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How to Get Rid of Radio Interference Through External Computer Speakers

by Scott Shpak

While it might not be as worrisome as ghostly voices in the attic, spurious radio signals through your computer speakers can be equally annoying. The good news is that true radio frequency interference can be prevented in many cases, and other causes that mimic RFI noise can also be identified.

The Origins of RFI Noise

Radio frequencies are part of the electromagnetic spectrum. As well as the deliberate use of radio frequencies in broadcasting and two-way communications, every electronic device emits a radio frequency signature. Most of these are not very powerful and will not cause noise problems in most situations. Conversely, many electronic devices can also act as receivers of radio waves, though in most cases, design and construction keeps RFI noise from becoming an issue.

Down on the Ground

Proper grounding of your computer system and external speakers is not only a safety feature, preventing electric shock, it also improves suppression of radio waves. Without a connected ground pin -- the third, rounded pin on an electrical plug -- any electronic device may act more efficiently as an antenna. While this will most often cause static-like noise; in some cases, low-level radio signals can be discerned. Make sure your computer and your external speakers are connected to properly grounded electrical outlets.

Cable With Care

For those old enough to remember radio tuners, you will recall that attaching a wire to the antenna connection could sometimes improve your radio reception. Carefully bundling speaker wire may reduce the antenna effect on your external speakers. Route speaker cables away from power cords to further reduce noise. If your speakers allow, upgrading to shielded speaker cable may also improve performance. Wrapping coils of speaker cable through a ring magnet also reduces the ability of your speaker cable to act as an antenna.

Other Noisy Suspects

It is possible that an audio signal from within your computer is mimicking radio interference. A quick way to check this is through the Windows volume mixer. Activate "Search" and enter "adjust system volume" in the search box, then tap or click "Adjust system volume." You may have several volume sliders showing. Mute each, one at a time, until the radio noise stops. Leaving this slider muted will prevent radio noise from affecting your system.

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