Overcoming crackly speakers on laptop

Dell XPS 15 9560
Windows 10 Home - 21H1 (OS Build 19043.1706)

Audacity 2.3.2

(I realise Audacity should be updated and have downloaded 3.1.3 but can’t install it yet, as it requires other progs to be closed.)

I record live wildlife webcams 24/7, mainly from YouTube, and edit out clips for uploading to YouTube and posting on relevant forums. I use Audacity to amplify sound and/or reduce noise, mainly - occasionally to fix a sync problem with much trial and error.

A week or so ago my laptop’s speakers suddenly devloped buzzing & crackling, it was impossible to listen to anything. I thought I’d solved it by buying a small, basic USB soundbar, and I almost had, except… !!!

When I import the audio into Audacity it plays the buzz/crackle - which are not apparent when playing the video in VLC, and I’ve had a friend test the YouTube video on his devices and the sound is fine for him, too. It makes it rather difficult to edit audio when I can’t hear it accurately - can anyone think of a solution? I’ve been googling and came across WASAPI for recording from external speakers, but I don’t have it and I get the impression it’s not supposed to be used in Windows 10.

Maybe someone can advise?

If Windows is trying to do an update, that can cause major problems with crackles and pops due to Windows making increased demand on the computer resources.

The first thing that I would do it to manually run Windows update as many times as is necessary for Windows to be fully updated, then reboot the computer and wait until it is full booted (wait until disk access has dropped to a very low level and CPU use has stabilised).