Can Headphones Pick Up Radio Waves: Detailed Breakdowns

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Feeling stressed, you just want to relax by listening to music so you put on your headphones and play your favorite songs on the computer. But to your surprise, aside from the familiar tunes, you could also hear other sounds. You decide to listen to the odd sounds closely and after several minutes, you realize that they somewhat resemble music that a radio station in your neighborhood tends to play. Many people experience the same phenomenon and like you, they also wonder to themselves: “can headphones pick up radio waves?”

Totally clueless about what is going on with your headphones? If that happens to be the case then you have come to the right place. Down below, you would be provided with essentially everything you must keep in mind about why headphones could pick up radio waves and how to put an end to that. 

The Root Of The Issue that Can Headphones Pick Up Radio Waves: Radio Frequency Interferences (Abbreviation: RFI)

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To put it plainly, RFI take place once unwanted audible signals that get into particular sound systems using radio frequencies. Sources of RFI often include radio stations (AM and FM), walkie-talkie, cellphones and more. RFI manifest themselves under lots of forms: buzzes, speeches, songs,.. In addition to that, the only thing that is common between the manifestations of RFI in sound systems is that people don’t desire them. In fact, RFI usually causes a great deal of frustration. 

RFI don’t require much to take place: radio signal travels constantly travel through the air looking for receiving antennas. The antennas could be pieces of wires, metal beams, nails,… Actually, even slightly faulty solder joints could serve as excellent receiving antennas for radio signals. Still, if the receiving antennas lack detectors that could transmit signals into audios, nothing happens. On the other hand, if the antennas have detectors, it’s possible to hear sounds. 

Needless to say, the construction of headphones leaves them rather vulnerable to RFI, especially if strong sources of radio signals happen to be located nearby. If you use headphones designed for mobile phones, the interferences should be even worse as such headphones tend to be engineered to serve as antennas.   

Eliminating The Interferences: Available Options

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So can headphones pick up radio waves? Yes, they can. Then what about preventative measures? Well, you indeed have a couple of choices to make your headphones immune to roaming radio signals in the atmospheres. 

  • Consider Picking Up RF Chokes: Made from various ferrite materials, RF chokes would proceed to choke off all invading radio signals without compromising audio signals. You should be able to find such choke in most hardware stores these kinds of days and they come at relatively affordable prices as well. Just remember that once you installed the RF chokes on your headphones, expect to be unable to listen to FM radio station with your phone. 
  • Add Extensions To The Cable: As a rule of thumb, the longer the radio antenna, the stronger the receiving signal. Nonetheless, if you fit in extensions that don’t resonant with the signal frequencies, you could markedly dampen the sound.  So if you keep hearing odd sounds from your headphones, it’s wise to extend its cable a bit then see how things turn out. 
  • Buy Headphones With Shielded Cables: Most people that experience RFI issues while wearing headphones often use models with poor shielding. If you want to put an end to the interferences and enjoy your music undisturbed, grab headphones with shielded cables. 

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Radio Frequency Interferences In Daily Life

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  • So should I think of EMI (Electromagnetic Interferences) as RFI? 

In layman’s term, EMI is a disturbance caused by electromagnetic emissions originates from manmade as well as natural sources. All in all, it’s generally fine to refer to EMI as RFI in the case frequencies of the waves stay on the radio spectrum. 

  • Just what kinds of effects I could expect of RFI? 

As the name suggests, Radio Frequency Interferences would interfere with the operations of electronics which degrade performance as a whole. In a couple of cases, the interferences even change the operating frequencies of affected electronics. 

  • How many types of RFI people tend to face nowadays? 

RFI could be classified into two types: narrowband and broadband

    • Narrowband: RFI of the type usually comes from intended transmission such as radio and TV stations, television and so on.  If you ask yourself questions like “can headphones pick up radio waves?” then you must have run into narrowband RFI. 
    • Broadband: RFI of the type happen to be caused by unintentional radiations from certain sources such as power transmission lines
  • How do I tell if particular electronics could resist RFI? 

These kinds of days, the International Special Committee for Radio Interference (French acronym: CISPR) set out international standards for radio interferences in commercial, industrial, … electronics. In order to know if your electronics have the ability to withstand RFI, all you have to do is to check out its interference standard.

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