Frequently Asked Questions

Why are my speakers distorting and popping?

First, lets look into what the popping sound actually is. Popping can occur when a speaker is driven too hard or played too loud. It's an excursion kinda thing. In fact, the popping sound you hear is the speaker's voice coil former (#1) striking the back of the pole piece (#2), which is attached to the magnet assembly (#3). On the driver's reverse stroke, the former smacks the pole piece with such force it emits a loud popping sound. Depending on what the voice coil former is made from, you can permanently damage the former. Kapton is a very good material for voice coil formers. It possesses great thermal properties, is light (that is low in mass) and is also very rigid. If the former is made out of aluminum, the odds of permanently damaging the voice coil former are much higher, because aluminum is a fairly soft metal.

There are some things you can do to minimize the chances of encountering popping sounds and distortion from your speakers. The first is to select the proper high-pass crossover. The crossover can be either active or passive. This will prevent excessive cone displacement (that excursion thing again) and will prevent the speaker's suspension from being stressed along with the voice coil former. Depending on the size of the speaker, a good high-pass crossover frequency setting is around 80 Hz at 12 dB per octave. Smaller speakers require a higher high-pass crossover frequency. A first order (or 6 dB per octave) passive high-pass crossover will require a crossover frequency that is set at least 2 octaves higher to prevent the popping sound, since this type of filter has such a gradual rate of attenuation.

The second preventative measure is to simply reduce your volume levels when listening to the system. If you like your music LOUD and like lots of bass, then consider installing a dedicated subwoofer. Shifting the burden of reproducing lower bass frequencies to the subwoofer saves your smaller speakers, since subwoofers are specifically designed for much higher excursion rates than smaller full-range speakers.

This FAQ was last modified on April 17, 2014

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