Broken speakers can be frustrating, regardless of whether they’re car speakers, studio speakers monitors, guitar amplifiers, or a cheap computer or TV sound system. It’s even more frustrating when you realize that you could have saved the speaker if it was caught early enough.
A matching pair of stereos is what we are looking for most often. This can be costly if you’re trying to replace two.
It’s likely that you have an indication that your speaker is not working properly. You could have an issue with the power amplifier stage or blow out your speaker. Once you have a clear understanding of the situation, we’ll fix it. I’ll also give professional guidance as to how to proceed.
This one will be simple and not get too technical. If you don’t already have a good knowledge of the topic, you won’t be searching it anyways. This is for regular people, not studio engineers.
How to tell if a speaker is blown
You will often hear the term blow speaker to refer to any subwoofer, tweeter, or woofer that isn’t sounding right or not working properly. While it may not be a big deal if the headphones are cheap or in a car, it can make a huge difference if your amp is playing at gigs.
Without getting too technical, it can be called a “blown out speaker” if:
- It causes distortion
- Does not make any sound
- The cone is physically torn
A bad or unpleasant sound could be caused by a problem with your power source, or a tear in the cone which can lead to more serious problems. An electrical problem is when there’s no sound being made. Another possibility is that you have gain stage problems (described below).
It’s a problem if you aren’t sure about it. The change in audio quality can be subtle. It’s important to spot it early so that it doesn’t get worse. Let’s discuss the sound quality of a bad speaker.
What does a blown speaker sound like?
Consider the rock era of the 1960’s and 70’s when Jimi Hendrix used distortion pedals, overdrive, and fuzz pedals to extreme levels. The original source of the buzzing sound was created by intentionally playing through a speaker equipped with a torn cone.
This is the sound that you are probably hearing, but it’s at a subtler level. The sound is similar to a group of bees buzzing about or a scratching sound that’s interspersed with other audio. You’re probably familiar with digital clipping if you’ve ever heard it.
This distortion could be hidden in the audio, making it subtle and difficult to hear. Another reason is the noise may be produced by the same pitch as the music or the voices being played back.
If it isn’t obvious, you’ll need to pay attention. You can muffle the rest of the speakers to only listen to the problem one. This can be done using the panning settings on your car’s radio, your receiver’s receiver, and your digital sound workstation software.
What blows out a speaker?
Let’s first discuss the problem. The problem boils down to too much power and electrical energy. It can happen in any of the three stages, or all three.
- Hot source material
- Volume controls
Let me explain each scenario and how it occurs, as well as the exact cause.
MOST COMMON – ABUSED EQUUALIZATION & VOLUME
Most cases, especially with automotive speakers or entertainment system speaker, the equalization system is misused before turning up the music very loudly.
If you navigate to your subwoofer settings, turn it up while increasing the bass and decreasing the middle frequencies, then turn the volume up, you can easily tear the cone off your subwoofer.
This is true for all four speakers. These speakers are intended to be used at different volumes, even at very high volumes. However, if the frequency response is altered using the equalizer settings beyond the normal use range, it can easily blow out the speaker at very high volumes.
MISMATCHED SPEAKERS AND AMPLIFIER POTENTIAL ARE LESS COMMON
You could overpower or underpower the speakers at your amplifier if you don’t pay attention to the specifications when setting up your sound system. These scenarios can lead to clipping which causes unnatural movement of cones and coils. However, each has its own dangers.
Overpowered speakers can also cause distortion due to amplifier clipping. This is a problem because the audio output is being produced more like a sine wave rather than a square wave. It can cause distortion in the audio and decrease speaker life.
The effect is that you increase the power rating of your source material and amp, which causes audio clipping. This exact distortion occurs with an overpowered speaker, but the speaker-lever is being driven too hard.
Both cases will result in an increase in average power, which can cause heat damage to the coils. Your speakers may eventually stop functioning. Thermal failure is common due to overheating. It is rarely a mechanical failure.
Overpowered speakers can cause cones to move out of their normal range of motion and in such a violent, repetitive manner that they tear the cone. This happened to me with a subwoofer that I borrowed from a friend. He decided to use the EQ on his radio to test it.
This is not an issue for guitar amplifiers or similar instruments. These problems won’t happen because they’re made in such a manner.
HOT SOURCE MATERIAL – VERY RARE
This problem was not uncommon even in the age of making mixtapes and burning CDs. Source material is the mp3 files that you would play from a CD or via your smart phone’s aux cable.
They will be played at max volume on a smart phone, or burned to CD. This is a good way to gain staging. Some people found that they could enhance the bass by altering the audio files on their computer before burning the CD/uploading to their phones.
They did nothing more than introduce clipping to the source material before the amplifier and speakers. Clipping can be a problem at all listening volumes, but it is more severe at higher volumes. This is very rare. You’re fine as long as you don’t alter the source material.
For people who listen to music on a computer, it is important to be aware of software programs that allow you to increase the volume upto 200%-300%. This is the problem I am referring to. Do not do this, turn up the speakers.
This image will help you understand why it is so problematic. But, if this is too much for you, please read our article on Gain and Volume to learn more about the differences and how they can harm your sound system.
Signs of a Blown Speaker
Here are some issues that can occur if your speaker is damaged. These issues will be subtler than others and can vary depending on how badly damaged the unit is.
Distortion at Normal Volumes If you can hear static, hiss, and fuzz even at moderate volumes, you may have one of two issues. Either your voice coils are damaged or missing, or you may have a torn con. The problem will worsen if you increase the volume.
No Cone Vibration The cone of a speaker moves quickly to move air around and create sound. It is not vibrating regardless of volume. It could be a loose wire or a problem with the speaker assembly.
Incomplete Frequency response A blown woofer is likely to have an incomplete or inaccurate frequency response. This could be a sign that the speaker is producing less high and bass frequencies than other speakers in the set.
Rattling and popping – Beyond the usual distortion, you can hear pops from blown tweeters, rattling cone fabrics, or misbehaving voice coils. It’s important to pay attention, especially if you are certain that it isn’t a problem with the source material. For example, a CD skipping after you downloaded the album as mp3 files.
Infinite Impedance at the Coils– Technically inclined people can use a multimeter to measure the impedance at a voice coil. If the impedance is almost infinite, you have an electrical problem. For most cases, it should be between 4 and 10 ohms.
Blown Speaker Test
If there is no sound, it could be a shorted or disconnected wire. This is how to tell if your speaker has a problem.
TEST #1 – VISUALLY CHECK THE CONE
To visually inspect the cone, first remove the grill. You don’t have to test anything if the cone appears to be ripped or separated from the foam surrounding its outer diameter.
This foam will naturally dissolve over time and can be a problem if you don’t abuse your sound system. It could be that your sound system is old and has lost its ability to function properly.
If this is the case, I would replace them all. You can’t fix one without making the next one croak. They all likely have spiders in their homes, bug carcasses, and maybe even a lizard skull.
TEST #2 – LISTEN CLOSELY TO DETERMINE
We’ll return to the topic of purposeful distortion. This is currently done by pushing too hot a signal through a speaker (digitally, analog or at the vacuum tube, depending on your device). This could be a problem with gain staging.
If you don’t have the music from an official source such as a CD or blu-ray disc, you can run the test again using a file that you are certain hasn’t been modified by anyone. You might be experiencing too much gain with the version that you have.
If you experience distortion at moderate volumes in any cones or tweeters, it is likely that you have a problem. To determine which woofer is toast, listen carefully to each one. You can find one by listening carefully to each individual woofer. Then, read on for my advice.
TEST #3 – PLAYBACK AND RECORD
To determine if there is a problem, you will need to listen carefully. You can play a perfect sinewave through your speakers and record it using an excellent microphone. However, this requires an anechoic chamber (or at the very least a nice recording studio with lots of acoustic treatment).
This is obviously not possible for 99.9%. This may be possible if you are in a professional recording environment or listening environment. Your speakers may not faithfully reproduce the original sound if there is any distortion.
How to fix a broken speaker
Can you fix a blown speakers? This is a common question, but it’s not recommended. Do-it-yourself speaker repair is often quick and easy. It’s not recommended for speakers that aren’t of the highest quality, like your 20-year old car.
Silicon rubber gel can be used to glue your cone back together if it has separated from the fabric. You should use flexible silicon rubber gel to glue your cone back together. This gel is available in tubes, similar to a caulk, at Walmart, Home Depot and other hardware stores.
Some will go so far as to use a needle and thread to fix the cone. Then, they’ll glue it up with regular general purpose glue. You can probably see why this is a bad idea.
If the sound is not coming from one speaker, trace the wires back to the amplifier. If that doesn’t solve it, you may have a problem in the coils. It doesn’t matter if you are a competent electrician.
A professional repairman would be able to fix expensive sound systems such as those in churches, auditoriums, or in your best studio monitors. They are cheap enough to be replaced if they are car or computer speakers.
How to Deal with a Bloated Speaker
There are two options: repair and replacement. In the section above, I gave guidance on when I would attempt to repair them myself or hire a professional. You will most likely need to replace the entire set.
This is because speakers are expensive enough to need repair. Re-coning is the solution. Re-coning is not just replacing the cone, but also the whole assembly including the voice coil. If you’re talking sensitive flat frequency response monitors, then you don’t have a stereo pair.
Fix the cone assembly if you’re talking about 10 speakers in an auditorium. You can just replace your $30 headphones and computer speakers by buying a new set. It will be a pleasant change that will make you happy and save you tons of money.
That was all she wrote. My advice in most cases is to listen to the distortion at normal levels, look at the cone, and if you find any signs that your speaker may be damaged, pay the money to replace it. A DIY repair will make you happier than a hack job.