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I have an Asus P6T based system. I was using the on-board sound (plugging in Logitech X-230 2.1 analog speakers in the green "front speakers" 3.5mm analog output, then plugging in my headphones in that). I was quite happy with the sound quality (didn't hear any static noise if volume was turned down to my normal listening level).

Then about a week ago I started having terrible static noise from the left channel, and no normal audio on that left channel. Right channel had more static noise than usual but did have a bit of sound. I tried using the AC'97 in front of my case but that seemed to have no signal.

I decided my on-board sound card has gone bad and bought an internal sound card to replace it (Startech 7.1Ch PCI). This fixed the "no sound from left channel problem", but I still had a fairly audible static noise (not the really terrible one after my on-board sound went bad, but worse than when it was working well).

I decided the card was low quality and/or it had interference from all the other things happening inside the computer case, and bought a Sweex SC016 external USB sound card.

But even with that I have static noise in headphones (though better than with the Startech card). Positioning the USB sound card differently doesn't seem to help. Trying the other analog outputs (e.g., surround) doesn't help.

The static noise in all cases is proportional to the volume.

I have tried different headphones, but the situation is similar though perhaps the flavour of the static noise changes slightly.

So what are my options? What is the cause of the problem, and what hardware do I need to replace?

tl;dr - Two different sound cards both still have static noise in headphones.

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Is your main power connection to the wall grounded? I find speaker feedback to generally be caused by "dirty" electricity; perhaps too many cords plugged in on one outlet or one of your gadgets is using a disproportionate amount of energy. –  Harsha K Dec 17 '12 at 16:41
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They are all British BS 1363 standard plugs used, which feature a grounding pin, so I think (but don't know) that they are grounded. However, I tried the Sweex SC016 USB sound card from my laptop which I plugged into a completely different wall socket from my desktop computer, and it has the same static noise. –  John M Dec 17 '12 at 16:53
    
Once I had a noise problem like yours and could't solve. I opened the box and found the PSU connector to the MB had several pins almost melted. Changed the PSU for a backup one and sound was nice again. –  laurent Dec 17 '12 at 17:13
    
You can sometimes have ground loops in your system that lead to quite bad static. There are ground loop isolators, but as mentioned I'd check your PSU first. Also, laptops don't have a ground and so struggle with audio quality. –  Morphit Dec 17 '12 at 17:56
    
How the heck is this off topic? This question discusses the use of headphones primarily with a computer. Though this question relates to a hardware issue, editing it based on this Meta post can help improve this question. –  DragonLord Dec 18 '12 at 0:24

1 Answer 1

up vote -1 down vote accepted

The question title has been rephrased since I created, but basically I solved my problem.

I ordered a mid-range PCI-E sound card (Asus Xonar DX) and the static noise is gone.

Whether the source of the static with the cheap PCI card and cheap external USB card was poor product quality or something else, I don't know. Perhaps you get what you pay for; the new card was about 3 times more expensive than either of these previous cards.

This is not to be constituted as endorsment of Asus products, the on-board sound card that died and caused all the issues was also by Asus. Probably a quality replacement sound card by another manufacturer would work just as fine.

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