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Can computer speakers inadvertently pick up radio broadcasts?

TetraNitroCubaneTetraNitroCubane The DjinneratorAt the bottom of a bottleRegistered User regular
Okay, this is a little weird but I have to ask: Over the last month or two, I've had a rather startling experience.

I'll be home near my computer, but not USING my computer. My entire apartment will be relatively quiet, and the computer will not be playing audio - nor will I have any tabs open with audio auto-play nonsense or anything.

When suddenly about 2-5 seconds of EXTREMELY LOUD and static-laden audio will BLAST through my computer speakers. It's usually one side of what sounds like a private conversation, the same voice, and it's seriously distorted. The first time I heard it, it said "uh yeah WAIT WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?", then went suddenly quiet. Just this morning I heard the same thing again, only this time he said, "it's QUITE EXAGGERATED IF I'M HONEST". After these events, it all goes back to silence quickly, and I'm left wondering what on earth just happened.

I double-check every time to make sure there are no tabs open playing audio, and there are always none. I use a script-blocker on a whitelist, as well as a pretty aggressive ad blocker as well. I don't think it's something coming through my browser. Though I suppose I can't rule out the possibility that someone has compromised my system otherwise? Virus scans come back clean, and it sure doesn't seem like the sort of thing someone would do if they compromised a system.

Honestly, it feels a lot to me like someone nearby - possibly moving past in a car - is using an extremely powerful radio. Could something like that leak into my computer speakers, or is that kind of interference way too unlikely to be the cause of what I've been experiencing? It's strange because it's always the same voice, and it always feels like I'm hearing a snippet of a conversation that's in progress between two people. And the fact that it blasts through with static and distortion and then just vanishes reminds me of years ago when I would use CB Radio. I'm not sure if something like that, or maybe a HAM radio, could be picked up unbidden by my computer speakers, though.

The speakers are just standard 5.1 stuff, nothing elaborate. But plenty of unshielded wires are placed throughout my computer room to achieve surround sound.

Any feedback or insight would be appreciated! Just trying to make sure I'm not going crazy here.

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    IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator Mod Emeritus
    Longer cords are apparently more prone to pickup other signals, so if you have them all about your room, it's possible.

    This used to happen very faintly with my old speakers and the radio. I would also get a very soft beeping type sound whenever my phone was close to them and I was getting a text.

    Cordless phones and baby monitors can also mess with this type of thing. You aren't crazy, buy I don't have any solutions/advice.

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    BurtletoyBurtletoy Registered User regular
    I used to be able to tell when my cell phone was about to ring because I could hear the static increase on my computer speakers a second or two before it would come through

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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited April 2020
    The loud and intermittent description makes me think it's an internal issue, but if it is interference that's cheap to fix, or at least rule out. Nothing's foolproof but there's steps to try.

    Use the shortest wires to the speakers you can, and keep them away from outlets, power strips, and other AC wires like the power cable to the desktop (if you've ever stopped right under a power line and noticed your car radio picking up a different station, the same effect can happen in speaker wire). Avoid coiling or looping them, especially with other signal carrying wires and definitely with AC ones.

    Wires with ferrite loops to suppress interference help as well. I think. Not all interference is the same and they're only for certain types.

    Hevach on
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    TofystedethTofystedeth Registered User regular
    I had a friend who used to pick up the college radio station on his electric guitar when he was practicing. You could also hear the station when you were switching between channels on the tv in the closest dorm. So yeah, interference can be weird

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    SoggybiscuitSoggybiscuit Tandem Electrostatic Accelerator Registered User regular
    Burtletoy wrote: »
    I used to be able to tell when my cell phone was about to ring because I could hear the static increase on my computer speakers a second or two before it would come through

    This is especially prevalent with AT&T/T-Mobile service. Happens all the time to me when my headphone cord comes within a few inches of my phone.

    Back when I lived with my dad and he still had a landline, occasionally if the conditions were just right, we would get phantom rings and if you picked up the phone for a few minutes after that you could almost completely hear peoples conversations. If I remember right, it had to be very humid for this to happen, but it certainly was weird when it did.

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    bwaniebwanie Posting into the void Registered User regular
    It can most definately.

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    dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    I used to hear the local airport on my speakers when I was a kid. It's a little freaky but it happens.

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    TetraNitroCubaneTetraNitroCubane The Djinnerator At the bottom of a bottleRegistered User regular
    Thanks for the responses everyone. It gives me some reassurance that it's not something compromised on my computer.

    The blasts of audio are really strange. They happen infrequently, and without warning. It's very different than wifi or mobile interference, too. Despite the voice being very distorted (as if peaking/clipping), it doesn't have much in the way of other distortions or background noise. Also, it seems to be extremely brief, rather than prolonged as I would expect from picking up a radio broadcast or a ham operator. It still strikes me as very strange, and I wonder if it's somehow a broadcast from someone who's mobile.

    It does seem to be some kind of interference rather than something malicious, though, so thanks a bunch to everyone who weighed in and gave experiences! Helped me to think about this a bit more clearly.

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    dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    Thanks for the responses everyone. It gives me some reassurance that it's not something compromised on my computer.

    The blasts of audio are really strange. They happen infrequently, and without warning. It's very different than wifi or mobile interference, too. Despite the voice being very distorted (as if peaking/clipping), it doesn't have much in the way of other distortions or background noise. Also, it seems to be extremely brief, rather than prolonged as I would expect from picking up a radio broadcast or a ham operator. It still strikes me as very strange, and I wonder if it's somehow a broadcast from someone who's mobile.

    It does seem to be some kind of interference rather than something malicious, though, so thanks a bunch to everyone who weighed in and gave experiences! Helped me to think about this a bit more clearly.

    There's actually a phenomenon where a radio broadcast of just the right wavelength can be trapped in the upper atmosphere for years before beaming back down. It's known as LDE (Long Delayed Echo)

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_delayed_echo#Five_hypotheses

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    klemmingklemming Registered User regular
    That actually happened with my old PC speakers. I got the occasional indistinct bit of sound that might have been radio, but what finally clinched it was when I suddenly got a clear burst of what was clearly a police radio call.
    While a police car was right outside the house investigating a car crash.
    I realised that the faint bursts were coming when police cars were nearby on the main road through the area.

    I also developed a theory that it was because my speakers had super-long cables that I'd bound up in a tight coil because I didn't need the length. I tried cutting them loose and spreading them out more. It was a mess, but I didn't get any radio bursts afterwards. I figured the coil was acting like an antenna somehow.

    Nobody remembers the singer. The song remains.
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