Randomly — I mean, it can not do it for weeks but then it will start doing it randomly for hours or days — any sound played through one of the two headphones I use will be ruined by crackling noise. Of course, it it only happens with the headphones I prefer to use when I listen to music, the one that uses a standard wired/jack connector. Using the USB headphones, I have yet to notice the issue but since I barely use it I can not be affirmative. BTW, using the exact same setup under windows, before my switch to Linux, I never noticed anything like that.
This workaround seems to do the trick, despite being nine years old if not more. You will need to edit
/etc/pulse/default.pa as sudo to replace
load-module module-udev-detect with
load-module module-udev-detect tsched=0, and reboot the computer.
So far, it looks like it has solved the problem.
Update, April 4th: No luck. Cracklings are back.