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<< Solved >> Continuous Crackling Noise in Speakers via USB Audio Interface

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GIGABYTE Z390 DESIGNARE
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Intel Core i9-9900K
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Hi,

I recently set up my new Hackintosh essentially based on the brilliant Gigabyte Designare Z390 (Thunderbolt 3) + i7-9700K + AMD RX 580 by @CaseySJ and it works like a charm. Having said that, I'm having a weird and annoying issue with my USB audio interface sending a lot of noise to the speakers. The noise kicks as the OS is booting up and lasts the entire time the system is on. It's a crackling buzz, similar to a fax machine or an old printer. The noise seems to react to the system working, so with certain processes, I get more noise activity. Adjusting the system audio output volume doesn't change the amount of noise. If you crank up the knob on the speakers themselves, you can hear the noise get much louder. So I cranked it up and brought my phone near the speaker so you could really hear the noise I'm getting.


This is overall low in level, but definitely audible and continuous. Needless to say, this is definitely not ideal given that I work in pro audio.

I'm certain this isn't a ground loop issue as I am running the entire computer and all studio gear through a Furman PST-8. I'm also using balanced audio cables throughout. I ran a TON of troubleshooting. Unplugging devices, switching power cables, switching audio cables. And it never gets better. Sometimes it actually gets worse. For example, when I unplug the power to any of the three screens, the noise gets way worse. Which is bizarre, to say the least. Why would the noise coming through the speakers get worse when I unplug a device? I’d think it would get better due to fewer devices being powered that could cause interference.

Finally, I ran a test by connecting the audio interface to my MacBook Pro instead, and lo and behold, there was no noise at all. So the problem definitely has to do with the Hackintosh.

Having dug through the forums here it seems that a LOT of people have reported this issue, but few threads seem to have any concrete solutions. Some mentioned disabling Serial ports, but that's doesn't apply to the Z390. And all other attempts, like disabling X.M.P. Profile 1, or disabling the XHCI Hand-Off, have led to no change.

All reports seem to point to some issue with the USB ports and Audio Interfaces. Can you please help?

I've attached my EFI folder in hopes that it ends up shining light on what may be wrong in my configuration.

Here’s my setup:
- Intel Core i9-9900K 3.6 GHz Eight-Core LGA 1151 Processor.
- Motherboard: Z390 Designare.
- Case: Fractal Design Define R6 USB-C.
- Power Supply: EVGA 750 G3.
- Graphics Card: Radeon RX580.
- Drives: 2x Samsung 860 EVO.
- RAM: HyperX Predator 4x16GB 3600MHz DDR4.
- Cooler: NH-D15S.
- Fenvi FV-T919 wireless network adapter.
- 3x 27” 2k LED Acer monitors.
- Audio Interface: Apogee Duet for Mac/iOS.
- Speakers: Yamaha HS50M with HS10W Subwoofer.
- MacOS 10.14.6.
- Clover 5122.

Any ideas as to what this may be and how to fix it? Let me know what I should provide to help solve this faster.
Thanks a lot!
 

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CaseySJ

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Apologies for the late reply. You are always welcome to post in the Designare Z390 thread. Because you are using a USB Audio Interface, please have a look at this post:
 
Joined
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Great thread! I don't have a USB 2.0 hub on hand (figured I didn't need them anymore :lolno: wah-wah). Having said that the audio interface is connected to a powered USB 3.0 hub with other USB 2.0 devices (no 3.0 device connected to it). This is connected to HS03. I tried replugging the hub to HS07 and HS09/10, but the noise was identical.

As a test, I did grab a USB-C hub (which has USB ports on it and HDMI) and connected the interface directly to that hub instead and then attached the hub to SSP1. The noise was OUT OF CONTROL. Turned more into a buzz. So that's a no-go.

To clarify, this isn't an issue with stability per se. The USB connections are maintained with no problem. The noise picked up however is... well you could hear it in the audio recording I posted.

Any other suggestions @CaseySJ ?
 
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You're hearing ground loop interference that is introduced mainly by the graphics card. Once the OS loads, the graphics card goes to work. This happened to me as well. I solved it by eliminating the ground on my powered monitors. I'm sure there are more sophisticated ways to isolating the grounds, but this is what I did. I'm using balanced cables, which didn't make much of a difference.
 
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@antieatingactivist Thanks for chiming in! This is beyond mind-blowing. So I tried a bunch of tests and what finally did the trick was using a 3-prong to 2-prong power adapter on BOTH of the Yamaha HS50M's. (Doing it on the Sub didn't seem to change anything.) That is the WEIRDEST thing I've ever seen. Particularly since everything is running through a Furman PST-8 Power Conditioner, so you'd think that would take care of any ground loops, no? Truly baffled here.

Either way, your suggestion was gold. The "fax" machine noise is gone, and we're now down to a very light/subtle hiss. If I could get rid of that, that would be pure magic (so would love to hear further tips if you have any), but even with the current improvement, this is already heaven. (And that may just be the noise floor on these speakers). Thanks a ton for the great advice!

The Apogee Duet (for Mac & iPad version) has balanced outputs. So I'm running TRS cables to the Yamaha HS10W sub. From there I'm running XLR cables to the HS50Ms. So everything is connected using balanced cables. On top of that, all devices are plugged into the power conditioner. So technically, things should be good. So I'm curious why was the graphics card introducing so much?

Here's what was coming out of the speakers (including the sub) when I had unplugged all three monitors. Then you'll hear how the noise gets lower as I plug in the power to one monitor at a time.
Noise Test with Monitors unplugged and plugged in
 
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Yeah the power conditioner won't really help. The proper way to really break the ground loop would be to use ground loop isolators on the audio signal cables going to the monitors. There are passive and active options that both have advantages and disadvantages. Your hiss is probably just a much more conventional audio issue. I would first check to see if the powered monitors hiss without any input. otherwise you might just need to turn gain down on the monitors. I have the 8 inch version of your monitors, and I know that if I crank them all the way (which would result in a very unnecessary amount of volume) I would hear a hiss, although its probably due to one of my synths I have passing though. At a normal working volume, there are pretty much silent. In case you are wondering, I'm using an Apogee Quartet through Yamaha HS80M's.
 
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Yeah, you're right, they hiss without any input, and adjusting the gain doesn't change the hiss level. So I guess that's just the regular noise they produce. It's barely audible, so I'm not as concerned with it.

Are you suggesting I should use a ground loop isolator like either of these (option 1, option 2) instead of the 2-prong to 3-prong power adapter I'm currently using (I'm using a simpler version without the USB ports on it)?
 
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Yeah, you're right, they hiss without any input, and adjusting the gain doesn't change the hiss level. So I guess that's just the regular noise they produce. It's barely audible, so I'm not as concerned with it.

Are you suggesting I should use a ground loop isolator like either of these (option 1, option 2) instead of the 2-prong to 3-prong power adapter I'm currently using (I'm using a simpler version without the USB ports on it)?
So doing the 2 prong method is technically the best at an audio standpoint, but it's also somewhat unsafe. That being said I don't really care. Ive been doing it with guitar amps forever and I don't plan on not doing it for my DAC any time soon.

Option 1 is essentially the same thing and disconnecting the ground from the audio signal. Your audio signal ground is now exclusively through the wall. It might work, it might not, but you can achieve this but just modifying your cable.

Option 2 is says its a Passive GLI. It uses an isolation transformer to break the signal ground. This would be the proper way to do this, but passive GLIs can roll off frequencies depending one the quality or the transformer. This may or may not be acceptable to your ears.
 
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Great to know! I'd rather not have the sonic spectrum affected as that could screw me up in the mixing process, so I'll probably stick to the 2-prong method for now. Thanks for the detailed explanation! You're a rockstar!
 
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