How to troubleshoot static noise in headphones connected to a computer that persists even after replacing the sound card

audioheadphonesnoisesound cardtroubleshooting

I have an Asus P6T based system. I was using the on-board sound (plugging in Logitech X-230 2.1 analog speakers in the green "front speakers" 3.5mm analog output, then plugging in my headphones in that). I was quite happy with the sound quality (didn't hear any static noise if volume was turned down to my normal listening level).

Then about a week ago I started having terrible static noise from the left channel, and no normal audio on that left channel. Right channel had more static noise than usual but did have a bit of sound. I tried using the AC'97 in front of my case but that seemed to have no signal.

I decided my on-board sound card has gone bad and bought an internal sound card to replace it (Startech 7.1Ch PCI). This fixed the "no sound from left channel problem", but I still had a fairly audible static noise (not the really terrible one after my on-board sound went bad, but worse than when it was working well).

I decided the card was low quality and/or it had interference from all the other things happening inside the computer case, and bought a Sweex SC016 external USB sound card.

But even with that I have static noise in headphones (though better than with the Startech card). Positioning the USB sound card differently doesn't seem to help. Trying the other analog outputs (e.g., surround) doesn't help.

The static noise in all cases is proportional to the volume.

I have tried different headphones, but the situation is similar though perhaps the flavour of the static noise changes slightly.

So what are my options? What is the cause of the problem, and what hardware do I need to replace?

tl;dr – Two different sound cards both still have static noise in headphones.

Best Answer

The question title has been rephrased since I created, but basically I solved my problem.

I ordered a mid-range PCI-E sound card (Asus Xonar DX) and the static noise is gone.

Whether the source of the static with the cheap PCI card and cheap external USB card was poor product quality or something else, I don't know. Perhaps you get what you pay for; the new card was about 3 times more expensive than either of these previous cards.

This is not to be constituted as endorsment of Asus products, the on-board sound card that died and caused all the issues was also by Asus. Probably a quality replacement sound card by another manufacturer would work just as fine.

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