Help troubleshooting HDMI audio on an (old) TV?
August 14, 2017 12:51 PM   Subscribe

Shortly after installing a Switch, I've started having audio problems with my TV across all HDMI devices. Is there a way to systematically troubleshoot this or is my TV finally done for?

The TV in question is a Dell W3706MC, which is about 12 years old. I know I'll have to replace it eventually- I want to experience this mythical "1080p" thing everyone's so excited about, for one- but I'd really like to get at least a little more use out of it while my budget is tight.

Here's a history of the issue:

Originally my setup had a PS3 directly connected to one HDMI port and a non-powered switcher on the other, connecting a multi-region blu-ray player, Chromecast, and my PC's HDMI out.

The first issue I noticed was last Friday; playing a PC game on my TV (Dream Daddy via Steam Big Picture mode), the audio would always drop out after about 20 minutes and never return. After failing to fix it, I wrote it off as a weird software compatibility issue and continued playing on my laptop.

After getting a Switch, I made some changes to my setup- I had read that non-powered HDMI switchers could be potentially harmful to some devices, and had run out of ports anyway, so I disconnected the switcher and plugged the Switch directly to HDMI 2. Everything was fine until, a few days later, it wasn't. This popping, staticky sound started to occur intermittently. While the loud popping/interference sound hasn't reoccurred, now I'm experiencing static, volume fluctuations and sometimes total loss of the original audio underneath the fuzz.

I checked the HDMI connections, tried swapping the HDMI inputs, and checked my TV's speaker wiring on the off chance it wasn't HDMI related* but have had no luck.

Is there something simple I'm overlooking? Discounting the PC/Dream Daddy problems, since there's a decent chance they're unrelated, this started after I plugged in the Switch, so I've checked to make sure I didn't wang something loose when redoing the HDMI ports. Do HDMI ports just go bad? How screwed is my poor, ancient TV?

*I did do a couple of crude tests- turning an HDMI device off after the sound issue start up doesn't cause them to stop, but on the other hand, starting up the TV on another input is fine; only turning on one of the two consoles connected via HDMI will trigger the sound problems.
posted by Merzbau to Technology (3 answers total)
Do HDMI ports just go bad?

HDMI interleaves video and audio over the same physical wires. So if the video is working reliably, you can rule out cabling and connectors as the source of audio glitches.

Volume fluctuations also don't seem like something that could reasonably be caused by HDMI anything. Seems like the TV's hardware or software is actually flaking out.

Have you tried hard-rebooting the TV since this has happened? By that I mean unplugging it from the wall, waiting 15 seconds, and plugging it back in? If something got funny in its RAM just soft-powering it off might not be enough to reset it.
posted by aubilenon at 1:26 PM on August 14, 2017

Could be audio settings on the device, see if anything here makes sense for your situation.
posted by rhizome at 1:54 PM on August 14, 2017

No luck on either. But I did some more searching- something embarrassingly low down my list, since the last time I had a problem with this TV (installing it on its stand) there were very few resources on Dell's site, not even a manual- and it looks like this line is a notorious lemon, with audio components that routinely go bad. If anything, I'm lucky to have gotten this many years out of it.

Time to find a cheap alternative, I guess...
posted by Merzbau at 4:52 PM on August 15, 2017

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