High pitch whistling coming through sound systems. Is it coil whine?

Coldplasma819

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Nov 19, 2013
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Hello all. For some reason I struggle to understand what coil whine exactly is. Does the sound actually come from the graphics card itself? Or is the sound transmitted, and is audible through sound systems like speakers or headsets? Whichever it is, I've run into this problem.

Today I got my MSI GTX 970 in the mail and I popped it in after fighting a clamp on my case. After all was said and done, everything seemed fine, until I decided to play Witcher 3. Before I started up the game, I had my external speakers on, low volume, and I didn't hear anything wrong. As soon as I pulled up my xonar dgx audio center and switched to headphones, and put them on, I heard it clear as day. A high pitched whistling noise that doesn't stop. Now for the headset volume, on the audio center itself, I have the volume set to 60, so the volume can't possibly be too loud.

At first I thought maybe it was because the sound card and the graphics card were too close to each other, as they are both taking up the first two PCI slots on my motherboard, the sound card first is in a PCIE slot. So I decided to move the sound card down to the PCIE 4 slot, and restarted my computer. The whistling was gone, but so was my sound all-together. When I tried scanning for hardware in device manager, and even installing the audio drivers, it wasn't recognized that the sound card was in the PCIE-4 slot. Putting the sound card back into the PCI-E 1 slot yielded the same results, even after the reinstallation of the drivers. I don't know if moving the graphics card would do any good, although I guess I could try to move it down to the secondary PCI slot, albeit it would be sitting on top of my PSU practically. Im at a loss, and really, I can't game at all until this problem is fixed, because the whistling is just god awful irritating with my headset on.

Here are my specs, just in case:
Mobo: AsRock Z77 Extreme 4
PSU: Corsair TX 750
CPU: Intel i7-3770k
GPU: MSI GTX 970 4G
Soundcard: Xonar DGX
OS: Windows 10 Pro

I know the issue isn't being caused by my headset or my speakers, because they were working fine just last night when I had my GTX 760 in.

Thanks.
 

InvalidError

Titan
Moderator
As I said earlier, it might be the PSU, CPU or GPU, quite possibly a mix of the three since they all interact with each other via the 12V supply and ground noise. Any noise any component puts on the 12V rail ends up on the inputs of another component and cause its PWM circuitry to fail to fully settle under some circumstances and you end up hearing noises. Change any one variable and the noise's characteristics will change.

Instead of using your fancy sound card, you could also try the built-in sound, just to see if it might fare any better. If the on-board audio is fine, then it is quite possible your sound card might be more susceptible to noise than it should be.
 

InvalidError

Titan
Moderator
Coil whine is when inductors in power supplies vibrate from magnetostriction - you are directly hearing inductors vibrate. Although less common, there is also a piezoelectric effect that can affect ceramic capacitors and cause them to whine too.

If you only hear the noise through your headphones or speakers regardless of how far away from your GPU you install it, your sound card must be picking up noise from the power supply. Your GPU might be putting too much noise on the rail or your PSU might be having issues with the new GPU. What brand and model is it?
 

Coldplasma819

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I'm not quite sure what exactly you're asking the brand and model for, but for PSU I have a Corsair TX 750, the GPU is an MSI GeForce GTX 970 4G, and the soundcard is an Asus Xonar DGX.
 

Coldplasma819

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Update: When I play Witcher 3 on perhaps the most highest settings, the whistling stops in some areas, in fact, perhaps the whistling stops when the fans kick on, comes around when the fans are at an idle stand-still. When the fans are on however, a low buzzing comes in, and while it's not as nearly irritating as the whistling, it's still noise that I can pick up and hear through my headset and speakers.
 

InvalidError

Titan
Moderator
Sorry, missed the PSU when I read your OP.

In any case, I'm still sticking to power/ground contamination by fast switching transients ("noise on the rails") from either the GPU or PSU as the most likely cause of your audio output noise and there isn't much you can do about it other than try swapping out the PSU, GPU or possibly the motherboard.

Part of it may also be caused by common-mode noise if you have weak ground connections between pieces of equipment.

People hearing whining sounds on audio outputs after upgrading their GPU is not uncommon but there is not a whole lot that can be done about it aside from swapping parts to find a combination that does not do it or just use USB-based audio which is far less susceptible to noise from within the system.
 

Coldplasma819

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Is there a possibility that maybe the GPU has to be 'broken in'? And that the coil whine will eventually stop at some point? Otherwise, the only thing I can think to do is maybe RMA the card and hope for the best. I really wasn't expecting having to put in a new PSU, despite the one I have being 2 years old roughly. The motherboard is only a year and a half old too.
 

InvalidError

Titan
Moderator
You can try the burn-in if you want to, it might work if you are lucky.

A couple of months ago, there was someone with a Corsair AX1200 who had issues with whine on the GPU, RMA'd the GPU a few times, they all did the same thing. He RMA'd the PSU a few times, no difference. The only thing that fixed it was using a different brand PSU.

What causes the electrical noise within the computer is not necessarily a single component on its own, it can be how a few components, such as the CPU VRM, GPU VRM and PSU interact with each other. Some combinations are just not meant to be.

A decent sound card should be quite capable of dealing with most of the noise typically found inside a PC. If you have weak ground connections between equipment connected to your PC though, you may have common-mode noise going through the sound card. To see if that might be your problem, disconnect all non-essential equipment from your PC, power everything that is left from a single decent quality power strip, only leave your headphones plugged into the sound card and see if the whine goes away now that you eliminated all unnecessary external ground loops and tied everything to the same ground. If the whine goes away, then you know there is a high probability it was caused by external noise currents.
 

Coldplasma819

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I'll have to try that when I get home, although I might need a more simplified explanation just so I don't screw anything up.

There's this thing with the sound card though since you mentioned bad grounds? The sound card sits in the PCIE slot, but it shifts around a little bit. It's never caused a problem before, and I don't know why it would now, but. It definitely sits more firmly in the PCIE 4 slot, and that would work out well if only the mobo would recognize that the soundcard is there. Would it also be worth mentioning that the noise wasn't around before I upgraded to Windows 10? I don't see how that could be the reason either, but I'm evaluating all possible issues.
 

Coldplasma819

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Ok InvalidError, I've got a couple things I'm going to try. First off, I'm going to borrow a soundcard from a friend of mine and perhaps see if it's the soundcard that's causing the issue. The DGX isn't old, but I presume it's a little more outdated than sound equipment you'd probably see on the market today. Also, to note, when I run the program pictured here: http://i.imgur.com/zDP3MW8.jpg MSI's Kombuster, the whistling INSTANTLY stops. So this just further makes me think that the noise is coming from the video card, since it stops when it is put under load. Of course, for a few seconds after I closed the Kombuster program, ALL noise stopped... and then the whistling came back.
 

InvalidError

Titan
Moderator
As I said earlier, it might be the PSU, CPU or GPU, quite possibly a mix of the three since they all interact with each other via the 12V supply and ground noise. Any noise any component puts on the 12V rail ends up on the inputs of another component and cause its PWM circuitry to fail to fully settle under some circumstances and you end up hearing noises. Change any one variable and the noise's characteristics will change.

Instead of using your fancy sound card, you could also try the built-in sound, just to see if it might fare any better. If the on-board audio is fine, then it is quite possible your sound card might be more susceptible to noise than it should be.
 

Coldplasma819

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It was indeed my soundcard picking up some interference. I'm going to close this thread and start a more appropriate one in the soundcard forum to see if there's any type of solution to this problem, or if I should buy a different one altogether. Thanks for your support InvalidError!

 
Sep 16, 2019
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Replying to this in case anyone new is looking for a solution or cause.
I have a gigabyte motherboard b365 and xfx rx580 graphics card.
Under load coil whine somehow gets its way into the audio.
What I can guess its because the motherboard is mATX so the graphics card is fairly close to the Audio dedicated capacitors and somehow it interferes with the audio.
MY PSU is a G750H and I've swapped almost all components to check where the problem is.
Therefore I've returned my motherboard and bought a new bigger ATX asus z390p motherboard.

All in all, all GPU cards nowadays have coil whine but the motherboard should shield it so it wont get in the audio path, but it does not on some versions.
 

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