Are your speakers not working, have a slight buzzing to them, or sound completely off? This article will cover 9 different troubleshooting tips and things to try that could possibly fix home theater speaker issues. These issues can be caused by a system that is incorrectly setup or configured. I hope that one of these tips will help you solve the speaker issue you are encountering!
1. Have you turned the receiver/amplifier off and back on?
No, seriously? Have you actually tried turning the receiver or amplifier off then back on? It sounds silly to do this, but I always suggest this with any technical issue! Back in the day, this may not have been necessary, but now that most receivers and amplifiers are more complex electronics, it is always a good first step before you start ripping things apart. It’s easy, press the power button to turn it off, wait 10 or so seconds, then press the power button again to turn the unit on. If this does not change anything, then perform a hard reset. To do this, power off the unit, then unplug the power cable. Wait 30 seconds then reconnect the power cable and turn the unit back on.
2. Always test using multiple sources!
If you are experiencing any type of audio issue with your system, try using a different audio source before you go ripping everything apart! I would suggest using an analog connection, so avoid using HDMI, Digital Coax, and Fiberoptic. Instead, use a normal RCA (red and white) to Aux cable (3.5mm) or a RCA to RCA for a DVD player or other device. This allows for the most direct input by excluding encoding and other problems that can occur with digital audio.
3. Check the speaker connections. Are they securely plugged in or screwed into place?
Check the speaker connections and ensure they are securely in place. If you are screwing the speaker cables into the binding posts, you must be sure that no two cables are touching. If two cables are touching then this could cause a dead short. You really don’t want this, ever, I promise. If there are no two wires touching, then remove the speaker wire correlating to the problem speaker(s). Twist the cable into a tight line again, clip the exposed speaker wire to approximately 10mm or .4 inches, then tighten the cable back into place using the binding post. I would suggest using Banana Plugs to connect to the binding posts instead of inserting the exposed wire. Yes, banana plugs can get expensive if you need a whole lot of them, but the convenience is great. If you ever need to move the receiver it makes it much easier when you can simply unplug the speaker wires.
4. Is a single speaker not working or outputting static?
It is rare that a single speaker is not working at all. If the wires correlating to the speaker are fully connected, but the speaker is not making any sound, then you need to check the integrity of the speaker wire. If you have a multimeter, then test the impedance level. To test the impedance level, set the multimeter to measure ohms (Ω). Disconnect the speaker wire and touch the red probe to the red or positive speaker lead, and touch the black probe to the black or neutral speaker lead. The multimeter should read anywhere between 6-16ohms. Usually, a speaker will have an impedance level of around 8ohms. If you don’t have a multimeter, here is a cheap one that will work for many different things. It is a handy tool to keep around the house. Without a multimeter, a simple test for this is to use a spare speaker wire. If the specific speaker is in-wall or in-ceiling, then you will need to unmount it. Connect the spare speaker wire to the speaker and the binding post where the original cable was connected. If the speaker works with this connection, then you my friend, have a faulty cable. If the speaker is still not outputting any audio, then it is possible that something is wrong with the receiver’s port or the speaker itself is defective. You can easily test this by disconnecting the speaker wire from a known working port, then connecting the spare speaker wire to the known working port.
5. All of the speakers are working, but sound a little off. Calibrating receiver settings.
Use a setup mic to automatically adjust the receiver’s audio settings.
Most modern receivers will come with a microphone that can be connected and used to automatically configure a few of the receiver’s settings. You will typically attach this microphone to a stand or tripod and set it in the area that you would be sitting. Each receiver will run the calibration and configure the settings a little differently, so it is best to double check what has been set. If your receiver didn’t come with or doesn’t have the ability to use a calibration mic, then there are many different applications out there to help calibrate your system. These are called SPL meter applications, they can be downloaded to a smartphone and used in replacement of a calibration mic. Note that this will not be as accurate and as easy as a calibration mic. Calibration mics typically do a good job with setting the distance and level of the speakers, some additional adjusting may need to be done to the crossover and EQ.
6. All of the speakers are working, but sound a little off. Calibrating receiver settings continued.
Sometimes using the calibration mic may not fix this issue. Next, you can try to set the speaker size, if available. Most modern receivers will have a size setting for each speaker. Usually, you will have the option of either small or large. Selecting small or large is usually determined by the speaker’s ability to pass a full range of frequencies. Most small speakers cannot pass or produce a lot of low-end frequencies thus it would be set to “small”. Low-end frequencies are lower pitch sounds, basically the deep bass that a subwoofer would typically produce. Denon actually suggests setting all speakers to “small” to take advantage of the receiver’s internal crossover bypassing frequencies under the crossover point to the subwoofer. The crossover point is usually set to 80Hz, which is a little higher than what most normal sized speakers can produce well, but this can be adjusted. I recommend only setting a speaker to “large” if it contains an internal sub, otherwise, I would make sure all speakers are set to small. However, if you don’t have a subwoofer, then you should set all of the speakers to “large.”
7. The front or surround speakers create muffled sounds when the audio is bass heavy.
If the auto-calibration has not done this already, raise the crossover point for the speakers. Small speakers typically cannot produce deep bass very well. It takes a big driver or speaker to produce this type of sound. So if your speaker is only capable of producing 100Hz and higher, and the crossover is set to 80Hz, then frequencies ranging from 80-100Hz may sound off. Note that the crossover point is not a “hard barrier”. The crossover is basically one speaker passing the sound to the subwoofer. Both the speaker and the subwoofer will actually be producing an equal amount of sound at the crossover point, but as frequencies move lower than the crossover, the subwoofer will begin to completely take over the sound until the other speaker is completely quiet. An easy way to set this is to look at the manufacturer’s rated speaker response. You can find this information in the user manual for the specific speaker(s) you are using. I would recommend setting the crossover no lower than the lowest rated response for the speaker.
8. Does one speaker sound off or completely different than the others?
Check the phase of the speaker! Speakers have drivers that move the speakers in or out, this is how the sound is created. If a speaker is “out of phase”, it means that it is contradicting what the other sources are doing. For example, there are 5 speakers, 4 speakers move outward simultaneously and one speaker retracts inward. The speaker that retracts inward is “out of phase”. Its movement is contradicting the movement of the other speakers. To check the phase of the speaker, you will need to look at where the leads or cables are connected on both the receiver/amp and speaker. Depending on the cables used, the red or marked wire will almost always connect to the positive(+) jack and the other cable to the negative(-) jack. In general is best to always wire your system in phase, red/marked wire to the positive jack and black/solid wire to the negative jack. Abnormal setups may actually require you to wire a speaker out of phase, but this is pretty uncommon for a home theater setup. If changing the phase doesn’t fix this issue, then it is likely that your speaker has bit the dust.
9. Does the subwoofer sound muddy or muffled?
Check the phase of the subwoofer!
The phase of a subwoofer is usually set with a switch or on some nicer subwoofers, they will have a sweeper knob on the back of the unit (see picture). The switch will have two options, either 0° or 180°. The sweeper will usually have a range from 0° to 180°. The phase for a subwoofer is very similar to speakers, however, there is something that you should note. If the subwoofer is at the front of a room and pointing towards the seating area, then you will likely want it set to the phase to 0°. This means that all of the speakers in the front will push air out at the same time. We actually have a somewhat unique setup at my home. The subwoofer is off to the left side of the seating area pointing towards the front speakers (note: we have a home theater in our living room). We have the subwoofer set to 180° in this position. With this kind of setup, it would be beneficial to play with the phase sweeper of the sub, as 90° could possibly sound better, but it really depends on many different factors as to what the phase should be actually set to. It can also be a personal preference, there is no definitive correct and incorrect! If changing the phase does not solve the muddy or muffled sound, then you can check some of the other things mentioned in this article, and if all else fails then it’s possible there is an issue with the power source or subwoofer itself.
I hope that one of these tips or fixes was able to help you with the issue you are experiencing, and hopefully, you learned something useful along the way!