What Causes Distortion in Speakers and How to Fix It

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Have you ever turned up your music a little too loud and noticed distortion in speakers? Speakers are an essential part of any audio system, whether a home stereo or a large PA system. However, if not matched properly to the amplifier, they can distort severely. Distortion in your speakers or music can kill the mood and lower the quality of your listening experience.

But don’t worry, there are ways to fix distortion in speakers. This article will discuss what causes distortion in speakers and how to fix it.

What Is Distortion in Speakers?

What Is Distortion in Speakers?

Distortion in your speakers is a condition that results when the speaker is unable to produce an accurate reproduction of the original signal. It occurs when the speaker cone moves too far forward or backward, which causes the sound waves to overlap and create new frequencies. It creates a muddy or distorted sound that can be unpleasant to listen to.

Speaker distortion is the audible distortion we perceive in the speaker’s sound. This isn’t often visible to the casual listener, but it’s what we’re dealing with when we talk about speaker distortion.

▶How to Differentiate Distortion from Noise?

Distortion is not the same as noise. Noise is a random signal that contains no useful information. In the majority of the cases, it’s an outer signal that’s blended in with the original signal. While distortion is an unwanted change in the waveform of a signal. It means that noise can be reduced or eliminated through filtering, while distortion is an intrinsic property of the signal and can’t be eliminated without changing the signal itself.

▶How Does Distortion in Speakers Sound Like?

Distortion in speakers usually sounds like a muddy, unclear sound. It can also make your music sound harsh or piercing. In some cases, it can even cause the music to sound quieter than it should be.

▶Is Distortion Bad For Speakers?

Distortion is not inherently bad for speakers. In fact, it’s often used in audio equipment to create the desired effect. However, too much distortion can damage the speaker and cause it to fail.

So, in most cases, a little distortion won’t affect the speaker. Instead, it will simply sound horrible. We can consider audible distortion as a caution indicator that damage is possible, even if it isn’t always the case.

What Causes Distortion in Speakers?

distortion in speakers

Speaker distortion might be common. However, the root of the problem is not always easy to identify. Several factors can cause distortion in speakers, including:

📣Listening to Music at High Volumes

It will distort when you play music or sound at a higher volume than the speaker is designed to handle. It is because the speaker can’t handle the increased power and will begin to produce distortion as a result.

📣Incorrect Speaker Placement

If you place your speakers in an incorrect location, it can cause them to distort. For example, if you place the speaker too close to a wall or object, the sound waves will bounce off the object and create distortion.

📣Using Low-Quality Cables or Connectors

If you use low-quality cables or connectors to connect your speakers to your amplifier, it can cause them to distort. It is because the low-quality cables won’t be able to handle the increased power and will begin to produce distortion as a result.

Also, If you are using the wrong cables to connect your speakers, it can cause distortion. Incorrect cabling can also damage your speakers, so be sure to use the correct cables for your system.

📣Bad Speaker Design

Some speakers are simply designed to distort at high volumes. It is often done to create a “loud” sound, but it can result in unpleasant distortion when the speaker is pushed too hard. Also, cheaper speakers are not built to handle the power and stresses of extended use. Over time, this can cause them to produce distortion.

📣Circuitry Issues

If there are any problems with your speaker’s circuitry, it can cause distortion. It might be caused by a problem with the power supply, the amplifier, or another component in the system.

📣Bad or Faulty Speaker Components

Your equipment can fail in several ways. It can cause your speakers to produce distortion. Some common problems include:

◼️Faulty or Damaged Crossover Networks:  These networks in your speakers split the audio signal into different frequencies. If they are damaged or not working properly, it can cause distortion.

◼️Defective Tweeters:  Tweeters are small speakers that produce high-frequency sounds. If they are not working properly, they can distort the sound.

◼️Malfunctioning Woofers: Woofers are large speakers that produce low-frequency sounds. If they are not working properly, it can also distort the sound.

◼️Chipping Amplifiers:  If your amplifier is chipping or has other damage, it can cause distortion.

◼️Bad Capacitors:  Capacitors are small electronic components that store energy. If they are not working properly, they can distort the sound.

📣Too Much Sound Coming From the Source

If the sound source (like a CD player or turntable) is too loud, it can cause your speakers to distort. It is because the sound from the source is overpowering the speaker and causing it to produce distortion.

Also, when a signal is too hot, it means that the signal level is too high. It is most common whenever the sound source, such as a microphone or your speakers, has a lot of sound/audio. It causes the sound it sends into the system to be distorted.

How to Fix Speaker Distortion

Prior to fixing distortion in speakers, there are important details you need to know. The average volume of your event, the highest volume your speakers can manage, and the loudness of the event’s loudest part. Then, you can determine what kind of distortion you are experiencing.

There are three types of distortion: harmonic, intermodulation, and crossover.

❗Harmonic Distortion 

It is when the harmonics or overtones of a sound are changed. This type of distortion usually occurs when the amplifier is trying to create more power than it can handle.

❗Intermodulation Distortion 

It is when two frequencies mix and create a new frequency. This type of distortion usually occurs when two or more signals try to share the same space.

❗Crossover Distortion 

It is a form of distortion that is specific to loudspeakers. It is created when the frequency response of the speaker changes at different volumes. This type of distortion is often caused by bad design, incorrect cabling, or damage to the speaker.

Now that you have determined what type of distortion you are experiencing, you can begin to fix it.

Ways to Fix Distortion in Speakers

Turning down the volume is the simplest way to fix distortion in speakers. If somehow the source audio signal has inbuilt distortion, there isn’t much we can do apart from modifying the audio/song to prevent the speakers from being distorted.

Damaged speakers might also produce distorted sound. If this is the case, repairing or replacing the speakers might be the best solution. When a speaker is pushed to move farther than it was meant to, it might cause mechanical stress to its speaker, cone, or surround. It can often lead to distortion.

Photo credits: Mynewmicrophone.com

A speaker might risk thermal breakdown if too much electric power is given to the electrical components, such as lead wires, voice coils, and even crossovers circuits. By failing to disperse heat, amplifying the signal (raising the volume) might cause the inside components to burn or melt.

The physical impact may, of course, cause deformities and tears in speakers. It has something to do with how well the speakers are used physically. Repairs must be undertaken to fix the problems, reduce the distortion, and restore your speaker’s original sound quality.

The following are some of the repair works that are often done to reduce speaker distortion:

  1. Fixing the crossover network
  2. Replacing the electrical lead wires
  3. Replacing a burned/melted voice coil
  4. Re-coning

Let’s look at how to fix distortion in speakers using these methods.

#1 Fixing the Crossover Network 

A crossover network is responsible for splitting or dividing the frequencies of an audio signal. It sends specific frequencies to the appropriate drivers- tweeters, woofers, and midrange. When this network is damaged, it can cause crossover distortion.

The best way to fix crossover distortion is by replacing the crossover network. Take off the speaker grill and unscrew the screws that hold the network in place. The new crossover network can then be attached and screwed back into place. Make sure that you get the right replacement part for your speaker.

Safety Tip: Always unplug your speakers before working on them.

#2 Replacing Electrical Lead Wires 

The electrical lead wires are what connect the amplifier to the speaker. When these wires are damaged, they can distort the sound.

Replacing the electrical lead wires is a simple process. All you need to do is remove the old wires and replace them with new ones. Make sure that you get the same gauge wire like the old ones. Wire connectors can be bought at any hardware store.

Safety Tip: Before working on the electrical lead wires, make sure that you unplug the amplifier from the wall.

#3 Replacing a Burned/Melted Voice Coil 

If the voice coil has been burned or melted, it needs to be replaced. The voice coil is the part of the speaker that creates the sound.

To replace the voice coil, you need to remove the speaker grill and then take out the screws that hold the driver in place. Be very careful when removing the driver as it is attached to a magnet. The voice coil can then be removed and replaced with a new one. Make sure that you get the right replacement part for your speaker.

#4 Re-Coning 

When the speaker cone is torn, distorted, or has holes, you need to re-cone the speaker. It is a more extensive repair and can be quite costly. The speaker cone is the part of the speaker that moves back and forth to create sound.

Re-coning, a speaker, is a labor-intensive process, and not all speakers can be reconed. You must disassemble the speaker completely, and you should glue the new cone to the voice coil. The speaker grill, screws, and driver must also be replaced. It is not a job for the average person. If you are not comfortable doing this repair yourself, it is best to take the speaker to a professional.

Tips to Preventing Distortion in Speakers 

There are a few things that you can do to prevent distortion in your speakers.

✔️Avoid Using 80-100% Volume 

If the volume is too high, it can cause the amplifier to send a signal that is too strong for the speaker. It can damage the speaker and cause distortion. There are times that even the middle-range volume can distort the sound, especially for cheap, integrated amplifiers. You can limit the volume by 30-50% and still get great sound quality.

✔️Use Limiter Equipment/ Software 

A limiter is a piece of equipment or software that limits the amount of signal that is sent to the speaker. It is also among the most popular methods for preventing distortion in speakers. A limiter can be found in most sound recording software, and it is usually turned on by default. It can make the speaker louder while preventing it from distorting.

It can protect the speaker from being damaged and is easy to use and can be found in most DAWs (digital audio workstations) or audio plugins.

✔️Avoid Bass Boosted Music 

Bass boosted music is sometimes good to hear and feel, especially with a great system. However, if the system is not designed for it, the bass can overload the speaker and cause distortion. Since most basses boosted music cause triggers to a certain frequency while producing distortion-free sounds on other frequencies due to the voice coil’s linearity. It can cause heat production and possible damage to the speaker.

Try not to use bass-boosted music with your speakers, or if you do, make sure that the system is designed for it. However, if you can’t resist the temptation, try not to max out the bass boost.

✔️Utilized Crossover, Passive or Active 

Using crossover can help filter frequencies that are not being sent to the speaker, preventing distortion. A crossover is a device that splits the audio signal and sends it to different drivers. This is usually done with low-pass (LPF) and high-pass filters (HPF).

A passive crossover uses capacitors and coils to split the signal, while an active crossover uses transistors and op-amps. If you are using a passive crossover, ensure that the capacitors and coils are of high quality. Cheap capacitors and coils can cause distortion in speakers.

✔️Match Amplifier and Speakers Correctly

It is the most crucial factor in getting great sound quality from your speakers. Make sure that the amplifier is powerful enough to drive the speakers. If it is not, you will get distortion and possibly damage the speaker.

In order to find out what wattage your speaker needs, check the manufacturer’s website or look for the speaker’s specifications. Match the amplifier’s wattage to the speaker’s wattage for optimum sound quality.

✔️Buy High-Quality Equipment 

If you are going to spend money on speakers, it is best to buy high-quality equipment. It will ensure that you get excellent sound quality and prevent distortion. You may have to spend a little more, but it is worth it in the long run.

By following these tips, you can help prevent distortion in your speakers and enjoy the great sound quality.

Speakers’ Features with Minimum-zero Distortion

What features should you look for in speakers to minimize or avoid distortion? Some speakers are designed to reduce or avoid distortion. These speakers usually have a higher price tag, but the sound quality is worth it. Some features to look for include:

💽Flat Frequency Response

A speaker with a flat frequency response means that the sound is consistent at all frequencies. It will help prevent distortion, especially at high volumes. It is ideal for studio monitors and PA systems.

💽Minimum Impedance

The impedance of a speaker is the amount of electrical resistance that it presents to the amplifier. A lower impedance rating means that the speaker can handle more power and will be less likely to distort.

💽Crossover Filters 

A crossover filter is a device that splits the audio signal and sends it to different drivers. It is usually done with a low-pass (LPF) and high-pass filters (HPF). A speaker with crossover filters will be less likely to distort than one without.

💽Sensitivity 

A speaker’s sensitivity is the amount of sound pressure produced at a given distance with given power input. A higher sensitivity rating means that the speaker will be less likely to distort at high volumes.

💽Maximum Power Handling Ability 

A speaker with a high maximum power handling ability can handle more power without distorting. It is important to ensure that the amplifier is not too powerful for the speaker, though, since it could cause damage.

💽Linear Excursion 

A speaker’s linear excursion is the maximum distance the cone can travel from its resting position. A speaker with a high linear excursion can handle more power without distorting.

💽Good Power Handling

The speaker can handle power without distortion. The speaker needs to have a good power handling rating if you plan on turning up the volume.

Choosing a speaker with these features can minimize or avoid distortion altogether.

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. What’s the cause of my speaker’s distorting?

There are many possible causes of distortion in speakers. Some of the most common causes include Incorrect impedance match between amplifier and speaker, overpowering the speaker, or Cheap or low-quality components.

2. How can I prevent distortion in my speakers?

There are several things you can do to prevent distortion in your speakers. Make sure that the amplifier is matched to the speaker’s wattage, buy high-quality equipment, and follow the tips in this article.

3. Can I fix distortion in my speakers?

In most cases, distortion in speakers can’t be fixed. If the problem is caused by incorrect impedance matching or overpowering the speaker, the only solution is to replace the speaker. However, if cheap or low-quality components cause the distortion, then it may be possible to fix it by replacing those components.

4. Is it true that sound distortion can damage the speaker?

Yes, sound distortion can damage the speaker. It is because when the speaker tries to reproduce distorted audio, it can cause the voice coil to overheat and eventually burn out.

5. How do I know if my speaker is distorting?

There are several ways to tell if your speakers are distorting. One of the most obvious signs is that the sound will become muddy or unclear. You may also hear a humming or buzzing noise, or the sound may start to crackle. If you notice any of these symptoms, the speaker is most likely distorting.

6. Do speakers lose quality due to distortion?

Yes, speakers can lose quality due to distortion. Speakers do break down after a long period of use. Over time, speaker elements such as the cone, surround, crossover ferrofluid, and capacitor in certain tweeters degrade, dramatically reducing the speaker’s sound quality. It will make it difficult for you to enjoy your music or movies and may even damage the speaker in the long run.

7. Can distortion cause speakers to blow out?

Yes, distortion can cause speakers to blow out. When the speaker tries to reproduce distorted audio, it can cause the voice coil to overheat and eventually burn out. It is important to avoid excessive distortion by choosing a speaker with a high maximum power handling ability.

8. What If my speaker has blown up?

It is difficult to say without knowing more about the speaker. If the speaker is blown, it may be possible to fix it by replacing the driver. However, if the damage is too severe, the speaker may need to be replaced entirely.

Final Thoughts 

Distortion in speakers can be a frustrating problem to deal with. However, by understanding what causes it and taking some simple precautions, you can minimize or avoid it altogether. Follow the tips in this article to get the most out of your speakers and keep them sounding great for years to come.

Do you have any questions about distortion in speakers? Leave a comment below, and we’ll be happy to help. Thanks for reading! We hope this article was helpful.

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