Recording CRT sound effects


Hello everyone! My roommates and I recently decluttered the house. Once all the dust cleared, I found that we had 4 crt tv's that we're throwing out. Seeing them, I decided to hold on to them and use them for SFX fodder.

So my question- Are there any sounds that I should definitely try to record? I'll naturally be experimenting the entire time, but it'd be great to go into the recording session with a few ideas of sounds I'm going to capture.

I read this post from Jay Jennings, and it's given me some great ideas. However, since flourescent tubes and crt's are slightly different, I wanted your thoughts.

Thanks in advance!


Posted 2013-03-07T14:57:01.307

Reputation: 213



CRTs aren't going to be around or available for much longer, so doing a comprehensive recording of a few different models would be prudent. One day (in the not so distant future) people will say, 'hey there's a scene in my movie where a guy turns on one of those TV-box-type-thingys and I have no idea what they sounded like.' So, that said, here's a few thoughts:

  • Position as many mics as you can get for your session and do it in a quiet room. I'd lean towards condensers rather than dynamics since many of the sounds generated will be low in level and will contain lots of high frequency information. Record at the highest sample and bit rate available to you.

  • Go to a radio shack/other tech type store and pickup a variable voltage controller. Plug your TVs into it and start playing around with different amounts of power, underpowering and (carefully) overpowering the unit. You will probably get tons of great buzzes and squeals and who knows what else.

  • Definitely record any moving parts. They come in handy for all kinds of things, from cockpit switches to robot mech.

  • Use several contact mics.

  • Try recording with electromagnetic pickups.

  • Save the biggest and most destructive stuff for last. And remember that CRT stands for Cathode Ray Tube. That means there's CATHODE RAYS in those tubes. Whether or not they are hazardous to your health is debatable, I guess.

Jay Jennings

Posted 2013-03-07T14:57:01.307

Reputation: 15 432

@Jay very true. It seems hard drives are already reaching this threshold of evolution. Sure don't click and clack like they used to. – Stavrosound – 2013-03-07T22:11:00.027

@Jay That's an awesome idea with the variable voltage controller! I'm definitely going to try it! – Joel – 2013-03-09T15:43:28.823


If they are the old rotary dial ones definitely the knob clicks. If not there's always the buzz, any channels with static on them, and of course, smash em up! If you feel like it of course but they smash and make awesome sounds.

EDIT be super careful about smashing, see @Mark Durham's post below. Sorry!


Posted 2013-03-07T14:57:01.307

Reputation: 1 116

1I'd be a bit careful smashing up CRT's as they contain high voltage capacitors which carry charge for a long time after the screen is unplugged. I'm no expert in this, but there's enough warnings out there to dissuade me from trying it. Google "CRT Voltage Danger" and you'll see what I mean. – Mark Durham – 2013-03-07T18:08:11.233

The potentially greater danger in smashing a CRT is glass fragments flying around at pretty high velocities: a common occurrence in a vacuum tube IMplosion (especially with older tubes) – Stelios – 2013-03-08T14:02:01.130

Unfortunately @Dave, they're not old enough to have the rotary dials. I believe they are all circa 1990's crt's. I'll still get some good sounds out of them though! – Joel – 2013-03-09T15:42:27.243


If it can still be powered, try recording it various ways with an induction coil mic. Might yield some interesting buzzes, hums, and other noises especially when power it on and off and playing with adjustment dials.


Posted 2013-03-07T14:57:01.307

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Posted 2013-03-07T14:57:01.307

Reputation: 385


You can use it to test your high frequency hearing response! All CRTs output a whine just below 16k, have someone switch one on in another room without telling you & check to see if you can hear it.... that used to drive me crazy, the whine is very annoying & I was very happy to ditch my last CRT, but it was especially annoying when sounds were recorded in a room with a CRT display accidentally left on....


Posted 2013-03-07T14:57:01.307



And in the end...Hulk...smash!!!

Burning Eye Creative

Posted 2013-03-07T14:57:01.307

Reputation: 111