Home Theater System Loudspeaker Troubleshooting

How to Determine If You Have a Bad Loudspeaker in Your Home Theater System

Audio speakers
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A problem has cropped up in your home theater system, You think that loudspeaker has gone bad. The sound intermittently goes out and it crackles and pops. Does this mean you have a bad loudspeaker? It could be, but that may not be necessarily the case.

What to Check and Listen For

Before you assume you have a bad speaker in your home theater system, there are several things that should be checked, using the tried-and-true process of elimination approach.

  • First, connect the suspected "bad" speaker to another channel and see if that speaker still exhibits the same symptoms that you heard previously.
  • Next, connect one of the other speakers in your system to the same channel (not at the same time, of course) that the suspected "bad" speaker was originally connected to and see if the other speaker also sounds bad when it is connected to that channel.
  • If it turns out that the suspected "bad" speaker still sounds defective when you connect it to another channel, then you have a bad speaker and I would contact the manufacturer for a replacement. If it is no longer under warranty, you would probably have to pay for the replacement. However, before reaching into your wallet, double check your warranty papers or contact tech support for the manufacturer of your speaker to see how you should proceed.
  • On the other hand, if both speakers sound bad when connected to the same channel, but sound okay when connected to another channel, then replace the speaker wire for that channel and see if that makes a difference with the speakers you connected to it. If both speakers sound fine with the new speaker wire, then you have found that the speaker wire was the problem and you should now be back up and running.

    If you have determined that both speakers sound fine on other channels, and you have replaced the speaker wire of the channel where the problem first occurred, but any speaker you connect to that channel still sounds bad, then the amplifier for that channel may be bad.

    In this case, the problem could be as minor as soldering joints at the point where the circuit board connects to the inside portion of the speaker connections.

    It could also be a short in the circuit somewhere, or it could be something that requires more extensive repair or replacement.

    If you are handy with audio and home theater equipment, you could open the cover lid of your amplifier or receiver (unplug from the power outlet first!) and do a visual inspection. If the interior of the amplifier or amplifier section of the receiver is dusty - using canned or compressed air to clear out the dust. Then, put the lid back on and see if that corrected the problem.

    If you don't see anything that this noticeably wrong (the inside is clean, and you don't see any disconnected wires), it is time to call tech support to determine the extent of the problem.

    To Summarize:

    If the speaker in question is bad, then you need to replace the speaker.

    If it turns out the speaker wire is bad, replace the speaker wire and you should be fine.

    If it turns out the amplifier or receiver is bad on a specific channel, then you can opt to have the amplifier or receiver repaired or buy a new amplifier or receiver.

    Additional Speaker Troubleshooting Tips

    It important to note the above tips are designed to troubleshoot problems with individual speakers or channels in a home theater system.

    On the other hand, if all your speakers seem to be going on and off, and crackling and popping, especially when you raise and lower the volume for the entire system, you may just have a dirty master volume control.

    If the volume control is a mechanical rotating dial, open up your receiver and see if you can access it with some blasts of canned or compressed air, in the same manner as cleaning the internal portion of the speaker connections described previously. This should shake out any dust or dirt that may be causing this problem. If this does not correct the problem, contact tech support for your brand and model of home theater receiver to see how you can proceed.

    Of course, all this is based on problems that may occur during reasonable use. If you have a habit of playing your home theater system at full blast (or 11, as Spinal Tap would put it), or you are using speakers that are the wrong impedance for your systems capabilities, you can run the risk of blowing out a speaker or amplifiers in your home theater system. Know the capabilities and limitations of your home theater system.

    For more on troubleshooting loudspeaker and audio system problems, read our companion article: Troubleshooting: When One Speaker Channel Won't Work