Why Are My Headphones Picking Up Digital TV?
January 18, 2007 7:48 AM   Subscribe

I hear voices in the static... and they're laughing.

I've got a pair of Sony wireless headphones connected to my PC. They've got an active range of about ten metres from the transmitter, and if there's nothing coming out of the PC soundcard then after a couple of minutes the transmitter switches off and they revert to white noise. So...
I was doing some writing with the headphones on and the sound on low. I wasn't listening to music so the headphones were just giving out a low, sibilant hiss. I started to hear voices under the static - faint at first, but gradually getting louder. I tried to turn up the volume on the headphones themselves, but then the hiss drowned out the speakers altogether. As I strained to listen, I struggled to discern specific words, but there was something strangely... familiar about the rhythms. Then I caught the words 'Nils' and 'radio show' and realised I was listening to an episode of Frasier.
I know I wasn't listening to a clip on a radio station because it immediately cut to an ad break, and since they turn the sound up at the transmitter I was able to figure out I was listening to the Paramount Comedy channel.
How am I receiving the audio for Paramount on my headphones? We don't get Paramount, and neither do our immediate neighbours. I've heard of amplifiers sometimes picking up police radio and suchlike, but how am I managing to receive the audio from a subscribers-only digital broadcast? Is there a stupidly simple explanation?
posted by RokkitNite to Technology (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can get devices, can you not, that "rebroadcast" your subscribers-only digital broadcast to other TVs in your house? Maybe a non-immediate neighbour is watching Frasier in their bedroom, being re-broadcasted from their loungeroom using one of these widgets, and your headphones are operating on a similar kind of frequency?
posted by Jimbob at 8:08 AM on January 18, 2007

I used to get pay TV in my apartment, without subscribing, and without any cable being connected to my TV. One of my neighbors must have been using what Jimbob describes.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:52 AM on January 18, 2007

I don't know how it happens, but I've had the same thing happen with, of all things, guitar and bass amplifiers. We would be in the rehearsal room, all serious and ready to start practicing when one of the amplifiers would start broadcasting silly programs.

We, not the brightest bunch and certainly of the easily distracted kind, would end up losing incredible amounts of time discussing the phenomena. I guess that's why the guy in Jamiroquai has all those cars and a castle in the English countryside, and all we have is fascinating rehearsal-room discussions.
posted by micayetoca at 9:29 AM on January 18, 2007

I absolutely swear that when I was a teenager, just prior to falling asleep I heard a transistor radio playing deep in my ears, night after night for the longest time. I concluded it had something to do with the full set of braces on my teeth!
posted by thinkpiece at 10:10 AM on January 18, 2007

You dont know the source of the broadcast. It could be a neighbor who likes to download torrents. Could be EMI/leakage. Could be from very far away. Depending on conditions a radio broadcast can reach 10x its usual distance.

Frasier is still rerun on second-tier networks usually over the UHF band.

You could have been imagining most of this. You -thought- you heard 'nils' and 'radio.' With a lot of static it could have been anything. Crazies who believe in the dead people talking through tape recorders hear all sorts of things.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:20 PM on January 18, 2007

For your entertainment...
posted by kmennie at 1:01 PM on January 18, 2007

« Older Hmmmm, Lemon-Shrimp Soup!   |   Would this really bother me if I was as... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.