Troubleshooting audio problems -- thanks for your help with this


What would cause a sound system to distort? I have replaced speakers with new ones – still distortion. The problem occurs when the bass is raised and sometimes the treble – and when the overall volume is raised. I can raise the volume higher if I turn the bass and treble down – if I don’t I will get major distortion. Thoughts? Thanks!


Various bits in the interior, as well body panels, can resonate and cause funky vibrations. Also make sure the speakers are securely mounted.


What you are probably hearing is called “clipping.” When you raise the volume on bass notes it pushes the amplifier beyond the voltage level available. In a car 12~13V is what you have to work with, when you try to crank up the volume too high instead of a nice rounded waveform you get flattened tops and bottoms. This sounds bad, and it will kill speakers if you keep doing it.

The only 2 fixes for this are getting more efficient speakers (they produce more DB per watt) or a higher powered amplifier. In a car that 12V limit means a high powered amp has to have voltage inverters and other tricks to get higher voltage, which means good ones are expensive. Your best bet is different speakers, and learning to keep the volume down to reasonable levels (I know that’s not ‘cool’ but your 40 year old future self will appreciate still being able to hear).

Oh, if you really must have more bass, a powered sub-woofer is probably the way to go. They are designed to give you bass without having to over-drive the regular speakers.