming that the equipment is not defect:

  1. You did not push the jack far enough into the plug hole.  Do not force but gently push it further in..

  2. The jack or plug is not properly connected. You perhaps may have plugged the mic jack into the wrong plughole. Check that and if it is difficult to read which plug hole is which, use a torch light to read the icons above the plug holes.

  3. If none of the above, it probably has to do with the a wrong setting in the software application you are using to record sound. The possible problems can vary so widely that I cannot go into that, but if there is an option in your sound settings that says something like “more compatible”, try that and test again.

Static in the background:

Mini jacksIf your mic or headset has a mini jack, you will get static from all over the place. Firstly, because it doesn’t fit tightly in the plughole, secondly because it is not earthed. As a result, it picks up static from your computer, your body, electrical equipment, etc…

One solution is to use a microphone or headset with USB connection.
USB jackUSB connections do not deteriorate as easily as mini jack connections, thus reducing static considerably. If you are going to buy one, be prepared to spend at least $100. Don’t buy cheap stuff, you will end up buying a better one afterward anyway.

Another source of static can be a spare bulb or neon light, especially when recording with a camcorder. Try use a regular bulb and see if it makes a difference.

Close by wireless phone sets and mobile phones can generate static too. Try to turn them off while recording and hear if it makes a difference.

Stereo jackIf all the above fails and you work on a desktop computer, you may want to consider buying a good quality sound card instead of the default one. If you spend about $250, you will notice a huge difference, especially if you can plug in a good quality mic with a Stereo jack or XLR connection.

xLR jackEspecially XLR reduces static to an absolute minimum because it is earthed and it fits tightly in the plug hole thanks to a spring lock.

If all the above fails working with a laptop, there are USB recording devices with which you can record sound independently from your laptop.

Afterwards, you upload the audio via the usb port. Devices like that definitely reduce static when you buy the better ones around $200 – $450.

If you work with your camcorder, chances are that the build-in mic picks up sound from the mechanism inside the camcorder. This is not static, but you probably interpret it as such.  Either way, it is messing up your audio and I advice to use an external mic, because camcorder mics aren’t that great to begin with, even the prosumer models have disappointing quality (see also the Sony FX1 camcorder review).  If your camcorder doesn’t have an input for external mics, you may have to resort to using an external sound recording device, preferably with a USB port or containing a memory card.

Read also How to reduce environmental sound in audios.

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17 thoughts on “How to reduce static in my audio?

  1. Hello–I need your advice on how to go about getting the cleanest, clearest sound possible when recording from my keyboard. I’m getting a lot of ‘popping’ on playback, which I assumed was because I was using a cheap audio cable going into the audio jack on my computer. However, upon installing a TRS balanced cable (considerably more expensive), there was no difference whatsoever.
    I get no popping at all when playing my keyboard, just when I record using the free new version of Audacity I recently downloaded. (I’ve tried other software and get the same results.) I’ve tried repositioning the cable, moving the computer around, etc., all to no avail.
    Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  2. Hi Paul,
    As I’m not an expert on music, I have forwarded your question to my sound engineer. I expect an answer soon.

    Rudolf+++

  3. Hi again Paul,

    Eric needs to know a couple of things before he can help you, because the problem is that there can be many reasons why this is happening, so the more we know the better.
    Are you using a DAT recorder? If so, have you tried without it? With certain sound cards it can create this sort of disturbances.

    What setup do you have:
    -Keyboard make
    -Operating system computer
    -Sound card make and type number
    -anything else that can help him to determine the problem.
    And at last: is it possible to send an audio file with this popping sound? If so, let me know and I’ll send you an email to where you can send it.

    Rudolf+++

  4. Thanks again for your time spent on this, Rudolf. Here are the answers to your questions:

    –Not using a DAT recorder; it’s a Lexicon Alpha recording interface
    –Keyboard is a Yamaha YPG-625
    –Computer is Vista Home Premium 32-bit
    –Sound card is Realtek High Definition (came with the computer) #6.0.1.5555 (audio driver)
    –I’m sure I can send you an audio file if you like; just let me know the email address.

    —Paul

  5. Hello again, Rudolf,

    I have a baffling new problem–but good news as well as not-so-good.

    Using the latest version of Audacity, I recorded some keyboard stuff. Playing it back on Audacity didn’t sound so good–some crackling and popping, although the sound quality was fine. However, when I played it back using Windows Media Player, the sound was pure: no popping or defects whatsoever.

    This presents a new problem. I’d like to be able to hear my recordings before I burn them to make sure of their quality. And, of course, Audacity allows me to manipulate and improve the sound quality; Windows Media can’t do that. Any ideas?

    Let me know if the sample file opened okay for you.

    Thanks so much for your help on this!

    —-Paul

  6. From what I gather here, I think you have a RAM problem. Meaning that you probably do not have enough RAM to play back sound in Audacity. This happens to me sometimes too and I don’t even have a keyboard connected. RAM can get fragmented while you are working and a way to resolve that is to restart your computer when you experience problems like this

    Actually, I would not use Audacity when you connect external musical instruments. I think you will be better served with SoundForge, CuBase or any of the pro applications. I suggest you test with a demo version and see which one you like best.
    Furthermore, the more RAM you have, the better because Vista eats a lot of it.

  7. I’m having problems with static too…and i don’t know why because I didn’t have this problem before. A month or two ago, everything is fine.

  8. Genie, you may want to check your cables and the connectors. Over time, they deteriorate and are often the cause of static.
    Other sources are wireless phones, in fact, anything electrical can cause static if it is too close to your computer.

  9. Hello, I have been running into problems while having being in Skype calls. There is static being heard by my friends coming from my end of things. I have recently gotten a new headset with a considerably better microphone, but there is the same static as before. I believe the problem is the mini jack on my computer and I was wondering how I would go about grounding it, if that is in fact the problem.

    • Hi Jake,
      If you have a desktop computer, you may check whether the sound card is still firmly secured in the slot. If that is not the case, push it back into place. If this is not the problem,
      you could try with an adapter from the male jack of your headset to USB, see if that helps. USB connections are better then mini jack, because they are not that fragile.
      If the USB still gives static, your sound card probably needs to be replaced. But before you do that, try relocate the computer somewhere else in the house. Static can be caused by other devices too.
      Let me know how it goes!

  10. I hope Im not too late to this party…..I have a stereo cable running from audio out on my P.A. at church to the camcorder, mic in….sound quality is really good-the problem is when no one is speaking into a microphone, the noise gets really loud on the recording-any ideas?

    • I have the same problem, ive looked at thousands of tutorials and I can’t fix it. Im going to try audacity and im also gonna plug in the mic to the motherboad instead of my front mic input. Hopefully it will make a difference. If not, it might be the static in the room.

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