I am listening to the radio, but due to some signal error there are lots of disturbances in the music. What word can I use for this unclear and noisy music?

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    Is it the music itself or the radio signal? The latter is called 'static'. – Mitch May 16 '12 at 16:29
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    Describe in detail how the music over the radio is unclear and noisy. That will help a lot in finding a particular word to describe it. For instance, the pitch might be modulated up and down by some strange single side band doppler effect. Or the volume might fade in and out. Or there might be a lot of hiss and crackle. – Bobbi Bennett May 16 '12 at 17:06
  • ... Or a bug on the speaker's papercone. – Kris May 16 '12 at 19:53
  • Also see answers in Term for buzzing or hissing sound often created by vibration and Can sound be blurry re distortion. – James Waldby - jwpat7 May 17 '12 at 2:29

The signal is poor, the music is hazy, indistinct.

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It depends on the actual nature of the sounds you are hearing.

Music that is tough to make out because the sounds aren't as sharp and crisp as they should be is called "muddy" (or sometimes "undermodulated").

Music that is tough to make out because of overlaid noise is... well noisy. However, sound folks have all kinds of different names for different kinds of noise. There's hiss and hum and pops. Tapes can exhibit a certian kinds of noise called wow and flutter. Bad radio reception (as Mitch mentioned in the comments) contains static.

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I don't know if there's a good technical term, but I often hear people describe such radio signals as "choppy" or "staticky" (meaning there is a lot of noise in the signal that sounds like static).

You could also call it "noisy" (as in "this is a noisy transmission") to mean the signal-to-noise is low, but I suspect many people would be confused as calling a sound "noisy" also has a more common meaning that the sounds has a very loud volume (even if signal is very clear).

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    The correct spelling would be "staticky". – Igby Largeman May 16 '12 at 16:37
  • @IgbyLargeman Good call! It’s scandalous how kids are no longer taught (or at least, demonstrably no longer learn) the rules for proper spelling under various inflections. I hate reading “∗picniced” and “∗demosaiced” and “today’s ∗funnys” and “Typhoid ∗Marys”, all of which are totally wrong. Why can’t little Johnny spell? 😢 – tchrist May 16 '12 at 20:54

Maybe interference is the word you are looking for? "The music had a lot of interference."

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distortion noun

distort verb

Electronics. to reproduce or amplify (a signal) inaccurately by changing the frequencies or unequally changing the delay or amplitude of the components of the output wave.




harsh discordance of sound; dissonance:


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adj. disagreeable to the sense of hearing: dry, grating, harsh, hoarse, rasping, raspy, raucous, rough, scatchy, squawky, strident.

Hence, 'a jarring sound'.

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