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Not sure if this is the right place to ask this, but here goes:

Background: I recently bought a new synth keyboard to use with my computer to record music. As part of this setup, I bought a USB audio interface (Presonus Audiobox USB 96), two Yamaha HS5 active studio monitor speakers and the requisite cables: two 1/4" (instrument) to XLR cables and the USB connector that came with the USB interface.

I set it all up and everything was sounding great...until I fired up a game (Overwatch), at which point both speakers started emitting a low-medium frequency buzz at a low, but clearly audible, level. I tested with other games and had the same issue, but playing Spotify or watching YouTube videos was fine - no noise at all.

I tried various things to see if it would resolve the problem (I can elaborate if necessary), but on a hunch that it might be GPU-related (since it only happens when gaming and this would be the most GPU intensive work), I opened Task Manager and observed the GPU usage when loading the game. Sure enough, as soon as the game finishes loading, the GPU hits > 80% and the noise appears. To try and prove this was related, I dialled down the game resolution, and sure enough when the GPU drops, both the frequency and the volume of the noise decreases. With a more demanding game (Assassin's Creed), the GPU hits 99% and the frequency is noticeably higher and louder.

If I run a game in windowed mode and minimize it, the GPU usage drops to 0% and the noise will disappear with it.

So... how on earth do I fix this? My GPU is a relatively new GeForce RTX 2070 and the motherboard is new also (MSI Z390 GAMING PLUS). I have tried every USB connector on my chassis, including USB3 and USB2. I also tried plugging the audio interface into my computer keyboard's USB port to see if it would help, but the noise seems identical.

I'm really desperate to solve this, as I basically can't play games now unless I use headphones and turn the speakers off, which kinda defeats the point of having them.

If it helps, the XLR cables are these: https://www.pmtonline.co.uk/stagg-nac3psxmr-3m-balanced-male-xlr-to-stereo-6-3mm-jack-cable. They're 'balanced' cables, which I was told would improve the sound by reducing noise, so hopefully, they aren't the problem!

UPDATE: I'm still having this issue. I have now tried purchasing a UPS (to ensure a clean power supply to all components: PC, monitor and speakers). I also tried buying a new USB cable between the PC and audio interface, one that has ferrite coils on it to supposedly reduce noise.

With my GPU removed and using on-board HDMI output, the noise vanishes, but obviously gaming is impossible as the built-in graphics are nowhere near capable. With either my old GTX970 or RTX2070, the noise is the same and very distracting.

I can only assume this is a motherboard issue, but have no idea how to verify this? I don't want to spend out on a new board only to have the same issue. My current board is an MSI Z390 Gaming Plus.

  • Interference sucks. In any case you can see if anything here might apply regardless of the gpu answers.presonus.com/1915/… . Also make sure the audiobox and everything attached to the computer with electrical plugs are connected to the same wall plate. There might also be interference from the computer hardware or maybe the audiobox is more prone to it. Hard to say really. Its not a one answer question. – CmosBattery Aug 12 '19 at 22:56
  • Thanks. I'd seen that link already and tried the suggestions, but none of them had any impact. All the equipment is plugged into the same wall socket (via 4-way gang plugs). Still searching for a resolution. – Will Appleby Aug 16 '19 at 6:46
  • I have already answered one post about Coil Whine noises from the RTX. If this is the cause here, either by the noise itself or by strong magnetic fields causing interference, you could try to move audio cables away from the RTX and perhaps add some magnetic isolation between them. – harrymc Aug 16 '19 at 16:46
  • I read the linked answer, but it seems to relate to noise from the GPU itself, while my issue is noise emitted from the speakers. Regardless, I tried moving the speakers and USB interface as far away from the PC base unit as the cable will allow but it made no difference to the noise level. I don't really know what you mean by "magnetic isolation" - what product(s) would achieve this? – Will Appleby Aug 20 '19 at 11:05
  • Too much text for a comment, so I added an answer. Please comment on it. – harrymc Aug 20 '19 at 12:14
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The RTX is most probably for the moment the most powerful GPU line in existence. It generates strong electromagnetic fields, whose effect is dictated by the internal structure of the computer.

For one unlucky poster, the effect was that of Coil Whine, which is an electromagnetically excited acoustic noise. But for other computers with different internal arrangement, the effect can be anything.

Your acoustic cables are banded, meaning that they cancel any interference that occurs from electromagnetic fields while the data is transiting over the cables. They will not cancel any noise introduced before or after passing through them.

If the noise is generated inside the computer case, you may have to isolate the internal audio device, cables and USB ports if they are in the vicinity of the RTX.

Besides the RTX, there is the possibility of Ground Loops, also called Ground Hum, which is when two or more devices are connected to a common ground through different paths. This case is easy to identify and fix, as described in the link.

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  • Thanks for this. I'm going to try a few more things including the tests for Ground Loops you've linked to and will accept your answer if I'm able to resolve the issue or even significantly improve it. – Will Appleby Aug 20 '19 at 15:49
  • Any improvements with the problem? – harrymc Aug 23 '19 at 13:52
  • Sorry, I've not had a chance to revisit the wiring/setup on the computer. I will do it tonight before the bounty expires. – Will Appleby Aug 23 '19 at 14:34

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