stupid beeping noise
November 13, 2007 2:27 PM   Subscribe

what's this damn beeping noise coming from all the speakers in my life? And how should get rid of it?

It sounds a bit like morse code-- a beeping noise with random brief pauses in between.
It comes from my headphones at work (plugged into speakers plugged into my computer), my car stereo (seems to come from the rear speakers or subwoofer), and this mini-speaker i have with an aux-in that i plug mp3 player into. Its definitely the same noise coming from each. and I'm not crazy i swear.
So, what's this noise? and how do i fix it?
posted by alkupe to Technology (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Probably a GSM cell phone.
posted by PandaMcBoof at 2:30 PM on November 13, 2007

Turn your cellphone off.
posted by Skorgu at 2:33 PM on November 13, 2007

Definitely a GSM phone, some are worse than others. I had a Sidekick from T-Mobile that would set off any speakers within 3 feet, and my current iPhone only hits the alarm clock speaker if its setting directly on it.
posted by shinynewnick at 2:33 PM on November 13, 2007

Put your cell phone next to the speaker and call it. It'l go
and then your phone rings. It's kinda spooky. I sometimes have to move my phone far away or turn it off.
posted by ALongDecember at 2:34 PM on November 13, 2007

Yes, move your cell phone away from your speakers.
posted by mphuie at 2:34 PM on November 13, 2007

Some related links

Note: it's actually radio interference. Silencing your phone will not help.
posted by ALongDecember at 2:38 PM on November 13, 2007

no shit. i have a sidekick. didn't know about this.
so, its proximity to speakers? i just tried replicating this and couldn't. (meaning i put my cell phone right by the speakers and the headphones and didn't get the beeping).
that's the other thing i forgot to mention, its completely intermittent-sometimes its bad, other times its gone. Is there some other factor?
posted by alkupe at 2:38 PM on November 13, 2007

Did you try calling it? It's not constant. I figure it does it intermittently when it's "contacting" the nearest tower or searching for signal.
posted by ALongDecember at 2:40 PM on November 13, 2007

yeah i just got a call. no buzzing.
but, it sounds like this is the cause, given all the talk about t-mobile.
posted by alkupe at 2:44 PM on November 13, 2007

The exact effect will depend on the proximity to the wiring that's carrying the signal, which might not necessarily be the speaker. Coiling the speaker wire, straightening the speaker wire, moving it around all might contribute. This is why real audio setups use balanced wiring.
posted by Skorgu at 2:46 PM on November 13, 2007

It definitely depends on the phone. My LG enV doesn't cause any problems, but when I am carrying my work Blackberry, I have to leave it in the next room. The buzzing/popping is in perfect sync with the transmit indicator on the Blackberry.
posted by indyz at 2:51 PM on November 13, 2007

It only happens when your phone is communicating with the network, which is why you're finding it intermittent. It may be that some places where it's more frequent are on the edges of cells and your phone is regularly swapping towers. As suggested earlier - make a call to your phone - you'll hear the sounds before your phone starts to ring.
posted by benzo8 at 2:53 PM on November 13, 2007

nitpick: nobody uses balanced wiring for speaker setups, so it's unavoidable in lots of situations.

Spending all day around studio speakers, and cell phones, I generally hear this kind of interference once a day, if not more. As everyone's already said, it's your phone.

I've never noticed a difference between different carriers. What I have noticed, though, is that smartphones are the worst. I've got a co-worker who usually sets his phone near my studio speakers, and I can tell the frequency with which his blackberry checks email.

I'd guess that it's not exactly proximity to your speakers; more likely it's proximity to some unbalanced item in your signal chain - probably your sound card, or one of the busses leading to/from it in your computer. If you want to freak out your roommates, hold your sidekick near the volume knob of a stereo receiver while receiving a call - it'll be loud.

As for stopping it? You can't. At least not without wrapping your speakers in a faraday cage
posted by god hates math at 2:56 PM on November 13, 2007

I thought the stereo in my car was going south when I first heard this. Not exactly morse code: the beeps come almost in pairs, right? Be-Beep, Be-Beep, Be-Beep, Be-Beep... or maybe, bu-boop, bu-boop, bu-boop, bu-boop... then I heard it on the boom-box in my class, and was initially confused, then relieved since the source was obviously external. But my own (GSM) cellphone was turned off, in my car, so I figured it was some new radio interference from other vehicles, passing by. Seems like those distances would be too far for cellphones, though.
posted by Rash at 3:11 PM on November 13, 2007

I'd say more proximity to the amplifier more than the speakers. The less shielded the amp, the worse the noise.
posted by MtDewd at 3:16 PM on November 13, 2007

This won't happen with all speakers; I don't know the electronics nitty-gritty, but my impression is that (as MtDewd notes), powered amplification is probably a big part of it.

I've noticed it when I'm recording at my laptop—not from the internal speakers, but when I've got my big headphones running through my outboard mixer.

I first noticed the phenomenon a few years ago, when a bandmate's new amp was suddenly Making Weird Noises. We couldn't figure out what the hell it was, and we were worried that the amp was fucked somehow. My amp didn't do it, and he'd previously been playing through a PA instead, and so it took us a little careful thought to figure out that, well, his damn phone was sitting on the amp, and he got calls...
posted by cortex at 3:29 PM on November 13, 2007

Wait! Wait! I have the answer.

It's your cell phone.
posted by sully75 at 3:44 PM on November 13, 2007

nitpick-nitpick: sure they do. I've got a pair right over there.
The post-amplification speaker wire is the best place to start looking, it's basically a huge antenna that's plugged into a speaker.

I'm very tempted to make this my ringtone. [via]
posted by Skorgu at 4:55 PM on November 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

It is more noticeable on the Sidekick because the data connection is used at regular intervals to update information on the device. Try loading a web page next to an offending speaker.
posted by shinynewnick at 6:33 PM on November 13, 2007

nitpick-nitpick-nitpick: Those are active monitors. That's a balanced line-level signal being amplified inside the monitor itself. I guess I could see how you'd call those "speaker cables," but that'd be a stretch in my vocabulary. Normally, "speaker cables" refers to cables that are at speaker level. I'm just sayin'.

But yeah, it's your phone!

I know several people who would probably fly into a fit of rage at hearing that as a ringtone. I'd totally laugh, too.
posted by god hates math at 7:03 PM on November 13, 2007

You could probably slide your mp3/speaker combo into one of those static shield mylar bags (grayish, almost smoky looking) that some electronic hardware comes in to keep it from happening.

As for the work headphones, get the speakers off your desk (or at least 3 feet from your phone), or you could maybe coil a copper wire around the headphone wire and secure it to the casing of your computer to ground it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:43 PM on November 13, 2007

I thought it had some to do with if the speakers were shielded or not.

Think about it: if it happened with all speakers, it'd happen with your phone's speaker.
posted by disillusioned at 12:03 AM on November 14, 2007

nitpick4: Eh, it's a cable that connects to a speaker. I see what you're saying about line-level vs speaker-level, but what else would you call it? Does it make sense to say speaker 'cables' when the cable is inside the cabinet?

Has anyone suggested it might be your cellphone? Crazy, I know. This is actually one of many reasons for turning your phone off on a plane. The cabin crew occasionally wears headset intercoms and apparently some older planes used unshielded and unbalanced wiring for that functionality. [citation needed]

Hearing dit dit-dit-dit at a squintillion db probably isn't condusive to really sticking that landing.
posted by Skorgu at 5:09 AM on November 14, 2007 that true? I'd always wondered about shutting your cell phone off on a plane. I'd never heard an sensible reason for it.
posted by sully75 at 9:31 AM on November 14, 2007

I promise you I didn't make it up, and I seem to recall reading it originally in a vaguely trustworthy context, but for the life of me I can't find it again.

There are other perfectly sane issues with using cellphones in airplanes, namely that the footprint of a small transmitter at a very great height messes with the control logic of the towers that it can see. There are also doppler-effect issues with the signal travelling so fast and the persistant rumors that stray signals mess with avionics. Though frankly if a plane's avionics are susceptible to my cellphone I'd rather walk.

Some stuff here.
posted by Skorgu at 5:56 AM on November 15, 2007

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