19 Ways To Make Old Speakers Sound Better
19 Ways To Make Old Speakers Sound Better
As great as home theater is, the problem is that over time, equipment can degrade, worsen, and even fail with age.
Worse still, is that often times there’s things that we unknowingly do that potentially speed up this process.
While speakers typically last for decades, their audio quality may not, and might leave a lot to be desired.
No worries though because in this guide we’re not only going to show you how to make your old speakers sound better, but offer some tips on how you can properly maintain the life of your equipment for many years to come.
Let’s take a look!
(After feel free to check out this comparison between older and newer speakers detailing which is better)
The first improvement you can implement if your speaker supports it is Bi-Wiring it.
Simply put, Bi-Wiring separates the treble and the bass components of a speaker into separate entities.
By using 2 sets of wires for each that is then connected to the same amplifier, the idea here is that in theory it should provide better sound quality.
There’s lots of contention on whether this is actually true but personally I’ve noticed a difference so it’s possible you might too.
Bi-Amping takes this a step further by giving the high frequency and low frequency their own amplification channels.
This has multiple benefits.
When there’s more demanding scenes that require a lot of power, using separate amplifiers could technically allow you to get a cleaner less constrained sound.
Then there’s also the benefit that when actually looking for an amplifier, you won’t be limited by power since each would be separate.
You can tell if your speaker supports this by looking on the back and seeing how many binding posts it has.
If it has 2 sets of binding posts, then it supports bi-wiring/amping.
2). Upgrade Your Wires
Speaking of contention, there’s also the hypothesis that upgrading your older wires may have a direct influence on the sound you experience.
Now admittedly I’m undecided on this as on one hand I’m of the opinion that a cable is a cable and shouldn’t make that much of a difference.
While on the other hand having personally played around with a bunch of different wires and noticing a slight difference (admittedly much more premium ones) it’s not definitive.
Long story short, it’s something you’d have to try for yourself, but it may make a difference.
Try to opt for copper wires rather than those made of aluminum as they’ll be immune to things like oxidation which do have an effect.
3). Keep Your Cables Off The Floor
One thing that is definitive however is that messy speaker wires can make for an unsightly looking home theater.
But did you also know it could be having an effect on your sound too?
Cables transmit vibrations into your electronics, so it only makes sense that keeping them away from the source of those very vibrations would be smart — the source in this case being the floor.
This could then in turn negatively impact the sound you hear.
Now there’s multiple ways to ditch the wires, be it making your speakers Bluetooth or even hiding them, but just be aware that unruly wiring (obviously making sure they aren’t tangled too) could be having an indirect effect on how everything sounds to your ears.
4). Proper Room Placement/Stands
Proper room placement as well as the use of speaker stands can have one of the biggest impacts with regard to audio quality.
As a general rule, you ideally want to place your speakers the same distance away from each other as you are seated.
For example if you’re seated 6 feet away, then your speakers should be located 6 feet apart.
This is known as the golden triangle, as it ensures you’re in the sweet spot for the best sound quality and spatial imaging while avoiding any delay or overlap in incoming sound waves.
You also want them at least 12 inches away from the wall (ideally 18 inches) as it’ll help reduce unwanted resonances and room nodes that color the sound.
Another helpful tip is to make sure you toe in your speakers slightly.
Keeping in mind that speakers are directional devices, regardless of the sound waves that radiate outward, their cleanest audio will still come from the waves aimed directly at you.
So by using what’s known as toe in, meaning angling the speaker inwards or outwards, you can get better auditory imaging for more immersive experience.
It’s definitely worth a try, just keep in mind you don’t need to over do it — just enough to where the grille clothe is pointed towards your seating without actually seeing the sides of the speaker cabinet.
That’s how you’ll know you did it right. You can play around with this further, that’s just a good rule of thumb to start with.
For better sound, make sure your speakers are also at ear level when seated.
Also worth noting is that by using speaker stands, you can improve your sound quality further as it’ll decouple the speaker and prevent it from buzzing or distorting when at those higher volumes.
5). Replace Your Connectors
Over time, the connectors you use to connect your speaker with can experience oxidation, which can make the ends of the connector dirty and thus decrease sound quality.
By replacing them, it just might breathe new life into those old speakers.
Just make sure your speakers are actually wired correctly — meaning the positive connections are wired to the positive terminals and the negatives are connected to the negative.
If they aren’t their polarity could be reversed causing them to play out of phase with each other.
Also another little pro tip, you can reduce wire hum you might experience from the old connectors to your main cables by scrubbing the pins on the plug with wire-wool.
6). Replace The Clothe/Foam Around The Driver
Over time, the foam in a speaker can go bad, causing it to become brittle or fall apart while drivers with a clothe surround can become abraded.
Replacing this material can allow your speakers to perform like they use to.
To help, you can also use a silicone sealant to rub into the material that’ll act as a shield, preventing it from further wear.
7). Calibrate Your Speakers Using A Digital Room Equalization Software
Most modern receivers have some form of room EQ calibration that optimizes your speakers’ sound for your particular room by utilizing a small mic.
Calibrating your speakers this way should provide for a better experience all around.
8). Upgrade Your Receiver
However not all receivers have this calibration software, and so if you find that you have one that doesn’t, it might be time to upgrade your receiver.
Another reason to upgrade your AVR is it might be underpowered for the speakers you’re using it with.
But yet another, almost speculatory reason is that some believe that disregarding DSP modes, the receiver actually has a direct influence on the sound quality itself.
Even I’m not particularly sure about that, but anything is possible I suppose.
9). Place Tennis Balls Under Your Equipment For Stability
Here’s a little bit of an unusual method to help with the sound quality of older speakers and equipment; using tennis balls!
By cutting each one in half so they form a shallow cone and placing them under the feet of your entertainment equipment, you can reduce vibrations caused by the internal components of your gear & from the general foot traffic in the room.
Because their rubber construction is so effective at eliminating unwanted vibrations, it’s a great way to easily fix the sound quality in a room without much effort involved.
10). Room Treatment/Deadening
Room treatment, and in this case, room deadening is another route you can take that’ll have a massive effect on your home theater experience and is directly related to your speaker’s performance.
To put it simply, the more reflective surfaces in a room, the more your sound is going to be all over the place, figuratively and literally.
To get a general guage of how much acoustical treatment the room needs, you can do what’s known as a clap test.
Clap once and note any echoes. Now try to add as much soft and plush material to the room as possible, do that same test and you’ll notice the difference.
Without being too long winded, basically the more soft materials in the room, the more it’ll absorb unwanted echoes which will improve your sound.
Sound proof curtains, acoustic panels, and even carpets help in that regard, but the idea is that you want to minimize the amount of reflective surfaces in the room.
Using a specialized AV rack with your speakers is also a great way to improve audio since they’re specifically designed to reduce sound coloration.
There’s a bunch more things you can do to improve room treatment specifically so here’s some tips on that.
11). Cabinet Bracing
On the more advanced side of things, should your older speakers begin to leave more to be desired, you can always add internal bracing to them to improve their audio quality.
Internal bracing basically involves adding additional pieces of wood inside the cabinet to improve stability and reduce box resonance.
On smaller speakers this may not be practical, but on something like a floorstander, it’s certainly an option.
Even subwoofers are often internally braced to reduce resonance, and the larger the cabinet volume, the more this becomes necessary.
12). Replace The Damping Materials Inside
Something else to keep in mind, especially if your speakers are on the older side, is the material inside may need to be replaced.
There’s 2 things to look at here, the cabinets’ internal lining and the material in the actual woofer cavity.
Speakers that may be decades old might include cheaper materials like fiberglass and plastic for the lining which are less than ideal for audio quality.
Replacing this lining with a higher quality material can make a big difference.
The rear wall behind the driver of the speaker is also important to properly damp as this is where the most auditory reflections tend to happen.
To remedy this, a few handfuls of thick wool placed loosely behind the driver can help improve audio quality dramatically.
The amount of stuffing you use matters too since if you under-damp the speaker (meaning not using enough soft materials inside the cabinet) it can sound boomy and resonant.
Conversely, if you over-damp it (using too much) it can cause the speaker to sound flat.
It’ll be subjective with regards to your particular speaker in terms of sound of course, but just keep those things in mind and you’ll be golden.
13). Change The Driver Unit
Another way to breathe new life into your speakers (quite literally) is to replace the drivers.
This is obviously a more extreme measure, but opting for a similar driver ensures your speakers will be able to perform like new.
Sometimes manufacturers offer the same exact driver separately, but if not, try to match the new driver as closely as possible with the old one.
14). Make Sure To Remove The Dust
Be sure to dust your older electronics & speakers from time to time as it not only has an effect on the look of your speaker, but its performance as well.
Dust can infiltrate the wire connectors and disrupt the electrical signal that runs between the loudspeakers and their source, muddying the sound.
A microfiber clothe should suffice, but if they’re really vintage, then you can use a gentle wood cleaner to help restore them.
Here’s one that I personally use.
Daily Wood Cleaner
15). Warm Up The Speakers/Equipment First
Another tip you can use is warming up your speakers and equipment for 30 minutes before you use them.
This ensures optimal performance, and gives the components adequate time to warm up rather than just from a cold start.
There’s also what’s known as running in, and although it’s mostly applicable to newer speakers, should you replace the drivers, it’d be applicable here too.
Running in is basically the idea that over a period of 48 hours or more, the materials loosen up and allows your speakers deliver a better sound than right out of the box (this is also known as burn in)
Now whether this actually true or simply your ears becoming adjusted is up for debate, but it’s a good practice to implement nonetheless.
16). Use Pure Direct Mode/ Higher Quality Source Material
On most receivers is a mode known as pure direct mode, and this basically sheds any extraneous processing or subwoofer bass so that all your left with is the speakers’ pure capability.
This can be a way to guage what they’re capable of, and you may even prefer it.
Adding to that point, using source content with a higher quality bitrate is an easy way to make things sound better almost instantly.
This is because lower bitrate sources have issues accurately representing higher and lower frequencies as most of this information is discarded to retain a smaller file size.
However by using a CD or content encoded in a lossless manner, you can be sure you’re getting the best quality sound possible.
Examples of these often included on Blu ray discs include Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
17). Use A Hi-Fi DAC Or External Amp
Should the processing in your receiver be insufficient, using an external amp & or Hi-Fi DAC can be a great way to add some additional power to your older speakers.
The one you use will depend on your particular setup since some are Bluetooth while others are optical, but implementing one into your system can be a great way to step things up.
18). Turning Off Your Display For Better Sound
Now this one might sound a little out there, but if you want better sound quality, try turning off your display.
Displays can often introduce electrical noise, and this can in turn effect what you hear.
So by turning it off, what you might notice is a slightly better quality sound.
It’s an interesting thought for sure, and is certainly at least worth the try.
19). Listen To Your Content In The Dark
Building on the previous point, listening to your content in the dark can actually make a pretty big difference sonically.
As strange as it may seem, when there’s a lack of visual stimuli, you tend to be more attentive to the finer details in the content.
It’s actually why some companies like pitch-black playback hold music listening sessions in the dark.
It’s also a reason why movie theaters dim the lights when it’s time for the actual movie.
Even former chief scientist of Dolby Laboratories, Dr. Poppy Crum in an interview from 2008 talked about how our brain compensates for what it thinks we should hear rather than what we do.
Bonus: The Option Of Getting A New Speaker
If all else fails and you just simply can’t be asked, there’s always the option of getting a new speaker all together.
Sometimes, things can prove too difficult to repair and it’s better to go with something new.
It’s ultimately your call but if that’s the case, then here’s 2 articles to help with that.
As you can probably tell, there’s a bunch of different ways on how you can make your old speakers not only sound better, but ensure they last for decades to come.
Playing them too loud obviously has an effect on this, but you may not have been aware that something as simple as dust can be just as damaging over time.
So if you have an older pair of vintage speakers that you thought you’d never be able to use again, using these tips are great way to get them up and kicking again.
But that’s about wraps things up for now. If you found this helpful or know someone that would, please share this (it took a while)
Also feel free to ask questions and leave a comment below since I enjoy hearing from everyone.
Until next time, make it easy, keep it simple! 😉
Hey everyone it’s nice to meet you. I’m Jay & I’ve been with this hobby for many years now. I decided to create this site to share everything that I’ve learned from personal experience with you. I also happen to be a huge gamer, lover of all things tech related, and a major fitness buff (love weightlifting)
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