Advice Articles

Troubleshooting Simple Audio/Video Problems

Something in your audio system sounds “broken,” or sound has cut out completely. Don’t panic! Take a deep breath. We’re here for you, and you’re in the right place to find the correct solution to your audio/video problems. And if these quick solutions don’t fit your situation, call us or email us and we’ll help you in person.

Problem: One of your loudspeakers sounds muffled, dull and lifeless, like a blanket has been thrown over it.

If this is the case, it’s possible that the high frequency component of the speaker, the tweeter, isn’t working properly. Quick! Run and get some pillows from the guest room and bring them back to where your speaker is. Trust me on this.

Carefully remove the speaker’s grille cover, exposing the front baffle of the speaker, where you’ll see the tweeter (on top) and the other drivers. Now, turn your system on to produce some sound, and set the “balance” setting to favor only the speaker in question. (If the speaker is your right front speaker, turn the balance setting all the way to the right.) While sound is being played through only the muffled-sounding speaker, place a pillow softly over the midrange driver(s) being careful not to push on them too hard. Doing this will help you hear only what the tweeter is doing, if it’s doing anything. If you hear any kind of “fuzziness” or distortion from the tweeter, or no sound at all from the tweeter, then you know that there’s something amiss with the tweeter or the crossover inside the speaker that directs the tweeter’s performance.

If you’re fairly mechanically inclined, swap tweeters with the other speaker, which you know is working. Unplug the speaker, then unscrew the screws that hold the tweeter in place on the speaker’s front baffle faceplate. Unclip the wires connecting the tweeter, and swap it out, being careful to keep the two tweeters separated so you can tell which is which. With the new, working tweeter in place, do the pillow test again.

If you hear sound just fine with the new tweeter in place, the problem is in the original tweeter. Call us immediately, and we’ll arrange to replace the defective tweeter for you. If the sound is still muffled or distorted, the problem may be with the speaker’s crossover. Call us. We’ll help you troubleshoot the crossover, and if we need to replace it, we’ll work that out with you, too, no problem.

Problem: One of your speakers suddenly sounds very bright and tinny, high pitched like an old AM radio.

In this case, maybe the midrange driver isn’t operating correctly. Go get the pillows again, like we did in the previous solution, and use the balance controller again to turn the whole signal to the speaker in question. Remove the grille, and carefully place the pillow over the tweeter, the smaller of the drivers visible on the baffle. Doing this will isolate any sound coming from the midrange drivers.

Just like in the previous solution, if the midrange is making distorted sounds, and you swap it out with a working midrange from another speaker in your system, and it works fine then, you know that it’s the speaker driver itself that is the problem. Call us immediately, and we’ll arrange to replace the defective midrange for you. If the sound is still muffled or distorted, the problem may be with the speaker’s crossover. Call us. We’ll help you troubleshoot the crossover, and replace that if need be, as well.

Problem: No bass! Distorted bass! Where’d my bass go?

Suddenly, your sub stops producing the big, gut-rumbling, roller coaster bass you’re expecting. Maybe you’ve overdone it; the woofer has become damaged, or the powerful voice coil has begun rubbing against the inside of its motor assembly (distorted bass!) or has even separated from the driver (no bass!). It’s possible. Subwoofers are heavy duty hard workers, the monster trucks of your system. They do a lot of the heaviest lifting in extreme effects situations, especially in home theaters and big music listening rooms.

To diagnose the problem, first check your connections and make sure everything is solid. Then, carefully remove the grille cover from the front of your subwoofer. Do a visual inspection: is the cone ripped or damaged? If not, gently push the cone evenly around its circumference. Do this with your fingers spread wide on the cone so the woofer's voice coil isn't flexed by uneven pressure. If you hear any scratching or detect any mechanical rubbing as you push, the voice coil is likely out of whack. (That’s a technical term.) Call us immediately, and we’ll help you troubleshoot the voice coil to get your subwoofer back up and running.

Problem: There’s no sound at all coming from one of your speakers.

Ah, detective work! We always wanted to be a detective; a private eye. In a trench coat, on the dark city streets, with an untraceable heater in our hand ready to make the final... Er, sorry. No sound from a speaker, you say?

Goal: Find the broken link in the audio signal chain. Try playing another source. If the silent speaker works, then the problem is not the speaker or the speaker wire, but the original source. (Time for a new DVD player.) If no source works with your silent speaker, but they all work with the other speakers, then you know that the speaker, or its output connection, or its connecting wire, is the culprit.

Start with the speaker itself. First, make sure all connections are tight and conductive; that metal is touching metal. If everything looks tight, but still no sound is heard, get started. Swap the silent speaker out and replace it with one of the other speakers by simply disconnecting the wires at the speaker and reconnecting them to the new speaker. If the newly connected speaker works fine, then the problem is in the original speaker. If the new speaker also does not work with this connection, the problem may be with the connection, the wire, or the output signal.

If the problem is with the speaker itself (if other speakers work with the same connection), then call us immediately and we’ll troubleshoot the speaker with you to solve the speaker’s problems. If the problem is with the wiring or the connections, and no other speakers work with the connection where the original speaker was, you’ll have to do a little more detective work, sarg.

First, make certain that a working speaker is connected to the wiring where the silent speaker was. Then, go to your main audio receiver or processor and locate the place, usually the back panel, where all of your speaker connections are made. If the silent speaker was located in the left front position of your system, locate the left front output connection on the back panel of your receiver. Switch that left front outgoing connection with another connection that you know is working: the right front connection, for example. Simply remove the wiring from the left front output, move it aside, and replace it with the wire coming out of the right front output connection. Does the speaker work now?

If it does, then the front left wiring is the problem. Is the wire squashed under a piece of furniture or bent? Is the wire frayed or broken at any point during its run from the receiver output to the speaker input? Replace the wire, and you should solve your problem.

If the new wire connection is tight and not broken and still does not produce sound at the speaker, there is a possibility that the output from your receiver is the problem. You may have to contact the manufacturer of your receiver to discuss troubleshooting or warranty options.

Still bamboozled? No problem. Call us or email us, and we’ll help you troubleshoot these issues in detail, in person.

Problem: Is my powered subwoofer working or not?

More detective work! First, a visual inspection. Is there a light on the subwoofer? Is that light on, or off? Is the light glowing red, or green? Is the subwoofer’s amp plugged into a wall outlet? If the sub is plugged in and the light’s on, glowing green, and there’s no sound from the subwoofer while a signal is playing in your system, something is amiss.

Turn the volume knob on your subwoofer’s amp plate down to zero. At the rear of your receiver, where all of your speaker output connections are made, unplug the speaker or line-level RCA cable running to your subwoofer and reconnect that to an audio output of your nearby CD or DVD player. Choose either the left or the right speaker output to make this connection between the player and the subwoofer. Insert a CD (not a DVD) into the player and press “play.”

Once the CD has begun to play, slowly increase the volume level of the subwoofer’s volume controller. You should immediately hear a lot of bass, even at a very low volume level. If this is the case, your sub, and the connection cable, both seem to be working. But the output from your receiver may not be working properly.

Replace your original connections and consult the manual for your receiver. Find the receiver’s on-screen menu for initial setup, “speakers,” or “subwoofer YES/NO.” Confirm that your subwoofer setting is correct for your wiring setup. Run a test tone to make sure. If there’s still no bass, and the test tone does not sound in the subwoofer (but the sub worked with the CD player test), this confirms that the output connection of your receiver is faulty.

If you play the CD and there is no sound from the subwoofer, the problem may be in the cable connection. Try using a new piece of wire from the CD player to the subwoofer. If the new wire doesn’t work, the problem may be in the subwoofer itself. Call us immediately, and we’ll help you troubleshoot the subwoofer and find out whether it’s the amp or the driver.

Problem: There’s no sound at all, no matter how loud you increase the volume!

Was there sound yesterday? If it appears that nothing has changed since the last time there was sound, maybe a connection has been severed somewhere in the system, a plug knocked out of place, a wire come loose. Has everything come “on” the way it usually does? Has your universal remote skipped a component? (It happens.) Maybe your receiver or processor has finally given up the ghost. Is the dial on your receiver lighted, or showing the usual digital readout?

If everything looks normal, and all connections are solid, and all lights are lit, and there’s still no sound at all, try this: First, turn the system volume down to a moderately soft volume setting. Consult your receiver’s user manual and find the test tone function. (Sometimes, this function is accessed easily from your remote control.) Run the test tones, which should sound in each speaker in turn.

If you hear the test tones, then maybe one of your source components is not producing a signal. Try each component in turn, being sure to switch your receiver from source to source as you go from DVD to CD to radio, etc.

If no sources produce sound, but everything else seems in order, the problem is probably within your receiver or processor unit. Contact the manufacturer for specific troubleshooting directions. Feeling confused by this problem? Call us or email us, and we’ll help you troubleshoot these issues in person.

This article was last modified Jul 30, 2014

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