Subwoofers are popular and must-have choices for music enthusiasts and movie buffs, delivering low-frequency sound that adds depth and richness to audio.
However, distortion in subwoofers can ruin the listening experience, and even the best subwoofers can experience this issue.
To fix a subwoofer that sounds distorted, first, we have to understand and diagnose the issue, and then we can fix it. So we will start with finding out why does a subwoofer sound distort.
There could be several reasons a subwoofer sound starts distorted, including overloading (playing music at high volumes), incorrect settings (crossover frequency, gain, or phase settings), poor quality audio source, physical damage, and incorrect placement.
In this article, we will explore all these common reasons that cause distorted sound and offer practical solutions to help you fix your subwoofer.
Possible Causes of Distorted Sound in Subwoofers
There can be numerous reasons behind the error, from a melted voice coil improper setup to an overlooked subwoofer. This section has covered all possible causes for distorted subwoofer sound;
The most common cause for the distorted sound is the overworked/stressed subwoofer. Whether you own a Polk, SVS, or JBL subwoofer, each has a specific power range that sounds the best within. Exceeding the limit and overpowering the subwoofer will stress the internal components.
When the subwoofer receives higher volume and power than its capacity, the cone moves faster, way beyond its range. As a result, the cone material becomes stressed and produces distorted sound.
The damage can be severe, simply more than distorted sound. In worst scenarios, the subwoofer cone can come out, indicating your subwoofer is broken.
Are you sure the subwoofer you installed on your home stereo system is compatible with the other components? If not, the subwoofer will keep producing distorted sound, even after replacing the amp/receiver and upgrading the wiring.
Sometimes, the impedance or the power output range doesn’t match between the subwoofer and receiver/amp. As a result, the subwoofer delivers distorted sound in the struggle to produce the correct amount of bass.
Issue With The Wiring
Do you remember when you last upgraded the wiring? Even when protected by rodents and terminals, extreme temperature, UV light exposure, mechanical action, excessive flexing, and various chemicals degrade wires over time.
Damaged wires and messy cable plugs are susceptible to causing distorted sound. Besides, the burned cables also indicate the issues with the voice coil.
Prone to breaking or extremely brittle wires suggest the subwoofer has been damaged, and you must install a new voice coil. The possible reasons for a melted voice coil are extreme temperature and loudness.
If you try to save money by buying a cheap subwoofer, it will wear out sooner or later, thanks to its poor-quality components. Subwoofers with poor wiring, driver, cone, or coil will always be causing issues at low or high volumes.
In addition, poor-quality components can’t establish a secure connection, which leads to noise interference and distortion.
Even after having a high-quality subwoofer, if you experience distorted sound, please prefer cleaning the parts.
Dust and dirt particles circulating in and out via the port accumulate around the cone and voice coil and block the ventilation. Another culprit is the moisture-locking around the driver and other internal components.
You need to understand that every speaker has a maximum-minimum power handling capacity; exceeding the limit will cause damage to the subwoofer. If the audio source, whether microphone, TV, or computer, overloads with the audio, the result will be distorted sound waves.
Suppose the microphone is receiving a volume level beyond its handling capacity. As a result, the microphone will deliver distorted sound waves to the subwoofer.
Distortion is crucial when you feed your subwoofers and speakers with volume levels beyond their handling capacity.
There is a reason why audiophiles are crazy while hooking up their home theater system. Improper setup benefits nothing but gives rise to potential errors and damage to the system.
Improper setup can also cause the distorted subwoofer sound; little did you know. Here, the setup doesn’t mean checking the wiring and plugs only. You need to check the settings of the receiver/amplifier to ensure everything is working proficiently.
The boost & gain settings also significantly affect the subwoofer’s overall performance. Suppose you set the volume higher than the sub’s capacity. It will result in thermal and mechanical failure, leading the subwoofer to distortion. Adjust the gain, bass, boost, and volume setting to a manageable degree to prevent sound distortion.
First, check the equalization setting controls on your receiver or amplifier. Despite having a specific frequency response range and sufficient power output, the subwoofer might produce a distorted sound if the EQ setting is OFF. Double-check and turn it ON to fix the error.
After checking the equalization setting, check the amp’s gain setting controls. An amplifier is responsible for powering the subwoofer. The more efficiently it generates power, the richer the sound quality.
You need to lower your gain settings if you are using a 350-370 watts high-powered amplifier. It helps prevent distortion and overdrive at low volume and frequency levels.
Be ready to experience distorted sound, bass reflection, and room interference if the subwoofer is housed in an incorrect-size cabinet. Whether you play sound at high or low volume, the sound will be distorted- all thanks to the incorrect size cabinet.
Suppose the cabinet is way more significant than the subwoofer, with no wall touching the box. The extra space will bring in excessive air pressure and lead to low frequencies. In contrast, a smaller cabinet will suffocate the sound wave transference, resulting in sound distortion.
How Do You Fix Speaker Distorted Sound?
As common as the subwoofer sound distortion issue, fixing the error is pretty simple. Below we have covered all possible ways to improve your speaker distorted sound.
Checking And Adjusting Volume Levels
Feed your subwoofer with power and volume levels it can handle efficiently without wearing out. If your subwoofer delivers distorted sound at a high volume, keep it low to fix the error.
Similarly, if the sound distortion is at low audio levels, keep it moderate to prevent it. The best practice is to turn the volume up and down and notice when the distortion occurs. Keep the sweet spot in mind and avoid using it while streaming music.
Use an Equalizer or Signal Processor:
Your audio experience will differ depending on where you’re seated, even if you hear the same music but via different setups. What sound quality your ears listen to depends on what happens with the sound waves once they leave the cone.
The furniture, carpet, curtains, and other objects in your room absorb and reflect sound waves. The higher the reflection, the higher the sound distortion, and vice versa.
Use a subwoofer equalizer to boost or lower frequencies. It helps adjust the bass response and prevent sound distortion.
Avoid Driving Subwoofers Too Hard
As aforementioned, the role of an amplifier is to power the subwoofer. If you drive the subwoofer too hard, the amplifier will deliver more power than its handling capacity. This results in distorted sound. The simple fix is to keep the gain and volume levels ideal to prevent distortion.
Don’t Overheat The Subwoofer
Like other electronic devices that heat up continuously, the subwoofer does the same. An overheated subwoofer will give rise to other potential issues, including voice coil melting and brittle wires.
Ensure sufficient ventilation to the subwoofer and prevent using it continuously for hours. Try taking a break so that the subwoofer stays at room temperature.
Use Lower Crossover Frequency
The subwoofer transfers the low frequencies to the main speaker in the crossover frequency. Suppose you have set the main speaker at a high crossover frequency. As a result, the speaker will produce frequencies exceeding the range of the subwoofer. Fix it by setting crossover to a low-frequency range. The ideal crossover frequency range for most subwoofers is 80-120 Hz.
Use an Enclosure
The next thing you can do to fix the error is to replace or repair your enclosure. As you know, the enclosure is a box housing the subwoofer. Ensure the box is not too big to bring in excessive air pressure nor too small to suffocate the subwoofer. Besides, the material should be robust to prevent vibration.
Use Isolation Pads
Sometimes, the cause of the distorted sound isn’t the internal error or component but the physical disturbance. The floor on which you have settled your subwoofer is possibly uneven and causes vibration.
You can install isolation pads between the floor and subwoofer to prevent excessive vibration. The foamy layer will absorb the excessive vibration, delivering a distortion-free sound response.
Use Low-High Pass Filters
You can ignore this factor if you have a home theater stereo system. As you know, most car speakers aren’t built for bass. The filter prevents sound distortion by controlling the bass sent to the speakers—a high-pass filter blocks loudness frequencies and bass responses higher than 80 Hz. As a result, you receive accurate and high-quality sound.
Keep the Subwoofer Clean
As aforementioned, dirt and dust particles accumulating around the voice coil and cone result in distorted sound. To prevent this:
- Keep the subwoofer clean.
- Frequently wipe clean the exterior and visible internal components with a microfiber cloth.
- Ensure the fabric isn’t wet since moisture is harmful to the sub.
Upgrade Your Subwoofer and Sound System
If nothing works for you even after trying all mentioned ways, upgrade your sound system, ensuring all equipment is compatible. A new sound system will produce an accurate and rich deep bass response, whether you stream low or high-volume music. This solution is undoubtedly costly but will give long-lasting results.
A distorted sound from your subwoofer can be a frustrating experience, it will not only ruin the subwoofer’s performance it will also affect the overall sound experience. But understanding and underlying causes can help you resolve the issue.
Distorting in subwoofer can be caused by a number of reasons including stressed subwoofer, compatibilities issues, subwoofer settings, damaged components, and poor-quality audio sources. By performing basic troubleshooting, such as adjusting the settings, checking the cables, and testing different audio sources, you can identify and address the problem.
However, in some cases, the issues might be beyond fixing and you might need to get a new one. Or on the other hand, you might not fix the issues. In both these situations, you should bring your subwoofer to the speaker repair and consult with him.