Do speakers wear out over time? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 14 Unread 08-15-2019, 08:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Do speakers wear out over time?

Do speakers lose their edge after years of playing? I'm referring to standard cone/tweeter speakers.
Is there a useful lifetime inherent for speakers? How many decades should a well made pair of speakers be good for?
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post #2 of 14 Unread 08-15-2019, 08:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BN08 View Post
Do speakers lose their edge after years of playing? I'm referring to standard cone/tweeter speakers.
Is there a useful lifetime inherent for speakers? How many decades should a well made pair of speakers be good for?
Short answer, I think, is yes. Lifespan depends on how well they're treated, but I believe that some would argue that it's probably until they physically break.
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post #3 of 14 Unread 08-15-2019, 10:11 AM
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The Moving parts do wear out over time. Depends on Climate conditions. Humidity/Dampness will end life faster. Hours of play comes into play for the Transducers. Cabinets should theoretically last decades or more. Crossover network will also degrade from heating cycles from use. JMHO.

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post #4 of 14 Unread 08-15-2019, 12:12 PM
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I think it's far more likely that some aspect of the speaker will fail independent of use. For example Foam Surrounds are notorious for disintegrating after a period of time (maybe 10 or 20 years). Though Rubber Surround will pretty much last forever.

I have speakers that I built in 1978 and rebuilt in 1983, that are still pretty much in pristine condition -


But I take very good care of my equipment. The surrounds are Butyl Rubber and the Cones are Paper, but despite being 40 years old neither shows any signs of wear or deterioration. The Video above is from 2013.

But things can happen.

- Exposure to sunlight can cause accelerated deterioration of both the Surrounds and the Cones.
- Ozone and other environmental toxins can cause the cones to deteriorate.
- Foam Surround can literally disintegrated, though they can be replaced.
- Cones can Sag. That is, from constantly being in one position, the cones can start to droop in that direction.


Some say you should rotate your speaker drivers every few years to prevent this. I've probably done this 3 times in 40 years, though only because I was taking the speakers apart for some other reason.

How long anything will last hinges on how well you take care of it. Nothing last forever, but good speakers should last for decades if well cared for. In my case, FOUR Decades with many more to come, and my speakers are not exceptionally expensive as the video indicates.

The two mechanical aspects that actually move, or in this case flex, are the Spider which is the suspension down by the base of where the Voice Coil and Cone meet, and the Surround which is the flexible Rubber Ring that attached the Cone edge to the Frame. I suppose with enough flexing these could literally wear out, but I've yet to see it happen.

http://www.stereoclarity.com/audio-i...ers-explained/

Far... far more likely is that the owner or one of his idiot friends will abuse the speakers either physically or electrically and damage them.

Steve/bluewizard
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post #5 of 14 Unread 08-15-2019, 01:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BN08 View Post
Do speakers lose their edge after years of playing? I'm referring to standard cone/tweeter speakers.
Is there a useful lifetime inherent for speakers? How many decades should a well made pair of speakers be good for?
I've had speakers rot the woofer surrounds but other than that the speakers I bought 30+ years ago, and are in use daily, still sound fine to my ear.

Ferro Fluid is supposed to break down when used in tweeters around 10 or so years but I tested my B&W CM1 Concept 90s from the 1980s a few years back to some modern speakers and the highs were still as extended as the others so if they used ferrofluid, (not sure to be honest), it hasn't seemed to have caused an issue.
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post #6 of 14 Unread 08-15-2019, 01:48 PM
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The preceding posts have pretty well nailed the technical aspects, and IMO, there seems to be less risk around speaker longevity today. What may be of more interest is the potential for dissatisfaction with how a speaker sounds over time. Living with a speaker uncovers faults. Depending on the nature of the fault, that can drive subsequent upgrades.

Choosing well can help keep dissatisfaction at bay for a while. My average is about a decade +/- a few years between upgrades. My last speakers made it 14 years before an upgrade became compelling. The speakers I have now are much better than those they replaced but that's been true with every upgrade so far. It seems unlikely that these speakers will be the last ones I ever own.

Just one more upgrade and things will be perfect.
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post #7 of 14 Unread 08-15-2019, 03:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Interesting stuff to consider BlueWizard. Thanks for chiming in as pretty much everything you discussed is new information to me.

It looks like in a controlled environment a pair of speakers may last a good 40 years or more when properly taken care.
I wonder what's in worse shape, my ears or my speakers!

How much innovation has there been in speaker design and materials over the last 30-40 years?
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post #8 of 14 Unread 08-15-2019, 10:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BN08 View Post
How much innovation has there been in speaker design and materials over the last 30-40 years?
As a loudspeaker engineer, let me say A LOT. The hugest changes in design were first, the realization that speakers could be modeled and designed as electric filters. This became published in early 70s, percolating into the 80s, taking speakers from cut-and-random-try design to something on a more scientific basis.

Moving into the early 90s, the revolution was hardware and software that could measure drivers' actual response and impedance, and make simulations that closely matched reality. Design theory moved past simple electrical filters into more complex levels of reality. Magnetics became more studied and better simulated with Finite Element Analysis, which was also applied to cones and other parts.

Meanwhile, the rise of Asian manufacturing enabled a more powerful $/performance ratio, and materials development has continued. It's now possible to design a much "better" speaker than in the past, though old speakers that once sounded nice can still sound nice if the parts have not deteriorated.

Having said all that, there is still much that we do NOT know about why some speakers sound better than others. I think not enough is really known about distortion and time response, for instance, at least not generally. Then again, the audio hobby is one where ignorance on the part of the buying public actually helps many manufacturers, by keeping mysticism in the hobby.
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post #9 of 14 Unread 08-16-2019, 09:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BN08 View Post
...

How much innovation has there been in speaker design and materials over the last 30-40 years?
There have been some innovations, in the more refined Engineering and in the Material Science. In the old days, speakers used to be designed with very basic information, a pencil, a piece of paper, and perhaps a Slide Rule. Today we have the Thiele/Small Parameters, computer design and modeling.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiele/Small_parameters

Thiele/Small were developed in 1972, but took a lot longer to filter down into actual speaker design and even longer for it to filter down to DIY speaker builders. Today it is pretty much the standard for speaker design.

In materials, we have a variety of synthetic materials like Kevlar for speaker driver materials. Focal is actually using FLAX fiber sandwiched into their drivers. DALI actually incorporated a new magnet structure into their higher end drives that was originally developed for Electric Motors (if I recall correctly).

But Electronic/Computer Design and Modeling has allowed great improvements and made easier much of speaker design. There are even many software packages to aid the average home builder in the design of their speakers. There are also electronic gadgets to aid in the design and testing of speakers that are well within the price range of the average DIY builder.

Their has even been a change in the philosophy of speaker design. In my day, 10", 12", and 15" woofers were common, today you are far more likely to see multiple 6.5" and 8" bass drivers. The old design produced short wide boxes, newer design with smaller drivers tend to be tall and narrow.

This more reflects the classic speaker design of my youth (you know, back when Dinosaur roamed the earth) -

https://www.musicdirect.com/best-sel...shelf-Speakers

https://www.musicdirect.com/speakers...shelf-Speakers

But today you seen near exclusively this -

https://www.crutchfield.com/shopsear...ilver_300.html

https://www.crutchfield.com/S-nRcb1n...ilver_500.html

But let's not forget inflation, in 1978 I bought the turntable that I still use today, it cost about $180, in today's money that is about $690. But today a similar turntable can be bought for about $400. I suspect a similar thing for speakers, inflation has driven the cost up, but technology has drive the price back down. It would still cost more, but not as much as inflation would imply.

And generally technology that was once reserved for the premium models become economical enough to filter down into the lesser models thereby improving the quality of those lesser models.

Just a few random thoughts.

Steve/bluewizard

Last edited by bluewizard; 08-16-2019 at 09:31 AM.
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post #10 of 14 Unread 08-16-2019, 06:26 PM
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I bought my LaScalas in 1979. They have paper surrounds....still going strong today, 40 years later (original drivers, crossover has been updated)

I had a pair of EV Interface D's that I bought in 1978 and as been said.... they (foam surrounds) rotted out about every ten years & had to be replaced.
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post #11 of 14 Unread 08-16-2019, 06:58 PM
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All depends on driver material.

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Congrats on the 40 years LaScalas!

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post #12 of 14 Unread Yesterday, 04:04 PM - Thread Starter
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Hopefully in the near future I'll be able to A/B some new speakers against my 1980's Linn Isobarik's.
I wonder how a pair of Ascend Horizons, used as L/R, will compare?
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Even planar speakers can have their panels de-laminate over time. The sound is similar to an amp clipping at fractions of a watt.
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post #14 of 14 Unread Yesterday, 11:45 PM
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I have 4 dynaco A25's from 1965 or so I bought used a few years ago. They sounded great with stock drivers still. I did replace the tweeters but not because they were bad but because there are some upgraded seas tweeters available. I'm sure speakers do wear out but my guess is that its not from use but more from just material aging and I believe good speakers will still be going strong 50+ years later.

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