New Atom HE user, some white noise issues

Hi, I’m new to the forum.

I purchased a mu-so 2 1,5 years ago, then a QB2 for the kitchen, and -muso’s being the gateway drug was not a joke- now just got an atom HE. I am not a headphone user, I took the HE because it was a good deal on an open box and liked the potential upgrade possibilities.

Got a pair of hifiman sundaras to go with it -unbalanced cables for now-, and some active speakers that never made it home, because of the supply chain issues.

Now, the placement is not ideal, I’ve got a huge number of cables, wi-fi router, media server, the mu-so 2, all close together behind or below the tv, so I’m open to interpret these problems as interferences that a tidier setup would eliminate. Also, the electric installation is 40-50 years old so also a possible cause of noise. The atom HE, just like the muso, is wired to the router.

My doubts could very well a case of ignorance on my end, but I hope you can pull me out of it. I can’t help but noticing a hiss in some songs (not all), white noise, which make me wonder to which extent the noise is already in the recordings, or caused by the mu-so, or atom, or the jungle of cables behind them. In my there are some specific cases where noises (crackling etc. ) are embedded in the song to make it sound more vintage or whatever, but normally we should get perfectly clean tracks from a SNR perspective. I started thinking there was something wrong with the new gear, so I made some tests.

This is what I perceive:

Gotye – Somebody that I used to know. Very noticeable hiss from 0s throughout the whole song. Hiss is there in atom HE with the sundaras, from the listening position, also clearly audible through the muso when playing stand-alone, also when playing through muso 2 as amp and atom as pre (analogue input). Now I switch to spotify on my cheap mobile with cheap earbuds and away from the tv area: hiss is there. Is this a production technique then?

Other song examples where I noticed the same behaviour as above over the various equipment: Leon Bridges-Motorbike, Nils Frahm-Says

What’s your opinion, do you hear the same as I do? I lean towards deliberate production technique on Gotye’s and Leon’s tracks, bad recording on Nils?

Fleetwood Mac – Dreams 2010 remaster. Yeah that shouldn’t be really happening, clean production is expected there. The only difference here is that the noise through the muso is noticeable in near field, not so much in the listening position. Audible also through spotify on the cheap mobile.

In all cases pausing the reproduction results in no white noise.

On some other songs, I notice the noise but associated to other instruments, and not before (of after) that, usually it’s drums and vocals. It’s like a ghost image of the sound that follows right after the original one but is made of white noise.

I’ll provide an example which is actually not a song, noticeable in the spoken intro only, then disappears when the tone starts.

Audio check – 30Hz – 10 Db.

So, where do you think the problem might lie, are there tests you would suggest to rule out some causes? After testing my gear I think it’s pretty consistent across all devices (mu-so, atom), so I don’t think it’s particularly tied to the Atom + Sundara’s (I got pretty nervous with this after the first listening sessions). The recordings? God forbid: my hearing?

Some other tracks sound clean with a black background, so that makes me think it’s not interference, as it should show on any song I guess.

Some of those tests I ran unplugging not strictly necessary cables from the back of the Atom and also deactivating the wi-fi on the router: it didn’t get better.

So this is spoiling a bit my experience, as soon as the noise appears I get obsessive about it and it ruins my listening sessions.

Disclaimer: Don’t take any of those songs as my actual taste!

Thanks in advance for your help.

If the hiss is only while playing a recording as you describe, and different on different recordings, then I think it will be embedded in the recording - very possibly tape hiss from an original analogue tape and/or electronic noise from amplifiers etc. Hiss just before an instrument cuts in, or stopping just after it finishes, will be from either the separate recording of that instrument then mixed in, or if all laid down at the same time, from the electronics associated with that instrument, cut in then out after. I don’t know the specific recordings you’ve mentioned, but i have heard in some recordings. You should find other recordings have none.


It could well be from the recording or mastering chain. Many sources are analogue with attendant tape hiss, and any analogue mastering chain can add here, including mixes from originals tapes to final mix. Headphone listening, and certain headphones (including those Hifimans in my experience) can emphasise this.

Why not select a piece of music that you know for sure is digital all the way through with no unknown steps anywhere and minimal mastering or editing - many recent classical titles would probably fit the bill. Then see whether you still hear hiss spoiling things for you.


Thanks both.
I should have mentioned that all these observations have been made with the headphones at 80% volume level or so, which I guess falls in ear-bleeding zone.

I tried several tracks:

Bicep - Opal (four tet remix) on qobuz hi res , james blake - Limit to your love , qobuz–> Hiss is there, although less so than on the examples I provided on the same posts. I guess listening at reasonable volumes should make it barely noticeable.

Bishop Briggs Hi-Lo (Hollow), qobuz , Caribou - Can’t do without you, qobuz hi res → No noticeable hiss

All of them are fairly recent, so it would appear it depends on the recording?

Could it be that the new setup is too revealing? But somehow I would have expected this issue to be often reported in any music or hifi equipment oriented forum, and that doesn’t seem to be the case.

If the hiss is part of the instruments or the recording process (and it seems to be in your cases), most people consider it a part of the music / its production, I would think, so wouldn’t mention it in a review.

E.g., if you turn the volume up on a classic guitar amp to reach the distortion levels desired by the guitarist, it is simply not noiseless and I expect to hear it.

Same for tape hiss on analog recordings.

I have a quiet doom jazz CD bei Bohren & Der Club of Gore, named Geisterfaust, which is recorded very nicely and you can hear the hum of the power supply of the Rhodes piano. Again, part of the instrument and I wouldn’t want it any other way

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The Gotye track, at least, sounds like analogue recording noise to me. It repeats with the sample. I’d go with tape hiss - some of the samples date from 1967 (thanks google). How the samples are captured will also be significant - might even be a vinyl rip!

Great band, Black Earth is one of my favorite ‘acoustic ambient’ albums. :+1:

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I have all of them from Gore Motel until Dolores, I think. Sunset Mission is probably my favorite. Saw them play live once, on the Dolores tour I think, in the Kokerei Zollverein in Düsseldorf, a former coke oven plant, that was pretty atmospheric :slight_smile:

Awesome, Sunset Mission is great too yes!

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So what is the hiss like at normal listening levels? (Assuming ear-bleeding isn’t your norm!) And if you play the same tracks on the muso, sitting near it in a quiet room to get closer to the immediacy of headphones, and with it set at same sound level?

Thanks all for your replies.
At normal listening levels the hiss in the songs I mention is noticeable, although less bothering. Quite similar impressions getting close to the muso.
Not so much from listening position.
And noise levels are different depending on the song.
Gotye is say 8/10 but since it’s embedded in the song.
Bicep opal would be around 2/10, but being all electronic it shouldn’t be there.

Clearly nothing to do with the Atom, and as it is same on the Muso it isn’t because the Atom is more revealing - just that you have now noticed something and will keep hearing it!

Yes, the atom is not to blame. I had that more or less clear before writing this post, after all the tests.
However, 2 of the songs where I hear a hiss are all digital so I doubt the hiss is embedded in the songs like the other cases, and I suspect something else is generating it.
Any ideas? Can anyone confirm there is no hiss for them on the following songs:
Bicep - Opal (four tet remix)
james blake - Limit to your love

If that was the case, and the songs are not to blame, anyone has any idea on where the noise might be entering the system? Can it be a mains problem? The house I live in might have a very old installation, dating from the 80’s.
Mu-so has a lapp cable, Atom is still on stock cable.

Thanks in advance for your feedback.

With my ear to the speaker I hear a very slightly higher hiss level than idle in both Opal (four tet) and the Limit. Not in the original album version of Opal though. I don’t think you can assume that the manipulations of digital home recorders like Blake or Four Tet are always completely without artifacts.

In any case it is much more likely that a noise that consistently appears in particular recordings is part of the recordings, rather than a mysterious invasion that enters your home system only if you play these particular tracks

I might have missed it but have you tried listening at high volume with no music playing to see if it’s the unit?

Are you saying there is no electronic source of any kind being digitised, no microphones, no sampled sounds, everything entirely generated digitally? If so, then it may bear examination of what the digital generators are.

Exactly, that’s the thing. There is lots of samples, processed vocals, etc., at least on the Blake album (I only gave a brief listen to the Four Tet remix). So the assumption that the production is all completely noiseless is not correct. As for Blake, another track on the same album, Why Don’t You Call Me, is full of pops and crackles, seeming rather deliberate.

One of the “effects” on my keyboard is a vinyl sound, simulating surface noise. I can’t imagine why on earth anyone wants to add that, but clearly the do!

In the case of Blake, I think it’s digital glitches, the kind of thing that happens when you use digital tools in ways that are not in the manual, and suddenly you think it’s an interesting effect. Whole genres started this way :slight_smile:

And your keyboard’s vinyl sounds can give an old quality to recordings, kind of like how you hear the surface noise of the sampled vinyl records in rap productions. As with all things, there are good and bad ways to use it

All bad in my view, unless creating music for a film or play intended to sound as if vinyl is playing!