Audio is one of the many life pleasures humans enjoy on various levels. There is nothing like hearing the intensity of a helicopter in an action movie or every note to your favorite song. However, sometimes things come across as distorted and choppy at the worst times. There are sixteen possible reasons why your soundbar sounds distorted.
The most common reasons a sound bar is distorted are that the system is not decoding the digital signal or the speakers are blown. The connections in the back of the device also play a prominent role in why distortion occurs.
Mostly all of these reasons can be fixed in one way or another, and sometimes it is as easy as a firmware update or checking cables.
Table of Contents
Are the Speakers Blown?
A Common occurrence with sound bars is that the speakers are blown or broken. This can happen for several reasons, mainly because the soundbar is being misused or the settings are optimized poorly.
The most common reasons speakers blow in soundbars:
- The volume is too loud.
- The sound bar’s settings are too bass heavy.
- The power has surged.
- There is a defect in the product.
When the Volume is Too Loud
When the volume is too loud, it causes the speaker to vibrate uncontrollably, and the speaker does not reset to the correct position before vibrating the new sound. This causes the speaker to tear or crack.
When the speaker is torn or cracked, and the volume is too loud, the signal vibrations tear the speaker more. The sound also does not reverberate correctly, which causes the distorted sound from the soundbar.
When the volume is too loud, the speakers cannot move properly; The higher the volume, the higher the gain, and the stronger the audio wave traveling to the speaker cone through the voice coil. Over an extended period, the speakers will become damaged.
When The Sound Bars Settings are Too Bass Heavy
The equalizer settings in the sound bar are where the bass settings are found. If the bass settings are turned up too high, then there is too much power being sent to the speakers. This stresses the speaker because the bass uses the maximum range of movement that the nylon can stretch to create the sound.
When the bass settings are set to high, the speaker will blow as described above. The speaker cones will tear, crack, or rip because of the excessive force applied due to the audio wave.
This occurs because the frequency of the audio signal is too strong for the voice coils and cone to process. When the audio dissipates, it also creates heat that must go somewhere. Over some time, this too can cause damage to the speaker cones.
The Speaker Cones Have Become Damaged
The speaker cones can become damaged when the soundbar is misused. Several components help drive the sound through the speaker cone.
Each Speaker cone is created to handle a specific range of audio waves measured by hertz. The hertz of the audio wave is the range to which the audio signal is moving and processed by the speakers.
If the speaker is processing a soundwave beyond its capabilities (distortion is a vital symptom), then the speaker cones will become permanently damaged.
There are repair kits available that will provide replacement parts for speakers. These kits provide all the necessary materials to replace the cones on the sound bar speakers or any speaker within that hertz range and size.
Sometimes the Factory Makes a Mistake
Factories might strive for and market a good quality product, but every once in a while, a defective soundbar will slip through the cracks.
Some examples of factory defects include:
- Loose wires
- Missed Glue spots
- Solder missing
- Misaligned Parts
Each of the above items happens at the manufacturer level and is usually taken care of immediately. The product’s warranty will replace the item, or the store the soundbar was purchased from will replace the defective soundbar.
Power Surges and Static Electricity can Blow out the Speakers
When there is a power surge, a burst of electricity is sent to the primary electrical circuits of the soundboard. This can cause an overload of electrical waves and blow the speakers, electronic chips, or motherboards and melt wires.
Static electricity can do the same thing as a power surge. However, a constant static electrical current would more likely cause interference with the speakers. Static electricity will interfere with the digital signal that the speakers are receiving from the television.
This symptom can be diagnosed by listening to the sound bar with no audio source. The static electricity makes a buzzing sound that can be heard when the system is starting up, shutting down, or sitting idle.
While the speaker is turned on and being used, the static electricity can cause the speaker to sound distorted.
The Audio Source is Distorted
The source of the audio can also be distorted when being transferred to the soundbar. If there are other machines located in between the sound bar and the primary audio source (such as an amplifier), then that too can distort the speakers.
An amplifier can be mismatched to the speaker power, which will, in turn, cause the speaker to sound distorted. For instance, a five hundred-watt speaker powered by a one thousand-watt amplifier will become damaged if played at the maximum volume.
When the amplifier is too strong for the speaker, then the sound will come out distorted.
The Amplifier is Clipping the Audio Waves
When the volume of the audio signal is too strong, the amplifier “clips” the uppermost positive and lowermost negative portions of the audio wave when processing the audio clip being amplified and sent to the speakers.
This causes the sound to become distorted as the speaker is not receiving the entire signal. Although this is a less common cause of audio distortion in speakers, it does play a role in how well the system behaves when applying strong audio signals to the speakers.
As the volume is increased, the amount of gain in the audio signal is also increased. An easy fix for this, and most reasons for audio distortion, is to simply turn the volume down.
Turning the volume down decreases the wavelength that needs to be amplified, ensuring that it fits well within the parameters and capabilities of the amplifier. This way, the tops and bottoms of the audio wave do not get clipped off and cause distortion.
Are You Using an External Amplifier when There is Already an Internal Amplifier?
Most soundbars will have amplifiers already installed with speakers inside them. This is known as using an active speaker. Sometimes the box may not say (internal amplifier) but simply says that the device has active speakers.
Active speakers mean that each speaker has its amplifier and the signal that the soundbar needs is a raw audio signal (such as from a television or onboard sound card). If the soundbar is receiving a signal that is already amplified (from an external amplifier or sound card), then the signal will become distorted.
Depending on the source of the amplified signal, the fix for this problem could be as simple as changing the audio setting to the sound card on the source.
Passive Speakers are More Likely to Becomes Distorted
Active speakers have a mini amplifier that feeds the speaker already installed onto the soundbar. Passive speakers, however, do not have that mini amplifier attached to the soundbar. The incoming signal is modified at two different locations.
The active speaker uses the internal amplifier to modify the sound signal before it is played through the speaker. This means that regardless of the input, the most essential aspect of the speaker is the volume to which the audio source is played.
Since the signal is activated when entering the speaker, it leaves more room for error when connecting other electronic devices.
Passive speakers rely on outside sources to amplify the sound, which can lead to a more significant margin of error when dealing with sound waves.
Since more components are involved in transferring the sound waves to the speaker, there is a higher chance that a distorted signal will make its way through the speaker cone.
What If I Can Not Change My Audio Setting For My Sound Card?
If the audio setting cannot be changed on the sound card and the sound card amplifies the sound, then there should be two audio out ports on the device.
The first port will be labeled “Speakers Out,” and this port is what produces the amplified audio.
The second port will be labeled “Line Out.” This port is supposed to send an unamplified signal to the desired soundbar.
Unplug the cable from the speakers out port and plug it into the line out port. This is also useful if the television has an amplified audio port also. The same options should be available and mostly found when connecting the audio ports using a series of grouped wires.
On the television’s rear, these wires are RCA-like jack wires that come in various colors. Unplug all of them, and use only the red and yellow RCA jack wires on the basic audio port section located on the rear of the television.
The Signal Itself is Too Strong
The audio wave leaves the amplifier and travels to the voice coil. The voice coil then distributes the soundwave through the speaker cones linearly.
When the signal transmitted through the voice coil is too strong, the speakers that are supposed to receive the signal only receive a portion of the signal.
The Driver Signal Is Too Strong
The audio wave travels through the driver and is distributed to the various speakers to create the desired sound. When the volume is too loud or the signal is too strong, the excess audio waves can reverberate through the other speakers inside the line.
This vibration of the un-intended speaker cones distorts as the audio waves travel through them.
The driver’s purpose is to mimic the audio file, and if the signal is too strong, the cone can also be pressed against the housing of the sound bar, causing a distorted sound. This is called the crossover signal.
The Cross Over Signal Is Too Strong
As the audio file is distributed from the main driver to the speakers, one thing that occurs is that the motherboard will send the audio signal to the speaker that will best play the sound from the source.
This happens based on the hertz range of the speakers installed into the soundbar and the range of the wavelengths being sent to the motherboard. The motherboard sends the signals to the speakers that are designed to produce those specific sounds effectively.
A Common Range for these crossover settings is:
The crossover happens when the signal reaches the points where two or more speakers are potentially used. For example, a helicopter flying by in an action movie contains several sound waves ranging from the low end to the mid-range.
Since the volume and amplifier add gain to the original signal that may be heard, ranging from fifty to two hundred hertz, the subwoofer, and the woofer will be playing the sounds. When a crossover distortion error occurs, the mids play a portion of the lower hertz audio sections, or vice-versa.
The misalignment of those audio signals is what distorts the original sound.
The Driver Itself is Permanently Damaged
If the driver itself is damaged permanently due to any reason, then the driver is not sending the correct signal to the correct speaker.
This means that the mechanical aspects of the driver have somehow become damaged either by factory defects or misuse. The driver can become damaged if the sound bar is abused or sounds are constantly distorted due to high volume or overpowering the amplifier.
Some other things that could damage the driver include power surges or dirty components. Over time when dust builds up inside the speaker box from the tiny microscopic breathing holes on the outer casing of the soundbar, the components can become so dirty that they short out.
An easy fix for this is to clean the components of the sound bar every so often. Twice in five years should do the trick. An easy way to clean the device is to remove the backing of the sound bar and use compressed air to blow away any build-up on the motherboard or wires.
The Voice Coil is Physically Damaged
When the signal is too strong, either from the amplifier or the volume, the heat produced inside the speaker also increases. As the heat from the speaker builds up, the voice coil and other components will respond to that heat.
It does not take a lot of excess heat to damage the voice coil, and heat is only one component of a damaged voice coil. Too strong a vibration at a consistent rate can also damage the voice coils.
With the voice coils damaged, the audio wave does not correctly dissipate the heat, or the excess vibrations and more damage occur.
The initial damage may be so minor that it is not noticeable at first glance and could be micro-abrasions to the voice coils. Similar to how the cones can become damaged over time, the voice coils will suffer a similar fate.
Instant damage happens when the electricity is turned up so far beyond the maximum capacity of the speaker that the speakers instantly become damaged due to the massive amount of heat and exhaustion of the system.
This difficult damage is usually done when the volume and amplifier combined have produced a signal so strong that it completely blows the voice coils and cones. Although rare, it can happen if the volume on the audio source is turned up to the maximum when started up.
The Soundbar Needs an Update
As with almost everything digital, the soundbar could require an update to its drivers. Especially if the soundbar is new, manufacturers update to fix issues not discovered until after the product’s release.
The following Samsung Soundbars are a prime example:
These models currently have software updates available on the Samsung support website, under Soundbar or subwoofer makes abnormal sound.
Installing the updates is done with a USB stick. A Person can download the updated firmware and use the USB stick to install the updated firmware to the soundbar.
Have you Checked the Cables in the Back?
The soundbar receives its audio signals from various cables, all with different purposes depending on the audio setup. This can range from a Single HDMI cable, USB cable, or even a range of high-tech audio cables designed for specific sounds.
Loose cables and wires can cause a break in the electrical connection that is carrying the audio file to its final destination. If there is a single audio cable, then it is relatively easy to check. However, when you have several wires carrying different frequencies to the sound bar, it does become slightly more challenging.
Disconnecting one cable at a time and using various audio sources will help narrow down the problem wire.
Check the Cables on the Amplifier Too
Sometimes the single cable runs from the television or original audio source to an external amplifier, which then breaks the signal up and distributes it based on the frequency range (hertz). These connections can also become loose or damaged.
For instance, if the amplifier to the sound bar uses a MIDI cable to transfer the audio waves to the sound bar, and there is some internal damage to the connection inside the amplifier, the sound will come out distorted.
The same issue can happen to the connections inside the soundbar that receive the audio signal from the amplifier or another external source. The connection may even seem secure, but it has a slight wiggle to the cord.
These connections can become worn down over time due to the weight of the cord carrying the connection. The cord pulls down on the connection that usually sits horizontally across a table or a stand.
Has the Sound Bar Been Power Cycled?
The soundbar has firmware that tells the soundbar how to operate and what to do when it receives a signal. Like a computer or a phone, the soundbar must be cycled to stay current and release any extra interference that may be living in its memory.
Often unplugging the power to the soundbar and letting the soundbar reset can fix the issue. This often removes buzzing or humming sounds that could be causing any distortion in the sound.
Using the factory reset option for the soundbar, if it has the menu option, can also help alleviate this type of distortion or issue.
Resetting the router, if the soundbar is connected to a router, can also help with the buzzing or humming sounds coming from the soundbar. This resets any network options and interference that may be causing any distortion.
There is a Common Fix for All Distortion
Aside from replacing the soundbar or cashing in on the manufacturer’s warranty period, turning the volume down is the most common fix. Most distortion is caused by an error in the signal being received.
The signal is either too strong, or the audio source itself is distorted before being received by the soundbar. Replacing parts is usually the last step anyone takes. A lot of the time, the issue is as simple as turning the sound bar on/off.