There’s nothing quite as frustrating as having your music interrupted by crackling noise from the speakers. If you’ve ever had a similar issue, you know how annoying it can be, and you’re definitely going to want to get it fixed immediately.
Most often speaker crackling is caused by a connection problem between the speakers and the power source. However, it can also be caused by a wide variety of things such bad speaker wire that’s making the driver move abruptly, causing interference, blown speaker, amp clipping, power issue …etc.
Here we look at some of the most common causes of sound crackling, the possible solutions and also provide some handy tips to help prevent the problem.
Why do my speakers crackle?
Given the complexity of car audio systems, countless things can go wrong and make your sound crackle. But while each situation is different, the following are some of the most common causes of this issue.
1- Weak/Loose connections
Before you start overthinking that your speakers are blown or that you amp or head unit is failing because the speakers are crackling unexpectedly, you should first check the speaker wires.
Speaker wires run through the cabin, and connect each speaker to the head unit (or the amplifier).
More often than not, the only reason your car speakers crackle is because of a bad connection between the amplifier or the head unit and the terminals on the speaker itself.
For instance, a break in the speaker wires leading to a door speaker may cause the sound to crackle or to cut out altogether. This is especially true with old vehicles where over the years the cables get damaged, as a result of door opening and closing movement.
Diagnosing something like this involves inspecting for loose or disconnected input or output speaker wires, checking the integrity of all the speaker wires (look for any crimping, kinks, tear, fraying or cuts in the insulation..etc) and checking the functionality of each individual speaker to rule each one out in turn.
Furthermore, you need to ensure the wires are securely tightened and snug with no strands touching each other or touching anything else on the car; this is pretty common with door mounted speakers where a speaker wire becomes loose and touches bare metal causing interference or making the speaker short out.
2- Blown speaker
The next thing you need to check when you hear crackling noise coming out of your speakers, is the speakers themselves. I mean, if the wires are intact, and none of them is loose, then there’s a good chance one of the speakers has bit the dust.
A blown speaker would crackle for a wide variety of reasons including but not limited to: burned out coils scratching against the walls, deteriorated foam surround, torn cone or dust cap. Another possibility could be that the suspension system is damaged, making the cone reach its limit uncontrollably…etc.
Telling whether a speaker is blown or not is easy for the most part. A blown speaker will either stop producing sound or no longer sound normal. You could also check each speaker individually by using the balance and fader controls on the head unit.
Another way to check whether a speaker is blown or not is to use a multimeter and check for continuity. If there isn’t any continuity between the speaker terminals, that usually means it’s blown.
3- Amp Clipping
If your speakers are driven by an amplifier, you need to make sure it’s properly installed and most importantly you need to make sure that its gain is properly adjusted, because otherwise, the amplifier will start clipping.
Clipping is a form of distortion that occurs when an amplifier is overdriven beyond its ability to generate sufficient voltage or current to reproduce the original signal to your speakers.
When an amplifier is pushed to the limits and attempts to deliver an output voltage or current that’s beyond its maximum capability, it becomes impossible to amplify the incoming signal without compromising its form. What happens next is that the signal is amplified but in a very distorted form.
Technically speaking, the sine output signal loses its rounded peaks and troughs. In other words the highest and lowest points of the sound wave are cut — or clipped — off. Hence the resulting sound signal reaching the speakers is distorted.
A clipped signal doesn’t only make the speakers crackle when they reach their mechanical excursion limit, but it also makes the voice coils pop into a position and sizzle. It’s doing it with almost twice the power of the speaker’s maximum capacity, which could end up damaging the speaker if it lasts longer.
4- Speakers overpowered
If your car speakers are only crackling at high volume, then it’s highly likely they’re overpowered. This holds true only when the speakers are driven by an external amplifier, because most aftermarket head units aren’t that powerful to overpower the speakers.
Overpowering happens when the speakers are driven beyond their limits – mechanical of thermal – or beyond their recommended power rating.
Overpowering the speakers isn’t actually a direct cause of crackling sound. However, too much power means excessive heat. The latter tends to destroy the coils.
That said, when a speaker isn’t completely blown – in that its internal things are starting to melt and separate because of being heated for too long – it will produce crackling sound; this is especially true if the cone is partially torn.
5- Too much bass
If your car speakers are presented with very low frequencies, they’ll have a hard time reproducing those frequencies accurately, which can make them crackle.
If your head unit is featured with a high pass filter, you need to use it to make sure your speakers are only reproducing the frequencies they’re designed to handle.
A high-pass filter is a simple electronic filter that scoops out unwanted low frequencies from an audio source.
How to fix car speakers crackling
Well, it depends on what’s causing the “crackling” problem. So, first of all you need to figure out what’s causing it and where it’s coming from.
If any of the wires have come loose, frayed, or corroded, you’ll need to cut, strip and crimp or solder them back in place.
If it’s a speaker driver issue, you either replace the speaker or have the loudspeaker reconed or/and have its coil and former replaced.
Furthermore, if it’s an amplification issue you’ll need to address the amp’s issue.
How to prevent speakers from crackling?
Here are 6 things we recommend to prevent your speakers from crackling:
- Make sure all the connections and speaker wires are intact and securely tightened.
- Replace or fix any blown speaker(s).
- If your speakers are powered by an amp, make sure it isn’t mounted to a conductive surface and that it’s properly grounded.
- Make sure your speakers’ overall impedance load isn’t lower than what the amplifier or head unit can handle.
- Make sure your amplifier isn’t clipping. This goes hand in hand with incorrect gain setting. If you don’t know what that is, refer to this article where we explain what gain is and what it does on an amplifier.
- Use high-pass filter on your head unit to prevent some low frequencies from reaching your speakers.