Perhaps you sent your car to the car wash, and they mistakenly got the subwoofer in your trunk wet. Or maybe your home audio system’s subwoofer is placed near windows, and you forgot to close the windows while it was raining.
These are just a few examples. There are hundreds of ways a subwoofer can get. And whatever your reason, I get it. We are not perfect. Sometimes, we may mistakenly spill heaps of water on our speakers or even subwoofers.
But the question is, will that be the end of the subwoofers? Can subwoofers get wet without any potential damage or issues?
Most subwoofers will damage when they get wet. The subwoofer box, usually made with medium-density fiberboard and many other components in the subwoofer, will damage when wet. However, marine subwoofers are waterproof, meaning they can get wet without damage.
It’s definitely not a good idea to get your subwoofer anywhere close to water. Many things can go wrong. And I’ll explain all of the bad things that can happen to your subs when they get wet later in the article.
And I’ll follow that up with tips on troubleshooting your subwoofer if they are already wet and how to prevent any potential damage from happening to your subs again.
But first, let’s talk about one of the questions I get asked quite often, which is kind of weird, in my opinion. And that is…
Are subwoofers waterproof?
Generally, most subwoofers are not waterproof. This is because the materials used in making subwoofers (and speakers, in general) are not water-resistant or waterproof, and they can easily damage when they are wet.
There are many different materials used in making subwoofers. Some of the materials like rubber used in making cones and sometimes surround and metal are water-resistant. And they will probably do just fine in water. So you can simply wipe off the water when they are wet without any issues.
However, some subwoofer parts are not waterproof and will easily damage in water. The most prominent part of a subwoofer is its enclosure.
Subwoofer boxes or enclosures are usually made with medium-density fiberboard (or MDF). Although they look like and feel like natural wood, these boards are engineered. They are made from residuals of hardwood and softwood fibers and resin.
Subwoofer manufacturers prefer MDF mainly because they are affordable and easily accessible, but there are many other reasons they prefer MDF.
However, MDF is not water-resistant or waterproof in any way. In fact, medium-density fiberboards have the property of absorbing water and swelling, and that makes them easily disintegrate. More on this later in the article.
Also, when a subwoofer is very wet, any excess water that the MDF couldn’t absorb will seep into the subwoofer.
Another important part of the subwoofer is the cone. Some subwoofer cones are made of paper. And as you may already know, papers become weak and will easily disintegrate when wet.
In essence, most subwoofers are not waterproof and will be damaged when they are wet.
What about marine subwoofers? Are they waterproof?
For those who don’t know what a marine subwoofer is, this is a uniquely designed subwoofer for boats and outdoor use.
They are made for situations where your audio systems will be exposed to the elements such as rain, water splashes, and even sun rays.
Marine subwoofers are waterproof. They are covered with a waterproof rubber mounting gasket, and the metallic parts are made of stainless or are gold-plated to prevent corrosion. This makes them ideal for boats and outdoor use.
Another thing you should know about these subwoofers is, not only are they waterproof, but they are also more powerful than generic subwoofers. That’s mainly because they are usually not designed to be used with a subwoofer enclosure. So they need to be more powerful to be able to play low frequencies effectively.
Here is a video of a marine subwoofer getting tested in a swimming pool. And honestly, I was very thrilled seeing this.
Although marine subs are mostly designed for boats, there are many different options made for vehicles. For example, Rockford Fosgate and JL Audio make unique marine subwoofers to be used in cars. This means you wouldn’t have to worry about a car detailer splashing water on your subs ever again.
One that I’d personally recommend is the Rockford Fosgate M1D2 10″ Marine Subs (on Amazon). Besides this subwoofer being waterproof, one particular thing I like about this subs is the VersaSwitch.
This switch allows you to change the subwoofer’s impedance. And this means they can work with several subwoofer amps easily. You can choose between 1 ohm and 4-ohm resistance.
What about outdoor subwoofers? Are they waterproof?
And then there are outdoor subwoofers. These subwoofers are designed to be used in your backyard, patios, or any outdoor space. But are they waterproof?
Outdoor subwoofers are not waterproof, but they are weatherproof. This means they can withstand harsh weather conditions like rainstorms, snowstorms, and more. However, they will damage when they are too wet or immersed in water.
Since these speakers are made of outdoor spaces, the chances are that you’ll keep them there, exposed to different weather conditions. For this reason, outdoor subwoofers are usually made of weather-resistant materials. Some brands also use weather-resistant coatings on the subwoofer enclosure.
So, yes. Outdoor subs can withstand water splashes and, in some cases, rain, snowstorm, and sun rays. However, when they are immersed in water, they will damage. Their coatings are not enough to prevent water from penetrating the subs.
The chances of you ever immersing outdoor subs in water are quite slim.
Can Water Damage a Subwoofer?
I think at this point in the article you should already know the answer. However, I have to explain all of the different things that can go wrong with exposing subwoofers to water.
In short, yes. Water can damage a subwoofer. When subwoofers get wet, the subwoofer enclosure, usually made of medium-density fiberboard, subwoofer cones made of paper, and subwoofer terminals and other metal components, can all get damaged.
So what are the different problems that can happen when a subwoofer gets wet? Let’s look at them.
1. Subwoofer enclosure will disintegrate
As I talked about earlier, most subwoofer enclosures are made of medium-density fiberboard (or MDF). And when MDF gets wet or gets into contact with water, it absorbs the water. And after a few days, they begin to swell.
After they dry up, the MDF becomes brittle, and they begin to break gradually.
Your subwoofer wouldn’t sound the same again. That’s because the subwoofer enclosure plays a crucial role in the boominess of the sub. And once they get damaged, the bass frequency response will not be as good as it once was.
2. Subwoofer cones made of paper will easily damage
Just as I explained in my article on how speakers degrade over time, I made mention that speaker (or subwoofer) cones are usually made of plastic, metal, aramid fiber, or paper.
Subwoofer cones made of plastic, metal, and aramid fiber will not incur any damage when wet. You can easily wipe the water off or let it out to dry.
However, when the subwoofer cone is made of paper and gets wet, it will warp and lose its original shape when they dry up. And this will reduce the sound quality of the subwoofers. And in extreme cases where the cone gets very wet, it can wear and tear.
3. Subwoofer’s metal parts will rust
There are several metal parts on a subwoofer. The first and most obvious part is the terminal.
When the subwoofer terminals get wet, and you don’t clean them up, they can rust, and you will have to replace them.
Besides the terminals rusting, when they are wet, and you power on the subwoofer, this can cause a short circuit which can potentially blow the subwoofers.
Inside the subwoofers are more metals, specifically the voice coil and magnets.
When water penetrates into the subwoofer onto the voice coil and the magnets, they will rust over time. And this will cause them to lose their magnetic strength, leading to your subwoofers not functioning properly.
4. Amplifiers in active subwoofers will damage
For those who don’t know what an active subwoofer is, this is basically a subwoofer with a built-in amplifier. With an active subwoofer, you don’t need to connect it to an external amp.
Amplifiers in active subwoofers have many electronic components in them. And electronic components will easily damage when they come in contact with water. And your subwoofer will fail to work thereafter.
What happens when a subwoofer gets wet?
I think I’ve pretty much covered all the different ways water can damage subwoofers. So let me summarize everything in a few sentences.
Here is what happens if a subwoofer gets wet
If a subwoofer gets wet, the subwoofer enclosure box will swell and disintegrate over time. Subwoofer cones made of paper will also wear and tear or warp when they dry. And metallic parts like the subwoofer terminals, voice coil, and magnets will rust when the water is not wiped off.
What to Do When Subwoofers Get Wet
All hope is not lost. There are still ways to recover your subwoofers from damage, provided they are not too wet and not for a long time. Here is what you need to do when your subwoofers are wet.
- Disconnect the subwoofer from its amp or power source: The first thing you want to do when you find out your subwoofers are wet is to disconnect it from the amplifier. If it is an active subwoofer, then disconnect it from the power source and the receiver.
- Wipe off any water from the subwoofer: The next thing you want to do is wipe off any water on the subwoofer, preferably with a lint-free cloth. Clean any water on the subwoofer cones, terminals, enclosure, and all of the outer parts of the sub.
- Sand off the wet and damaged subwoofer enclosure: If you were fortunate enough, and only a small part of the MDF got wet, you can repair it by sanding that part off. You’ll need sandpaper, and I recommend that you use a padded block to help you sand the damaged part easily.
- Let the subwoofer dry: After you’ve sanded the damaged part of the subwoofer, simply leave it to dry. If the weather is favorable, place it in a safe place outside your home where the wind and sunshine will let it dry fast.
- Replace the subwoofer enclosure: If the whole subwoofer got wet, there is no way to repair the enclosure. The only option you have is to replace it. I’d recommend you to contact your subwoofer manufacturer if they can ship you a replacement subwoofer box that fits your sub’s model. Else, you’ll have to manually build a subwoofer box that will work with your subwoofer.
Tips for Keeping Subwoofer Safe from Water Damage
Here are some tips on how to prevent your subwoofer from getting damaged by water.
1. Waterproof subwoofer with fiberglass
Fiberglass is an excellent material for waterproofing anything, and subwoofers are no exception. By waterproofing your subwoofers, there is no way water will penetrate through the enclosure and potentially damage the box and any internal component.
Although this video isn’t specifically about waterproofing subwoofers, the concept remains the same. If you enjoy DIY projects, this could be a fun one to do on the weekend.
2. Use marine or outdoor subwoofers
If you want to avoid the hassle of fiberglassing your subwoofer box and simply want a waterproof subwoofer, then you should definitely pick up a marine or outdoor subwoofer.
These types of subwoofers are specifically designed to withstand water damage. So by using them, you wouldn’t have to worry about your subwoofers ever getting damaged by water.
As I mentioned earlier, A marine sub I’d personally recommend is the Rockford Fosgate M1D2 10″ Marine Subs (on Amazon). However, if you are looking to pick up an outdoor subwoofer, then you should definitely check out Klipsch AWR-650-SM (also on Amazon)
This subwoofer doesn’t just look like a rock; it has a rock-solid build quality that will make them last for a long time. In addition, it is weatherproof and can withstand harsh conditions like rainstorms and even snowstorms. And its design will make it blend in and not noticeable if you are using them outdoors.