How to fix computer speakers that make crackling noises

Dennis Faas's picture

My computer sound system is about 10 years old.

I remember when I first got my sound system. It was the first of its kind: the Labtec SB-8 came equipped with two satellite speakers and a separate subwoofer.

A beautiful sound system, indeed.

The Labtec woofer sits on the floor and has an adjustment knob for bass intensity. It sure does produce some loud thumps! The two satellite speakers sit near by monitor and allow me to further adjust bass and treble at a push of a button. I can even plug in a headset for quiet listening.

All of these options are pretty standard these days on sound systems... but 10 years ago, there was no other computer sound system on the market like it (price and uniqueness). Those were the good days.

Unfortunately, my sound system isn't quite what it use to be. In fact, it's not doing very good at all. Whenever I turn the volume up on the satellite speakers, I hear crackling noises. Some times, one (or both) speakers stop producing sound altogether at will! Most of the time, I have 100% volume in the right side, and about 10% volume in the left side.

It's so frustrating!

During the Holiday sales, I decided to scope out computer sound systems. From what I could find, the going price for a decent sound system with the same options as my Labtec SB-8 system was about $80 bucks.

Alas, my credit card was was showing signs of weakness from already over-usage through the Holiday season. Maxed out to the limit, I knew that spending $80 bucks on a new sound system would be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back... or at least, burned a hole in my wallet.

Was there a way to fix the my ailing Labtec SB-8 satellite speakers?

RE: The '6-inch Drop Test'

Yes, there is such a thing.

A 6 inch drop test consists of taking an electronic component and holding it 6 inches from a solid/flat surface and then dropping it to reset the chips inside the unit.

The 6 inch drop test actually worked on my Amiga 500 home computer that I owned back in 1987. When the A500 got too hot, the chips on the main board would expand. Later, the chips would literally pop out of place when as the A500 contracted as it cooled from a power-down. The only way to knock the chips back into place without opening up the A500 was to do a 6 inch drop test.

Now, I certainly don't recommend that you try this unless you're convinced that it won't damage whatever it is you're drop-testing; it's easy enough to do more harm than good! The ol' Amiga 500 didn't have a hard drive built into it so I wasn't worried about crashing any read/write heads other than my floppy disk (much more inexpensive to replace than a hard drive).

To make a long story short, the 6 inch drop test didn't do a thing to stop the crackling noises which haunted my Labtec SB-8 satellite speakers.

I opened up the satellite speakers and gave the knobbies and buttons a zap of compressed air, thinking that it would blow the grime away (if there was any). Unfortunately, that didn't seem to help at all. Cleaning the speakers with alcohol wouldn't work, either, because I couldn't get into those hard to reach spots.

Then, it hit me.

Many moons ago, I had a friend who repaired electronics for a living. I remembered that he used something called Contact Cleaner which essentially dissolves dust on electronic components and cleans them. I thought about using contact cleaner in the past, but for some reason brushed off the idea thinking that my speakers were just too old.

I got in the car, drove to the mall, and picked up a can of Radio Shack contact cleaner. I came home, powered off the speakers, and proceeded to disassemble the unit once more. With the knobbies and buttons fully exposed, I shot some cleaner into the crevasses.

I waited for the cleaner to dissolve before powering back on the speakers... and wouldn't you know it -- my speakers came back to life. The contact cleaner resolved the problem nearly 98% (I still get a few scratches every now and again).

The moral of the story

I should have listened to that little voice in my head and cleaned the speakers with contact cleaner from the get-go. Oh well!

The can of contact cleaner was $8 bucks after tax, and I didn't have to buy a new sound system after all. If you have the same problem as me -- do yourself a favor: get some contact cleaner and keep your sanity!

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