Why Do My Speakers Make a Popping Sound?
By John Papiewski
The last things you want to hear from your stereo system are popping and crackling sounds. Besides being annoying, these noises produce abrupt movements in your speakers, potentially damaging them. The root cause is a bad connection somewhere in your audio system; the problem may be in a piece of equipment, in a cable or in the speakers themselves.
Speakers and Current
Most of the components in your audio system use relatively small amounts of electrical current. Speakers consume large amounts of current; they move the air back and forth to produce sound, and this takes energy. Because of this, every audio system needs a power amplifier to produce the needed current. When a bad connection interrupts the current for any reason, the speakers move suddenly, making loud popping sounds. The erratic movements stress delicate wiring inside the speakers and may cause them to fail.
A poor connection between the speaker cables, the amplifier and the speakers is one cause of popping sounds. Connection points can corrode over long periods of time and the cables can pull loose if mishandled. The cable itself is very robust and durable, but if the wire becomes pinched in furniture or suffers other damage, it will fray and produce noises in the speakers. In most cases, this is an easy problem to fix: inspect the cable at the amplifier and speakers. If the connections aren't solid, replace or repair the wires.
Internal Speaker Wiring
Inside the speakers, wires carry current from the external connectors to the sound-generating components. Long-term abuse can cause this wiring to loosen, creating noise, especially during loud music. Strong vibrations coming from the speakers will momentarily break a poor connection, resulting in popping sounds. If you are handy with tools, you can attempt to repair this problem yourself by identifying and soldering or replacing broken wires. Unless the speakers are expensive units, you may have to replace them.
The amplifier may be the source of crackling noises, especially in older models. Components such as transistors and capacitors deteriorate after many years, leading to poor sound quality and intermittent connections. The sockets that hold these components corrode and loosen, also contributing to connection problems. Vibrations from loud bass music shake the amplifier; any loose internal wiring or components will produce popping noises in the speakers. A competent technician can inspect the amplifier, replace defective parts and repair faulty connections.
Chicago native John Papiewski has a physics degree and has been writing since 1991. He has contributed to "Foresight Update," a nanotechnology newsletter from the Foresight Institute. He also contributed to the book, "Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance."