Strange Speaker Buzz Situation

Dell / Xps 8930
August 1, 2020 at 07:22:07
Specs: Windows 10, I5-9400
I'm not sure if this should be a Win10 question or a hardware question, so let me know and I'll move the thread if need be.

Background:

I have a set of powered speakers attached to my Win 10 tower via the headphone jack. Depending on the location of the ~10' headphone cable, the speakers buzz. I know with 100% certainty that the buzz is caused by the aquarium filter that the cable runs past. If I move the cable far enough away from the filter or unplug the filter, the buzz is completely eliminated. Rerouting the cable would be a pain and as you'll see below the issue is intermittent enough not be a major issue. The reason for the intermittent occurrence is really what this post is about.

Current Situation:

Let's assume that the cable is close enough to the filter for the buzz to be present. One of the things that I have noticed is the buzz is intermittent. Intermittent enough that it's not buzzing more than it is, so it's really not that big of an issue. I've never really been able to track down what makes it come and go, but I stumbled across something this morning.

It seems to be related to the Chrome browser. If Chrome is closed or even minimized, the buzzing is present. As long as Chrome is not minimized, the buzzing stops. Chrome does not need to be in focus for the buzzing to stop, it just needs be not minimized. There is a ~2 second delay in either direction. Minimize (or close) Chrome, wait 2 seconds, buzz. Un-minimize, wait 2 seconds, no buzz. This does not happen with Edge or IE, just Chrome.

In addition, if the speakers are buzzing (Chrome closed or minimized) and the system needs to make a sound, the buzzing will stop, the sound will be heard and then 2 seconds later the buzzing will start again.

I have some thoughts as to what might be happening, but before I mention them, I'd like to hear some thoughts from others.

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#1
August 1, 2020 at 12:08:18
Use shielded cable to connect the speakers.

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#2
August 1, 2020 at 12:09:25
I remember when you determined that the buzzing was caused
by your aquarium filter. At the time, I wanted you to investigate
further, because I wasn't convinced that the filter was the actual
cause, but rather was acting as a sort of transmitter or amplifier.
I'll have to find and re-read that thread.

Please don't give up on this until you've got a complete answer!

I love the two-second delay! That clue, whatever it indicates,
cannot be ignored! For starters, I think it shows that it is not
related to what is happening in the GPU or the monitor screen
when the Chrome window is maximized or restored.

Do you have Chrome maximized or restored most of the time?
Is that why most of the time there is no buzzing?

Do you have a link to info about how the filter works?

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis


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#3
August 1, 2020 at 14:32:28
re: "I remember when you determined that the buzzing was caused by your aquarium filter. At the time, I wanted you to investigate further, because I wasn't convinced that the filter was the actual cause, but rather was acting as a sort of transmitter or amplifier. I'll have to find and re-read that thread."

I'm not sure what further investigation you want me to perform. If the filter is plugged in and the cable is nearby, the speakers buzz. The farther away from the filter the cable is, the less the buzz. Far enough away, no buzz. I have turned off everything else in the room - all lights and the printer. Other than the PC, the speakers, and the aquarium filter, there is nothing else on the circuit.

Other than buying 2 more filters - the same model and a different model - to test, what else do you have in mind?

re: "I love the two-second delay! That clue, whatever it indicates, cannot be ignored!"

...which is why I included it as one of my symptoms.

re: "Do you have Chrome maximized or restored most of the time?"

Yes

re: "Is that why most of the time there is no buzzing?"

That's a safe assumption, but I will now have to monitor that carefully to be sure.


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Related Solutions

#4
August 1, 2020 at 17:02:26
I don't know how the aquarium filter works. I'd imagine that
it is nothing more than a simple electric moter which runs a
pump, to pump water out of the tank, through the filter, and
back into the tank. If that's all it is, I'd say it is an electrically
noisy motor, and could probably be replaced with one that
is less noisy.

I haven't looked at the other thread yet, but I think I wanted
you to do something to determine whether the aquarium filter
is creating the buzz, amplifying the AC power buzz, or acting
like an inductor or antenna in picking up the buzz from some
other nearby equipment. Did I say in that thread that I once
had a Sony reel-to-reel tape recorder that, after years of use,
started picking up a local radio station in the recording head?
The sound came directly out of the head, not a speaker!

When Chrome is maximized or restored, it must be using and
controlling the audio circuit, injecting a signal into the circuit.
Most of the time that signal is just silence. Any program that
uses audio should do something similar, though I'd expect
most programs to do it only while actually outputting audio,
not while sitting idle, as Chrome does. While the signal is
being injected, the amplifier in the audio circuit is limited, but
when there is no signal, the amplifier opens up, and amplifies
any noise that reaches it. In this case, the buzz.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

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#5
August 1, 2020 at 17:07:07
If the aquarium filter is just a pump powered by an electric
motor, does it have a speed adjustment? If so, does the
buzz change when the speed is changed? The buzz could
come from the speed adjuster rather than from the motor!
I think that is more likely than that it comes from the motor!

I imagine that you do not have an electric motor immersed
in the aquarium which runs on 120 volts AC. So it must
have a transformer. My guess is that the buzz originates in
the AC power and is injected into your speaker cables either
by the transformer or by a rheostat or other device connected
to the transformer which limits the power to the motor.

I think the buzz should be strongest when the pump is at its
lowest speed setting, when the voltage reduction is greatest.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

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#6
August 1, 2020 at 17:23:14
re: "I haven't looked at the other thread yet, but I think I wanted you to do something to determine whether the aquarium filter is creating the buzz, amplifying the AC power buzz, or acting like an inductor or antenna in picking up the buzz from some other nearby equipment."

Without looking at the other thread, let's save us both some time and assume that you did/do want me to do all those things.

Once again, I have to ask: How do you want me to determine whether the aquarium filter...

... is creating the buzz? (That one's easy, I just need to go buy another filter. Would you be OK if I "rented" one by returning it after the test?)

...amplifying the AC power buzz?

...acting like an inductor?

...acting like an antenna in picking up the buzz from some other nearby equipment?

As I've said, I have shutdown everything else that is on that circuit. I guess I could shut down every other circuit in the house to eliminate the "antenna" possibility, unless of course the "nearby equipment" is my PC or the speakers themselves. I kind of need those to do the test.

Do you have any suggestions on how to determine/eliminate the last 3 items on your list?

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#7
August 1, 2020 at 17:28:49
I edited both of my last posts (to add to them) while
you were posting, so that will probably be enough.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis


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#8
August 1, 2020 at 19:43:23
re: "If the aquarium filter is just a pump powered by an electric motor, does it have a speed adjustment?"

Mine is a 2 speed model: None (unplugged) and Full (plugged in) . ;-)

re: "I imagine that you do not have an electric motor immersed in the aquarium which runs on 120 volts AC. "

That's exactly how many submersible pumps/filters work. The connections and motor housing are waterproof. The AC cord runs directly into the filter housing which hangs in the water. The motor is in the bottom of the unit.

2 pictures here:

https://www.thatpetplace.com/whispe...

re: "Do you have a link to info about how the filter works?"

I think the pictures are pretty self-explanatory. The motor sits in the bottom of the unit and drives an impeller that sucks water in and pushes it up through the filters until it overflows out of the top. It's a pretty simple design.

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