Why Speakers Hum/Buzz Around Cell Phones And How To Stop It


Having a cell phone around your speakers may result in some intermittent humming and buzzing. The cause of such interference could be a mystery, as inconsistent as it may be.

Why do speakers hum/buzz around cell phones? A cell phone may cause a speaker to hum or buzz as data is transmitted to and from the phone. The transfer of information produces electromagnetic disturbances in the medium around the speakers, resulting in noise in the audio and, therefore, humming/buzzing in the sound outputted by the speaker.

There are a few easy ways to prevent that annoying sound from happening when you have a cell phone and speaker in close proximity. In this article, we’ll discuss the various ways to prevent your speakers from buzzing or humming as a nearby cell phone receives or transmits data.


How To Stop The Speaker Buzzing

As mentioned in the paragraphs above, the reason for the noise is electromagnetic interference. This means there are two basic methods of eliminating the cell phone-induced humming/buzzing in the speakers:

  • Eliminate the electromagnetic interference (EMI)
  • Protect the speaker, making it less susceptible to the electromagnetic interference

Let’s consider methods of achieving both of these strategies.

Eliminating Electromagnetic Interference

A simpler way to fix or prevent that buzzing sound from your speaker when the phone is nearby is to make sure your phone is not so close to your speaker. If you keep it at a distance, then there will not be any interferences to cause that annoying buzzing sound. 

However, it could be difficult to keep all your devices apart, especially if your speaker and your phone are both a part of your job or hobby. You might need to use your phone and speakers simultaneously.

If you can’t turn your phone off or position it away from the speakers, then the issue of electromagnetic interference will remain.

Protecting The Speaker Against EMI

The second option is to ensure that the speaker is as isolated from EMI as possible.

Make sure all your speaker cables are connected properly, and use EMI-shielded speaker cables if possible. If possible, look inside the loudspeaker to make sure the wiring within the speaker is also shielded.

Ensure that your speakers are properly grounded and that your power mains also have solid earth ground. Have an electrician test this for you if you are unsure. Ground loops will likely give many more issues than just speaker buzzing when you get a text message.

Consider adding EMI and RFI filters to your setup.

The Tripp Lite Isobar 8-Outlet (link to check the price on Amazon) provides premium protection for A/V components against dangerous surges, spikes and line noise. It blocks/filters disruptive EMI/RFI line noise up to 80 dB, which can help reduce buzzing/humming from cell phone interference.

Tripp Lite Isobar 8-Outlet

Ferrite beads may also help to mitigate the audible effects of cell phones in your speakers by filtering EMI and RFI. The Jabinco Clip-On Ferrite Beads (link to check the price on Amazon) are a good example.

Jabinco Clip-On Ferrite Beads

Speakers Hum/Buzz When Cell Phone Is Connected

So far, we’ve been focused on reducing or eliminating cell phone noise from speakers when the two are disconnected from each other. However, humming and buzzing could also be caused by improper connectivity between the two. This is true of wired and wireless connections.

Let’s consider methods eliminating hum for both wired and wireless connections.

Speaker Noise Caused By Wireless Connection

Wireless speakers may suffer from the same EMI as wired speakers, so consider following the instruction above.

Bluetooth wireless connectivity is incredibly good at avoiding interference thanks, in part, to the piconet. The likelihood of Bluetooth causing interference issues is very low. However, when in doubt, disconnect and power cycle the devices. Issues may be solved upon reconnection.

The transmitter and/or receiver of the cell phone or wireless speaker may be damaged, which could potentially cause a poor connection. Though, if these chips/devices are damaged, they’ll likely not work at all.

The bottom line is that it’s unlikely that the wireless connection itself is to blame for the phone-induced speaker noise.

Related My New Microphone article: How Do Bluetooth Speakers Work & How To Connect Them

Speaker Noise Caused By Wired Connection

Humming and buzzing can certainly be an issue with physical audio connections. The issue could be with the speaker’s input connection, the cell phone’s output connection, the cable that connects the two devices or the internal wiring of either device.

Sometimes the fix is as easy as cleaning the input jacks or cable plugs. Other times, these connections or the cable need to be replaced or repaired.

Try troubleshooting by swapping devices, cables and, if possible, switching from a wired to wireless connection between the cell phone and speaker.

Again, a simple fix could be to power cycle and reconnect the devices. Issues may be solved upon reconnection.

Related My New Microphone articles:
Which Speaker Cable Wire Is Positive, And Which Is Negative?
Are AUX (Auxiliary) Connectors & Headphone Jacks The Same?


Other Speaker Noise Problems

Perhaps the cell phone has nothing to do with the humming or buzzing in the speaker. Maybe the speaker has its own noise issues. The issues could include:

  • Poor internal wiring
  • Blown speaker
  • Overloaded speaker (from the amplifier)

Poor wiring can be fixed rather easily if you know how to solder and can open up the speaker to expose the wires.

Troubleshooting blown speakers involves listening for noise and distortion, limited frequency response, and other non-linearities in the speaker’s sound. We must then investigate the damage that has been done to the speaker.

If the amp is the issue, try turning it down to avoid distortion.

Related My New Microphone articles:
What Causes Speakers To Pop And Crackle, And How To Fix It
What Causes Speaker Hum & Hiss (How To Eliminate Them Both)
Loudspeaker Blow-Out: Why It Happens & How To Avoid/Fix It
Why Do Speakers Need Amplifiers? (And How To Match Them)
Why Do Speakers Distort At High Sound/Audio Levels?


Remember This Before You Buy Anything

Please ensure you actually need new equipment before you buy anything. Make sure you have explored all of your options. Always do your best to troubleshoot and fix your speakers (if possible/required) before running to the store to buy another set of speakers.

Do everything you can to convince yourself that you tried everything. If the reason for the humming or buzzing sound is because of a poor wire connection or a blown speaker, a local tech store can likely repair it, or you can fix it yourself rather than spending money on new equipment.


Conclusion

There could be many reasons why your speakers have that annoying humming or buzzing sound around cell phones, and not all have to do with the cell phone itself. It has been discussed how to troubleshoot your hardware and some of the more common reasons why your speakers have that humming or buzzing sound when around cell phones.

In most cases, your cell phone is acting as a radio, and the frequency between the two devices is causing interference. The simplest solution is to move your cell phone away from your speaker. However, faulty or loose cables may also be the culprit. When troubleshooting fails, it might be time to replace your equipment to quiet the buzzing.

Arthur

Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement (hikersmovement.com) or composing music for media. Check out his Pond5 and AudioJungle accounts.

Recent Posts