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Weird Headphone Interference Noise on Linux Mint 17.3 - Mystery Solved

I've had a weird problem with headphones on my laptop for quite a while. I tried to figure it out a while back but gave up. Recently I took another look at it and finally figured out what the problem was. Maybe this post will help out other people who might have the same issue.

Here's what the problem was:

  • No issues with headphones when booting into Windows.
  • No issues when running Mint (or ElementaryOS) from a live USB stick.
  • When running Linux Mint 17.3 the headphones would make significant background noise when no sound was playing. When I played a video or music, the horrible background noise would go away while the media was playing but within a few seconds of the video ending, the background noise would come back.

I tried adjusting all mic and speaker levels in the sound control panel and alsamixer thinking that it might be an open mic or something, but it turns out it's a problem (I think) with power save mode kicking in on my sound card. Disabling power save mode has eliminated the problem.

Here are the relevant specs just for reference:

  • Dell Inspiron 15 7547 (i7)
  • Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon
  • Audio Controller: Realtek ALC3234

All that was required was to create a file (or edit if you already have one) containing a line to disable the parameter for audio power saving:

sudo mkdir -p /etc/pm/config.d
sudo gedit /etc/pm/config.d/snd_hda_intel

Then put the following line in the file:

INTEL_AUDIO_POWERSAVE=false

Save it and then reboot.

Fixed it for me. Hopefully it helps if you're having a similar issue.