Home Theater System Loudspeaker Troubleshooting

Many speaker problems offer easy DIY fixes

Wooden speaker in a home sound system

Getty Images-iStock Collection / poplasen 

Signs that one or more of your loudspeakers, has gone bad include sound intermittently going out and speaker crackles and pops. Not every problem that sounds like a speaker problem actually sources to the speaker.

What to Check and Listen For

Before you assume you have a bad speaker in your home theater or audio system, check for several common alternative problems.

Change the Channel

First, connect the suspected faulty 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 faulty speaker was originally connected to and see if the other speaker also sounds bad when it is connected to that channel.

Clean the Terminals

If it turns out that the suspected "bad" speaker still sounds defective when you connect it to another channel, then you may a have a bad speaker. If so, it may be something as simple as dirty speaker terminals, which can be cleaned, or the internal speaker components may be damaged. If you take the speaker grill off—if it is dusty, clean it!—and find the speaker cone is damaged, recone the speaker or have it done for you, or contact the manufacturer for a replacement. If it is no longer under warranty, you would probably have to pay for the replacement.

Check the Wire

If you find that both speakers sound bad when connected to the same channel, but sound okay when connected to another channel, then replace the speaker wire connecting the speakers to that channel and see if that makes a difference. If both speakers sound fine with the new speaker wire (test the wire before you use it), then you have found that the old speaker wire was the problem and you should now be back up and running.

Inspect the Connections

If you determine that both speakers sound fine on other channels, and you have replaced the speaker wire of the channel where the problem first occurred with good speaker wire, but any speaker you connect to that channel still sounds bad, then the amplifier for that channel may be bad, or a connection is not making proper contact.

The problem could be as minor as dirty or broken solder joints at the point where the circuit board of the amplifier or receiver connects to the inside portion of its speaker terminals.

If you don't notice any solder joint breaks, the problem could also be a short in the circuit somewhere, or it could be something else in the audio circuitry that requires more extensive repair or replacement.

Open the cover lid of your amplifier or receiver (unplug from the power outlet first!) and perform a visual inspection. If the interior of the amplifier or amplifier section of the receiver is dusty use 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.

Master Volume Control

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 have 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. This procedure should shake out problematic dust or dirt.

The Bottom Line

The above speaker troubleshooting tips are based on problems that may occur during reasonable use. If you have a habit of playing your home theater system at full blast, or you are using speakers that are the wrong impedance for your system's capabilities, you run the risk of blowing out a speaker or amplifiers in your home theater system.