“Blown speakers” are fairly prevalent in the home and automotive audio worlds. Many people use the term in a non-technical, non-generic sense to describe speakers that aren’t working properly or at all.
Mostly, it’s an unwelcome annoyance. Blowing speakers in a guitar amp (or bass amp, or PA system) is significantly more than a nuisance for musicians, especially working musicians.
A blown speaker makes a blurry, distorted crunchy sound that may or may not be duplicating the signal you’re sending through it, or it may make no sound at all. A blown speaker is a major pain.
It begins with you noticing a sound and wondering if you’re hallucinating until the problem becomes more serious. Then you start to question if there’s anything you can do about it. I’ll describe what it sounds like, why it happens, and how to tell if a speaker is blown?
Steps of How to Tell if a Speaker is Blown?
There are a number of factors that can lead to a speaker failing. The cone or even the voice coil of a speaker can be physically damaged. The harm is sometimes visible.
In other circumstances, the speaker may appear to be in good condition, but the distortion is so subtle that you may wonder if your speaker is to blame.
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First and foremost, without getting too technical, consider a speaker to be blown out if:
- It causes a distortion.
- It doesn’t make any noise at all.
- The cone has been physically pulled apart.
An uncomfortable, unpleasant sound could indicate a problem with the power supply or a minor rip on the cone that will worsen with time.
If there is no sound at all, you are dealing with an electrical issue. It’s also possible that you’re having issues with gain staging.
The actual issue arises if you’re unsure, as the difference in audio quality is really minor. You want to catch it before it becomes worse and/or ensures that you have the greatest possible experience.
Replace the Speaker with a new One
Replace the speaker with one that is known to work well. This is a quick and easy way to see if your amplifier is working but your old speaker isn’t.
Simply replace your old speaker with a known working replacement speaker if you have one. If you’re getting terrific, clear sound, the issue is most likely your old speaker.
This is a great test that will give you solid answers if you’re hearing strange sounds from your amp and aren’t sure if it’s your speaker. It should be noted, however, that a speaker could blow owing to an amplifier problem.
In a solid-state amplifier, for example, where the power transistors are connected directly to the speaker, malfunctioning transistors can send too much current to the speakers, blowing the voice coil.
If you have reason to believe the amp is broken especially if it smells like it’s on fire you should look into it before moving on to another speaker. It’s very likely that the new speaker will also go out.
So, before you go out and buy a new speaker, consider what happened to the amplifier before you decided the speaker was blown.
If the signal distortion was accompanied by a popping sound, a burnt smell, and smoke pouring from the amplifier, don’t try a new speaker until the obvious issues with the amplifier have been addressed.
Conduct this test with a speaker with the same impedance
If you have one, using a speaker with the same impedance is a good idea to check if a speaker is blown. A small impedance mismatch, on the other hand, should be fine, especially if you’re just doing a quick test.
With a known working amp, test your suspect speaker
You can connect the speaker in question to a working amplifier if you don’t have another good speaker (or if your amp is in questionable condition and you don’t feel comfortable connecting your known good speaker to it).
If you get the same poor speaker sound with this setup, you can safely assume the speaker is blown.
Examine the speaker visually
A blown speaker can cause visible physical damage. To inspect your speaker, take it out of the amplifier or instrument and inspect the cone.
There should be no tears or holes in the fabric. Damage to the cone will prevent it from properly reproducing your signal, resulting in ugly distortion.
Examine the speaker physically
Damage to a blown speaker can be heard with some mechanical movement. If you gently tap the speaker’s cone, you should hear a solid drum sound. If you hear a rattling sound (like a snare drum that has come loose), you have a bad speaker.
You should also hear almost nothing if you gently exercise the speaker cone by pressing on it (being careful not to puncture the cone with your finger or push it much further than 5 millimeters).
With any movement, blown speakers will make a scraping or crunching sound. This is a sign of a bad voice coil, which will almost certainly need to be replaced.
What Should be done if Speaker is Blown?
Fortunately, most speakers are not prohibitively expensive, and blowing them is a rare occurrence. The speaker should be replaced.
If you have an expensive speaker, such as a JBL or a vintage Jensen, it may be worthwhile to repair it, but keep in mind that you will be paying for both the part and their time if you hire an experienced tech.
If you plan to replace your speaker, make sure it has the correct impedance and is rated at or above the amplifier’s wattage. Amplifier manufacturers frequently specify a speaker with nearly twice the wattage of the amplifier.
A 30-watt amplifier may include a speaker with a wattage of 50 or higher to ensure that it can handle the power that the amp is sending through it.
A replacement is almost always a good idea, and you can keep your old one until you decide whether or not to repair it.
If you don’t want the speaker, you could sell it on eBay for a fraction of its “working” cost, as someone might be interested in it for parts. Make it clear that the speaker is blown, and charge accordingly.
What Does the Term “Blown Speaker” Actually Mean?
A “blown speaker” is one that doesn’t work right or doesn’t work at all. It’s an umbrella phrase that encompasses several problems that could cause a speaker to sound unpleasant or go silent but suffice it to say that a blown speaker makes either a bad sound or no sound.
What does a blown speaker sound like, and how do I know if I have one?
The most common aural indication of a blown speaker is an unpleasant buzzing or scratching sound, by itself or roughly at the pitch of the note the speaker is attempting to reproduce. Or there could be no sound at all.
The term “blown” is a catch-all term for a speaker that isn’t working properly. It could indicate that your speaker is generating a scratchy signal at a reduced volume or that no sound is being transmitted through it.
Try one or more of the tests listed above to see if your speaker is blown.
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