Why Are My Laptop Speakers Making a Scratchy Noise?
By Ashley Poland
Laptops aren't known for their audio hardware. Since laptops are generally designed to be compact and lightweight, internal speakers are smaller and of a lower quality than standard desktop speakers. However, scratchy noises while listening to audio can also be related to a poor quality audio file, having your volume turned up too high, problems with your sound card or a hardware malfunction.
Faulty Audio File
Test another audio file before deeming that the problem is with your computer; the scratchiness may have to do with the quality or recording conditions of the audio in question. Audio files can acquire a scratchy quality if the recording was made in windy conditions, if the audio was created from a substandard source such as on online video, or due to a significant lowering in the quality during a conversion.
Your internal speakers may be pushed beyond their capacity if the volume has been turned way up via your volume mixer. You can view your mixer levels by clicking the volume icon in your system tray and selecting "Volume Mixer." Experiment with the volume settings to see if a change improves the quality of your laptop's audio. Bringing a volume setting down to 75 or 80 percent instead of 100 may greatly improve sound quality.
If rough sound quality on your laptop intensifies as you turn up the volume, or appears only when your speakers are at full volume, your speakers may not be built to withstand the volume. Heavy bass may also perform poorly on low-quality speakers. An easy way to test this is to plug in a pair of headphones or external speakers to your laptop using the 3.5mm jack or USB; external USB speakers have better sound quality than speakers that connect via headphone jack. If the scratchy sound disappears, you can rest assured that the problem is simply inherent in your laptop speakers. By keeping the volume low or using external speakers, you can usually avoid the problem -- or at least minimize the affect on your music.
Sound Card Trouble
If your speakers have performed admirably and you've got no reason to believe that the issue is with your speakers or files, the problem is most likely with your sound card or the connection between the sound card and the motherboard. Unfortunately, most laptops are not built to be easily customized. If you're comfortable opening your computer to check the hardware, consult the user manual to see how to open the case and to understand the hardware in your computer. Before opening your laptop, be sure to turn it off, unplug it and remove the battery to avoid the risk of electric shock. You can also try to improve the quality of your sound by purchasing a sound card amplifier for your laptop.
Sudden problems with your laptop's audio quality may also be related to some incompatibility or issue with your sound card's driver -- especially if you recently upgraded your operating system. Reinstalling your driver or trying a different compatible driver may resolve the problem. If you don't have a disk for your sound card drivers, you can download drivers from the manufacturer's website.
Ashley Poland has been writing since 2009. She has worked with local online businesses, supplying print and web content, and pursues an active interest in the computer, technology and gaming industries. In addition to content writing, Poland is also a fiction writer. She studied creative writing at Kansas State University.