As research indicates, temperature impacts sound speed, as sound moves slightly slower in a cold environment, affecting audio quality. But do can cold temperatures also destroy car speakers?
Car speakers are not ruined if stored in freezing temperatures for an extended length of time. The sound is influenced so that you will hear fewer lows or bass until the speakers warm-up, but the culprit of temperature-damaged speakers is mainly due to cycling between extreme cold and hot.
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According to some manufacturer’s technical documentation, the temperature inside an extreme range is tested, and caution is advised outside that range to maintain speaker life.
Car speaker manufacturers sometimes test for durability in extreme high and low temperatures; however, sudden shifts from freezing cold to hot are not tested.
In this article, we will discuss issues caused by the cold and various prevention techniques, dependent on the parts your particular speaker is manufactured with. We will also touch on the possibility of speakers to freeze, and the level of inferior quality that cold can have on speakers.
What are the Issues With Cold Speakers?
The problem is not leaving speakers in freezing cold weather, but it is temperature cycling, which is an abrupt shift back and forth between extreme cold and hot. Continue to read a list of possible speaker issues.
- When speakers heat up quickly, condensation or moisture can cause electrical short to occur. A plastic covering is recommended, but ensure humid air is not trapped between the wrapping by squeezing out as much air as possible. Either wrap with care or allow unwrapped gear condensation to evaporate naturally before turning on to avoid a short.
- Melting ice is another culprit as it creates water condensation, and oxidation or corrosion can occur. If dried quickly, no harm may come to the speakers, but prolonged moisture is damaging.
- Knobs and potentiometers, voltage dividers used to control volume devices, are lubricated, which can freeze. If turned before warming up, they are susceptible to breaking.
- Cold speaker drivers may become brittle and resistant to bending or moving, causing cracking if the power is turned on, generating heat quickly within a freezing cold speaker system.
- Air leaks stemming from cracks may affect sound responsiveness and power handling.
Ferrofluid is a magnetic viscous fluid used in tweeters, mid-range drivers, and woofers. The fluid is dispersed into the voice coil gap to cool the voice coil, thereby enhancing performance. As the speaker sits in a freezing environment, the fluid will thicken, and the speaker may react sluggishly. Slowly warming up the speakers will prevent the issue.
While cold is not bad, going from cold to warm may cause sweating, and electricity and moisture do not mix. Warm elements gradually before turning on, so there are no shorts.
In the cold, materials can contract and can crack.
The key is preparation by gradually increasing the baseline temperature by warming the car before turning on the audio. Subsequently, do not blast the speakers right away; instead, turn the volume up progressively over a few minutes.
Take a look at this 3-minute video demonstrating how cold weather could harm speakers and how this music lover sidesteps the weather with a space heater. Subwoofers are played at high volume at temperatures below freezing. So, as you see, it can be done.
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Can Car Speakers Freeze?
On the whole, speakers do not freeze. It’s the rapid transition from cold to an average temperature that wreaks havoc, as well as the change in moisture content. Consequently, the components that make up the speakers may become damaged. For the most part, metals, wires, paper cones, and magnets are not affected, but the following items are.
- The adhesive in the form of speaker glue can be affected by cracking due to quick temperature changes. However, if warmed up slowly, it is not an issue.
- Foam, a material found in surrounds or cones, is also more easily damaged in a fast temperature fluctuation by becoming brittle and cracking with the temperature rise. This could affect the sound as well as speaker damage.
- Any material attached tightly by a substance that expands and contracts with the weather may be affected by cold, but it is unlikely since manufacturers test for extreme temperatures.
You have to be aware that the moisture expands when it freezes, which can damage by splitting speaker parts. If suspicious, check for cracks and separations to determine if the temperature change has caused damage.
Carefully read technical documentation to prevent issues with the cold. Although BOSS Audio Systems CH6920 Car Speakers are created to withstand “exposure to many types of weather fronts,” according to the advertisement, they do contain rubber used to connect the cone to the basket. Therefore, proceed with caution in cold weather.
How Bad Is the Cold for Car Speakers?
Cold is not the problem, but the more dangerous it is when you are blasting the volume when the speakers are cold. If the voice coil is cold and a large amount of power runs through it, the inductance and the pole piece changes, causing the speaker to operate outside of acceptable operating parameters.
If surroundings are affected due to extreme cold, the cones will not move freely, causing a softer volume. An in-depth article on the website, Explain That Stuff explains how “speakers make sounds of different volume and frequency.”
Damage can occur in the cold if one motor structure part heats up faster than another. Or parts lose flexibility in the cold, and pushing the volume past the breaking point without warm-up overworks the structure.
Once it’s warm, after 5 or 10 minutes, feel free to turn up the volume as loud as possible.
Remember, the temperature affects the speed of sound because it travels slower in cold environments. If your speakers sound different to you, calculate the Speed of Sound in the air with an online calculator from Georgia State University.
In the winter, lower humidity also affects the dynamic range of the sound. Lower humidity is better for acoustics, which is why sound doesn’t have the same characteristics when it’s raining.
Manufacturers’ specifications identify an operating temperature range that works best for that particular speaker’s performance. Sometimes, a storage temperature is indicated, but it is not likely to undergo damage even if stored outside that range.
Specifications are created to protect the manufacturer from unusual circumstances that could hold them responsible for speaker performance errors. As a consumer, avoid significant fluctuations for the best performance.
Manufacturers sometimes test their products in harsh conditions, display the information on their specification sheets, and recommend not to keep speakers outside of that range to extend life.
The speakers’ elements will most likely break due to moisture or quickly heating up cold speakers.
Consequently, prevention is the key to extending your speakers’ lives and continuing to get the best musical quality.
By paying attention to your environment and a little patience when powering up cold speakers, you will be extremely happy with your audio, no matter the outside temperature.