How Long Do Speakers Last?

Almost all of us use speakers – with our computer set up, entertainment set, mobile phones etc. However, finding a good speaker can be quite challenging, especially since many models with different functionalities exist. 

When purchasing a speaker, you should consider its sound quality, durability, and lifespan. Doing so will ensure that you get the most value for your money. Most of them last for more than 20 years, and some can still be usable for a lifetime. Of course, their wear and tear will depend on multiple factors, such as the materials used and how you take care of them. 

What Is the Typical Lifespan of Speakers?

There is no definite answer to “How long do speakers last?” It will depend on the parts’ quality and how well it is taken care of.

All audio equipment will become worn off after regular use. The only difference is that those made of high-quality parts will last longer than those with low-quality components. 

Similarly, speakers treated well are more long-lasting than abused ones. Under normal circumstances, low-priced speakers can last for only five years, while high-end speakers are more durable and can have a life span of several decades with proper care. 

In a survey conducted by Steve Guttenberg comparing the lifespan of a hi-fi system and iPhone, he found out that based on survey respondents’ experience, hi-fi systems tend to last longer than iPhones. The latter only has an average life of two years, but hi-fi systems are still functioning well after ten to twenty years. 

Different Types of Speakers: Which Lasts Longer?

Speakers have two types: passive and active. A passive speaker gets its power from an external amplifier, while the active speaker has a built-in amplifier in its cabinet.

Active vs Passive Speakers: What's the Difference? - The Home Theater DIY
From HomeTheaterDIY

The first type is more suitable for home use, while you may commonly see the latter on professional audio systems and monitors. 

Each of the two has its pros and cons. Here is a table that summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of passive and active speakers: 

Passive Speaker  Active
Speaker
 
ProsConsProsCons
Less wiresExternal power is necessary for it to runThe amplifier is built-in with the speakerDouble wires
Easier to place around the homeNot wirelessAllows wireless applicationsIt needs to be near an AC plug
Easier to upgradeSignal often dissipates. It goes to the crossover after the ampSignal does not dissipate. It goes to the crossover before the amplifier.It is complex and often not upgradeable
Amplifier can be quickly replaced  Amplifier cannot be replaced
Lightweight  Heavier in terms of weight
More durable  Less Durable

One of the good things about passive speakers is that they can last a lifetime. Why? That is because they have no built-in confines. New wireless protocols and software updates won’t make your passive speaker obsolete. In fact, you’ll be able to use them the same way in 30 years or more. 

However, active speakers also have an essential advantage: their compatibility with new technologies. They can accept wireless signals, which is something that passive speakers cannot do. 

So, the choice is up to you. What would you prefer? Longer lifespan or the ability to allow wireless applications?

What Causes Speakers To Deteriorate?

You already know that a speaker’s lifespan will depend on the quality of its components and how you take care of it. If you want your speakers to last longer, you have to know how to treat them well. That’s why it is crucial to discuss what can speed up their deterioration and try to avoid them as much as possible. 

We’ll divide the causes of speaker deterioration into two classifications: 

  • Factors that can lead to instantaneous damage, and
  • Factors that can cause your speaker to deteriorate over time.

Let’s begin with the first classification. Here, there are four factors that can cause instant and fatal damage to your speakers. These are burn-out, physical trauma, power surge, and loosened connections. 

Speaker Burnout

Speakers burnout can happen when the audio signal input’s power level exceeds the loudspeaker’s capacity. When that happens, the voice coil will smolder and melt because of the extreme heat coming from the speaker’s driver transduction. 

The audio device converts audio signals in the form of electrical energy to sound waves. However, it does this at a very low efficiency, which is usually below 4%. The process produces a great amount of heat around the voice coil, damaging the speaker’s health. 

Why a startup is making speakers out of concrete
From ZME Science

Another cause of speaker burnout is overloading. Although, it usually refers to mechanical damage from over-excursion. To resolve this, you must ensure that the amplifier output will never surpass the speaker’s maximum power or wattage rating. Aside from that, you need to keep it cool as much as possible, and you may easily do that with proper ventilation or placing it in shaded positions. 

Physical Trauma

Speakers can get damage from external factors that cause physical trauma. Foreign objects and particles can tear or stretch the audio device, so some of them are designed with protective grilles and meshes. 

Power Surges

Power surges can damage all appliances and devices. It leads to electricity spikes when the audio device is kept on. When spikes in electricity occur, your audio equipment is at risk of being damaged. For example, turning on speakers during a brownout or power surge can cause the amplifier, crossovers, and drivers to blow out.

From IndoorTemp

Turning off your speakers’ power can protect them from damage caused by power surges. You may also opt for power conditioners designed to protect all sorts of electrical devices, including audio equipment.

Loosened Connections

If you regularly hear crackling sounds and pops coming from your speaker, then there is a high chance of a loose connection. They are relatively easy to fix. Soldering or tightening the connection usually eliminates the problem. 

However, if you ignore a loose connection, it can cause damage due to irregular conductivity within the overall circuitry of the audio device. 

Those are the four factors that may cause instant damage to your speakers. Now, let’s discuss the ones that can cause their deterioration over time. These factors include wearing out of the cone or surround, electronics deterioration, ferrofluid dry up, and dust. 

Wearing Out of Cone or Surround

The cone acts as the speaker’s diaphragm. It works by pushing and pulling the surrounding air to produce sound waves. For them to properly work, they must be lightweight. Their mass affects the efficiency of their movement. Besides that, the cones should be durable enough to withstand their movements and environmental factors, such as heat and humidity. 

Due to the cones’ thinness, they are prone to physical trauma. Sharp foreign objects and blunt force can easily damage or tear them. That is why some speakers come with protective grills and meshes. 

Skytec SP800 8" Chassic Speaker Cone Replacement Driver 100W
From SkyTec

Environmental factors also affect the wear of cones made from different materials. For example, cones made of aramid fiber can easily suck up moisture and wear out more quickly in humid environments. On the other hand, paper cones are more delicate when exposed to UV rays. They tend to wear out faster when placed under direct sunlight. 

The surround is the ring-shaped component that connects the cone to the base of the speaker. It can deteriorate over time because of many factors, including friction, mechanical stress, and heat. Generally, the surround is the first component of the speaker to wear out because of repetitive stress.

Electronics Deterioration

After regular and extended use, electronic components will eventually wear out. The timeline for their deterioration is usually expressed in MTBF or Mean Time Between Failures, which is measured in hours. 

Out of all the electric components of a speaker, the capacitor of its crossover network is the one that is most susceptible to deterioration. That is because it is consistently operating to hold and distribute the charge in the crossover. 

When the capacitors wear out, it results in improper frequency band splitting, which can cause distortion and damage to your speakers. 

Drying Up Of Ferrofluid

Speakers designed in the 80s and ’90s have ferrofluid. It is a magnetic fluid that improves the damping within the speaker and prevents the voice coil from overheating. 

The use of ferrofluid in speakers has been halted because it quickly dries up. When it does, it leaves magnetic particles, which can cause a myriad of problems, such as low-pass filtering and distortion. 

Dust

Dust can be all around the house, and it can go to appliances and devices. As harmless as they seem to be, you should always clean up the dust from your speakers. That is because as they accumulate over time, they will attract moisture and form a corrosive layer that can eventually damage the sound, exposed connectors, relays, switches, and internal electronic circuitry of your speakers. 

Proper Care Tips For Your Speakers

Now that you understand the different factors that may affect the longevity of your speakers, here are some proper caring tips to help prolong their lifespan. 

Tip 1: Keep your speakers out of direct sunlight

The harsh UV ray from the sun can cause the deterioration of your speakers’ cones and grill fabric if they are exposed for extended periods. Moreover, the voice coil can absorb the sun’s heat, leading to overheating and burnout when the speaker is turned on. 

Tip 2: Maintain Favorable humidity

Moisture can cause inestimable damage to different appliances and gadgets, such as your speakers. In the long run, constant exposure to excessive moisture can wear out your speaker’s cones, surrounds, metallic components, and power amplifier. 

Tip 3: Keep it dust-free

As mentioned, dust can be harmful to your speaker when they pile up and form a corrosive layer. It can affect the sound quality and durability of your audio equipment.

Furthermore, there may be sharp particles in the dust that can cause microscopic tears to your speaker. Therefore, you must keep it dust-free as much as possible. 

Tip 4: Ensure ample ventilation

An area with good airflow will help cool down your speaker as they work. Moreover, you should place them at least several inches away from your walls or narrow spaces to lessen excessive heat and vibrations distortion. Doing so will not only help you prolong the lifespan of your speakers. It will improve its sound quality and enhance the overall acoustic in your house. 

Tip 5: Guard against power surges

Power surges cause instantaneous damage to all appliances and electronic devices. Using a high-quality UPS or voltage regulator is a helpful and cost-effective solution. It protects your speakers and other equipment from power surges that may lead to unexpected repairs and replacements. 

Tip 6: Watch out for static electricity

Static electricity can be challenging to avoid, but you should do your best to keep it out. Like power surges, hazardous levels of static electricity can cause your speaker to blow out. 

To protect your speakers from static electricity, you should use anti-static floor mats for your carpets. You can also get a humidifier system for your room because dry air acts as an insulator that enables static electricity to build up to a dangerous level. Keep in mind not to place the speaker near the humidifier as too much humidity can damage it.

Conclusion

There is no exact answer to “How long do speakers last?” The longevity of your speakers will depend on the quality of their components and how well you take care of them. 

Different factors can cause instant damage to your speakers, such as burn-out, physical trauma, power surge, and loosened connections. Aside from those, some elements can degrade your audio devices over time, including wearing out of the cone or surround, electronics deterioration, ferrofluid dry up, and dust. 

To prolong the lifespan of your speakers, you must continuously watch out for these different factors and guard against them by investing in protective devices, such as UPS and anti-static floor mats. Furthermore, you must keep your speakers clean and away from harsh environmental factors, like exposure to extreme sunlight and humidity.

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One thought

  1. My Tannoy HPD315-8 co-axial drivers needed new woofer foam after 25+ years but the drivers were fully functional when I sold them after 41 years. The crossovers were looking a little natty but they were still working.

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