Followed this thread, had all the same problems. Got it to sound a bit better.
Windows 10, opened start menu, typed "defender" to open the Windows Defender Security Center. Wne to "App & Browser control" , Scrolled to bottom and clicked "Exploit protection settings", At top changed to "Program Settings", Hit "Add program to customize", Add program by name "Spotify.exe", and in the window that pops up (Or scroll down to your new addition) Check the box for every item....to Override the system settings, and turn them all to off. Rebooted spotify, and the crackling is much better for me at least.
Had some diffuse crackling here too. Mostly in Spotify, a little less in winamp, nothing in games. Strange thing it happened in the exakt same spots in songs so for a while I just thought it was bad recordings or added noise but it was not. What solved it for me was actually to update the BIOS of my Asus Z170 motherboard. Had an old version 1904 and the latest as of writing, v.34xx (something) made it go away 100%. Posting here just in case it helps someone. (PC/Windows 10)
Ugh.... After reinstall not once, not twice, but three times the crackling still continued. I have a top tier HD Audio motherboard since I refuse to buy receivers, amps, ets... After throwing a few things blurting out a few curses and my dog staring at me like an A$$hole. Want to know what fixed it? No not the bluetooth fix. No not the Device Manager Fix. But making sure your audio device is plugged into the audio outlet and not the mic outlet.......... Have a good one everyone
Hey there Stopaftertrack! Thanks for taking the time just to letting me know, feels good to know my post actually helped someone. I too was almost going mad about this. I use the optical output and could really never imagine this kind of crackling could be "produced" by the motherboard and that on a digital output... Longshot but it worked.
Updated the Spotify app on my Samsung S7 Active. Bluetooth speaker, a Harmon Kardon, was working fine, today had the stuttering, all songs - playing through Alexa (Echo.) Right now, all working fine with update. Will see if it lasts. So far, so good.