Crackling, buzzing sounds and bad audio quality in Linux Mint finally solved!

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Published on - last updated on July 5th 2022 - Listed in Multimedia Linux Hardware


On a few occasions I've hit this problem in Linux Mint, that the sound suddenly starts cracking or buzzing, having a constant noise in the background. The sound quality gets really bad - and the music is not enjoyable anymore.

I've occasionally experienced this problem on Linux Mint 20.1 and 20.2. But other Linux Mint (and maybe even other Linux distributions) might have the same problem.

What is causing these cracks in the sound?

Unfortunately I have (as of now) no idea what exactly is causing this problem - however it could have something to do when the browser (Firefox?) is loading multimedia content in the background. Even though it's not actively played.

Another idea hints that it might be a problem with two sound cards:

After some research I learned that the AMD High Definition Audio Device (found through Control Panel -> Device Manager -> Sound, video and game controllers) is responsible for sending audio through the graphics processor's HDMI output. I figured that could be the link between video and audio.

This workstation does indeed have "two" sound cards, as the GPU also features a HDMI port which forwards sound to a screen:

ckadm@mintp ~ $ lspci|grep Audio
04:00.1 Audio device: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD/ATI] Ellesmere HDMI Audio [Radeon RX 470/480 / 570/580/590]
06:00.4 Audio device: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD] Starship/Matisse HD Audio Controller

A workaround / quick fix

Rather by chance I discovered a quick fix. Whenever this sound problem appears, simply open the "Driver Manager". Wait until it has finished loading, then simply close the "Driver Manager" program again.

Notice that the sound suddenly goes back to normal, without any cracking or buzzing or constant noise in the background!

Video shows it better

It's kind of difficult to describe a typical multimedia/sound problem with words. Hence I created a video which is now on YouTube, where the workaround is shown.

Update: The workaround does not always work + potential problem source

Of course a day after this workaround article was published, the workaround doesn't seem to work anymore. At least in most cases (works maybe every third time). However the sound issue can be reproduced now. The crackling sound usually appears when the computer was freshly booted, some music is playing (doesn't matter whether the music plays from a player such as VLC or through a web radio) and then Firefox is started. It seems that loading ads in Firefox triggers this crackling sound.

In my case I can reproduce the sound problem:

  • Boot the computer
  • Start Google Chrome and launch a web radio or launch VLC and simply play a music file
  • Start Firefox, certain sites (including this blog) loading ads and the sound starts cracking and buzzing.

Additional research could actually be a hardware problem. My machine runs the following setup as of this day:

  • Linux Mint 20.2
  • Kernel 5.11 (sound issue also happened with 5.8 so I don't think it could be a Kernel problem)
  • Motherboard: ASRock B550M Pro4 (BIOS version: 1.80)
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600 6-Core Processor
  • Using onboard sound card with speakers and an additional USB head set from Jabra

According to a Reddit post, the issue could be in the AMD X5XX chipset. Users have reported that this chipset has USB issues and also causes crackling sound and AMD released AGESA 1.2.0.2 to address these issues. Another Vlogger, TheFullSetup, also mentioned crackling audio in his AMD B550 motherboard and that these issues are gone after a BIOS upgrade.

As mentioned above, my current BIOS version is 1.80. This version contains the AGESA 1.2.0.0 version. The next BIOS version, 1.90, would actually contain AGESA 1.2.0.2 (with the potential fix?). And as of this writing, BIOS 2.20 with AGESA 1.2.0.3 Patch C is also available. I will definitely give the BIOS upgrade a shot.

Still reproducible after BIOS upgrade

After upgrading the BIOS to 2.20, the problem can unfortunately still be reproduced.

Another workaround: Temporarily change audio output

Another (so far working) workaround is when you temporarily change the audio output to a different device (e.g. headset) and then switch back to the default output again.

Open the Sound Settings, either with a click to the bottom right sound icon, then click on "Sound Settings", or simply search for "Sound" in the menu.

Sound Settings in Linux Mint

In the "Output" tab, you should see all the available audio devices. In my case my default device is the sound card (Starship/Matisse HD Audio Controller). 

After changing the output to another device, the Digital Output of the Jabra EVOLVE LINK MS, waiting a few seconds, followed by yet another change back to the default sound card - and the crackling is gone.

Finally: The cause and solution!

After having endured these audio problems for over a year, I finally stumbled on the real cause of this crackling audio! It's the speech-dispatcher package!

The speech-dispatcher processes can manually be triggered by using the spd-say command. This reproduces the audio crackling, as you can see in the new video:

A couple of programs, such as the spd-say command or the Firefox browser (coming mostly from ads), are able to launch the speech-dispatcher processes. As soon as this happens, the audio crackling starts as long as the processes run.

The final solution? Remove the speech-dispatcher package:

ckadm@mintp ~ $ sudo apt-get remove speech-dispatcher


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Comments (newest first)

Misha from wrote on Nov 17th, 2022:

Yep, speech-dispacher is problem here on Linux Mint Cinnamon 20.3
Ending process solved problem many times, now I finaly removed package.

Thank you very much.


Roger J G Gamito from Brazil wrote on Aug 11th, 2022:

Important article, I also go through a similar problem, but does not have the Speech-Dispatcher package installed. At least, through instructions, I was able to do something to remove this annoying noise without having to get out of the program that runs the media.


Silviop from wrote on Aug 9th, 2022:

I use to restart pulseaudio, but i will give a chance (X470 motherboard).


Mikael from wrote on Jul 25th, 2022:

Thanks so much
It helped my computer I have been searching for an answer to this problem for a long time
Many thanks to you
Greetings from Sweden


Baltazar from wrote on May 31st, 2022:

This is still an issue and happens even on Intel boards. Anything that uses audio, whenever there are two or more instances of audio, playing or not (browser, game, anything), the audio craps out.

I have not found a solution...

With games is worse since this will have multiple audio tracks at once and this audio issue will just end up making the system/computer go mute.

Linux audio now sucks more than ever.


Claudio Kuenzler from Switzerland wrote on Feb 23rd, 2022:

Thanks José. Firefox was so far the idea because that is always the program which causes the audio crackling. But yes, there could be others. I will try the Pulseaudio restart as a workaround and will update here. Thanks for the hint.
And yes: I still experience the audio cracklings by the way after every boot.


José Ángel from wrote on Feb 23rd, 2022:

Sorry for write in spanish. I can read, more o less, in english, but is hard to me write it. I hope that your readeas can read spanish.

No tiene que ver con Firefox (también ocurre al lanzar Kontact mientras se reproduce audio). EL problema viene con PulseAudio. Como ese escritorio que usas me parece que no es muy mayoritario, yo recomendaría que sea en KDE, Gnome, Deepin, el que sea, los usuarios afectados lancen su gestor de procesos y finalicen al proceso "pulseaudio". PA se reiniciaría inmediatamente y una vez reinicien la aplicación que reproducía el audio, el sonido volverá a ser bueno.

Creo además que este fallo está presente sólo en arquitecturas AMD, y tiene ya varios años, pero no parece que nadie haya encontrado una solución :-(

Best regards.