Tech Talk

Breaking Down Blown Speakers

It's a bummer, but here's what to do if you happen to blow a speaker in your amplifier.

In the home and automotive audio world, “blown speakers” are fairly common. Many use the term in a sort of generically non-technical way to describe speakers that aren’t working right or aren’t working at all. An unfortunate inconvenience, mostly.

For musicians, though—especially working musicians—blown speakers in a guitar amp (or bass amp or PA system) are far more than an inconvenience. They can be a major problem that threatens a gig or a session. It happens in music equipment far less often than it does in home and automotive audio, fortunately, but it does happen and it raises several questions: What does the term “blown speaker” actually mean? What blows a speaker? And what should you do if you have a blown speaker?

Let’s take these one at a time.

What Does the Term “Blown Speaker” Actually Mean?

A “blown speaker” is one that doesn’t work right or doesn’t work at all. It’s an umbrella phrase that encompasses several problems that could cause a speaker to sound unpleasant or go silent, but suffice it to say that a blown speaker makes either bad sound or no sound.

What does a blown speaker sound like, and how do I know if I have one?

Oh, you’ll know. The most common aural indication of a blown speaker is an unpleasant buzzing or scratching sound, by itself or roughly at the pitch of the note the speaker is attempting to reproduce. Or there could be no sound at all.

What Blows a Speaker?

Blasting it with too much power for too long.

It’s worth noting here that in properly matched combinations, speakers are designed to handle whatever their amps can dish out at extremely high levels and for far longer periods than would ever likely be encountered in everyday use. Amp manufacturers use intensely rigorous testing procedures to ensure this level of quality and compatibility, making blown instrument amp speakers a highly improbable occurrence. Nonetheless, it is in the nature of any technology to experience occasional problems, and speakers do blow once in a great while despite the best efforts of the amplification industry to ensure otherwise. It’s improbable but not impossible.

What Are My Options if I Have a Blown Speaker?

Repair or, more likely, replacement. More expensive component loudspeakers that are sold individually, such as those by JBL and Electro-Voice, can often be repaired and re-coned (re-coning a speaker means not just replacing the speaker cone, but replacing all the moving parts that constitute the speaker cone assembly; this includes the voice coil).

Often enough, however, when considering the cost of repairing a blown speaker, you might find that you’re better off simply replacing it. In that case, learn more about Fender speakers here.