Have you ever turned up the car stereo to full blast and been disappointed by the sound quality?
If you’re a car audio enthusiast, then you know that one of the biggest challenges is getting the sound to be clear and distortion-free at high volume levels. But why do speakers distort sounds when we turn up the volume? Let’s find out.
Speakers distort because of a few main reasons:
#1. Weak car amplifiers used that cannot supply power demand
#2. Wrong frequency send to the speakers, which they cannot handle
#3. Speakers are of bad quality and made from cheap materials
#4. Speakers are installed in the wrong places with magnet contact to the car bodywork
#5. Bad wires used, or wrong wire connections
#6. Mechanical damage to speakers (or blown speaker)
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Tip: Sometimes, people misjudge distorted sounds with rattling noises. Rattling noises are often caused by objects hitting the speaker cones, such as coins, keys or other loose items in the car.
If you’re unsure whether your door speakers are distorting or rattling, and it does not matter if they are front or rear speakers, try gently tapping on the speaker cone with your finger. If the sound changes, then it’s most likely due to distortion.
If you experience the speakers rattling, especially the stock speakers, the excellent solution is to use the speaker foam rings (link to Amazon) and mount them between the speaker and the internal door panel.
Foam rings can make a huge difference in audio quality, even at higher volume levels.
In the article below, I will detail why car speakers distort sounds at high volumes and will show you a few tips on how to stop distortion in your car speakers.
What Is Sound Distortion?
Distortion is an unwanted change in the waveform of an audio signal. It can occur during recording but also during playback. Mostly, when we talk about car speaker distortion, we’re usually referring to the latter.
There are a few different types of distortion that can occur in car speakers:
Clipping is the most common type of distortion you can hear in your sound system. It occurs when an amplifier cannot accurately reproduce the audio signal’s waveform.
The result is a “clipped” sound that you can describe as sounding harsh, fuzzy, or like it’s missing some of the highs and lows.
Intermodulation distortion occurs when two or more signals combine to create new frequencies that weren’t initially present in the signal.
This type of distortion is often caused by poor electrical ground wire connections in the car audio system.
Harmonic distortion occurs when an amplifier amplifies the harmonic frequencies of a signal more than the fundamental frequency.
This distortion can make music sound “muddy” or “thick”.
What Causes Car Speaker Distortion at High Volume?
There are a few primary reasons car speakers might distort sounds at higher volumes.
#1. Weak Amplifiers
The most common cause of speaker distortion is simply because the amplifier doesn’t have enough power to drive the speakers at high volumes.
When the amplifier produces little power, it may be unable to deliver demanded by speakers’ wattage, they play at a low volume. Therefore you turn the volume up, and in effect, you hear the amplifier clipping, which results in that harsh, fuzzy sound with cut-out frequencies. Clipping can often cause an amp’s mechanical failure.
#2. Wrong Frequency Alignment
Another common cause of speaker distortion is when the speakers are pushed beyond their limits, which is especially notable with wrong LPF / HPF settings.
Just like any other electronic equipment, speakers have a specific operating frequency range, so when you push them outside of that range, you’ll start hearing distortion.
#3. Speakers Quality
One of the most common reasons is speaker quality.
When speakers are cheaply made from mediocre quality components, they can’t handle large amounts of power. As a result, the sound gets distorted when you turn up the volume.
#4. Bad Speakers Installation
Another reason why car speakers might distort sounds is because of the way they’re mounted.
If speakers are installed too close to each other, they may (although this is rare) start interacting and cause sound distortion.
#5. Wiring Problems
Another common issue not directly related to the speakers is wiring problems.
If the wires are too thin, of poor quality, worn or badly connected, they can’t handle the amount of current flowing through them and will start to distort the sound.
If the speakers have high power ratings and wires create too much resistance, they can even melt or burn.
#6. Damaged Speakers
If your speakers are blown or even slightly damaged, that can lead to massive sound distortion.
Also, minor physical damage to the speaker cone or surround can cause the speaker to distort sounds. Additionally, if your voice coil is damaged, that can also lead to sound distortion.
Do All Speakers Distort When Bass Hits?
Not all speakers distort when the bass hits. In fact, most speakers are designed to handle a certain amount of bass without distorting.
However, if you have a subwoofer or other type of speaker designed for low frequencies, it can distort the sound when the bass hits too hard, especially if there is a mismatch between the amplifier and speakers.
There are, however few other reasons for speakers to distort when the bass hits:
#1. Speakers are damaged
#2. Speakers are incorrectly connected
#3. Impedance does not match the amplifier
#4. Wattage mismatch between the amplifier and speakers
#5. Amplifier settings (high pass filter and low pass filter) are incorrectly set up.
Can Car Speakers Distort at Low Volume?
When car speakers distort at lower volumes, it can be for several reasons. The most common causes are damaged speaker drivers or loose wiring connections, but this is not all.
A common cause of distorted speakers at low volume are wrong settings. Especially if you have a powerful amplifier, an issue at the low levels volume is often related to too high amp gain that pushes too much power to the speakers or the crossover distortion if you have component speakers.
To check the issue, you need to use the multimeter and check all the signal connections.
If you do not feel comfortable testing speakers by yourself, you can take the car to the audio service, and the technicians will be able quickly to find the cause.
How to Stop Distortions in Car Speakers?
If you’re experiencing a sound distortion in your car speakers, there are a few things you can do to try and fix the problem.
#1. Check the Amplifier:
If you’re noticing sound distortion, the first thing you should do is check your power source.
Make sure that it’s turned on and set to the correct input. If it’s turned on but not receiving any signal, that could cause the problem.
#2. Check the Stereo:
Stereos should be checked for signal quality. The best way to test it is to swap channels on the RCA channels coming to the amplifiers to eliminate the head unit problems or radio stations’ signal quality issues.
If, after swapping, you hear distorted sounds from different speakers, the cause for this is the radio.
If the same speaker sounds distorted after changing channels, there is clearly an issue with this speaker or its connection.
#3. Check Speaker Wires:
Next, check your speaker wires to make sure they’re correctly connected. If they’re loose or damaged, that could be causing the sound distortion.
#4. Check Speakers:
If everything looks good with your amplifier, stereo and speaker wires, then the problem is likely with your speakers. Check if they’re mounted correctly and for any internal or external damage.
Although external damages like cracks in the cones are easy to spot, for internal damages, you need to use a voltmeter and check internal impedance between both terminals.
If after checking, the impedance is high or zero, the suspicious speakers are damaged, you should replace them with new speakers.
Distorted sounds coming from car speakers can be annoying, and in some cases, they can cause permanent damage to the speakers. If you’re experiencing sound distortion, there are a few things you can do to try and fix the problem.
#1. Check your amplifier, stereo and speaker wires to make sure they’re properly connected. If everything looks good with those, then the problem is likely with your speakers.
#2. Check to see if speakers are mounted properly and check for any internal or external damage.
If you can’t fix the problem yourself, or if you’re unsure what’s causing the sound distortion, take your car to an audio service to check the installation.