Why do Speakers Crackle?

Sometimes it's the little things in life that just annoy the daylights out of you. Crackling speakers can be one of them. yesterday they were fine, today that annoying sound distorting your listening pleasure. But why.

3 Reasons your speakers might crackle

  1. A loose speaker wire. This is likely the number one reason your speakers are crackling. It's also the easiest to fix once you find it. Check the speaker terminals on the back of the speakers as well as your amplifier and insure they have a solid connection. How does this happen? Think cat, dog, kid. 
  2. Yeah, a loose wire. This time it might be within the speaker assembly itself. The wires that go from the terminals on the speaker to the speaker cone. This, unfortunately is not something you're likely to successfully fix yourself. 
  3. It could be your amplifier. If the crackling is occurring when you adjust the volume knob on your amp or receiver, then it's likely dirt in the pot (potentiometer). There are potentiometer cleaners you can try to mitigate the problem but it's hit or miss. 
Bluetooth speaker crackling? Throw it out and get a new one.

There are other reasons like cone alignment which would only happen on very old speakers, but the most likely reason is a lose wire.

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What is the best way to power speakers?

The best stereo amp for you depends on what type of listening you do, what type of speakers you have and if you need portability.

Speakers don't do well without an amplifier of some type. In fact, they do nothing, so let's get right too it.

3 Ways to Supply Power to Speakers
  1. Buy an traditional small stereo amplifier or receiver if you also want a tuner.
  2. Purchase self powered speakers which have their own amplifiers built into them.
  3. Get battery powered speakers
All three options work and depending on the environment each has an advantage.

The small amplifier route.
If you are a traditionalist getting an amp, whether it be high end or low, gives you the most control over any effect the amplification will have on your music. It also allows you to be a little more free on how you allocate your funds. If you want a great pair of stereo speakers but can't afford the complimentary expensive amp, you can start with something that fits your budget and move up later. We're fond of this approach.

Best use:
  • If you want to power bookshelf, tower or architectural speakers that you just have to have but may not have room for a full on receiver. 
  • Powering old bookshelf speakers you have around the house.
Self powered speakers. Taking this approach can have mixed results. There are plenty of low end self powered speakers that will deliver noise but not music. You can get low price self powers PC speakers which can sound very nice but often either look weird or have other shortcomings. On the flip side there are plenty of excellent self powered speakers on the high end that will sound fantastic. One advantage to this type of set up, on the high end at least, is that you may get separate amps for the woofer and tweeter. Most times this will yield a superior results.

Best use:
  • You don't want the extra wires running all over the place.
  • You want the extra quality sound you might get from the separate amps and don't want or have room for an amp.
  • NOTE: many self powered speakers you'll find are Studio Monitors designed for near field listening. These are designed for someone sitting 2-3 feet away from the speakers and generally don't give as good of a showing in other environments or listening situations. 
Battery powered speakers. This category is usually relegated bluetooth speakers. You can usually get some great results with small to mid-sized speakers that can deliver some real punch. Once you get into larger speakers, ones that will deliver truly satisfying bass response, battery power will fall by the wayside.

Best use:
  • You need portability
That's all we have for today. The moral here is to think about what is most important to you before deciding.

Don't Buy a Soundbar Until You Read This

Yeah, a little over dramatic, I'll admit. But I do want you to stop an think before plopping hard earned money on a soundbar to go with that fancy new 4K TV you got for Christmas that sounds like do-do because, well, most flat panel TV's do. One exception are some of the LG's, even the cheap ones.

Why you should not buy a sound bar 

OK, maybe you should if you have very limited space and very limited budget. Sound bars can be had in price ranges from $99 to $1,000 plus and succeed in delivering excellent sound in some situations. What they don't do well is deliver true, seating independent depth and breath of sound.

The way sound bars without satellite speakers for the rear speaker operate is by using software to make your ears think sound is coming from another direction, even without a speaker being there. Some do this very well. The challenge is they have a very limited "sweet spot" from which they can deliver that faux surround experience. If you sit outside those spots you get mixed if any results for surround.

True 5 speaker surround

Even inxpensive 5.1 surround speaker systems with a lower end surround sound receiver will outshine even some of the best sound bars. To be fair you're not going to find a 5.1 surround speaker system with receiver for $99, or even $199 for that matter but once you get to the $299-499 area there are quite a few decent options that will outshine even the best sounding soundbars. (note, this is strictly our opinion, but... if you go listen, we think you'll agree.

Why? There is just simply no way a surround bard can duplicate what 5 speaker and a subwoofer can do to deliver distinct points of sound.

The all important center channel speaker. One of the big misses of most sound bars is the inability to separate the center channel, dialog delivering speaker from the left and right channels. Even if they offer a 3 way setup they still by their nature are much to physically close to each other to offer the true benefit of a discrete center channel speaker. 

So what should you look at?

Lets start at the bottom end. At $299 (at this writing) the 
Pioneer HTP-074 5.1 Channel Home Theater Package can deliver some high quality home theater experience at an incredible price. 

Yamaha YHT-4920UBL 5.1-Channel Home Theater comes in at only $399 and delivers 4.5 star results that should really perform head and shoulders above a sound bar. 

Beyond pre packaged systems there are plenty of speaker and receiver combinations you can put together for under $600 that will knock your sonic socks off. As a reference point, spend a little more on the speakers than the receiver as they will have more of an effect on your experience than the electronics. 

Happy listening. 

Why Use a Fire TV Stick on your Audio Receiver Instead of an Echo Dot

The Amazon Echo is a fantastic device. It does all the cool things you've heard like tell you the weather, how far it is to Fargo, ND, sports scores, news and of course it can play music using Alexa, Amazons budding AI.

If you want to play Amazon Prime Music or Prime Music Premium the big problem with the big Echo is that it has no audio out. Enter the Amazon Dot which does have an analog audio out built in. This is a great solution for sure.

The Better Solution for Music and Theater in your media room
But if better music from our home theater or stereo system is your aim then pass on the Dot and get an Amazon Fire stick and plug it into one of the HDMI ports on the back of your audio receiver and you're ready to rock, literally. The Fire stick has Alexa built in but you need to use the remote to start the music playing but Alexa works just as well without the Echo. Hold the button and say "Play top pop songs from the 80's" or "Play the sound track from Hamliton"*

What are the benefits?

  1. Bypass the clunky input interface your TV likely has.
  2. Get a direct connection to your receiver rather than delivering an analog audio feed.
  3. Likely you'll use one button to turn on the receiver to the correct HDMI port.
  4. If you have a multi zone receiver you can play the Fire Stick on a remote set of speakers while someone else can still watch the TV.
  5. It costs $10 less than the Echo Dot.
Granted you need to pick up the remote and press a button to talk to Alexa with the fire stick but I personally find this a better solution than a Dot because it has a dual purpose of giving me easily accessible music and video from one inexpensive streaming device.

*Amazon Prime Music has a little over a million songs you'll be able to access if you have a prime account. But add Prime Music Unlimited you get over 10 Million songs and Prime members get that for less than $7 per month.

We may receive a commission on links from this article. But we do own and really love this product!

The Best Amazon Speaker and Headphone Deals for Cyber Monday 2016

2016 has been the best year for Black Friday and Cyber week deals in a long time. It's not so much that the deals are better or cheaper, it's that there are more of them and they are not selling out quickly. Sure the stupid $149 50" TV's sell out quick but there is still real money to be saved this holiday than in a long time. And, it's on quality products, not crap that they simply want to get rid of.

Here's our list of speakers and headphones for this weekend and Cyber week.


Top of my speaker list is technically not a speaker but it can help make any speaker smarter and full of more information and music. At just $40 the Amazon Dot (the baby Echo) really packs a wallop with great features and functionality.

The Polk T15 is a great value bookshelf speaker at $115. Combine it with a small amp and an Amazon Dot and you have a bedroom or living audio system no bluetooth speaker can touch. You can also go the Google Chromecast Audio for $25 or so almost anywhere this week and get similar functionality from your phone.

Although out of stock at this posting, You can still order this great Polk Audio T50 floorstanding speaker for only $75, half off the normal price and get Prime shipping. With the speaker set up as Polk has them you'll get bass response that will be quite satisfying at this price point.

These are great for an audio only system for when you have time to sit and listen. Or, use them as a base for a home theater speaker system front speakers.


OK, this is really a good deal assuming you don't mind the skull on your headphones. These get consistently great reviews and don't overload the bass. Usually $69 these are now only $49.99. They come in black, silver and blue. We ordered a pair and can't wait for them to arrive.

But... if you love the extra bass, these Sony Extra Bass bluetooth headphones are only $68 vs their usual $139. Sony is one of our main headphones of choice and these surely won't disappoint. Note there is no way to turn off the extra bass so if that's not your thing but Sony is, try these Sony headphones instead.

Sound Bars for 2016 - Upgrade the Sound on your TV


Soundbars have grown in popularity over the years peaking in 2014 and holding steady in popularity in 2016 according to google trends. They offer an easy to set up addition to your flat screen TV as a usually much needed sound upgrade.

Even the best TV sets have only mediocre sound quality. If you're going to watch a 55-60" TV you might as well get the big sound to go with it and a sound bar is a low effort way to get there.

One of the annoyances to me was the necessity of a second remote to control the soundbar in addition to the TV or cable box. One really easy way around this problem is to purchase the sound bar from your TV manufacturer. The good news is the top TV brands, Vizio, Samsung, Sony and LG all have great sound bars to go with their TV's. Usually they seamlessly hook up to the TV in a way that allows relatively seamless connectivity between the soundbar and the TV or cable remote.

Below is a list of some favorite 3.1 soundbars found on Amazon with Prime shipping. All around $300 at this writing. Note, Sony does not make a 3.1 soundbar so we did not include one here.

The Vizio SB4031 D5 is a 40" soundbar with no subwoofer. I like that the TV sits on the base speaker so there is no need to locate a sub somewhere in your room.

Besides being a true 3.1 (has a center channel for voices) it works with Vizio's app for easy control

 The Samsung HW-K550 3.1 Channel 340 Watt Wireless Audio Soundbar is another true 3.1 system. It does have a separate sub that can be placed in a corner or almost anywhere out of the way. The sub is wireless so all you'll need is a plug.

The LG 320W 4.1 is a weird duck. The reviews are great but it's neither a 3.1 in the true sense of the word or a 4.1 as it claims. It does have 4 speakers in the bar itself and a sub (the .1 part) but they consist of left, right and two surrounds that are in the bar itself. This makes for an awkward situation. The extra speakers being IN the bar don't make for the ultimate surround experience but hey, like I said, the reviews are good. Have this one? Leave a comment.

Thanks for reading and if you want to support our efforts by purchasing a product you saw on this site we get a small commission, so thanks. If not no worries, we love writing about this stuff.  TSG.

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