How to check for blown car stereo speakers in 90 seconds

Maybe you’re about to buy a used car or truck with a premium stereo system from Bose, Alpine, Fender, Burmester, Mark Levinson, or Krell, or maybe you enjoy a stereo system like one of these already.

Premium options like these are designed to maximize enjoyment from the listening experience on the move, though even the world’s priciest factory-equipped stereo systems can still experience trouble. Often, this takes the form of buzzing, crackling, or clicking sounds; non-responsive speakers; a static hiss; general distortion and fuzziness, and the like.

There are many causes of poor stereo system performance, relating to system hardware like damaged or blown speakers, or a problem with the installation and mounting of one or more speakers within a vehicle. But whether caused by a blown speaker, a loose mounting bracket, a broken clip or a rattling interior panel nearby, poor audio system performance takes away from the enjoyment of the listening experience you expect.

If you’re shopping for a used car with a high-end stereo, you’ll want to know if something’s wrong before you buy.

The trouble is, audio quality problems like these can be frustratingly intermittent, and simply playing some music during your test-drive may not always be sufficient to coax out telltale warning signs of trouble.

Members of online owner’s forums often document problems and solutions relating to the vehicles they drive, and that’s where this tip comes from.

In a Mercedes C-Class owner’s forum, one discussion centres around problems with defective speakers in the available Burmester stereo system. A small number of owners are affected, and have reported that crackling or buzzing sounds may be apparent either steadily, or intermittently. In some cases, the fix to the problem involved installing new speakers, and in others, the solution was to adjust or replace vibrating speaker covers, or the mounting provisions that attach the speakers to the interior of the vehicle.

Intermittent audio quality problems can be frustrating, as they’re more time-consuming and complicated to diagnose. Specifically, a driver may occasionally detect unwanted audio feedback from the system when a certain sound, song, or frequency is played. During other playback, the unwanted feedback may not show itself. This can add frustration to a diagnosis, and make it more difficult to obtain a repair, if the stereo system in question is still covered by warranty.

Thankfully, there’s an easy and free way to make blown speakers and other audio system problems reveal themselves more effectively: a smartphone app.

Start by downloading an app like Frequency Generator for your handset. The app can generate a variety of tones and sound waves across a wide range of frequencies, and allows users to adjust those waves and frequencies with incremental control by manipulating an on-screen slider. With the app installed to your phone, and your phone’s streaming audio connected to the vehicle in question, you can play a wide range of tones through the car’s speakers while sitting in the driver’s seat. With infinite adjustment of the frequency, volume, and type of waves you play, it becomes easy to coax telltale trouble sounds out of your stereo system.

As you explore the frequency spectrum, listen closely for any unwanted feedback. If you detect any, explore that frequency range with more detail, perhaps increasing the stereo’s volume, too. In this way, it’s easy to zero in on a blown speaker, interior panel rattle, or clicking speaker mount. By revealing the source and condition of the trouble, the problem will be easier to reproduce and accurately resolve if a repair is needed.

Whether you drive a used car with a high-end stereo system now, or you’re planning to soon, this simple app solution can help ensure a trouble-free listening experience, and make future trouble diagnosis easier and more straightforward. If you’re an audiophile entering the used car market, it’s a valuable tool to have in your toolbox.

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