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Audio Gurus - Need Help and Advice! - Speaker and sound card issues

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Hi Guys.


I am new to computer audio but consider myself an "audiophile" with more traditional HT and stereo systems.


Here's my system:


Adam A7X speakers

Rythmik Subwoofer

Soundblaster ZxR sound card

Windows 8.1

Intel based system


Issue #1


I currently have the speakers hooked up using the left and right RCA outs from the sound card (using an RCA cable, obviously). The problem I am having is I am getting a lot of cracking and popping on anything that is played through the speakers. After hours of troubleshooting I’ve ruled out the speakers themselves, the sound card, and the RCA cables. Here’s the strange thing. If I move the cables, even in inch, in certain spots the hiss, crack, and popping will disappear. Even stranger, if I don’t plug in the RCA cables all the way flush with the speaker the sounds stop as well. For some reason with the RCA plug right up against the speakers it causes a problem. If I slightly pull the RCA plug out, it stops.


I’ve tried 5 different sets of RCA (all well shielded), no luck. I tried using the internal sound card with an RCA cable adapter, no luck. I’ve tried using other computer speakers and the problem goes away. Also, if I hook up the Adam speakers in my HT they work fine. So obviously there is some issue with my computer, soundcard, cables, and speakers being used together.


Can anyone think of something I can try? I’m stumped! I just can’t figure out how to fix the issue short of buying new speakers which I don’t want to do. Maybe it’s some kind of ground loop issue?


Issue #2


Is it normal to have some hiss coming from the speakers when nothing is playing? The hiss is not super loud or anything but I’m sensitive to the sound. I’m just wondering if its normal to hear hiss coming from the speakers when they are turned up half way? Since they are on my computer desk I am only 3-4 feet back.


Issue #3


I’d like to try my internal soundcard using a 3.5mm to RCA cable adapter so see if the problems go away.


A cable like this: http://www.computercableinc.com/ccinc/images/CABLE-2-RCA-Male-to-3-5mm-Stereo-PREMIUM-CableWholeseale.jpg


The issue I am having is most of these cables do enough space between the left and right RCA cables to hook up my speakers. My speakers are at least 40 inches apart so I need the RCA cables to either split or have an extra-long lead. Does anyone know where I can find a cable like this? Also, is there an “audiophile” 3.5mm to RCA cable that is not pure junk?


Issue #4


What is the best way to hook up my subwoofer? I want the purest signal and best sounding option. My ZxR card only has left and right audio outs. However it does have an 3.5MM “center and subwoofer” out. Could I buy a 3.5mm to RCA adaptor and hook I up to my subwoofer that way? Any suggestions?


Thanks in advance for your help or advice on ANY of these issues. I would love to listen to my speakers and move on!



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Kind of a scattershot post with lots of problems.


Maybe I can help with #3.


RadioShack Gold Series Audio Y-Adapter : Y-Adapters | RadioShack.com


If you have room for this at the soundcard, it might help you out.


They also have some with a short cable rather than being a hard adapter. And these are available other places like Amazon or probably musical gear shops.


If your problems with the speaker aren't just a jack that doesn't fit, I rather doubt this will help. Of course when you say you pull out on the plug, is it enough to disconnect the outer shield of the RCA? If not, just use a rubber o-ring spacer or thin plastic tube to space the plugs partway out on the speakers. Not a good solution, but for now it might work.


Now this is just a guess, but I suspect that perhaps your speakers being powered by PWM based amps, they are sensitive to and picking up some kind of garbage noise from the computer when you connect them. Have you tried a different computer, like a laptop or something just to see?


The other thing you might do, is get something like an Audioquest Dragonfly.

Amazon.com: AudioQuest DragonFly USB Digital to Analog Converter (Black) Version 1.0: Electronics


Then again junk from the PC might travel across it, but might not.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Re issue #2, hiss.


How loud is half way turned up? On some systems half way is louder than you'll ever play them, on others not so much. IOW, if you hear a little bit of hiss when music playing at that level would be very loud, it's not much of an issue, if the volume is fairly low at half way, then it is. It's either poor equipment or a problem with said equipment.


The relevant question would really be, do you hear hiss at the level you listen to your system.



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Re all the cracking and popping:


You might try plugging your computer into a different circuit in your living space, or one separate from the one that powers your speakers. And as Esldude says, it would be really helpful to try another computer, even if you have to borrow one, just to eliminate possibilities.



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