Let’s be honest
All of us have all cranked up our car sound systems far beyond the recommended threshold a few times. Listening to your favourite song or album just isn’t the same without it blasting through the sound waves. Ultimately, over time loud play puts pressure on the speaker cones which vibrate rapidly and can therefore get damaged.
When a speaker blows, the cone is generally coming unhitched from its moorings, until eventually, it is completely torn and ceases to provide a nice or even decent sound. We take a look at what causes a speaker to blow, how to avoid it and what to do if this happens to you.
The Dirty Distortion
Contrary to popular belief, distortion does not cause speaker damage. Distortion is merely the result and audible detection of signal “clipping”. Clipping is when an audio component can no longer provide enough power supply voltage to “cleanly” amplify the audio signal.
Electrically overpowering a speaker is caused by continually playing the audio system loud, resulting in applying more power to the speaker than its “rated” specifications. This is what causes speaker voice coils to “burn”.
Blown speakers can often be bass speakers or subwoofers, even though they control other audio ranges. If a subwoofers is fully blown, the thudding bass sound will be replaced by a hugely annoying rattling sound, or no sound at all. Subwoofers can be blown either by electrical or mechanical power handling issues, or a combination of both of these.
Electrical failure occurs when applying to much power to the subwoofer(s) and causes the voice coil(s) to “burn”. This can be the result of incorrect gain settings or improperly wired subwoofers, which can cause a low impedance load on the amplifier.
Mechanical failure occurs when the speaker physically rips and/or tears. Improper enclosure size is the primary cause of mechanical failure. As a general rule, always try to stay within +/- 25% of the manufacturer’s recommended enclosure volume (DB) to ensure best performance.
Tweeters, midrange & midbass speakers
Failure in tweeters, and mids can also be caused by either electrical, mechanical failures or a combination of both. Most of these types of failures occur from ELECTRICAL failure by applying too much power to the speaker’s voice coil.
Constant over-powering results in “burned” voice coils. The only fix for this is to reduce the amplifier gain controls and/or treble/bass boost controls or not to drive your audio system so hard. MECHANICAL failures occur by using the wrong crossover point for the speaker. Usually, too low of frequency applied to a small suspension type driver (tweeter/midrange) can physically cause the speaker surround to delaminate.
3 Quick Ways to Blow Your Speaker
1 – Puncture the speaker’s outer cone during the installation process. This is another common way to blow out a speaker. Once a hole is made in the speaker cone, it is essentially permanently blown out, so exercise extreme caution if you are installing your own speakers. Be careful of inexperienced audio installations!
2 – Turn the volume of your stereo way past a reasonable level. This is one of the most common ways that a car’s speakers can blow out, particularly if your car is not equipped with speakers designed with reflexive Kevlar cones.
3 – Turn your stereo system’s bass frequencies higher than normal (in other words, higher than the treble frequency is set to) without a subwoofer installed. This will also cause your speakers to blow out quickly.
Since most car cabin speakers are designed specifically to handle treble frequencies (with lower bass frequencies sent to the larger subwoofer speakers in a typical speaker system), excessive amounts of bass frequencies being played through cabin speakers can cause them to blow out fairly quickly.
How to tell if your speakers are blown
Turn on your audio system and play your favourite tunes. Be sure that the song you select has a full sound range. In order to test your full set of speakers correctly a track that has both low and high range will do best and will quickly inform you if a certain range is missing.
Turn up the volume. If the volume is too low, it is hard to hear if a speaker has blown. Adjust the bass and treble settings while the music is playing. This is to be sure that your system is bringing out all of the tonal colours and frequencies.
Listen hard! You know what the song should sound like! If something doesn’t sound right to you or it just does not sound how it did when you first installed the sound system, you know you have blown a speaker.
It may be helpful at this stage to ask a second set of ears to take a listen too, just to be sure you aint hearing things.
Listen for rattling. It is common to know that if your speaker is blown you will most likely hear shaking, rattling and irritating tearing sounds.
For the technical minded – get a multi-meter tester, this simple electronic tool will help you check a speaker more technically.
Last but not least – for all Repairs, Fitments & Best Car Audio Customisation-