How do I get rid of crackling in audio?

Crackling or popping noises in audio recordings can be incredibly frustrating. These distorted sounds degrade audio quality and interfere with your ability to hear the content clearly. Thankfully, there are several techniques you can use to remove crackling from audio and restore clarity.

What Causes Crackling in Audio?

There are a few common culprits behind crackling sounds in audio:

  • Dirty contacts – Dust, debris, and corrosion on audio connectors like 3.5mm jacks and XLR cables can cause intermittent crackling as signals cut in and out.
  • Faulty cables – Damaged or poor quality cables can degrade the audio signal and introduce distortion.
  • Clipping – Attempting to record or playback an audio signal that exceeds the maximum levels can cause harsh digital clipping noises.
  • Background interference – Sources of electromagnetic interference like AC power lines, motors, or microwaves can get introduced into audio gear and cause crackling.
  • Damaged speakers – Speakers with torn cones, voice coils, or other physical problems can crackle and pop.
  • Old vinyl records – Crackling is common on older vinyl LPs and 45s as they accumulate dust and wear.

Tracking down the root cause of the issue will point you towards the best solution. Now let’s look at some specific ways to remove cracking and get your audio files sounding crisp and clear again.

Clean Connectors and Cables

If the crackling persists across different audio sources, the problem may stem from your cables or connectors. Swap out suspect cables first to see if that clears up the issue. If not, closely inspect jacks and ports for any debris, corrosion, or damage. Here are some tips for cleaning connections:

  • Use compressed air to blow out dust from ports.
  • Clean corrosion from contacts gently using isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab.
  • Try connecting cables to different ports to isolate the problem.
  • Replace any cables that are cracked, frayed or loose fitting.

Proper connector cleaning can work wonders to return crisp, clear audio transmission. Be gentle when cleaning to avoid damaging contacts. Also try securing cables firmly in place since crackling can result from loose, intermittent connections.

Adjust Recording Levels

Setting recording levels too high can lead to nasty digital clipping distortion. Always aim to record at the optimal signal level without hitting the maximum. Here are some tips for gain staging:

  • Use audio software meters to spot clipping and reduce levels.
  • On cameras and portable recorders, manually reduce record volume.
  • For microphones, turn down gain knobs on the mic or preamp.
  • Increase distance between mic and loud audio sources.
  • Use a limiter or compressor to automatically reduce peaks.

It takes some trial and error to find the sweet spot right below maximum levels. This prevents clipping while retaining good signal strength for best quality. Turn down record levels in small increments and retest until crackling disappears.

Apply Noise Reduction

Audio editing software provides noise reduction processing to clean up recordings. This works by analyzing the audio to identify unwanted sounds like crackling. It then selectively reduces those frequencies while leaving the rest intact. Here are some tips for noise reduction:

  • Use the DeNoise or Noise Removal effects in Audacity.
  • Enable noise reduction filters in Premiere, Final Cut Pro, etc.
  • Try dedicated restoration software like iZotope RX.
  • Sample a section of just the noise to train the program.
  • Adjust reduction strength gradually to avoid muffling.

Advanced noise reduction can work wonders, but don’t overdo it. Subtle application retains the original audio quality while eliminating just the crackling. Listen closely when previewing to ensure you are not losing desired signals too.

Repair Physical Speaker Damage

If crackling persists from the same set of speakers across sources, this points to a hardware problem. Inspect woofers and tweeters for any rips, gaps, or dents. Here are some speaker repair options:

  • Use speaker re-coning kits to repair torn woofers.
  • Carefully use adhesives to close small tears.
  • Replace blown voice coils in woofers.
  • Modify crossovers to prevent high frequencies from reaching damaged tweeters.
  • Swap out individual drivers for new replacement parts.

Full speaker replacement may be required for extensive damage. But minor repairs can fix many common issues cheaply. Just take care not to further damage delicate speaker components when attempting fixes.

Clean Old Vinyl Records

Crackling and popping on vinyl records usually indicates dirt buildup in the grooves. With each play, the stylus picks up more dust and debris. Fortunately, a thorough cleaning removes surface noise and restores fidelity. Here are some vinyl cleaning tips:

  • Try specialty vinyl cleaning solutions applied with a brush.
  • Use distilled water mixed with a small amount of dish soap.
  • Clean records with an antistatic carbon fiber brush before and after plays.
  • Consider investing in an automated spin clean machine for deeper cleaning.
  • Always handle discs by the edges and store in protective inner sleeves.

A clean stylus is just as important, so brush or wipe it frequently. Proper vinyl care and cleaning will keep those classic records sounding crisp.

Filter Out Interference

Diminishing crackles caused by electromagnetic interference involves isolating the audio signal from the source of disruption. Try these troubleshooting tips:

  • Keep audio gear away from AC power lines, motors, microwaves, etc.
  • Use shielded audio cables like XLR or twisted pair.
  • Plug components into a power conditioner.
  • Install ferrite chokes on cable ends to suppress interference.
  • Use balanced signals and inputs for better noise rejection.

It may take some experimentation to track down the interference source. If these steps don’t solve EMI problems, consult an audio equipment technician for help applying filters, ground loops, and other signal isolation fixes.

Use Analog Warming Filters

Harsh digital clipping distortion can be softened using analog warming effects to simulate tube saturation. Here are some options:

  • Enable a tape saturator plugin like Softube Tape.
  • Crank up the Drive control on an amp simulator such as Logic’s Amp Designer.
  • Use slight compression to round off harsh peaks.
  • Add subtle harmonic excitement processing with plugins like Waves Vitamin or iZotope Ozone.
  • Simulate analog circuits with UAD plugins like the Culture Vulture or Pultec EQ.

Go easy on these effects to retain good signal quality. The goal is to take just the edge off the harshest clipping artifacts. Combining several subtler processes can produce smoother, more analog-like results.

Deal With Severe Damage via Editing

For crackling due to severe clipping or hardware damage, editing out the noise may be the only option. This requires isolating each occurrence in an audio editor. Here are some techniques:

  • Use the Silence tool in Audacity to strip out cracks and pops.
  • Draw volume automation to duck levels during distorted sections.
  • If cracks are frequent, apply gating to mute audio during gaps.
  • Cut, copy and paste clean sections to cover over damaged areas.
  • Use interpolation to smooth out large edits.

Editing can produce seamless results when done carefully. Zoom way in when locating cracks so you can make precise edits without losing any good audio. Remember to re-equalize sections moved from other parts of the recording.

Prevent Future Crackling

While fixing existing audio crackles is great, prevention is ideal. Here are some tips for avoiding issues in future recordings and playback:

  • Use high quality cables and connectors.
  • Routinely clean electronics contacts and ports.
  • Allow sufficient headroom below maximum signal levels.
  • Handle vinyl records very carefully.
  • Keep cables neatly tied and routed away from interference.
  • Regularly demagnetize analog components.
  • Store and transport speakers safely.

Making these practices a habit will help minimize crackling issues over the long haul. But with this arsenal of fixing techniques at your disposal, you can effectively combat crackling to restore pristine audio quality.


Crackling distortion in audio can stem from many sources. With some diligent troubleshooting and the right solutions, these annoying sounds can be successfully banished. Cleaning cables, connectors, and vinyl records can work wonders. Adjusting levels, repairing hardware, filtering interference and editing are also great options. And don’t forget proper maintenance and handling to avoid future crackles. With patience and persistence, you can track down the causes and achieve smooth, quiet audio once again.