What Does It Mean When a Headphone Crackles?

By Rob Clarkson

Several professional industries rely on high sound quality from headphones.
i Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Crackling sounds in a pair of headphones can be frustrating, alarming or even harmful depending on how severe or consistent they are. There are several possible causes for headphones crackling that can often be remedied easily. It is important to consider every possible cause for headphone crackling before replacing or further damaging your device.

Auxiliary (AUX) Port Problems

A common cause of crackling headphones is a defective AUX port, also known as a headphone jack. The quickest way to test if this is the case is to try plugging your headphones into several different AUX ports -- possibly on different devices -- to see if the crackling persists. Also, be sure to check that the AUX port and cord are fully plugged in. A loose or partially plugged in pair of headphones will often crackle due to a poor electrical connection.

Loose Wires

Headphones often have very thin layers of rubber surrounding thin conductive wires that allow electronic signals to be sent to and from the speakers. The rubber casing around these wires can easily be bent and loosen or disconnect the electronic signal the wires are trying to send which may cause crackling noises in the headphones. While it is possible to strip the rubber off the wire and repair the headphones, it is often more practical to simply replace your headphones if they are crackling for this reason.

Poor EQ

Crackling in headphones can also result from poor quality of the source material or a media player with bad EQ settings. If certain bass or treble settings are set too high, the volume can max out and then cause cracking and popping noises and can actually harm your headphone speakers. Also, listening to anything at excessively high volumes can cause crackling or popping if the headphone speakers were not designed to output sound levels at the volumes you set.

Broken Speakers

The worst case scenario is a broken headphone speaker. This could be the result of listening to media on high volumes excessively, long-term wear and tear, poor wiring or general physical damage. If your headphones are under a manufacturer’s warranty, you may be entitled to a free replacement pending the terms of that warranty. Otherwise, if you have blown out your headphone speakers, it's time to purchase a new pair.