There's no mistaking that sound in your headphones: buzzing, humming, mood-breaking microphone issues. Whether you're laying down a new audio book track or live streaming a game on Twitch, microphone buzzing is an absolute buzzkill.
In most cases, the microphone humming noise that's driving you crazy is the result of wireless interference, or signals on the airwaves that your mic is picking up unintentionally. Get to the heart of the matter – and back on the path to clean audio – by eliminating potential sources of interference one by one.
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Wireless interference is the clear culprit in the majority of microphone buzzing cases and it can come from a huge variety of sources near your mic. To eliminate interference and the buzzing that goes with it, clear the space around your mic of common trouble-makers or move your recording setup to another location. Some devices that can cause mic buzzing include radio receivers, cellphones, land line phones, printers and circuit breakers or electrical panels. TV signals – yes, even digital TV signals – also act as a radio noise source. Power down or disable these devices to clear up mic hums.
Similarly, look to nearby lights when you hear a low hum in your microphone. Neon signs, lighting controls and dimmers and fluorescent lights – especially those that are worn out – can cause interference problems, so hit a few switches and listen for that blissful silence.
If you're using a wireless mic system with radio transmitters, prevent humming interference from the system itself by keeping the wireless transmitters at least 10 feet away from the receivers. Likewise, ensure that the receivers never touch each other. When using a combination mic system – the type that uses both handheld and body-pack transmitters – make sure that no two transmitters are on the same frequency at once.
To cut back on buzz even more, turn the receiver's squelch setting up. Be aware, though, that a higher squelch setting makes for a lower operating range.
Less commonly, interference enters wireless mic audio systems through the cables hooked up to your mixer. This type of audio bugbear is called non-wireless interference.
If you can hear faint (or not-so-faint) distorted voices among the mic buzzing, nearby AM radio interference may be the cause, while high-pitched buzzes often result from local radar systems. To get rid of these pesky sounds running through your mic cables, upgrade to shielded or filtered audio cables and plug your receiver into a grounded electrical outlet whenever possible. Toggle the "ground lift" switch on the outlet if available and listen for a difference.
Hardware and Software Issues
Before tossing your mic cables or razing your workspace of all other electronics, try adjusting the audio levels for both listening volume and recording input if you're running your mic through digital recording software. Disable or lower any microphone boost options, which may cause peaking audio levels and brief, loud buzzes.
If you're using a battery-powered wireless mic, make sure the batteries are fresh, as weak batteries can cause some mics to transmit low-level interference. When running your mic through a soundboard, try muting each sound channel one by one until you identify the source of the noise. For mics with removable cables, swapping to a new cable may just be the simple hardware fix you're looking for.
In some cases, that headset buzzing noise may be the headset itself and not the mic at all – plug your headphones in to other audio sources to see if the issue recurs. If your cans buzz when plugged into a variety of different audio sources, a faulty headphone wire may be to blame.