So you have noticed that there is a smell coming out of your subwoofer, and this probably has you worried. As weird as this may seem, a subwoofer producing a smell is quite common. But should that happen in the first place? Are subwoofers supposed to smell?
In short, no. Subwoofers are not supposed to smell. When this happens, it means there is an excess glue on the subwoofer’s voice coil that is burning off as the voice coil heats up. And this is more common in new subwoofers.
There are a couple of things that cause speaker and subwoofer voice coils, in general, to overheat. And we’ll take a look at them since that’s the primary reason for the subwoofer smell. We’ll also talk about subwoofer break-ins and whether or not they cause a smell later in the article.
Now let’s take a closer look at why subwoofers produce a smell sometimes.
Why does my subwoofer smell like burnt rubber when it plays?
Every subwoofer (or speaker) has a very important component known as the voice coil. The voice coil receives audio signals in the form of electrical current from the amp it is connected to. And with the help of the speaker cone, the audio signal gets converted into sound waves that you can hear.
Voice coils are usually attached to the speaker basket using glue. And to make sure the bond is strong, many manufacturers use heaps of glue. For this reason, after the glue dries, there is usually an excess glue on the voice coil.
Now here is how the subwoofer produces the smell.
When the subwoofer’s voice coil overheats you are using them, it burns the excess glue on it. And this produces a burning smell.
To most people, this smell is similar to a burnt rubber, and to some people, it smells like a band-aid. Ultimately, the kind of smell depends on the glue that was used.
The takeaway in this section is, an overheated subwoofer voice coil burns excess glue in the subwoofer, which produces the smell. But what exactly causes a subwoofer voice coil to overheat and possibly burn glue. Let’s take a look at them.
What causes voice coils to overheat?
Here are the factors that can cause a subwoofer or speaker voice coil to overheat. If your subwoofer is producing a smell, you should definitely inspect your subwoofer to see if any of these conditions are met. They could be the reason for the smell.
1. Playing at loud volume
When you play any music through your subwoofer at a very loud volume, your subwoofer voice coil will overheat.
By increasing the volume on your subwoofer’s amp, essentially, what you are doing is you are sending more electrical current from the amp to the subwoofer’s voice coil.
When the electrical current exceeds what the voice coil can normally handle, the excess electrical energy is converted into heat. And as the subwoofer continues to play, this heats up the voice coil to a point it’s overheated.
This is when any excess glue on the voice coil starts to burn, producing that burnt rubber smell from your subwoofer.
2. Connecting the subwoofer to a too powerful amp
Another reason for the burnt smell from your subwoofer could be because it is connected to a too powerful amp.
Similarly to turning up the volume, when the subwoofer is connected to an amp that is too powerful for the subwoofer, the amp sends more electrical energy to the subwoofer than it can handle.
And for the same reason, the voice coil overheats. It doesn’t matter whether you are playing at a loud volume or not; an overpowered amp will send too much electrical current to your subwoofer than it can handle.
And this will cause the voice coil to overheat quite quickly and eventually burn any excess glue on it.
An amp that is too powerful for your subwoofer or speakers is generally not recommended. This is because it can easily blow them.
3. Playing distorted audio through the subwoofer
Just as I explained in my article on the factors that cause speakers to overheat, playing distorted audio through a subwoofer or speakers in general causes the voice coil to overheat.
Audio from poorly recorded videos in a noisy environment or poorly mixed and mastered music are usually distorted. And playing these distorted through your subwoofer can cause the voice coil to get hot over time and potentially burn any excess glue.
Do new subwoofers smell?
Most new subwoofers produce a smell when their voice coil heats for the first time. When this happens, it means there is an excess glue on the voice coil that burns as the voice coil heats. And this results in a burnt smell from the subwoofers. However, not every new subwoofer has excess glue on its voice coil, meaning those subwoofers will not smell.
Just as I mentioned earlier, it’s quite common for new subwoofers to smell. That’s mainly because many manufacturers use heaps of glue to attach voice coils to the speaker basket. And the moment the voice coil overheats, the glue begins to burn.
However, not every new subwoofer has heaps or excess glue on its voice coils. Some manufacturers use the right amount of glue to attach the voice coil to the subwoofer basket or cone. This means there might be less to no excess glue on the voice coil.
So, even if the voice coil overheats, there will be less to no glue on the voice coil that will burn to produce the smell.
With these kinds of subwoofers, they may produce a smell that may linger in your room for a few minutes, and you may not even notice it. That’s because the excess glue is just not huge enough to burn for a long time.
The key takeaway in this section is, not every new subwoofer is supposed to smell. But most do produce that burnt rubber smell in their early use stages.
Is it bad if I can smell my subwoofer?
No, it is not bad if you can smell your subwoofers. It’s quite common and normal for subwoofers to smell, especially when they are new. It indicates that the voice coil is hot and burning off excess glue on them. However, if this continues for a long time, then something else may be burning, which can potentially damage the subwoofer.
If you have noticed your subwoofer smelling, you shouldn’t worry so much — at least for a couple of days of subwoofer usage. This is because once the excess glue is fully burnt, the smell should go away.
However, if this smell persists for a long time, then perhaps something else is burning. Another possible component of a subwoofer that can burn and cause a smell is the electronics. It could also be the voice coil itself burning (or blown) as a result of overheating.
In this case, to check if it is the electronics burning rather than the glue, you should open up the subwoofer and quickly inspect the electronic components for any signs of damage. If the voice coil is blown, the subwoofers won’t work, so in that sense, you don’t have to open anything.
I recommend you only do this by yourself if you consider yourself handy. Else, I’ll advise you to send it to any speaker repair near you.
Do subwoofers smell when breaking in?
For those who don’t know what subwoofer break-in is, this doesn’t mean you are breaking or damaging any component in a subwoofer.
Subwoofer break-in simply refers to loosening up the components of a subwoofer. What do I mean by this?
When a subwoofer is brand new, usually its components are stiff. And this stiffness restricts these components from playing effectively. So, essentially, by breaking in a subwoofer, you want it to loosen up so it can produce sound more effectively.
After a subwoofer breaks in, they become more dynamic and can move more accurately to produce whatever sound they ought to. The primary component of a subwoofer that breaks in is the subwoofer (or speaker) basket.
There is no special skill or technique to breaking in a speaker. However, there are some unique methods for speeding up the process. But to break in a subwoofer, you simply need to play music through them. And over time, they will loosen up and sound better.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, do subwoofers smell when breaking in?
A subwoofer should not smell when breaking in. When a subwoofer is breaking in, its suspension is simply loosening up as you play them. And that does not produce a smell.
A stiff material that is loosening up doesn’t smell. So there is no way a subwoofer that is breaking in (or loosening up) smell.
As we’ve already talked about, a subwoofer smell can be attributed to an overheated voice coil burning glue.
In summary, it’s very common for subwoofers to smell. Excess glue on the subwoofer’s voice coil burns when the voice coil overheats. And that is what produces the smell. However, under normal running conditions and with no excess glue, subwoofers are not supposed to smell.